“Just push through it Michael. You can do this,” Jacob said as he sat upon a chair on top of Barbara.
Michael paced the floor. Mixing words of disbelief with cursing. Banging on the back door began to spread around the house as zombie brethren began to beat their way into the house..
“You need to do it, Michael… now!” Jacob shouted.
Michael walked around and stood at a window. He stared at the destruction of the once bright city.
“All these people…,” he said to no one. “They just stand in the failing daylight staring at a charcoal drawing that was once a city.”
“Could you ever imagine something like this happening?” He says too Jacob. “A catastrophic infection spreading from the center of the country. Trapping a whole city within its walled boundaries?”
“I don’t know what to tell you Michael!” Jacob replied, his voice shaking.
Barbara managed to grab the small man’s right leg. Jacob reached down and shoved her hand free but it returned and strangled his bare ankle.
“If she draws blood you will be without a wife and a friend.” Jacob struggled to stay a top Barbara. He manipulated the chair and dug a corner leg into the infected woman’s left shoulder. The weight of the chair melted quickly through the rotting muscle. Jacob moved his legs to the left.
Barbara pushed upward on the chair with her free right hand. Jacob set his feet on her left side and pushed back.
The back door opened with a crash. The large zombie stood in the kitchen and roared. Michael swung the bat. It struck the floor with a loud metallic boom and Jacob leapt from his chair. Michael swung again striking Barbara and collapsing her chest. The large zombie moved forward, followed by others. Barbara attempted to breath, her infected lungs compressed. Rotten air retched from her mouth. Her broken face stared forward, human feelings of sorrow and pain vacant from her grey face.
Jacob ran forward and pushed a large leather couch into the smaller doorway to the kitchen. Michael stared downward at what used to be his wife. The body of his wife, her face, attempted to take in a breath but it wouldn’t come. She stared at the ceiling. Michael began to cry. The pain in her face wasn’t there. Michael knelt next to his wife, her breath slowing.
“Barbara,” he whispered and watched. He reached forward.
Barbara turned, her eyes flashed. She snapped at Michael’s hand. Michael fell backward. He grabbed the bat and swung three times. Barbara took a final breath and finally left the world of the living.
“Help me, Michael,” Jacob pleaded.
Michael shot up from the floor, swung and connected with the bat. The zombie stumbled to the side and knocked over a second. It then straighten up and charged forward.
“Hold the couch,” Jacob ordered.
The large zombie stepped forward and charged. He struck the couch and fell forward. The couch moved forward but the two men held the other zombies behind it. Jacob grabbed another bat, and Michael his, and both men beat the zombie to death.
“Yea! buddy,” Jacob screamed. He continued, his voice escalating with every sentence, “Its like we’re in a movie. Remember those… fun little contraptions we could do before we had monsters attacking us every moment of the day. We were so lazy back then. Relaxing, watching stuff… doing nothing. Oh, and not killing our wives. Michael we had wives that hated us.”
“They didn’t hate us,” Micheal said. “They loved us.” He looked back at what remained of Barbara and was suddenly jerked forward.
“Gary, what are you doing?” Erik shouts as he shakes the overwhelming feelings of loneliness from his head. He lifts the bottle of whiskey to his lips and takes a swallow. The warm liquid burned his throat and Erik waited for the thoughts to begin to fade.
The metal shelves behind the glass doors fell with a crash. Light from the large front store window illuminated a tall, rotten man standing within the fallen metal columns.
“Gary,” Erik replied with some hesitation. “What did you do?”
The tall infected man stepped forward and tripped over the shelves. Erik leapt back and searched for a weapon. The back of the store was dark but it was a warehouse. Large steel shelves held dry food, aluminum cans and a broom. The broom sat against the shelf as Gary began to stand.
“Don’t you move, Gary,” Erik said as he made his way over a mess of busted boxes. Another crash and Erik realized a second infected creature found the open glass door.
“You have to be kidding me. You invited Nora to the party. You are an ass, Gary.”
Nora falls over the metal shelving. As Erik tumbles himself over the boxes beneath his feet. He swears as his right hand strike a pile of aluminum cans. Gary steps forward, growls and lunges. Erik pulls his feet toward his chest as his hand throbs.
“You stupid, ugly be…” Erik slides back then under the large steel shelves. He grabs the broom and it falls forward. Gary grabs the broom and pulls as Erik pulls back.
“Give me that broom,” Erik insisted.
Gary’s unnatural strength pulled him forward, leaving Erik face down. Gary growled, grabbed a knot of Erik’s shirt, and bent down. Erik felt a large object on his left and pulled. A large wooden pallet fell knocking Gary to his right. Erik scurried backward before the pallet trapped him on the ground.
Nora, a grotesque vision of rot, shuffled past Gary. She turned and slid between a wall and the steel shelves. She zeroed in on Erik and stepped forward. Erik fought off the infected woman. Her enhanced strength frightening. Erik pushed Nora’s hungry hands away. Avoided another attempt then crawled under the steel shelves. He tried to push the shelves over Nora but it wouldn’t budge. A noose of thin skin and bone wrapped it’s gory fingers around Erik’s ankle.
Erik grabbed the steel shelf with his left hand and shoved his right foot down into Gary’s face. Gary growled but it lasted seconds before his worn, rotten spine snapped. Anger raged and Erik crushed the infected man’s skull. Nora grabbed at Erik. He continued the rage, grabbed the broom and thrust it into Nora’s piecemeal chest. He twisted her body and forced her to the ground. Erik pushed his booted foot down and crushed her face flat. He then found a coffee pot and hit her till she stopped moving.
Erik screamed as adrenaline ran through him. He picked up whatever he could and tossed it. After a minute he found his way out of the backroom and stood within the store. Something outside the thick, glass picture window caught his eye.
Jimmy’s knees buckled and he sank. Happy grabbed him and held on. Happy, with Sarah’s help, led Jimmy to the basement door and down the stairs. The stink of mold signaled nothing unusual, that was until Sarah directed them over to a small room in the corner of the room.
“Go through the wall,” She said with a serious face.
“What are you talking about? This is a serious situation and you want me to stooge my way into a wall.”
“I am not going to walk into the wall.”
“Fine, I will go first,” Sarah replied.
Sarah let go of Jimmy and stepped forward. She paused then disappeared into the stone wall.
“Did you see that Jimmy, the wall just sucked up your girlfriend?”
“She is not my girlfriend,” Jimmy moaned.
Happy held his breath and stepped to the wall. He tensed up, stepped forward and felt the wall wrap around him. The floor disappeared for a moment then returned. Happy stepped forward and reappeared in a candle-lit room.
“Holy pants,” Happy shouted as Sarah stood in front of him. Cathedral ceilings towered over him. Painting of men and woman, with serious expressions, stared at him from the walls. Jimmy fell to the ground and sobbed.
The witch stood, her back turned, over a book.
“What is wrong with Jimmy?”
“He met my father, that’s whats wrong with him.”
“Your father,” Happy replied. “Your father? That was…”
The witch turned. “You stepped into my house. Your friend is now stricken with my curse. I have kept this from the world for thirty years. Now, in one foolish move you have endangered another.”
“How long did you think you were going to hide this mother?” Sarah shouted. “When are you going to realize that we can’t run anymore? I can’t do this anymore.”
The witch marched forward, wand in hand.
“Now, stop lady. I’m sorry we walked into your house. Honestly, it was Jimmie’s idea but if you fix him I promise we will leave.”
The witch cast a spell from the wand and it struck Jimmie. Happy released him and he fell to the ground. Happy scuttled backward and watched as the witch stood over him.
“It would seem that Sarah would have a problem with this,” Happy thought but she stood waiting. After a moment Jimmy sat up and held his head.
Happy smiled and walked over to him. “Buddy, we need to go. This nice witch lady is scary as hell and I don’t want to piss her off again.”
Jimmy sat for several moment quiet then spoke. “Sarah… she has to come with us.”
“Are you serious!” Happy replied. “How long have you known this girl? Are you hiding things from you best friend?”
Jimmy shook dire thoughts from his head and looked up. “Sarah is in danger. The whole town is in danger.” Jimmy’s eyes were alive with anger.
“How could you bring this creature here? What have you done?”
The witch stepped back. She dropped the wand to her side.
“Oh…” She said as her hands rose to her face. “You have been marked.”
“I’m not sure about this,” Happy said.
“You… unconfident about something. That’s a change. You are usually the most optimistic.”
“You saw that house. It’s the darkest house in the whole village. It’s just creepy.”
“It’s just a house,” Jimmy assured him, even through the fear that began to pile upon him. “but… she’s in there. uhm… Sarah.”
Happy frowned. “I don’t know who told you it was ok, to be a hero, because it’s not as fun as they make it out to be in the movies.”
With Jimmy’s urging Happy followed along. Main street seemed to get darker with every step. “Couldn’t we do this during lunch… you know… in the day?”
“Happy!” Jimmy growled.
The house on the corner of Main and South St. stood tall in it’s dark, spooky splendor. “This was a light blue house last week,” Jimmy added.
“Uh.. yeah… that means don’t go in.”
Jimmy stepped forward and into a sheet of darkness. Happy protested when he noticed that Jimmy became darker. Happy stepped back and noticed a clear line extending from the house to the curb. Darkness wrapped around the house. It stained the white house next to it with a dark stain.
“Dude, this is some sort of magic. We can’t do this.”
“If you don’t want to do this then just leave,” Jimmy shouted, anger piled upon his tongue. Jimmy stopped then added. “Sorry, Happy but I need you.” Jimmy reached through the sheet of darkness and grabbed Happy and pulled him in.
Happy shouted and attempted to brush off the darkness as Jimmy watched. After a moment, “It’s just darker. That’s it.”
Happy frowned. “You know there is a price to being your friend. It’s steep dude… steep.”
Jimmy stepped forward till he stood in front of the front gate. Happy hesitated but join him soon. Jimmy opened the gate and walked into the front yard. “Isn’t Sarah’s mother going to see us walking up from the front?” Happy whispered.
“Do you want to go around back?” Jimmy snapped.
Happy sighed, wondering if the darkness was causing his friend to be a little meaner then usual. He thought, for a moment, about going around but followed Jimmy when the darkness shimmered a bit in that direction.
Jimmy approached the front steps and walked, one step then a second. The stairs creaked with the additional weight and then again when Happy climbed them. The door in front of them was open a crack and Jimmy moved it to the right.
“Hello?” He said.
That prompted Happy to protest but a sharp stare stopped him.
“Dude, your going to bring the witch down on us,” Happy added.
Jimmy ignored him. Inside the house the air was chilly. Goosebumps rose upon the boys bare arms. On the left was an empty room covered in dust. An old rocking chair and ancient furniture sat neglected. To the right was a kitchen, clean and modern with food packed in open cabinets. In front of them was a set of stairs and a hallway beside it.
“Happy, where should we go. Where would you keep a 13 year old?”
“I don’t know dude? Do I look like a homicidal witch lady?”
“I don’t know. You don’t seem to want to be here,” Jimmy replied, his voice raising.
“Well, you pulled me into this. I didn’t even want to come.”
“You can just leave then,” Jimmy shouted.
“Something moved,” Happy said, fear overtook any anger. The boys then heard shouting from somewhere beneath them.
“I think she is in the basement,” Jimmy said as he moved quickly past the stairs and stood in front of a basement door.
Both boys pulled on the door but it didn’t move.
“Jimmy? Is that you?”
Both turned toward the front door to see the woman they feared the noise would bring.
Sarah’s mother stood at the door dressed in a black dress. Her hair, blond, sat in a braid on her shoulder.
“I go out to the store and you allow two boys break into the house,” She shouted.
“Well, the door was open so technically we didn’t break in,” Happy said with a half smile.
The witch smiled, revealing polished, perfect teeth.
The witch was always dressed in black and the boys would see her walking through the neighborhood on occasion. Most would avoid her but not because she was ugly. She was actually quite attractive but for the Darkness that followed her.
The Darkness stepped into the house, barely seen but for slightly movements. When the witch moved in the daylight the Darkness was a large shadow that towered over her. In the house the Darkness sucked all happiness from the room and tears began to form within the corners of Jimmy’s eyes. He recalled sad memories of his family that passed. His mother talking with her hands all the time. His father’s laugh. Jimmy missed them both. He almost lost his knees when someone caught him.
“Get out of here!” Sarah shouted and clapped her hands loudly. It echoed through the house. The Darkness recoiled and flew up the stairs. The witch sighed, a weight fell from her shoulders.
“Take him to the bedroom. We need to find some happy memories.” She passed by Happy and said, “Dear, follow us. You can help. Your friend needs you badly.”
“Jimmy cracked corn and I don’t care…”
“Jimmy cracked the corn and I don’t care.”
An overweight young fourteen year old sang as he bounced around a thinner, slightly younger child. Both young men smiles as they walked over the freshly paved street to a single story building on the other side.
“You can stop singing that now, Happy. You look like an idiot bouncing around me like an insect.”
“Ha… what kind of insect am I Jimmy? A mosquito? A wasp.” Happy then began to buzz and circle Jimmy.
“Wow man, you are wound up today,” Jimmy said with a smile.
“You know what day it is, right,” Happy shouted. “You know who is teaching English today? Ahhh… Mrs. English herself. The princess of type.”
Jimmy laughed. “Yes, I know you are in love with Mrs. Sadle. You know love of an English teacher is unhealthy.” He prods Happy.
Both young men step into the school and head to class. The hallways are packed with kids scurrying to get to class. The boys walk forward then to the right. They approached room 115 and Jimmy began to open the door. “Oh my gah, look at her.” Happy said as they looked through the glass in the classroom door. Mrs. Sadle sat on the desk in a colorful sun dress, legs crossed talking to Sally Pennington. “I can’t go in there,” Happy said and closed the door.
“Happy, we have to go to English.”
“I can’t, Jimmy. I will be a fool in love.”
“Hah,” Jimmy laughed and opened the door. He stepped into the room and found his seat. “Hi Jimmy,” Mrs. Sadle said with a smile. “Mrs. Sadle,” Jimmy began with an eye toward happy, while Happy tried to stop him from outside the room. “… Happy is in…”
Happy stepped into the room. “I am in love with Country music. I love me some Daniel Boone.” The room laughed followed by Mrs. Sadle who leap from the desk. “Happy, you are a wonderful character. Daniel Boone was not a country singer.” She smiled and Happy found his seat next to Jimmy. “Ok, we are reading today…”
“Did you hear that Jimmy, I’m a character?” Happy said with a large smile as they walked from Room 115.
“You need a habit, Happy.”
“No you need a girlfriend,” Happy replied. “Then you will know what it feels like.”
That was when she stepped from another room. Her hair black as tar…
“Gaaaa.” A mass of fur and human parts wrestle in the dirt as they strive to best each other.
The human, clothing torn, places both hands on the fur covered werewolf and pushes. The human wolf hybrid tumbles down a small ravine. “Scott,” the human shouted as he watched the werewolf tumble. “You don’t know what’s your doing. The beast is taking over.”
The werewolf slowly gets up. Sticks and leaves attached to his fur. “You slept with my wife, Eric!” He shouts.
The human stood over the edge of the ravine. The revelation shocked him. His childhood friend stood three feet below him, covered in fur. His face grotesque and extended outward into a canine-like jaw. The muscles in his shoulders twice the size of the human that is still within him.
“I did not,” Eric replied as convincingly as he could.
“You liar,” Scott shouted back and began to walk back up the ravine.
“You stay down there. You are not coming near me again,” Eric warned. Scott negotiated through the young trees and loose gravel. He approached the edge of the ravine when Eric attempted to kick him. Scott grabbed the human’s leg and pulled forward. Eric fell hard to the forest ground. Scott dug his claws into the dirt and leaves and climbed from the ravine.
“We have been friends since third grade. I trusted you.”
Eric kicked dirt upward but it deflected harmlessly off the werewolf’s body. “I didn’t do anything Scott. I didn’t.”
Scott grabbed Eric’s shirt and held tight. With enormous strength he lifted the five and a half foot man to his feet.
“She told me,” Scott said rage pulsing through dark, crimson veins. Scott then tossed Eric into a tree several feet away. Eric struck the tree square between his shoulders and fell to the side.
He didn’t move when Scott approached. Scott wanted to check to see if he was ok but the rage overwhelmed him and he picked him up again. The human’s spine snapped and he could feel the life drift away.
Scott cried, alone over the body of his best friend.
“Jason, you shouldn’t be here,” Amy whispered as the too young lovers hid behind a tree in the back yard. “You didn’t see what my father did to a Hawkin the other day. He’s becoming insane.”
Jason leaned back on his heels, looked toward the back porch and then back to Amy. “I don’t care what he does too me.”
“But… I do.”
“I get that,” Jason replied. “but I can take care of myself.”
Amy frowned. Her concern was noticeable even in the darkness. Jason held her face gently.
“My Amy… this world as twisted and dangerous as it is still evolves but love stays the same.”
“If that’s how you think then meet my parents.”
Jason stepped back. He stammered all attempts to hold strong disappeared. Fear evident in his hesitation.
Staring out the window of the house Paul watched as the shadows in the yard stood silently talking.
“They will be ok, Paul,” said Stacy as she approached.
“Will they,” he replied sharply. “This isn’t pre-invasion earth anymore. Nobody is safe. Even if this boy… um… Jason isn’t some shape shifting monster how are we going to protect any more kids. He is almost a man. He has reckless passion. I can’t protect my daughter from the monster and influence of this boy.”
Stacy placed a gentle hand upon Paul’s shoulder. “She is becoming a woman too. We can’t protect her from everything…”
Paul turned from the window and stepped to the door. He slowly opened it. Stacy protest but he ignored her. She didn’t know for sure but she felt no reason to worry about her sometimes irrational husband’s actions. She watched from the covered back porch as Paul approached the couple.
“Son,” Paul began. Both young adults leapt straight. Paul had interrupted a kiss. “I caught you before you ran away this time. For a young man that wants to be brave for my daughter you are cowardice.”
“Dad, don’t hurt him.”
“I’m not going to hurt him,” Paul replied. “You love my daughter?”
Jason pawed at the ground with his black, military boots.
“Have you done your mandatory time in the service yet?”
“I have not, sir,” Jason said.
“How are you going to promise anything to my daughter when you may not make it through the service?”
“I don’t want to be a ballbuster here son,” Paul began. “The world is not for the Romantics anymore. Romance has no place inside a world of horror and pain.”
“I disagree,” Jason said as he straightened his posture and stared at the older man. “You dare to call me a coward even knowing the facts that I suffered the most horror. My parents and my sister all killed while I watched with axe in hand.”
Paul tried to respond but Jason continued. “Even after that horror I still have enough hope to speak to Amy every night. Enough hope to stand here as you insult me and promise that your daughter will be happy with me as her husband.”
Amy stood shaken by the promise of marriage.
“You would promise to be my daughter’s husband in this world?”
“What other world would I possibly be able to be her husband?”
Paul stood quiet for a long moment.
“You will have to live here with Amy. How are your grandparents?”
Paul directed the pair toward the house. Stacy was thrilled to hear the news and invited Jason to dinner.
“Oh my Goddd…,” shouted Stacy as she tried to pull her husband Paul from the carcass of a large, pregnant Harkin.
“What are you doing? How is this helping!” She shouted.
Paul stood up and turned, covered in dark, oxygenated blood. “This may not help you but it’s helping me.” He suddenly saw movement within the abdomen of the beast. A pair of legs struggling to move from under to crush of keratin.
Paul cheered as he grabbed one of the thin, young legs. He pulled and it yanked back. “Oh no! Your coming with me,” he shouted.
The young insect fought as Paul dragged it out into the open. From within the carved out bowl of blood and organs the small Harkin attempted to stand.
“Paul, you need to stop. The Pterodactyls are above us. Paul! They are going to eat us!”
Paul ignored his wife and grabbed the axe, that lie, beside him. He set it behind him but the little creature flipped to it’s feet. Blood and gore hung from the sharp corners of the beast. It clicked softly as it stared at Paul from opaque eyes.
Paul swung the axe and stuck a front leg. The Harkin squeaked as it tried to step back. It’s right, front leg swung free of the joint.
“Oh, believe me. You are not getting away from me. I don’t care if you are a young one. I had a young one once,” he shouted. “I had a young one!”
Stacy began to sob and stepped back. She watched as the Pterodactyls began to glide downward. Paul raced around the body of the parent and screamed as he tried to prevent the smaller Harkin from escaping.
The little creature was four-foot tall compared to twelve to fourteen foot adults. It threatened to pierce Paul’s head with a pointed front horn but Paul jumped out of the way. Paul reared back and swung the axe again contacting the hard body. The blow pushed the insect over the side of the adult remains and onto the broken asphalt below. It shook off the blow and stood simultaneously. It stepped forward. Paul was six foot tall. Taller then the creature but intimidated. Harkin were fierce fighters. It was possible, even from a little one that Paul could be torn to pieces.
Paul stepped back. He carried a shotgun, as did many humans now, but it was near the truck fifty feet away. He looked for his wife but she stood, terrified behind the drivers door.
“You idiot,” came the thought as Paul stepped back again. He watched as the young beast bounced to the left. The broken front leg didn’t seem to set it off any.
“Swing the axe,” Paul told himself but the bravery within his hands had disappeared as he dragged the axe in front of him. The little Harkin leapt forward. It’s armored horns pressed against the thin skin of Paul’s forehead. Paul fell backward.
Stacy stood across from the carcass and pointed the shotgun near the young beast. She watched as Paul fell and fired. The shot spread and pierced the thin armor. The Harkin stumbled to the side then fell.
“I wish we were back to the olden days,” Tracy shouted.
Darrin watches as they drove farther and farther from the Reaper. It stared at the Jeep as Darrin left. It’s charcoal eyes looking toward the Red aluminum vehicle.
“You wishing the monsters gone isn’t going to help you survive a world that has monsters. I have also grown up in this world of ours. You grandfather got to see the world when it was relatively peaceful.”
“I can’t talk to Papa.”
Darrin grimaced at the mention of his father’s nickname. “Right, Papa has passed away.”
“What are we doing, anyways,” Janice said from the passenger seat.
“I need to see why that Harkin was in such a rush. I’ve never seen one run, let alone walk fast.”
“Your curiosity is going to get your family killed.”
Darrin’s face got red, “my job remember? I can’t go fight the war so I’m going to find a way to defeat these beast.”
“Yea, Darrin the hero. I recall?”
Darrin was ready with a retort when his oldest daughter Sarah stopped him. “What is that?”
In front of them was a destructive scene, covered in blood and monsters. A broken Harkin, it’s large, thin insect legs pointing skyward, sat in the center of the road. A second Harkin stood over the body snapping at Pterodactyl diving into the remains.
“I didn’t know they did that?” Janice responded.
“Neither did I.”
“What do we do now, dad?” Sarah asked.
“I need to write this down,” Darrin pulled a notepad from the floor beside Janice’s feet and began to write.
Janice’s nerves began to fray as she waited. Outside the Jeep she watched as the Harkin struck one Pterodactyl and brought it crashing down into the trees on the right. Another flew over the Jeep and spread it’s large claws. It pulled open it’s wings and slowed till it was over the back of the Harkin. It sunk the claws into the soft sections separating the hard keratin armor. The Harkin immediately a long tail and pierced the Pterodactyl. The flying reptile screamed and took off into the air only to fall feet from the Harkin.
“Darrin, maybe we should of stayed home,” Janice said.
“Can’t do anything about that now… wow did that just happen? I’ve never seen a fight like this.”
“Darrin, what is this coming?”
To the right and between a set of trees the family could see a collection of beasts charging toward them. They were small but large groups could batter the Jeep into submission.