A Mile Above Hell

April 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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The first thing I always remember is the heat.

Even when I could see nothing, hear nothing, even when my brain was trying bury itself in the comfy, dark recesses of unconsciousness, my body was slowly being cooked sunny side down. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I didn’t want to anyway. I was tired, I had been unconscious, the heat was tolerable when I was asleep, and I really wanted to go back to sleep, like a tired kid burying his head into the pillow moaning “I don’t want to go to school”.

My body however was slowly waking up on it’s own. I began to grow conscious of other stimuli, the lightweight cotton green uniform, the heavy combat boots, the open ended gloves that protected my palms but left my fingers to saute on the melted asphalt. Something was missing though…

Finally, I slowly opened my eyes, and the light and heat quickly slammed the doors again. I tried again after several minutes, but slower this time, and this time it was bearable.

I was laying on something hot, a stretch of rough, black surface turned into a warped, bubbly skillet by heat. Some of it stuck to the black, pocketed vest that covered my torso, to the knee pads, and the toes of my boots.

As my vision cleared further, I noticed more and more of the area beyond the black road. Dust swirled about me in dust devils. The heat was not just coming from the ground, the wind was like a dragon’s breath, and it smelled of something burning… a bit of everything burning.
Then came the pain.

I say the pain because there was no one area of it, I felt as if I had been run over by a steamroller from head to foot. My hands were charred from lying on the ground. My body was a little better off, protected from direct heat by a couple layers of cotton, and tactical vest pockets, but my skin was drenched with sweat, the inside of my clothes was a swamp. And my head…

Oh… Jesus Christ, my head. Only way to describe it is to imagine your head being put in a maraca with ten pounds of buckshot lead, and going to Mexican New Year celebrations. It was terrible, and I wasn’t even moving yet. There seemed to be a big blackness on the right side of my vision. It came to me that I had only been seeing out of my left eye, the right side had not opened… or it wasn’t there.

I realized now that little could be done lying on my face like a dead turtle, so I decided to attempt rolling onto my back, and getting a somewhat better look about me. I knew already that this was going to hurt. Some of the melted asphalt had cooled with my face touching it, it would be like ripping off duct tape… only a lot worse. I prepared for blood, knowing that the oily tar would not come off on it’s own, and I could not lie here on my face all day.

At first my arms didn’t seem to work, just laying there like dry docked eels. Then, as they got more blood in them, the pain flowed in. They felt like they had been stretched, balled up, jack-hammered, then mixed with water and spread out alongside the asphalt. However my arms are rather muscular and recovered quickly. Planting my hands against the ground, my elbows reaching above my spine like a spider’s legs, I braced for the pain, and pushed, arching my spine. At first my face resisted parting with the ground, and the pulling my skin caused a sharp discomfort.

This was bliss compared with what happened next. Setting my neck and jaw, I yanked my head backwards and pushed up. There was a most nasty peeling noise, like the pulling apart of two pieces of meat (which is not too far off), a tear or two, and warm, red blood began to spurt onto the smoking tar, My face seized up from the utter agony of several layers of my skin being yanked off. It made me glad I hadn’t grown a beard or long hair, I might have lost my whole face. At least I was able to move, but the pain was making my vision flutter.

Stabilizing myself, I rocked myself backwards, so I was kneeling upright. Now the steady tide of blood streaked down my neck to soak into my thick, green spattered coat. I knew now that before I could look around I needed to find something to cover the wound. Something was falling out of the sky into my hair, building up on my shoulders and gear. It looked like dirty snow. Whatever it was, I needed to clean and dress my disfigured cheek immediately.

I looked around me for some spare cloth, a medkit or… a backpack. I had a large backpack on my shoulders, it matched my forest pattern uniform, probably my helmet too… wherever that thing was. It was held across my chest by several buckles to keep it on my back, so I proceeded to undo them. I then noticed a name tag on the left shoulder strap. Specialist Four, Austin Carver. It wasn’t a name I recognized.

My fingers were so blistered and sore it was slow and hellish undoing the three clasps, but click by click I was able to shrug the gear off. It fell with a thud into the dust, and I felt lighter, the strain on my back lessened. A couple more clamps and it lay open like a little cave.
It was chock-full of gear. Pouches on the outside held a canteen filled with lukewarm water, a couple tube-like grenades, more ammunition for my rifle, which also seemed to be missing like most of my hardware, and a radio, but the materials inside were enough for three men, and it was all mine. I quickly found ample medical supplies in a small red box.

More pain was to come. I would have to dab some disinfectant onto my cheek before I patched it up. I stared at the dreaded brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide before gritting my teeth, biting down on a piece of gauze before applying some to a cloth. I poised it over my cheek, bit the bullet,, and pressed it to my face.

Some pain is so bad it makes you lose control of some other parts of your body. I felt my fingers numb a bit and shake like an electrical current was going through them, but my jaw dropped into a soundless scream as my face squeezed tight. Through it all the offending cloth stayed over the wound. Finally, satisfied that the disinfectant had done it’s work, I threw the blood stained item as far from me as possible, gasping for breath, and grabbed a clean gauze, folded it into a wad, and taped it onto the wound. Before sweat and blood could remove the adhesive, I wrapped a bandage around my head, encompassing my mouth, ears, and the back of my head. I can only imagine it looked like makeshift balaclava for someone in a mental institution, especially when I had to cut a hole for my mouth to breath through. Then I remembered my right eye.

When applying the bandage I had felt a scaly surface over the right side of my head, along with an acute pain. Feeling it again, I rubbed it with my finger, and it came off dusted with something like rust. Dried blood. Somehow my head had been injured and blood had poured over my eye and hardened like a seal of wax. Taking a little more cloth, I dampened it with water and rubbed at my eye. It came away red, but soon my right eye was opened.

Then I turned my attention to my aforementioned head wound, gingerly my hand crept up my skull to the nexus of pain jolts. Suddenly I found the problem.

It was as if my hand were a car and it had suddenly driven off a cliff. A massive dent, more like a bomb crater, shaped like a spear head running about four inches along the dome of my head. It was no wonder I wasn’t remembering much, there was serious damage up there.

My stomach rumbled most audibly, and it felt shrunken. I patted my belly, and noticed that there were some ribs showing. Before I shouldered the pack again, I found some containers near the bottom of the bag, reading Case 4 MRE. Were I in a more comfortable situation I’m sure the rations inside would’ve been left where they were, but as I was I inhaled the food quicker than you would think possible.

More of the dirty snow was falling as I shouldered my gear again, pushing my curiosity more. I needed to examine the environment beyond where I was. At the moment, I had slowly pieced together my surroundings. I seemed to be in a large hole, a foxhole perhaps, but there was asphalt at the bottom. My thought was that maybe an earthquake had caused this part of the road to fall several feet into a fault. The sides were a steep mix of gravel, sand, and several huge fragments of metal beams. I could climb out, but it would be on all fours.

Now that all my immediate issues had been cared for, it hit me like a thunderbolt, so sudden and profound that I nearly rocked back on my heels. Who am I? I hadn’t recognized the name tag, was it my own name? How did I get here? What’s been happening? A thousand questions swarmed through my head so fast my knees buckled, and I ended up back where I had started ten minutes ago.

Suddenly the slopes of the crater I was in became like walls, and they began to close in. A deep seated panic set in and my heart began to race. Blood oozed through my cheek and down my forehead as I clawed into the sand hiding me from the rest of the world. I dug in my toes, and climbed furiously up the slope. Then, like a drowning man breaking the surface of the water, I emerged from the hole, gasping for air.

I lay prone on the lip of the crater for a minute, my stress induced claustrophobia bleeding away with all my head wounds. My hand gripped the scorched sand like a lifeline. My head slowly came up again. I felt serious deja vu from an hour ago when I had awoken in the crater. Mostly because I, again, was lying my face, feeling like death. And, looking up, the area I had now discovered was not much different from the smoking hole from which I had emerged.

It was larger, more open, and set on a softly sloped hillside leading to a peak. A road ran the length of it, disappearing over the top. Many structures lined both sides of the road, a lot of them on fire, some of them unrecognizable, reduced to splintered wood, crushed plaster and scattered tiles. Everything had been sprawled in one direction, like a huge sledgehammer had hit the block and sent everything flying. What an ungodly mess. Some cars were lying on their backs like dead spiders, some twisted or smelted into shapeless masses of steel and rubber. License plates had melted and cooled into shiny green stained icicles on the rear ends of the now dead machines.

I tried to crawl forward, but a tinkling noise and a sharp pain in my fingertips forced me to stop again. Shattered glass carpeted the ground in every direction, you could spit and not miss a shard. Now blood oozed from my fingers, and I was forced to dig into the bag again, fresh warm blood smearing the green material. Soon my hands matched my rather grotesque head bandage. I must have looked quite a sight, my charred green uniform, all my gear, and then these blaring white bandages smeared with red stains turning a deep rusty brown.

I stood up this time, very shakily, to save my fingers more damage and to let my tough boots deal with the glass. Now my head was brushing against a layer of smoke that was flowing parallel to the spread of wreckage that encompassed me. I became conscious of the smell again, only now it was much stronger, a witch’s cauldron of pongs, I could not find one word for it.

The clouds split for a moment, and the light poured onto the smoldering landscape. Something shone into my dazed right eye, which was still adjusting, and I raised my bandaged hands to ease the flash. The sun was reflecting off a large piece of shiny metal, flat, protected from damage by a pile of rubble. It caught my attention firmly, and I felt the irrepressible need to investigate it, to touch it. I stumbled across the street, not bothering to look both ways, it hardly seemed the time to worry about the old common courtesies of times that seemed to have changed dramatically.

I stood over the pile of concrete crumbles and jagged miniature palisades of steel rebar, carefully putting one foot in front of the other in my little quest. While I shambled gently like a colt taking it’s first steps, my eyes took in thousands of images from the endless stimuli of this foreign seeming landscape.

The cars all looked like corpses, some of them were burnt to charcoal. Once charming houses making up a suburb now were piles of splinters and glass shards, like the cremated remains of the dead tossed to the wind.

I finally reached the pile of wreckage underneath which the piece of metal shone like a beacon. I now saw it lay beneath an gutted couch, with bits of stuffing catching in the wind like cottonwood seeds. I even saw some broken picture frames, empty, shattered reminders of a healthy, safe world long gone, bulldozed by un unforeseen event.

The metal was now within my reach, and I grabbed it with both hands, pulling with my back, legs and shoulders. Even with the glove protecting my palms, I could feel the heat of the metal on my exposed fingers, like a cookie sheet taken out of the oven. A screeching of concrete scraping steel, and I felt it slowly releasing, bit by bit, for it was huge, about the size of a plane’s wing.

It was bent into the shape of a dinner plate by the rubble that imprisoned it, it was battered into a surprisingly fetching mix of silver scrapes and turquoise splashes. I now could see what it was, one of those signs in a city that directs you somewhere. It was upside down, and a lot of the lettering had been battered away, so I couldn’t read it yet. Oh how I wanted to read it.

Now I could feel the pain in my muscles, my shoulders especially, it just seemed to keep feeding itself out like a scroll. Finally, after having dragged nearly ten feet of metal from the rubble, it gave, I fell backwards onto the fiercely hot ground, the huge sign clattering at my feet.

I got up shakily, stretching the tensility from my aching muscles. I could feel my face bleed again from my elevated heart rate, and I knew I had lost a dangerous amount of my blood. I would probably find a trail of it like bread crumbs going back to the pit where I had woken up.

I fumbled into the backpack for my canteen of warm water as I stood the sign on it’s side so as to read it. I twisted the cap off, some blood streaking on the edges, making it a bit slippery. I tilted it to my mouth to drink… until I saw what was on the sign.

From what little I could read behind the damage, it read:

Welcome to Denver. Population 554,363. Elevation: 5280 Feet.

It brought back a ton of memories I didn’t think I had, as I looked around I saw flashes of bustling streets, busy sidewalks, windows with faces looking out, and thousands, tens of thousands of people. All of that, the skyscrapers, the bridges, and over half a million souls, all gone in an flash because of some unknown catastrophe.

The hot wind suddenly kicked up with a heavy gust, and the sign fell onto its front, showing the backside. I saw writing, from another author. It was in spray paint, hastily scrawled, with the most atrocious grammar I’ve ever seen. Welcum 2 the Wastland. Populashun: All ded. Elevashun: 1 mile abuv Hell.

The canteen sat on my lips, frozen in place, and my mouth was now very dry. In the reflection of the steel sign, I saw something enormous behind me. I turned around slowly, not out of pain or aching, but out of sheer awe and terror.

There, on the middle of the horizon, towered a rising ball of fire and smoke, looming like a lumbering giant of destruction. It grew and grew, mushrooming into the sky, and clouds of ash blocked out the sun.

The area where I had awakened had fared relatively well, some buildings were still intact, sheltered from the thermonuclear blast by sturdier buildings which took the full force of the missile strike. I looked out into the skyline, the city center about four miles east of my position, and saw nothing but a huge sinkhole of buildings, machines, and bodies, all molten into a vile smelling mix.

I shook my head, my jaw slack in wonder. How had I alone survived? This was a ten second massacre, who knows how many innocent people were turned to ash before they even had a chance to scream for some God to save them.

Then my heart jumped higher than it was made to do, and I ran for cover, before I knew what I was doing I was hiding behind a massive chunk of concrete from a parking garage. I had heard someone moving out there.

It was human, nothing else walks with slow sounding footsteps or is heavy enough to dislodge rubble. It grew closer and closer, I could hear a guttural grunting from a damaged or dry throat. It had to be a survivor. I cleared my throat quietly, and called out in a timid voice.

“Hello? Is there someone out there?”

The footsteps immediately stopped. The world had become silent again. But there was a new smell in the stench. It smelled like burning meat, like bad food, it was a scent that makes any sensible human nervous.

It was the stench of death, and it was here.

I shook off my anxiety, and strode out to the street again. I looked around, seeing no one, but there was too much cover for them to hide in. I planted my feet and called out again, stronger this time.

“Is somebody out there? Are there any survivors?”

There it was again, the grunting. But it had taken on a new tone, less a benign grunting like a pig slopping around. It now sounded more like a dog, giving out the quiet order to move in.

I suddenly became aware of multiple sources, now several unseen assailants were responding to the call of the first like a wolf pack. I could sense the approach of many more footsteps, the sound of gravel dislodged underfoot, it was all around me.

I began to panic, and looked around for a weapon. I could now see shell casings lying everywhere, evidence of a huge but futile struggle against an enemy I had yet to face. There, leaning on the open door on a burnt out husk of a car, was an M4A1 assault rifle.

It had all the attachments and specs of the rifle standard to the United States Army, but I would’ve taken it if it were an age old musket if it meant I had something to defend myself with. I rushed for it, as the sounds were so near I swear I could’ve touched them. I reached the car, and grabbed the gun, ready to level it on the attackers.

I couldn’t move the gun very far, there was a charred, bony hand reaching out of the car like a creepy decoration, clutching the barrel with an iron death grip. I yanked, and pulled, until with a sickening, dry tearing noise like the uprooting of a sapling the arm gave way, leaving the hand still attached to the barrel. I grabbed it, and broke it off, the brittle fingers snapping like twigs and I pulled back the slide, cocking the weapon. I whirled around, ready to fight back, only to find myself dumbfounded again.

There were five of them, all in plain sight now. They, at first glance, looked like humans, standing upright, two arms and legs, and a head above their shoulders. But as I stared at them with horror, I saw they were not human, not anymore.

All of them were charred like burnt steaks, some of them steamed as their flesh boiled. One of them looked like a burnt puppet, all carbon black, moving with creaking joints. All of them were torn apart. There was a woman figure, most of her clothes were burnt off, and her entire front, chest, stomach, and throat, were torn to shreds as if by the teeth of a wild animal. A man crawled on the ground, both legs gone, dragging itself on a trail of it’s own blood and trailing guts. The others, a mix of women and men, looked more intact, but all bore signs of horrific wounds. All had flesh missing, one had the side of her neck gaping open, oozing a black gel of some kind. And worst of all, they all had strings of meat, fat and tendons stuck between their teeth, and drips of blood coming from their mouths.

And in spite of their horrific mutilations, they all were moving towards me. Their eyes were blank, those that still had eyes, they had turned a milky white, unseeing, dead eyes.
The gun trembled in my hand, and I found I could not aim at the pitiful sights. I screamed in horror at the creatures shambling towards me. “Jesus H Christ! What’s happened? What the hell happened?!”
My words seemed to stir them up, and with louder growls, they all raised their arms towards me with the intent of grabbing me. I could only sicken myself imagining what they would do to me. I steeled my nerves, and took aim with the rifle.
My finger acted of it’s own accord, and gunfire ripped the silence. I saw little spurts of black ooze burst from impact wounds on their chests, legs, stomachs. The weapon roared like a cornered lion, and I jammed the trigger as hard as I could, a hail of bullets tore into the abominations.

I saw one take a hit right in the heart and go flailing onto his back. As I started to shoot another, out of the corner of my vision I saw him getting right back up as if I hadn’t shot him at all. I was panicking, and fighting for my life, slowly retreating backwards down the leveled street.

The gun finally clicked empty, and still all five were following me, and now several more had emerged from alleyways and from under cars to join the assault. It was a pack, slowly growing into a horde. I quickly switched the dry magazine for a fresh one from my vest, and began firing again.

This time I was firing semi auto, careful not to miss or waste ammo. I knew I was hitting them, I knew I was supposed to be wasting them, yet they shrugged off everything I gave them. They were unstoppable, and now two more had arrived. I was faced with a wall of the creatures, and I was running out of room, backing into a cul-de-sac with no where to run.

Another mag empty, I was down to two full ones. I was desperate, and I decided on a different measure, I had to take out the heads. It’s a difficult shot, and my training revolved around aiming for the widest, biggest target on the human body, the chest. But there was no other way.
Reloading the rifle, looking up to see more than twenty assorted attackers, I dropped to one knee to steady my aim. I placed the red dot between the white, moonlike eyes of the closest attacker. It was the torn woman, and she looked right back at me down the sight. Why weren’t these things afraid of dying? Maybe they couldn’t feel fear. They weren’t human anymore.

I chanted this to myself as I fired, watching as the bullet flew right into the face of the woman. I saw a tidy blue hole appear in her forehead, and black, grey, and blueish matter blast out the back of the skull. She collapsed, not even twitching. She fell flat onto her back, her fellow attackers took no notice, stepping over her as they continued to shamble in my direction.

That’s all it took, my dander was up, and I felt my nerves turn to steel, and I placed the next target. It was easier this time, by now I had convinced myself, these things were monsters, and I needed to kill them. They needed to die, they had to die!

One by one, I popped their heads like water balloons, watching them fall back onto their own mess of bone and brains. The time blurred, I was winning, and I knew it. Finally, I dropped the 20th and last target, and I didn’t even flinch as I saw it crumple to the ground, it’s head blown clean of it’s brain. I was in hunter mode, I was no longer the hunted. Twenty shots, twenty kills. I felt the adrenaline surging through my once lethargic body. I was so focused on my blood pumping victory, I did not hear something behind me.

It must have crawled from under the wrecked Chevy that lay on it’s back behind me. I first heard it when it began to drag itself across a patch of shattered glass. Before I could turn around, I felt a grip of iron clasp around my ankle.

It’s legs were shredded tatters of cloth and tendons trailing behind it, and the arms were atrophied, but it was like a strongman’s arm, and my legs were thrown out from beneath me. My knuckles banged against the blacktop, and my rifle went clattering to the ground beyond my reach. My head also hit the ground, and everything fogged up for a moment.

I was brought back by high pressure to my toe. It felt like something was squeezing my boot with a vice. I brought my head up and looked at the afflicted foot. The crawler was still there, trying furiously to bite through the reinforced material of my left combat boot like a dog chewing a rubber ball, and it growled angrily, the material resisted its broken teeth.

I jolted back into action, and tried to free my boot, but this creature had a grip like steel. I brought up my free foot, the righthand one, and pumped the heel into the thing’s face. I felt a satisfying crunch as I connected with the jaw, dislocating it completely, rendering the teeth useless. I then swung back my right leg and soccer kicked my attacker full in the head.

I heard a sound like breaking a thick carrot in half, and it’s head snapped to a certainly unnatural angle. It twitched it’s hands for a moment, and then went limp. It’s hands relaxed their grip, and I kicked my left foot free again.

Once I was on my feet, I cast my eye around for my weapon. It had gone about ten feet from me, and I ran to grab it. Before I could get it, something wrapped itself around my waist in a tackle, and I was on the ground again. I felt fists pound my face, jolting my head back and forth.
It was small, a teenager I think, and it weighed so little it was a wonder it had knocked me down at all. I returned the blow, feeling it slam into a thin cheek, and my attacker leapt away, cursing in some language I didn’t understand.

This got my attention, those things I had just fought and killed, they didn’t talk, and they certainly didn’t back down. I looked up and saw my latest assailant in full light.

Goodness, T thought, it can’t have been more than 16 years old. She, for it was in fact a girl, wore a torn hoodie, and fingerless gloves and slim jeans, along with muddied converse shoes. She now had sat down against a wall, crying her eyes out, murmuring in what, years later, I could tell was Spanish.

I immediately felt terrible, although I wasn’t sure why. I edged my way towards her, slowly offering my hand in peace. She wouldn’t look up at me, she was still bawling like a little child. I gained the courage to lay my hand on her shoulder, and to my surprise she didn’t fight me. I kneeled down, and she lifted her tear soaked face.

She was easily young enough to my daughter. She looked me right in the eye, and I again felt miserable when I saw the growing bruise on her left cheek.

“Hey uh, sorry about that” I said sheepishly.

She brushed her black hair out of her eyes back into her hood and sniffled. “It’s ok.”

I was shocked by this, I had heard her curse me in clear Spanish, and now she spoke forgivingly in English. However I didn’t mind the change, I knew no Spanish at the time.

“Why’d you attack me?”

She lowered her eyes at this, as if embarrassed. “I heard gunfire, and thought perhaps some soldiers were here. I ran this way, hoping to get rescued, and I saw you. Your face, it spooked me, all those bandages and all that blood. I panicked, and blindly attacked. I’m very sorry.”

I nodded, touching a new tender spot on my previously undamaged left cheek. “I don’t imagine you’ll be the last.” I tried a weak smile, but the torn side of my face didn’t like it. I pulled her to her feet, and having grabbed the rifle, I began walking. She followed me, staying behind me like one would behind a parent. I began to feel nervous, we were out of the cul-de-sac, and she hadn’t said a word. So, clearing my dry throat, I tried to strike conversation. “What’s your name?”

“Ruby.”

It was a nice name, and I nodded. But she didn’t say anything more beyond the clipped answer, so I continued.
“How’re you still alive?”

“I was hiding in a subway tunnel from the firebomb, and waited till the flames died down. I stayed far away from the area of the missile strike. I didn’t want to get sick from radiation poisoning.”

“You seem to know a lot about all this.”

She nodded nervously, and wiped her face on her sleeve. “Yeah. My dad, he’s a soldier in the U.S. Army, and we all lived here. We had a nice house, just down the hill.”

Ruby pointed down the road to our left, towards where I had woken up. From here I could see a blazing crater, and many smoldering wrecks of houses. I turned my eye away when I saw three burning corpses lying in the street. They looked like dead beetles.

“…And then it all hit the fan.” She finished, putting her hands in her pockets.

I looked around, and agreed that it certainly had.

We had been walking for about five minutes, when I finally asked her the biggest question on my mind. “So, what the hell happened here?”
She looked at me in shock. “What? How could you not know, the military’s been on the front lines of this whole thing since it happened.”
I reached up, tapping my bandaged skull with the rifle barrel. She looked confused, then seemed to have put two and two together. “Are you one of those guys? I thought that only happened in movies.”

I grinned. “Nope. Must’ve took one big hit to the noggin.”

“Yet you know how to use that?” she gestured to the rifle slung across my chest. ”And how to talk?”

I shrugged at this. “Dunno about the talking thing, maybe that’s built in no matter what. And the gun… it’s all been instinctual. Plus, I think I’m remembering stuff again.”

She nodded. “That’s good.”

After another five minutes, the girl pointed to a large green vehicle parked carelessly in the middle of the road. It was untouched by the firebombing, as was most of this area. She ran up to it, smiled, and patted the armored skin like one does a horse.

It was bigger than a car. I saw a big, mean looking gun on top, and the front, hood and windshield were spattered with blood. I swear I saw some fingers stuck in the grill. Without taking time to look, I yanked open the door.

I was bombarded by the fierce smell that one gets when they return from vacation to find rotten food in their fridge, and I recoiled, covering my mouth and shutting my eyes. Over the intense droning of flies, I could barely hear a frenzied growl. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I felt two bony hands, creaky and putrid, lock onto my shoulders and I felt someone pushing me onto my back.

I heard Ruby scream as we tumbled. It was on me, I smelt the vile breath, and knew that if I opened my eyes I’d be greeted by something very unpleasant. So I wrestled blindly, pushing with all my might, but his hands were like handcuffs, in spite of being half claimed by rot and maggots. How were these things so strong?

I had dropped my gun, so I could use both my hands. I gave up pushing it away, and now got it around the throat, trying to break it’s atrophied neck. I heard it growling, it wasn’t a choked noise, just angry. Suddenly, a loud bang numbed my eardrums. I heard a loud splat, and my attacker went limp, falling on top of me like a puppet, almost kissing me. I felt it expel a cloud a vile cloud of defiled air out it’s mouth right into mine.

For the first time I could remember, I wanted to vomit, and, kicking the creature off of me, I rolled over and pasted the pavement with Case 4 MRE. My stomach emptied, I kinda laughed at the stuff as it congealed in the heat. It sure looked worse than I remembered it.

I turned about, to see Ruby, shaking like a leaf, holding the gun that seemed to dwarf her. She held it like I did, across the chest, barrel pointing safely downward.

She looked at me, then at the dead creature who’s head was oozing what little was left in the skull, and at the gun. “I’m… I’m sorry.”
I waved her concern away, and stood up, shaking even worse than her. “No… no you… you did good kiddo.”

I took the gun back, and draped the strap over the back of my neck. “You used this like a pro.”

She nodded, and smiled a bit. “Yeah, my dad taught me. He also taught me how to use his service pistol. He said ‘they’ll never expect a girl to be looking back at them behind the gun.’”

“Smart man your dad.” I gave the creature a soft kick, just to see if it would try to move. It certainly didn’t. I saw it had a uniform like mine, but without all the gear, just a driver I guess.

Before I could pat her on the shoulder, I heard another growl, and looked around in terror.

In the minutes after the gunshot, a ring of the monsters had emerged from all directions, some of them from the undamaged houses, I saw one crawl from a ditch, two more crawled out of the back of a red pickup. We were ringed in.

Ruby gulped, knowing that her shot had gotten a lot of unwanted attention. “Oh God.. I’m so sorry!”

I took a head count, had to be thirty of them, all groaning and growling like sick dogs. Ruby put her back to mine, and I fumbled at the side of my pant leg. Undoing a strap, I pulled a pistol from it’s holster and jammed it into her wrist.

“Here, more your size.”

Over the echoing chorus of growling and moaning, came a clattering roar from a machine gun, and a huge armored vehicle swung into sight, careening towards us. The creatures began to fall like wheat before a scythe, and those that endured the hail of bullets were splattered on the vehicle’s front end. It came to a stop not five yards from us.

The back end opened, and about ten men in uniforms leapt out. Two of them went to the still wriggling corpses and began began dispatching them with head shots, but the other eight circled us, training their weapons on me. They all wore ominous gas masks, wore thick green uniforms like mine, and were armed to the teeth.

“On the ground!” One of them scream through his mask. I looked down the barrels of eight assault rifles, and felt laser pointers dancing across my chest. I put myself between them and the girl.

“Don’t hurt her.” I said calmly, slowly laying my gun on the asphalt. I kneeled down, my head held high, my hands held palms open. Two men shouldered their firearms and dashed forward to seize me. I lowered my head, and prepared to be roughhoused by the men in masks.

Then we all were stopped by a loud gasp from behind me. The soldiers froze in place, not alerted or scared, just paused in surprise. I turned, and the girl’s face had paled with shock. She pointed to my face, the left side which wasn’t obscured by bandages, and reached out to touch it. She looked into my eyes, and began crying anew. And then she did something that caught me off guard. She threw her arms around me, weeping, but happily so this time.

Over her sobbing, and sniffling, I heard her squeak one word. “Daddy.”

I was floored, and hugged her back. She saw me as her dad, and yet I did not know her. Two soldiers gently pulled her off me, and, holding me by the arms, escorted us into the back of their vehicle. It reminded me of the inside of a ribcage, with heavy cloth covering the frame. It was like a cage, yet it felt safe. It was nice and cold inside.

My daughter sat across from me, between two huge soldiers with their gas masks, her eyes down as if horrified to look at me. I’m sure that, if there were a vanity mirror in the back of these armor plated truck, I would have been too. I tried to smile, but it felt like someone stabbing thumb tacks into the bandages. All we could do was look at each other, before I was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the transport.

When I awoke, I wondered if I had again woken up in a different world. The truck had just stopped, and I opened my eyes as the soldiers filed out the open back end of the vehicle. My daughter went first, and then me, and I almost fell down.

Overhead swept a deep, blue sky, floored on the horizon by what at first looked like clouds, all towards what remained of Denver. All around me I could see everything bursting with life. Thousands of people filed about, a quarter of them in uniforms of all kinds, a lot them like mine. I saw men and women in work suits, in casual clothes, some of them only had bed clothes and emergency blankets. And children of all ages, many of them had backpacks, they must’ve been in school only days ago.

And the herd wasn’t just made up of humans, I saw dogs zipping about, birds in cages, a lot of cows and horses. A few cats perched lazily or hunted quietly, and I swear I even saw an ox.

I looked beyond the crowd, and saw a high wall made of huge metal cargo containers, soldier and citizen alike wandered the top with guns, firing out beyond the wall occasionally. And beyond the wall stretched mountains and ridges, endless trees, and even some waterfalls. I grabbed the shirt sleeve of a man walking by. He was in a suit, like he had just come back from the office.

“Hey, where the hell are we?”

He put his hand on my should softly, and gave me a sorrowed look. “Glenwood. Everything farther east is gone man, The Eastern Seaboard, the Plains, everything east of the Rockies.”

I had no time to ask more questions before two military officers came and asked me to come with them to be “decontaminated”.

After intensive showers and tests, details were provided to fill the blanks. Some disease had hit the country, coming from the east coast ports and spreading inland. By the time we recognized it, it had hit half the country. Those who got the disease died, and became, apparently, the creatures that now stumbled about. Pretty sad if you ask me, the most intelligent creatures on the planet down to the two legged equal of a bacteria.

Funny statement that, they were carriers of the disease even after death, in all essence a two legged bacteria, a bipedal virus, a mobile sickness.

We had been lucky, it could’ve spread through the airlines, as it can only be spread by contact with infected blood. We had been able to fence it off at the mountains, to save the rest of the country. What little was left to save.

Apparently, my men were deployed to Denver, where everyone was told to just stay indoors, that they’d be ok once the army arrived. But it was far worse there than the higher-ups could’ve guessed. I had abandoned my unit to go find my family, instead of fleeing the incoming bombs, and that had put me in the immediate area of a bomb strike.

Over the course of the story, I heard words like the Denver outbreak, containment failure, and decontamination. They meant nothing to me, not that I didn’t understand them, I just didn’t care. I was still tired and drained from my battle for survival.

I paid attention when I was told that my family… they all died when a napalm strike hit our neighborhood. Except my daughter Ruby, who hadn’t been home when the bombing commenced. Yet I didn’t feel anger, not at first. How cruel is it that you don’t cry for your lost loved ones because you forgot them? My injury caused me to not remember them, not my wife, sons, sisters, brothers, not even my daughter. That thought is what provoked me to cry, I cried because I did not remember them.

I looked out the door, seeing Ruby sitting nervously in the hall, probably waiting for me. I did smile to myself a bit. At least I had her still, I still had a chance to know my family again, to know her again. Finally I was told that, once I recovered, me and my daughter would be moved to a safe zone in Grand Junction.

But before we left, I chanced to ask the doctors what had happened to me. Again, I heard a lot of terms that were meaningless, but then I heard amnesia, damage to the cerebral cortex. It was a miracle that I had survived the wound, never mind the nuclear blast.

You see, one of the soldiers who had picked us up came in with my old helmet. I almost didn’t recognize it. It was bent in half, with a huge crater in the side deep enough to hide a cake. It had been impaled on a steel beam hurled by the explosion, and had not the chin strap broken it would’ve taken my head clean off. I remember running my hand along the helmet, watching my hand disappear into the massive dent. I looked from the helmet to my daughter, sitting in a chair just outside the examination room, and chuckled to myself.

A miracle indeed.

Credit To – Evan Dollarhide

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Homeward

January 28, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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He stumbled. He knew the way, or at least he was reasonably sure he did, but he had a hard time staying on track.

He fell. He decided to just stay there for a minute, and catch his breath. When he got up, a moan escaped his lips; he didn’t hurt, exactly, but he was frustrated. He looked up at the afternoon sun, and didn’t remember it getting so late. Where did the time go?

He just shrugged and walked it off. Home. That was his thought process; I have to get home.

He’d been drunk before, of course. There were times where he couldn’t remember events from a night of revelry, but he’d never had a substantial blackout before. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember what had happened between doing shots at the bar and stumbling around now, at least sixteen hours later. Was he asleep? Where were his friends?

Why did he have only one shoe?

He thought about asking the woman sitting in the park bench. Asking her what? He forgot.

He was so confused, but he felt that he couldn’t possibly still be drunk.

“My god,” he thought, “am I sick?”

The lady on the park bench was pretty. He moved in her direction. She looked past him.

He loomed over her, and she continued to ignore him.

“Hey,” he tried to say, but his words came out a gasp. Tongue tied, he stood there, trying to ask a simple question without appearing to be a fool or simpleton. He just needed to use her phone, if she had one. He grew nervous and agitated; it was like he was stuck in a dream, and he couldn’t get the words out.

All she did was dismissively grunt in his general direction.

He knew when to take a hint, so he kept walking towards home.

He wasn’t tired, but annoyed and hungry. There was a shadowy spot underneath an old oak; he liked how the moss hung to give shade. He sat down, leaning against the trunk. He looked back towards the hotel, but couldn’t see it. Where were his friends? What had happened to the bachelor party? He didn’t remember walking so far, but things had been a mess since waking up.

His eyes wandered the streets around him, and he thought it odd how there was absolutely no vehicle traffic. Cars had stopped in some places, and the roads were completely clear in others. Vaguely, he registered the sounds of alarms and horns blaring in the distance. He saw a lot of folks walking, not seemingly in a hurry, and completely unconcerned about the heat of the day.

He drifted off, tired of thinking, tired of trying to remember and piece it all together.

Awareness floated back to him on the beams of a full moon. He was walking again. Just as confused as earlier, at least he was no longer hungry. He found it odd that he was now barefoot, but he didn’t dwell on it.

He had to get home.

He smiled a little as he remembered being this drunk once before. He was being led back to the hotel from a night on River Street by his less-inebriated friends. He became obsessed with the fact that his wife was missing. “Where did she go? IS SHE OKAY?” he yelled, and he lit out to find her at a full-trot. A keystone cops moment followed, wherein he ran circles around the old weathered brick building that housed a nightclub, chased by four of his closest and dearest. When he finally stopped running (he found her safe and sound hugging a lamp post) the almost-sober of the group ushered the concerned parties to the suite before police could be involved.

Lost in thought, he tripped over something on the shoulder of the interstate.

Wait. The interstate?

Headlights in the distance illuminated his path. He looked down at what nearly made him fall. He couldn’t tell for sure what it was, but it was slippery and smelled delicious.

“A food truck accident?” he thought.

He shambled on towards the headlights, intending to wave them down for a ride. He reached out to them, waving his hands.

The car swerved towards him, and didn’t slow down.

Confusion turned to anger when a side-mirror grazed his arm. He spun around, and landed in the ditch. The car kept going, red taillights in the distance weaving around other vehicles in the dark.

Anger added itself to the perpetual confusion and frustration. He tried to get up, but found his left arm uncooperative. He roared in fury, and slowly got back to his feet.

He looked down, and in the moonlight, his arm hung limply. It was twisted and obviously broken.

“Wow. I must really be blitzed,” he hazily thought.

There was no pain.

He walked on.

Slowly, the miles melted away as surely as his thoughts. Blackouts became more common. Words became disjointed images in his mind, and soon the only two things that he knew were hunger and the need to go home.

Time became a blur, discomfort became a constant companion, and anger colored everything with a hazy white film. Days became nights, and strangers shambled beside him. He didn’t speak. After it became obvious that they would ignore him, he began to return the favor.

He finally recognized the exit ramp for home.

He left the pack of weary travelers that had both welcomed and spurned him, and he refused to rest until he could do so in his own bed.

His wife and children would be worried sick, and the Missus would probably be angry that he hadn’t called. She never really wanted him to go off to Savannah with the boys for the bachelor party, anyway.

These thoughts seeped in and leaked out just as quickly, and it was hard to concentrate. He vaguely remembered being upset that she hadn’t come looking for him, but these complex ideas, too, just became images.

Home. Hunger. Eat when I get there. Rest when I get home. One foot in front of the other, fall down. Get up. Keep going. Home.

Hunger.

Her.

Love?

Longing for her.

Longing for home.

Blackout.

He couldn’t get inside. The front door wouldn’t open. He knocked with his good arm. He beat at the door with both arms in a slow-motion frenzy as frustration mounted and became anger.

Ever present, under his roiling emotions, that hunger kept gnawing at him.

“I’m home, let me in,” he thought he said, but the reality was that only a growl escaped his dried, cracked lips.

He heard crying from inside. Something was wrong! The need to feed flared white-hot, and his fury peaked. He knocked louder, and he yelled for her to let him inside. His arms flailed against the door, and his growls became a constant moan.

Finally, the door opened, and there she was.

He saw a flash of light, but he never realized it was the flash of a muzzle. The sound of thunder that echoed into the pines and elms surrounding their secluded country house never reached his ears; he finally stopped walking, moaning, and longing.

“There will be others. Close the door and let’s get the barricade back in place before they get here.”

“We need to bury him, mama! He’s been missing since this thing started, but now he’s home, and we need to take care of Dad!”

“That’s not your daddy any more, baby. He died weeks ago.”

Under the cover of darkness, as quietly as they could, they laid him to rest next to other family members. Each of them in that shallow makeshift cemetery had been driven by longing and hunger; each of them had been looking for a missing piece of themselves that could only be found back home.

Credit To – Nick O’Caliban

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Shadows of Bedzin

January 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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When I was young my grandmother used to tell me stories of her youth. When I was about the age of fourteen, she told me about her and my grandfather’s time in a Polish city by the name of Bedzin. She described Bedzin as a quaint city; it had been where she first met my grandfather, where they married, and where they planned to live for the rest of their days.

Their aspirations of a normal life were abruptly crushed in September of 1939 when Hitler’s armies invaded. By 1940 their beloved hometown had been transformed into a dirty ghetto where my grandparents were forced to work in German munition factories. By late 1940 my grandparents realized that there were fewer workers each day and decided it was time to get out. As soon as they had the chance, they joined about six others going into hiding.

They were welcomed into a local library were many others were supposedly hiding, the library had an attic were my grandparents believed some were hiding, but they were told that they would be staying in the basement with the other six. The basement was behind an old bookcase that covered a small door that was just large enough for an adult to crawl through. The space was made up of two rooms, one with a few cots and the other filled with stacks of books. They stayed in those two rooms for years, living in secrecy, never venturing out of that trapdoor. The librarian delivered food and water every night along with new books. They lived in relative peace for those few years, save for the occasional clamor of the war above seeping through the thin wood over their heads.

Eventually, the war caught up with them; the librarian had stopped bringing them food, fuel for their lanterns, and new reading material. There was no warning, only a loud blast, an earthquake-like shaking, and the sound of shattering glass and falling rubble. They had begun to ration what little food they had left, though the librarian had always brought them enough provisions to last them until the next night when he would return. After a day in the two room basement the food had run out and they decided that they would rather face the Nazis than stay down there and starve. They had tried the door but it was suck; they didn’t know whether it had been the bookcase still in front of it or if the building had collapsed and rubble blocked the door, but when they couldn’t open or knock down the door, some of their group began to panic.

Eventually they all returned to their cots, dejected and without hope, wondering whether they would ever get out of the basement. Their savior had become their damnation, and they had no way out. After about two days, the roof had begun to leak. The water was fetid and brown, but they had no other choice than to drink from the seemingly unending stream. The water had kept them alive, but it had also started give those who drank it symptoms of some kind of sickness. As they drank, my grandparents showed some concern; they had tried to convince the others to wait until they had filtered it and boiled it from the heat of the lantern, but they had been so thirsty that they disregarded her warnings and drank straight from the leak. As my grandparents cleansed their water, the others had become anxious, confused and agitated, constantly scratching at an itch that seemed to not cease and enveloped their entire body.

They had drunk the water for two days, and the other’s symptoms had grown worse and worse over that short time. It was on the third day that the others had grown too hungry. One of the others, a young woman of about twenty by the name of Cecylia had pounced on an old women named Agatha. Almost instantaneously, the others had joined in and pounced on the poor old women. They tore into her with teeth and nails, biting into her jugular and spraying blood onto the floor around them. My grandfather had grabbed my grandmother and pulled her into the next room that had been filled with books and a single cot that they had moved shortly after they had first arrived. Knowing that they would eventually lose interest in the old woman, my grandfather began stacking the books against the door. Within ten minutes, hundreds of books that they had accumulated over the years were stacked against the door and what had happened had finally sunk in.

My grandfather held my grandmother as she wept, and tried to console her, though he had no idea how. He had been just as frightened as she was, and had no idea how he would get them out of this.

The sickening slurping and crunching of bones had ceased as suddenly as it had begun, leaving only the sound of my grandmother’s weeping and the sound of aimless footsteps from the other room. All of the sudden, the footsteps stopped. My grandmother’s sobbing ceased as she pulled her head away from my grandfather’s chest as they listened anxiously for the footsteps to continue. They sat in absolute silence for minutes, only the faint glow of the lantern providing them any solace. My grandmother sighed as she wiped tears from her eyes, and as soon as she did she heard rapid footsteps. They both jumped as something from the other side slammed into the wall. They heard another crash, and another, until the sound of splintering wood had begun to accompany it. With another loud crash, a piece of wood flew from the wall, and a large crack had run through the wall to the floor. The dim glow of the lantern on the other side of the wall shined through the hole, and though they waited for another loud crash, it never came.

After what felt like hours of sitting and waiting for another crash, my grandmother decided to stand and approach the hole in the wall. It was only big enough to fit a finger through, and gave a partial view of the next room. As she peered through the hole, she saw a mass of bodies lying near each other, their chest rising and falling. She looked down and saw another body, lying on the ground with an indentation in its head and a small river of red coming from its now closed eyes. It was Cecylia. She had caved her head in charging at the wall. In the very end of her field of vision, she could see an arm. Nothing else, just an arm. The arm was wrinkled and pale, missing a few portions and covered in bite marks where the arm still had skin to show them. She slowly backed away from the hole and sat on the cot, returning to the arms of my grandfather.

That night my grandfather put out the lantern in their room, wanting to conserve their fuel for as long as possible. Through the hole in the wall, she could see the faint glow of the other room’s lantern. She stood up and looked through the hole once again and saw nothing different; the others were still sleeping in a large pile and the two bodies were untouched. She looked back at the pile where the others were sleeping and saw that now only three were lying there. She gasped and stepped back. She knew that there should be four of them there. They came in with six others, two were dead, so where was the last one? She looked around the room but saw nothing. The lantern began to flicker and its glow began to die, but she continued to study the room. As the lantern gave off its final seconds of light, she saw a shadow in the corner, standing and staring at her. She watched the shadow until the lantern went out a few seconds later.

My grandmother never told me what had happened after that moment, just that they had pulled at the rotting wood above them, climbed out of the basement and saw a large pile of rats lying dead near a broken pipe spewing water. By the time they had escaped, the Russians had liberated Bedzin and freed them of the Nazi’s rule. My grandmother couldn’t see her hometown in the same light after she had escaped the basement, so my grandfather bought a house in a small village in Bosnia. That’s where they raised my mother, and where my mother raised me. My grandmother called them the Shadows of Bedzin, what she thought to be a fitting name. I agree, those people were no longer human, they were hosts to a horrendous disease, just a shell of their former selves.

I’m writing this because I now find myself in a similar situation. The year is 1993, and I am in hiding from the Scorpions Paramilitary organization who have begun to ethnically cleanse Bosnia. I’m hiding with eight others, and twenty minutes before I started writing this we heard a large explosion, followed by the sound of an earthquake, accompanied by the sound of rubble sliding and glass shattering. If I die, let it be known that the shadows of Bedzin, have become the shadows of Bosnia, but I was not one of them. I didn’t drink the water, I didn’t become a monster.

Credit To – Erik Clements

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The Tourist

October 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I’d never flown before. It was kind of peaceful, staring out of the little oval window to my right. It was the perfect time to think. I thought about the fight with my step father, and my mom begging me not to take this trip, siting news articles about missing and murdered locals. I thought about how I had pointed out that tourists hadn’t had any trouble. I thought about how I might find happiness and never come back.

We landed in Cardiff International around 9 pm, on time, and I decided to walk to my small hotel. After getting settled I wasn’t ready for sleep, so I decided to walk around for a bit. The streets surrounding my hotel were pretty, enough. Flower gardens along the sidewalk and clean streets.

But the streets just a little beyond were seedier than I had prepared for. The bums were out, occasionally trying to gain my attention, as walked by, in the hopes that the silly tourist had a little extra cash. The streets were lined with small shops, all them closed, and some for good, as well as unsavory looking bars, all wide open. As I was entertaining the thought of dipping into one, and charming an attractive Welsh man with false stories of my grandeur back in America, I heard a crash, ahead of me. It was the sound of a young man, 20, if not a teen, landing on top of a trash can. Trash bin? I made a mental note to ask someone. Behind him a young woman, wielding a wooden bat, and sporting enough tattoos and piercings to make my mother shake her head, was yelling at him in a thick Welsh accent, about attempting to steal, again. The man ran off into the night, the woman yelling after him. The woman abandoned her verbal assault, and began righting her trash can. Trash bin?

I think we both heard it, at the same time. A primal sound beneath a gurgle and the sound of feet pounding the damp cement. The young woman swung around, just in time, to catch the underside of the rabid, bloody man’s chin. His eyes rolled back, for a moment, before regaining his footing, and resuming his attack. I started yelling for help, and police. The girl started bashing the man’s head as he tried to claw and gnash at her. A few stepped out of the bar to catch the actions, and immediately jumped on their phones, calling cops, and taking pictures and videos. It wasn’t until the man laid still, his head like hamburger meat, that the lady backed off, bloodied, and shaking. I ran to her, and grabbed her arm to keep to her still. I asked if she was alright, and she yanked her arm from my grasp, muttering that she was fine. The local police arrived a moment later, and I was pulled several directions for witness statements. After a dizzying list of questions, I accepted a ride to my hotel, and only had enough reserved energy to shower and climb into bed.

My nightmares were dark and full of rabid, bloody people, trying to eat my flesh. I woke up feeling as if my energy was drained while I slept. I could only stomach coffee as I thought about the previous night, and the animalistic man. His dilated eyes and bloody mouth were enough to make me want to run home, but my curiosity about the young woman drug me out of my door. I wanted to see if she was okay, and if she had seen what I remember seeing. As I made my way through the old streets, I noticed they weren’t so intimidating during the day. The bars were closed, and the shops were open, a few people going in and out, little bells ringing. The bums were gone, likely run off by shop owners, and the street had been swept. I found the woman’s shop, open, luckily. I walked in and wasn’t quite expecting the scene. Deep colored walls, and a couple plush, dark, velvet couches, with a large skull-covered hookah perched on a small side table. Racks, everywhere, covered in clothes, purses, masks, and a lot of neon and dark furry things, unidentifiable by shape. Surrounding the check stand was a case full of movie replica weapons, and little racks of buttons and patches. I heard the young lady call, from the back, that she would be out in a moment, and I followed the sound of her voice. As i walked up the archway of the back room, I noticed a small apartment, before the view was blocked by the woman stepping through. Recognition loosened her smile, and she turned slightly sour at my appearance.

“Can I help you?” she asked. The tone in her voice suggested she didn’t care to help me. I wonder if I should ask her about the “trash can vs. trash bin” thing. Just to get the ball rolling. I decided, instead, to jump into it.

“That man, last night. Did you see his eyes and bloody mouth? Or did I imagine that”

“I saw it. Why?”

“Is that normal”

“Yes, all of us are born wild-eyed, and bloody mouthed. Most of us just hide it well” She rolled her eyes and began unpacking some boxes of clothing, behind the register. I think she was hoping I would leave after she made it obvious I was being ignored. I’m not normally so easily deterred, but my coffee filled stomach was starting to bother me, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten in nearly 24 hours.

I left without another word and decided to try the cafe a block from my hotel. I still had so many questions about last night, but the boutique owner wasn’t the best conversationalist. I made a plan to talk to some of the bar patrons, tonight.

My plan was interrupted by a man screaming, just around the corner, ahead of me. Another man came running from the corner, ashen faced, and checking over his shoulder as he passed me. I ran to screams, and rounded the corner, only to get smacked in the face by the most horrific vision I had ever witnessed. A man and woman bent over a man’s body, holding him down and ripping pieces of flesh from his bones, shoving it in their mouths, while the living man screamed in terror and agony. I could feel my coffee coming up, and I let out a small cry. It was enough to gain the attention of the devourers, and they eyed me, for a moment, with curiosity and hunger. The woman went back to her meal, but the man wanted to move to greener pastures, as he lunged forward for me. I turned tail and ran, as fast as I could, back to the only place I knew.

The woman met me with a scowl.

“What the hell do you want, now?” she asked, as I slammed her door shut and spun the lock into place.

“What the feck do you think your doin’?” She shouted, grabbing her bat, and heading for me.

“NO! WAIT! There are more of those people out there! Please, I can’t go back out there, we have to lock the doors!” My defense was validated by immediate pounding and growling behind my back, which only intensified the woman’s aggressive stance.

“You brought them here? You twat! Are you trying to get us both killed?”

“They were EATING a man! Eating his skin while he was still alive! What are they?” I yelled, over the din of the beast just outside of the thick wood door. I couldn’t stop the tears brimming my eyes. The woman’s features softened, slightly, at the sight of my tears, but her voice held the same tone.

“Stop your sniveling, it’s not helping anyone. Throw the locks on those windows” She nodded to one side of the doors and she headed for the other, swinging down iron locks, and pulling the windows shut. I followed suit, and bit back my tears as I struggled a little with the awkward locks I’d never, before, encountered. Eventually, i got all of my windows locked and covered. When I turned around, the woman was back at her counter, hanging up and redialing the phone.

“I can’t get through to emergency services, the line is engaged. Looks like we’re on our own for the time being.”

I could feel the tears welling up, again, and my stomach felt like it was imploding. I couldn’t tell if it was from hunger, or anxiety, now. I went and sat on the purple, velvety couch, and regretted not being able to appreciate the sandalwood smell and soft cushion. I took a few deep breaths and tried to sort my thoughts. We needed a plan. I needed food. I decided to ask if she had food, when it occurred to me that I didn’t even know her name.

“My name is Deanna.” I volunteered, hoping she would return the response with her own name. She shot me an annoyed look, instead.

“That’s nice.” She didn’t look like it was nice.

“What’s your name?” I asked

She gave an exaggerated sigh. “Chloe” she said, obviously not wanting to have a conversation.

I sat in silence for a while, a little afraid to ask for anything. Chloe disappeared into the apartment, but I was afraid to follow. Surviving meant not pissing off my very edgy apocalypse partner. After a while, Chloe returned with two cups of tea, offering me one without speaking. I thanked her, quietly, and sipped it. I wasn’t about to tell her I didn’t like tea. I drank it, anyway, and it helped my stomach, a little. Chloe returned, again, with two bowls of chili, and some bread. I fought my urge to shove the food in my face as quickly as possible. I took great pains to eat normal sized spoonfuls of chili, and chew my bread. I thanked Chloe, and received a curt “Welcome” in return.

The banging had stopped, nearly an hour before, but the screams in the streets were still audible. I didn’t want to look.

“Could we turn on a radio, or something?” I asked, hoping to drown out the noise.

“You want us to draw attention to ourselves? Feck that. You can go outside and hold up a sign that says “Free Food”, but I’m staying quiet.”

I went back to shutting up, and pulled my legs to my chest, tucking my chin between my knees. I thought about the fight with my step-father, and about my mother’s warnings. I thought about my pursuit of happiness, and how I may never come back.

“Chloe? Do you think these things have anything to do with stories about disappeared and murdered people that have been popping up, lately?”

“Maybe. Those stories were in the countryside, though. Miles from here. We weren’t too worried about it.”

“Maybe they just discovered the city. It’s a much bigger…food source.” I cringed.

“You’re probably right. Doesn’t change much, though. We don’t know what’s going on, or why, so I guess we just sit here and wait for the military to roll through.”

“You think they’ll come?” I asked, hopeful

“They always do, in the movies. Only place I’ve seen this kind of thing, before.”

That was fair, I guessed, and warmth of the food in my stomach made my eyes heavy. As I drifted off, I asked “Chloe? Is it called a trash can or a trash bin, here?”

“Bin.” She replied, and I fell asleep.

I awoke, in the evening, to the sound of one of the windows shattering. I saw Chloe, to my left, leap off of her couch, shaking off sleep. She ran for her bat, and began battering the bodies pushing through the curtains. One slipped through the left edge of the curtain, and I recognized the woman from the street. More bloody than before, she ran at me, hands clawed, and mouth wide, emitting the same gurgling howl heard the night before. I ran, my eyes darting around for a weapon. I spotted a replica hatchet, from a movie i didn’t recognize the name of, and snatched it up. I was immediately thankful for how solid it felt. I buried the hatchet in the woman’s unblocked face, but she continued, unaffected. My arm, however, certainly noticed the impact and it took a second to regroup before yanking my ill-chosen weapon from her skull. I swung, again, but my aim wasn’t as true, as the blade slid past her cheek and hit her shoulder. I stumbled away, backing into the counter. There was statue to my right, some kind of Greek or Roman goddess. I didn’t have a lot of options. I could only hope it was heavy enough to damage. It was. I swung, as hard as I could manage, down on top of the cannibal’s head, and she stumbled. YES! I swung, again, and again, until she laid still, her skull cracked, and her brain looking much like this morning’s chili.

Chloe called for me from the window, struggling with the two men trying to push their way in. I jumped into the row, and we managed to beat them back. Chloe yelled for me to her, and grabbed a hold of a large painting on the wall. It was painted on wood, thankfully, and we put it up to the window. With limited resources, we had to wedge it in. but it would do for the moment.

A bloody Chloe, short of breath, stumbled back to her little apartment. This time I followed, feeling a bit more worthy. Chloe was leaned over the sink of her kitchenette, washing the blood from her arms. I noticed the gash in her arm.

“You’re bleeding!” I practically shouted, unsure of what else to do.

“Well spotted.” She bit, sarcastically, wincing a little as the water ran over her wound. “I think I cut myself on the glass, pushing the freaks out. Grab me the alcohol out of the cabinet, will you?” She nodded so a small separated room, which turned out to be the bathroom. I found the alcohol and some rags, and we made a makeshift bandage.

Chloe collapsed onto one of the couches, and reached into the drawer on the table, beside here. She pulled out a gun. The thing looked ancient, and too big. It had one of those chambers that spun around, and the little hammer in the back. It reminded me of something a cowboy would draw in a stand-off.

“It was my grandpa’s.” she said. “It shoot’s.” in answer to my look of doubt. “Here”, she said, handing me the piece, “I’m obviously no good, I can barely lift it. I need to rest, you man the fort.”
She snorted something, almost like a laugh, and with a labored breath, she drifted off. How much blood had she lost? When her breathing got heavy, I left her in peace. I figured I’d look around the shop, a bit, while I had time to myself. I found some matches and a pack of candles in a junk drawer, near the sink. It was a good thing, because the shop was nearly black with the curtains drawn and a window boarded up. I looked at the furry things first. There were vests, leg warmers, hats, and gloves. Some were glittery, and some lit up with rainbow LEDs. In a corner, there was a collection of latex clothing, with hints at BDSM. I decided to avoid that corner. One wall was adorned with gas masks, goggles, and masquerade masks. I tried on an elaborate white mask, covered in feathers and pearls. Who buys this stuff? It was obvious this wasn’t a Halloween shop. I guess I’ll never understand people.

I heard Chloe moan a bit, in the bedroom. I went to check on her. Before I made it to the dimly lit archway, leading into the apartment, I heard a familiar gurgling coming from inside. My stomach dropped. My pace slowed and I drew the gun, pulling back the hammer like they do on TV.
“Chloe?” I called quietly?
I hesitated at the doorway. I was rewarded with a response, but the one I hoped for, as a wild-eyed, bloody-mouthed Chloe jumped in front of me. I reacted by pulling the trigger on the heavy pistol. The impact knocked us both backward, but I was faster to recover, grabbing the door, and swinging it shut, on her. I grabbed a cushioned chair from nearby and wedged it beneath the handle. Chloe howled and screamed from the other side, banging, mercilessly, on the door. Unfortunately, her wild noises drew the attention of her beastly brethren in the streets and they began assemble at the front of the store, pounding on the windows, door, and painting-covered hole. As the board fell from the sill, it ripped the curtain down with it, revealing a few howling silhouettes, and an outline of street lights. I was trapped. I fired at the shadows, knocking one back, and only stumbling from the kick. I was feeling a bit more confident, now, and fired at another, barely losing my footing. I fired again, almost giggling as I hit one in the head, effectively exploding part of his skull, and dropping him. As I sent another bullet flying, it dawned on me that I had only one bullet left. Any hope of ammo was trapped in the apartment with my short-lived companion. As a handful more figures poured through the window, I ducked behind a rack, in the darkness. I had to make a decision. Do I fire my last bullet, and attempt to escape? Or save myself from a long and painful death? As I weighed my options, I heard the gurgling voices multiply. I made a decision. With iron resolve, I pulled my legs to my chest, and tucked my chin between my knees. I put the gun to my head. I thought about my step-father, and my mom. I thought about how I was never coming back.

Credit To – Amanda Lawrence

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Halloween’s End

October 14, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The bitter cold of night’s sharp breath covered his grey skin in goosebumps, under the glow of the pale moonlight. He drew ragged breaths that were quickly expelled from his lungs, as if the air was poisoned. Every movement was heavy and his body ached. He reminded himself this was all temporary, and the discomfort of human life would soon end. After all, sustaining himself in this form was only for one purpose, and its time was swiftly coming.

He folded his great pearly wings close to his body and rose unsteadily to his feet, grimacing at the darkness of the deep alleyway around him. This was not the life he was used to, and he was always disgusted by the filth. He smelt the stench of life around him, rotting rubbish, human sweat— it was all overpowering. The many puddles around him helped explain the high humidity, and why the smell was far worse than he’d expected. The last time he’d walked the earth was long before this age.

The drone of air conditioning units hummed around him. He didn’t want to be there, but his mission was too important.

In the distance, he heard rock music and the cacophony of voices in crowds. Laughter, crying, and shrieks of pleasure reached his ears.

“Bless me, heavenly father, for I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil, for you are with me. I will not fail you,” he said through firm lips, bringing a clenched fist to his chest. He began to shiver.

Human life is so fragile, he thought.

Smiling, he felt his heart thump within his chest. He knew he was near mortal, at least for a while. It had been a long time since he’d ever risked living on earth, and it would usually be unnecessary as he could watch from a higher plane with no risk of dying a typical mortal’s death. This could mean the end of him, but if that were to happen, then he’d be reborn in a new, invigorated life.

His death would be a small price to pay if he could save her. The other six archangels had their own missions around the world, but through divine intervention, he was chosen for this task.

His smile vanished the second he heard cans rattle by a nearby industrial bin. He instinctively reached for the sword of light, strapped at his side, then suddenly remembered that he was naked. He knew this journey was fraught with danger. He longed for his ethereal armour, but it was not to be. At the very least, he knew he still had his razor sharp wings, which were stronger than any steel beheld by man.

Father, hear my prayer. Protect me and deliver me from evil, amen.

He heard a desperate, pleading voice cry out from the darkness ahead. “Whatever the hell you are, you’re not of this earth, are you? I saw you appear out of thin air, and I’ve not been drinking tonight. Who are you? What are you?”

“I am known as Barachiel, and from hell I’m not.”

A wizened old man, bent almost double, warily approached him. The man was completely covered in dirt and clutched a woollen, hooded coat.

Lucifer could’ve already seen me through this man’s eyes, in which case it’s only a matter of time. There’s one thing I can do.

He approached the old man, putting a hand on his shoulder, easing out his wings to provide them both with some cover. The man’s eyes widened and a toothless, open-mouthed grin stretched across his face. He held out his clasped hands. The many scars along his arms revealed a plethora of attempts at suicide.

“Oh my god. You’re an angel, aren’t you? I thought I’d heard your name in scripture. Please, I beg of you, take me out of this place. This life I lead isn’t worth living anymore.”

“The scriptures,” Barachiel said slowly, almost in contempt, his voice drifting away as he paused to remember the bibles worshipped in church. “Are the many books of men that don’t contain the truth, despite whatever they chose to believe. They were penned in the name of god, but make a mockery of god’s true self for their own gain. You’re not the one I’m here for, but the end is near, and the day of reckoning will come. Keep your faith, and you will join us in the afterlife.”

He wasn’t sure if he was reassuring the man, but he couldn’t tell him the whole truth. God’s selection for heaven was not judged by going to church, reciting the bible, or putting money in a collection plate. It was by ones heart and actions. This man would most likely be destined for the underworld.

Well, it’s never too late to hope.

“Barachiel, I wish I didn’t have to wait. What end are you talking about? I’ve not seen any signs.”

“The signs are everywhere. Ignore what you hear from preachers, and open your eyes. The great battle to end the war is looming, and this world is the battlefield.”

The chime of the nearby clock tower reminded him of his mission. Earth was not timeless, and the sands of the hourglass were slipping by. Barachiel began to shiver and his teeth started chattering. It was freezing and he needed to find some clothes, fast. He looked into the man’s eyes and concentrated.

A brilliant white light flashed from his eyes, and the old man stood as still as a statue. His face began to twist and turn. The old man’s bloodshot eyes and black pupils confirmed the worst.

A dark voice spilled from the possessed man’s lips. “Ahh Barachiel, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? I don’t know if you’re brave or stupid to show your face on earth. Tell me, did you come here to die?”

Lucifer!

With one smooth movement, Barachiel launched from the ground with an enormous flap of his wings, pulling the coat off the old man and folded his wings as he landed near the bright end of the alley, toward the Main Street full of people. He covered himself and pulled the hood over his head as he ran through the shadows, heading toward the lights of the crowd. The hisses of the underworld lord dissipated as he blended in with the people around him, slowly regaining his bearings.

The warmth of the old coat was a welcomed change for his freezing body, but it wasn’t enough.

Staring at the clock tower as he fled down the main thoroughfare, he was nearly bowled over by a heavy set man dressed as a vampire, sneering at him. The sight of the man drenched in fake blood was confusing. The costumed vampire cried out, “You! Watch where you’re fucking going!”

The same incredulous vision haunted him, flashing again in his mind like some crazy nightmare he wished would end. He gripped his head and gritted his teeth as the scene played out in his mind. Gunfire was all around and the streets were piling up with dead bodies. The smell of rotting corpses and burnt gunpowder stained the air. Human cries of agony accompanied the symphony of spent shells hitting the ground, and the whistle and thump of every bullet landing in flesh, concrete, walls, everything. It was an orchestrated attack. The demons were everywhere, with bloodshot eyes under white hockey masks splattered with the blood of their victims.

Returning to reality and ignoring the man, Barachiel realised that he was in the city of Brisbane, in that far off land of Australia. He had followed the signs of the vision to appear here. People were everywhere. The sound of laughter filled his ears. The smell of coffee and hot food was a pleasantly contrasting aroma to the rotten stench of the alleyway. Many families and couples walked the streets, but almost everyone was dressed up for the occasion. He never understood this desire by humans to celebrate festivals of the living dead.

Such foolishness.

The smiling faces and joyful laughter of mortals parading the streets brought no happiness to his ears. Soon, they would be dead, every single last one of them, save one. He couldn’t save them all, as much as he would love to try. There’s only so much he could do when the bullets fly.

My mission and purpose is simple, and must be carried out. I can’t save them all, but I may just take some of the sinners with me.

Lucifer, that bastard, has his hand on anything bad that happens. Mass murders, corrupt politicians, pedophiles— the list was endless, all with the hand of the devil himself on their shoulder. The ridiculousness of the bible’s assumption that Lucifer can only be in one place at one time, was so far from the truth.

He could be anywhere and everywhere at the same time, but his influence depends on the weak minds of his victims. He capitalises on the moments where humans are susceptible to his evil. His formidable army of demons relished on played their part on his behalf. They were almost as cruel as Lucifer himself.

He continued racing toward the sign reading, ‘King George Square’, in the centre of the city. This is where it will all take place, and the sea of blood would flow through the streets, or so it was prophesied. Massacres like the one that was to occur that night, would be coordinated all over the world. Such other central locations as Red Square, Manhattan, Havana, New Delhi, Beijing, and Piccadilly Square would all fall under Lucifer’s coordinated and lethal purge. So many souls would soon be flooding into the afterlife.

Barachiel knew that Lucifer counted on his influence in shifting the balance of souls to his favour. They were on the cusp of the earth becoming a hellish battleground. The devil had been busy turning the world into a pool of true sinners. He had created cheats, murderers, rapists— just general degenerates. Some barely needed his influence, and yet he still spurred them on. Those who die violently will most likely end up in between worlds. He would do everything to see that the war is won, but at what cost?

A woman joyously calling over a loudspeaker interrupted his thoughts. “Welcome to the 2015 Brisbane Halloween Festival. Happy Halloween, everyone! The band you’ve all been waiting for is about to take the stage. This is a special performance before their concert tomorrow night at the Brisbane Entertainment Center. Please, give it up for, Metallica!”

The crowd cheered and whistled, holding up plastic lights in the shape of pumpkins and skulls. The sounds of a horrific warzone were slowly overshadowed by the chopped air of a helicopter as if it descended from above. His face paled as he looked around. Surely, it’s not time yet.

It’s the band.

Barachiel narrowed his eyes as he scanned through the crowd. He spotted the old man’s twisted face and bloodshot eyes, standing on a bench under a neon sign, pointing at him. A number of men, women, and children were suddenly possessed. Their heads snapped unnaturally to stare at him, and they charged at his position.

Damn you, Lucifer.

He moved quickly, fleeing through the crowd, dropping his coat to wrap around his waist, while leaning down to disappear from sight.

Some nearby children called out, “Hey man, that’s an awesome costume!”

Ignoring them and turning into a nearby Myer store, Barachiel ran past a security guard who was too busy watching a group of leggy teenage women, dressed as film characters, to notice him. However, people stared at him, a barefooted man with wings in the middle of a department store, but he cared not. He knew that not everyone was susceptible to Lucifer’s reach, and he had to risk it. He had to blend in, and fast.

When I find her, I can take her far away from this forsaken place. I must be vigilant and hurry.

He spotted the menswear section, running in between the aisles and dropping the homeless man’s coat. He grabbed a pair of black business trousers, much to the wide eyes of a nearby female shopper.

“Well, I never!” the woman said, watching him pull the pants on and rip the tag off a nearby belt. He smiled at her, and she stared with flushed cheeks as he quickly dressed.

Now I can move easier, but everyone will recognise these wings.

A security guard approached him and grabbed his arm. “Excuse me, sir, but you have to come with me.”

Barachiel’s eyes glowed, and with a flash of light, as with what had happened with the elderly man, the guard froze, his eyes revealing the terror that had seized him. He hated scaring people, but he had no time to allow anyone to detain him, or have to explain why his wings aren’t part of a costume. It would be seven o’clock soon, and the massacre will begin. The musical chimes of the clock tower would soon play its song of death.

Continuing his run through the store, he grabbed the largest black leather jacket he saw, groaning as he folded his wings as far as they could go to hide their bulk. The wings’ tips were past his buttocks, as he tried to fit into it. Once the jacket was on, the wings were nearly invisible, but now he had the slight problem of a hump on his back.

Perfection is unattainable; it will have to do, given my circumstances. Shoes, I need shoes.

Scanning his peripheral, he saw what he needed. He slipped on a decadent pair of black dress shoes. They were a tight fit of hard leather, but they’d serve well. Heading back toward Queen Street Mall, he picked up his old coat and held it in his left hand.

Everything in this world belonged to god, so it wasn’t a sin for him to take what humans believed to be theirs.

The security guard he’d seen earlier stared at him with a raised eyebrow, pressing the tip of his finger into his clear earpiece. Barachiel turned to him, flinging the coat over the guard as he fled through the security scanners, hearing the screaming siren coming from the alarm behind him.

The Square, I must get to the Square. That’s where I see her, when they all fall.

He turned right, disappearing into the thick crowd, ignoring the desperate shouting of the security guard far behind him. A smiling woman, dressed as an angel with plastic wings, handed him a balloon. She held out a handful of paper masks, and gratefully he reached out for one.

“Here you go, handsome. Happy Halloween!” the woman said.

“God bless your kind heart,” he replied.

He held the mask in his hands, staring at a painting of a devil, grimacing at the thought of wearing a depiction of lucifer. It was the best disguise he could think of, as the real devils would never suspect it. Slipping the mask over his head and adjusting the strap, he continued through the crowd, toward the lights emanating from the square.

The sound of the rock band was getting louder with each step he drew closer. He knew he was heading in the right direction. They were all converging in the same direction, and he stayed in the current-like flow of people.

He heard the hiss of a voice a short distance from him. “Find Barachiel, he couldn’t have gone far.”

It’s working.

The singer’s voice filled the air. “Now the world is gone, I’m just one. Oh God help me! Hold my breath as I wish for death.”

Most of the crowd raised their hands and chanted, “Oh please God, help me.”

Scanning the crowd, he still didn’t see her, but he knew he had to find her. He reminded himself to have faith and believe in his purpose. Many parents near him held their children, some carrying them on their shoulders, as they took them toward the surprisingly enjoyable music. He wanted to save them all, but if he induced panic, then he may never find her again. He had to stay focused.

He pushed through the crowd and caught sight of the stage, and the band’s musicians furiously belting the drums and slashing the guitar to their opening song. He remembered the song that was playing when the gunmen appeared in his vision, and this one wasn’t it. The clock tower was nearing seven o’clock, and he still hadn’t seen her. Straining his memory, he remembered that when he saw her bloodied body on the ground, she was wearing a brown jacket and jeans, and her jet-black hair was tied in a ponytail.

Come on, show yourself. Your salvation depends on it.

The crowd erupted in cheers and applause as the first song wrapped up. Barachiel pushed and shoved his way toward the edge of the Square. His heart raced as he frantically searched the crowd. There were just too many people for him to find her.

“Thank you, Brisbane! Are you ready for… Master of Puppets!”

The crowd went wild and the clock tower bells rang moments before the band’s guitarist began to play. Barachiel’s scream of, “Mary!” was drowned out by the fury of the song’s opening. His heart sank. They were all moments away from massacre.

His head sagged into his trembling hands. It dawned on him that this could be the first time he failed, and of that, he would never forgive himself. But it was not an option— he would not fail, he could not. To reveal his true self would change everything, and although the apocalypse would soon come, there were rules to be followed. His mind raced, and the rock music only loudened. There was no way that she would hear him, and he couldn’t see her.

Father, if you can hear me, now is the time for a sign. Help me find her, I beseech you.

He stood as tall as he could and scanned the crowd once more. The crowd chanted with pumped fists in the air. “Master, Master!”

“Where’s the dreams that I’ve been after,” the band sung.

As the crowd raised their hands and rhythmically clapped, he finally saw her. She was in the thick of the crowd, and he growled as he pushed his way through the crowd, but they pushed back, raising their fists at him. Violence would be a final solution, and he could not harm the innocent.

On the outskirts of the concert, men wearing hockey masks and trench coats surrounded them. They had climbed statues of King George, the lions, and the many benches scattered around the Square. A number of men, women, and children started to run from the crowd, determination clearly painted on their faces. One of them passed him and he saw clearly that they’d been possessed. It wasn’t the innocent that fled the massacre grounds.

The band played on, singing and playing louder. “Hell is worth all that, natural habitat. Just a rhyme without a reason. Never-ending maze, drift on numbered days. Now your life is out of season. I will occupy. I will help you die. I will run through you. Now I rule you too.”

Their ironic lyrics sent shivers down his spine. This was all from his vision, but he could not control what he’d seen. It would all begin at any moment, and he had to save her. It was no longer a choice of how. He never enjoyed spilling blood, but he had to protect his children.

Narrowing his eyes and gritting his teeth, he gripped his jacket and spat out his words. “Forgive me father, for I must sin.”

His eyes glowed as he ripped the jacket off of him, tearing its buttons in the process. He couched down and pounded his fist into the ground, The shockwave sent the nearest idiots flying backward into the bulk of the crowd. He extended his wings and locked his vision on the gunmen as they, in turn, threw off their coats, revealing their body armour. They held M4A1 Colt Carbine machine guns, and chests were full of taped magazines. He had to get their attention, now!

It has begun.

A nearby man cried, “Holy shit! That’s not a costume,” staring at him in disbelief, as others started followed his gaze.

“All of you, run. Save yourselves!” Barachiel said.

The old man suddenly appeared beside one of the gunmen, one again pointing at him frantically. As if time had slowed down, Barachiel launched himself from the ground with unnatural, but self-assured strength. He watched as the men around him took aim with their machine guns, but they were too slow. He suddenly swooped down and reached for the nearest gunman, grabbing him from behind and then rocketing into the sky. White bullet trails filled the star-speckled sky, and his hostage began to open fire randomly.

Barachiel leaned in so he could hear him. “Thou shalt not kill.”

“Fuck you…” the gunman screamed, as Barachiel let go of him, snatching the weapon from his hands. He plummeted through the air, dodging the bullets. The gunman’s eyes returned to normal and his screams continued as he realised his fate, crashing onto the roof of City Hall, his head splitting like a tomato. His lifeless body now a mass of broken bones and guts.

A stray bullet grazed Barachiel’s shoulder, and he cried out in shock, but continued his path toward the swarming and scattering crowd, hunting for his quarry.

She can’t have gone far.

Looking down, to his horror, he saw Lucifer pointing toward the crowd. Some of the gunmen were indiscriminately slaughtering police, and those who’d foolishly engaged them in any manner were swiftly executed. The rest opened fire on the crowd.

God, no!

Thankfully, he spotted her again; she was crouched on the ground, as close to the ground as she could press her body. Barachiel just couldn’t tell if it was either pain or fright.

An image flashed in his mind. She’d die there! He landed harshly on the ground beside her, cracking the ground beneath them. He pulled her close to him as he covered them both in his wings. He knew he could stop the bullets, but also knew his wings weren’t going to cover every angle.

She turned to him with quivering pink lips and a tear-soaked face.

“Am I dead?” she asked.

They must have turned their guns on him, as he groaned with the strength required to hold their position under a barrage of bullets. This was not the first time that he’d seen guns and the death that follows them, and he knew that they had to reload soon.

He looked deep into Mary’s aqua eyes, knowing full well how important she was. He didn’t have time to explain it all.

“Mary, you have to trust me. You’re not dead. Listen to what I say, let me guide you, and you’ll stay that way. Get ready to move.”

She nodded and swallowed hard, gritting her teeth. Barachiel realised that a pool of blood had built beside them and flowed under his wings. Lollies in plastic packets floated underneath their faces. The bullets slowed, and he grabbed her by the hand, walking her away from the Square as he kept his wings around them both. The sight before him was truly horrifying. Everyone in their nearest vicinity had been slaughtered. Women, children, and men were lying in ghastly, unnatural positions, covered in blood. They stepped over the bodies. This was a kind of horror that was truly disturbing to witness. The young were lying prone with bullet holes through their skulls; their insides were spilling to the ground. Some of them were still moaning as they bled out from chest and stomach wounds, calling out for their parents that were already dead beside them.

He could fly Mary out of there, but it would mean exposing their flesh to gunfire. They headed toward the Mall. Through a small gap in his wings, he saw some gunmen painting symbols on the smooth walls of nearby structures. They were painted with their victims’ blood; from the slit throats and slashed chests of the dead, to keep their supply going.

That could only mean they were doing one thing; the realms were merging. Dead souls would be kept here, unable to leave their bodies, but would become mindless flesh-eating creatures. This would be a forsaken place, and the time for the ultimate battle would come far sooner than he’d ever expected.

He crouched down as bullets danced around their feet. He wouldn’t be able to hold out like this for too much longer. His right arm was cradled around a trembling Mary, and his left held the machine gun. Listening hard, he heard the metallic clicks of a nearby gunman reloading, and the boots of others converging on his position.

Breathing deep, he folded his left wing and took aim at the reloading gunman, squeezing the trigger. His aim was terrible, but the bullets sewed their way up the man’s armour, until they tore through his neck and mask, blood and brain matter exploding in cloud behind the man’s head. He turned the gun to another that had drawn a machete and hissed at him as he ran over the bodies as if they were rubbish.

Barachiel narrowed his eyes and let go of Mary for a moment, pushing her down to the ground, keeping his wing over her. He threw the gun with all his strength, connecting with the gunman’s face. His move catapulted the man into the air, snapping his neck in the process, and the freed blade spun through the air.

Catching the machete by its hilt, he plunged it through the man’s skull and heard the popping of another round of gunfire, taking a bullet through his shin as he ripped the weapon from the man’s head, crouched beside Mary, and covered them once again.

He noticed a dying boy’s eyes, completely possessed, through another small gap in his wings. The boy spat his words out. “Barachiel… Do you really think you’ll survive this? You fucking maggot! You serve a god that’s forsaken all of us. This pitiful act of heroism won’t change what will come.”

Groaning, he held his shin, the searing pain making it difficult to concentrate. He began to lose too much blood from his wounds, and started to feel nauseous. There was only so much power he could use to heal himself, and he had to be careful with expending it.

His eyes and hands glowed as he held them over his wounds. A small scar remained as they closed up. Feeling better, he knew there were safe havens they could get to, and one was not too far from the Square, but to fly there would be a risk. It had to be timed right.

He heard the continual sounds of police sirens and the firing of guns throughout the city. Worse, the screams continued, just not right beside them. The entire city was falling, the world along with it. He would know when to send in the army of angels.

“Lucifer, the time has come for your actions to be judged by him. I am just the beginning,” Barachiel said.

“I was like you once, an angel. Hand over the girl and join me. Worship me, and your life will be glorious,” Lucifer said.

Barachiel’s face twisted as he growled, “You’re nothing like me, and I seek no glory.”

“Then die.”

Looking up, he saw that they were crouched below a bright light. The gunmen must have either run out of bullets, or realised that he wouldn’t be so easy to shoot. He heard the stomping of three men’s boots as they charged at him. He rose to his feet, with his right wing still draped over Mary.

One of them swung his blade toward Barachiel’s neck. This was combat he was used to. He expertly spun to his right, bringing his wing up to block the blade with a loud resounding clash. Spinning anti-clockwise, he decapitated the man with a clean swing of his right wing, and threw his blade high, shattering the glass as it smashed into the light. One man had almost reached Mary, and he barely brought up his wing fast enough to stop the blade from crashing into her skull, knocking it clear out of the man’s grip.

He moved faster than any of them could, and picked up the gunman by the neck, ignoring his body blows. With both arms, he swung him into the third attacker, their bodies colliding with a collective snapping of bones.

He looked around to realise that the gunmen were not stepping through the bodies anymore. The hundreds of bodies around him began to move, growling and groaning as if they were animals.

And the dead will walk the earth.

Then it was true, the realms had finally combined, and demons would soon dominate the lands.

The possessed boy had long died, but his cackling laughter was haunting as it echoed around him. “It’s too late for all of you. How will you feel when all of his children are dead?”

Not if I can help it.

He pulled Mary up and held her tight, flapping his wings as hard as he could, rising into the star speckled sky. No bullets followed him, and he suddenly realised why. Lucifer thought he’d already won and the world belonged to him. There was no longer any point of fighting an archangel when the end of days had come.

Time was short, and with Mary sobbing on his shoulder, he headed toward Kangaroo Point Cliffs. Every street in the city was full of death and the undead, people falling everywhere in a vein effort to fight back.

The moonlight reflected off a golden statue in front of him, and as he raced toward it, he saw the long line of Eurocopter Tigers flying below him in a classic “V” formation. As a mass of undead headed toward the nearby Story Bridge, most of the choppers each fired two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles into the bridge’s key structures, while three of their GIAT 30 Gatling guns whirred to life, mowing down the mass of undead in a rain of bullets.

As a squadron of F/A-18F Super Hornets flew over their heads, he spun through the air and quickly regained his bearings as he hovered with Mary, watching their AGM-65 Maverick missiles destroy the Pacific Motorway bridge in the distance. Large concrete chunks of the bridge fell into the river below with great cascades of water erupting skyward. A CityCat passenger hovercraft had been shattered in the wreckage.

The war had already begun.

Mary’s voice rose, matching her thumping heart, as she gripped him for dear life. “Holy shit! The world’s gone mad.”

“Don’t worry, you are safe and I will protect you.”

Explosions were going off around the city, and for a short moment, he believed that the people could win the war on their own. His hopes were suddenly shattered as a number of RPGs were fired at the Tigers, taking out two of them in the process, with a volley of gunfire erupting from the city streets. The undead won’t attack Lucifer’s demons.

“Why did you save me and leave everyone else to die? What makes me so special?”

Barachiel looked into her eyes and scrunched his eyebrows, amazed. “You don’t know?”

She shook her head and he realised she had been telling the truth. He placed a hand on her stomach.

“You’re carrying his son. Jesus will walk these lands once more, and you will lead the war against Lucifer. You play a great part in stopping all this madness.”

Her eyes widened as he flew toward the church ahead of them.

“What? But that’s impossible; I’ve never been with a man. I can’t be pregnant.”

“Worry not, as it will all be explained to you in time.”

“I could have taken care of myself, you know, but not with the slaughter that took place in The Square. Thank you for saving my life,” Mary said.

“I know, and you’re welcome. You will save far more lives in the years to come.”

Their moonlit reflection wavered far beneath them, glowing off the murky waters of the Brisbane River. As they neared the church, he saw that a long line of men were already waiting, wearing SERT police body armour and brandishing Steyr AUG machine guns. They were not at all surprised to see him as he landed in front of them, folding his wings.

“Welcome, Barachiel. We’ve been expecting you both. Mary, come with us.”

He pulled out a 9mm Glock, handing it to her by the hilt. “Do you know how to use a gun?”

Mary smiled, flicked the safety switch, grabbed the slide and pulled it back. The men’s eyes widened at the sight of her handling the weapon. “I wasn’t a weekend warrior for nothing.”

She approached Barachiel and laid a kiss on his cheek. “You don’t need to worry about me anymore.”

“The war for earth has come, sooner than we expected. I must return now, but know that we will return.”

The man approached him, extending his hand. Barachiel took it, shaking it warmly, now clearly understanding the customs of men, however strange they’ve always been.

“We’ve been preparing for this, for a long time now, wondering when the apocalypse would come…..we’ve always kept our faith.”

“And what of the people of this church?” Barachiel said.

The man gritted his teeth. “They understand, and with Mary, and you standing here, they know their faith was well served. We have a network in every city around the world. Lucifer will have his hands full.”

Barachiel nodded, placing a gentle hand on the man’s arm. As he was about to speak, they all turned toward the screams of the hordes of people lined up against the Kangaroo Point Cliff’s walls. As one, they were pointing to the Brisbane River below. Barachiel approached the walls, and saw the swarm of undead running across the Brisbane River as though it were not there, many of them already starting to emerge on the other side.

The soldiers of the Church grimaced and fired their rifles on the advancing horde below, two of them lobbing F1 frag grenades in the path of the unrelenting undead. They cried, “Grenades out, go go go!” then finally taking aim with their own machine guns and mowing down more of the mindless zombies chasing nearby civilians.

“Shit, I’m out!” yelled the nearest soldier, quickly catching another magazine, tapping it on his helmet and loading his weapon. One soldier yelled at the top of his lungs to the nearby crowd, “Get out of here, all of you! Find secure shelter.”

Mary ran up beside them, aiming her gun and shooting the zombies through the skull. “Spread out, we’ll get better coverage! Form a defensive perimeter and retreat to the church.”

The Church’s men were now heavily engaged. Barachiel wanted to help, but knew he was nearly past his allocated time on earth. He now realised that Mary truly no longer needed his protection and he’d succeeded.

“We need reinforcements!” one of the men yelled into a radio. A muffled response came from its speaker, “Roger that, Echo One, hold your position!”

Barachiel heard his voice in his mind once more. You’ve done well, my child. She will save them, and we’ll watch closely. It’s time for you to come home.

He raised his arms, and with a flash of brilliant white light, he disappeared from earth.

Credit To – Peter Koevari

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Backyard Zombie

September 15, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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Gruesome University Presents: Backyard Zombie

This is a video pasta. If the embedded video is not loading for you, please click the link above to go directly to the video’s YouTube page and try watching it there.

Additionally, for the sake of impatient types and/or those who find long credits unnecessary because they read quickly: the opening credits last until about the four minute mark. While I’m not trying to tell you guys to ignore the credits, I just don’t want people to miss out on the actual story because they got bored and closed the window during the prolonged credit sequence.

Credit To – Truby Chiaviello

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