As the combatants cease their aggression, the survivors begin to carry out their plans to escape the city, and search for a safer place… #podcast #horrorpodcast #newepisode #listennow
He lay for a few minutes thinking about how much he loved Candace, wondering how funny it was that he had lost so much yet gained so much, something he had never had and had been in no hurry to go out and find. He wondered how he had ever managed to live his life without her in it. He wondered over how deep his love was in such a short period. It seemed like it was just yesterday when he had first met her. He had remembered how he had never really found tattoos attractive on a woman, but she had this tribal thing that started on her left hand, wrapped around that wrist and then sleeved her arm, disappearing under her shirt sleeve. It was one of the first things he had noticed, and when she had been reaching for something he had seen another piece of the same work that came down across her flat stomach and slipped below the waist band of her jeans. While he had been wondering if it was a second piece or part of the same piece, she had caught him looking. Her eyes had settled on his own and the next thing he knew he was thinking about her in an entirely different way. Thinking about making love to her, about being with her. Thinking that could never happen, Tom was obviously interested. And then she had walked over and changed his entire life.
He couldn’t be without her now. The man he was becoming had a lot to do with her, probably would have never existed without her, and he had never even known she existed, never even known that love could be like that. The entire world was destroyed, but he had found himself. And she loved him too. He could feel it, see it. It was every bit as strong as what he felt for her. Not clingy, just real. Total.
“Hey,” Candace said. His eyes had slipped closed; he opened them to see her standing over him, a cup of coffee in one hand.
“Coffee,” He said.
“Good,” she said. “It’s alive. Were you going to sleep the day away?” She handed him the coffee carefully as he sat up.
“Something wore me out,” He grinned. “You okay?”
“More than okay,” She answered. She leaned over and kissed him…
Episode eighteen of the popular America the Dead series:
His eyes moved across the jumbled and leaning buildings, the vehicles that burned where they had crashed. The square looked like a battleground. Greasy, billowing smoke hung in the air like a black cloud descending on the downtown area. He heard Ronnie coming up through the trees. He turned away from the square and waited for him to top the rise, and then the two of them walked back towards the opposite end of the parking lot where they could watch the entrance to State Street, most of that end of the square and both the edge of Factory Street and Mill Street as it began its run across the damaged bridge to the north side of the river.
“What’s going on? Can you see anything?” Ronnie asked.
“Some. You’ll see in a few minutes. What happened with the car?”
“Dead. Got three more clip rifles though.”
“So they were down with Sin and Death?”
“Looks like it to me. Same rifles, anyway.”
Mike was nodding. “I guess I knew it.”
Tim and Lilly stepped out of the shadows and nodded as Mike and Ronnie walked up.
“Quiet,” Lilly said. Tim nodded.
Mike handed one of the Machine pistols to Ronnie.
“Nice… Illegal, but nice,” he said.
“Takes standard Nine Millimeter ammo.” Ronnie started to hand it back. Mike shook his head. “Hang on to it,” he looked around at the parking lot. “I’m convinced they’ll be back.”
Ronnie nodded. “Four up here?” he asked.
“Five. They killed one of the women trying to escape.” Tim and Lilly had dragged her back into the woods while he’d been gone. He had seen the vague shape off in the thicker woods as he and Ronnie had walked up. “How many in the car?”
“At least five,” Ronnie said.
“Jesus… This is so stupid.” Mike said. Ronnie nodded and then went back to watching the greasy smoke rise up into the air.
Like the Podcast? Get the books!
Smashwords: (All formats) https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/37057
A sudden lull in the fighting turns ominous. The opposing fighters are ignoring the survivors, but only briefly. They have other plans for them… #HorrorPodcast #AmiAdams #DellSweet
Billy paced the hallway, trying to think it out, telling himself they had to leave soon. Telling himself it was the right thing to do. The problem was that he was not used to doing the right thing. So unused to it, in fact, that he wasn’t sure he wanted to try… should try.
The world had been turned upside down for the last few days. There was no official word that anything was wrong at all, but someone had f****d up. Of that he had no doubt at all.
The police? Gone. Fire department? Ditto. Army? Well, wasn’t the National Guard supposed to show up when the shit hit the fan? But so far the army had not raised a finger to do anything for them at all. There was a base right over by the airport near the Los Angeles Freeway, but there had been no sign of them.
He lived on the north side, a high rise that had been new sometime back in the seventies. He had gone up to the roof twice during the day and looked over the city.
It appeared to be dead. There was a precinct only two blocks away, deserted, doors hanging open. Looters were carrying away cheap computer systems and who knew what else, a steady stream in and out of the front doors.
There were fires over past the park. It appeared to be a whole block over by Jordan Downs, but there were other single fires all over the city too. There had been for two days now, and no one had come to put those fires out. And there was more; you could hear gunfire from all over the city all night long. He continued to pace the hall.
This was not normally a bad neighborhood, but it was no picnic either. There had been a few fires here but the people that lived nearby had put them out quickly. Dozens of buildings had come down or were now tilted crazily. The looting had started at some point, and now there were armed men prowling the streets in gangs.
He had acquired a gun from a shop a few blocks over, ransacked, left open to the world. He had loaded it and waited, but the few that had ventured to his door had turned away when they had seen him with the gun.
Winston, the old man that lived in the back basement apartment, had called them all down to listen to the radio just a short time ago. Not your average radio, a Short Band receiver. They had ended up listening to military talk, military talk that was probably supposed to be restricted. The stories that had come from that radio said the rest of the world was no better off. Explosions or earthquakes, there was a great deal of devastation everywhere. Maybe it was time to get out of L.A.
America the Dead books at Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/america-the-dead-survivor-stories-three/id1156638728
EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: THE ZOMBIE PLAGUES
Earth’s Survivors America the Dead: The Zombie Plagues is copyright © 2016 W G. Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.
Cover Art © Copyright 2016 Wendell Sweet
Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 Wendell Sweet
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons’ places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
NOTICE: This material is not edited for content
In this world time moves by, doesn’t stop for you or me. The ones who stop and wait are the ones who never see…
So my feet… move me on though they’re weary of this flight. They will lead me to tomorrow, wipe the fallen from my sight…
In my life I have seen distant dreams of futures past, and the one who filled my cup left it empty at the last…
And my eyes, tired from sight, rimmed in red and slow to see, can’t conceive eternity from the edge of what can be…
Walk alone through this world. Through this cold I’ve always known. Taking only what I need from the seed that has been sown…
And this world sells itself pretty dreams that cannot be, and though we stop to look we can never truly see…
Take my time, tap the glass, raise the bubbles from my cure. Pull the curtains on my pasts, and all I thought they ever were…
As my soul finds its way, push the darkness from my mind. Lay your words upon my heart as my rest I go to find…
Pick me up. Fill my cup. Fix the damage in my head…
Fill my soul. Make me whole. Raise me from the dead…
Show my eyes what can be. shine your light so I can see…
Let my heart lead me on, from your memories in my mind. Lay your coins upon my eyes, speak your magic line by line…
As my sun slowly sets I will try not to forget all the lessons from this world and the souls that I have met…
Lyrics copyright 2010 Dell Sweet
Year 32: October 39th
Bear sat at the mouth of the cave staring out over the valley below. This close to the thick plastic the air was cold, but the wooden benches were comfortable, if a little hard. They had served for dozens upon dozens of people since Mike and James had built them some thirty years before. They still served them well. He turned and smiled at several children who sat nearby pointing out different landmarks in the valley far below. The children, especially, never seemed to tire of sitting on the low benches and looking out over the valley.
Bear chuckled to himself, turned his eyes from the other benches, and back out on the valley far below. The snow was falling heavy. Two hours ago late fall had been holding steady, little smudges of green had still existed throughout all the fall foliage in the valley. Now it was quickly becoming a blanket of white. Fall had lost this round.
Years before they had devised a new year that better kept track of seasons and the much longer year the Earth now had. Even with a year that now held some 95 extra days, spread throughout the year to even the seasons out, the time still seemed to move by too quickly. Time was never a friend to anyone, Bear thought. Well, maybe to death, nothing else.
The seasons had worked themselves out after a few years. Some longer, some shorter, it was winter that had come out the winner in that round. Even slightly longer winters had a huge impact on the year around weather and the planting that could be accomplished. It took much longer to get through winter, longer for spring to thaw the valleys and fields for planting, longer for the sun to warm the ground, and glaciers were forming in the north. Growing ever bigger year by year. Bear had sometimes wondered in years past if he would see them come this far. Of course the answer was no. They would not come this far in his lifetime, but he had no doubt they would come her eventually.
Winter was coming in strong, there would be little left to do soon, but plan the bison hunts, and tell stories around the fire.
They still kept their own herds, started from the stock they had worked so hard to bring into this valley, but they often hunted. The habit was good, and it passed the skills down to the younger ones. There were places in this still young world where those skills were essential.
The whole mouth of the cave had been closed off from the elements for many years. Thick plastic sheets that spanned floor to ceiling. An aluminum frame that held them. Warmth inside, the elements without, but always within reach. Something James had built. The last thing James had built, Bear remembered sadly. That had been back when Mike had lead the Nation. No, he told himself that had been back in the council days. Before the wars had begun. Before the years of leaders, kings, the two queens and everything else that had come with the wars. With the end of the Zombie Plagues and the second great death. Even so, even in the council years, Mike had been their leader. The council had made its decisions but Mike had lead them.
Bear had been the leader of the Nation for several years now, he had assumed it when the Nation was broken, falling apart. He had helped to rebuild it, but he was getting older and it was getting closer and closer to the time when he would need to turn the reigns over to a younger, stronger person. Maybe even this winter, he thought, as he watched the snow swirl and blow.
Back in the cave behind him there were three generations waiting to take their own steps into the procession that would bring them to leadership. Some of those young men and women were ready now. It really wasn’t something he should be thinking about, it was something he should be doing.
Bear smiled up into the eyes of Rain, a newborn at her breast, her swollen belly a testament to the one coming. There were so few. He took one of the furs from his shoulder, and laid it across the worn wooden planking for her. A second went around her shoulders as she sat.
“It’s not too cold for the baby this close up is it?” Bear asked. The plastic held the weather out, but it was still very cold this close to the huge plastic sheets.
Rain smiled back. “Thank you, grandfather. No, it isn’t too cold.” She looked out over the valley too.”It’s beautiful,” she said.
“It is, but it can be treacherous. Winter is here now… Probably you should stay?” he asked the last. Too often he came off as demanding. The rule giver. It was something that Beth had always chided him about. His mind clouded at the memory of her, gone now for the last ten years. And him still here, still leading.
“It’s what Ron and I thought too. Alabama Island will be there in the spring. I thought we could send a messenger… Maybe tomorrow after the snow?” She smiled widely. She knew he had been worried, and she was glad that he had given them the time to work it out between them. Glad now to give him what he would consider good news. Bear had already stood and turned though, his large frame standing tall from the rock floor.
“Candace,” he called out.
A young woman came from the back area of the cave. She was tall, dark, short cut black hair framed her face. Her clothes were stitched leather, heavy, well made. A machine gun rested upon her back. A wide belt circled her waist, pistols on both sides, and a knife sheaf depended from it. Firepower was a luxury. Not easy to come by any longer. At one time everyone had made their own bullets, but the wars had destroyed most of that. Now the Nation was one of the few that still knew how to make it, and more than that, had the materials to make it.
She came and stood next to Bear. She looked so much like her mother and namesake, Bear thought, that it amazed him. He had known Candace at this age, the resemblance always threw him when she was here, and made him think for a second that reality had side slipped and he was back in time somehow.
“I will need you to deliver a message to your mother for me,” Bear told her. He stood and walked a short distance away and continued to talk to her in low tones. Rain turned her face back out to the valley and watched the thick flakes of snow fall. When they finished their conversation they both came back to the benches. Candace starred out over the valley, her eyes veiled.
Rain smiled at Candace, but her face barely softened. She was so serious. The OutRunners never smiled, Rain thought. Always serious, and Candace was no exception. Rain supposed she had been the same during her service too, but something in Candace had gone past service, she had come to love it. She had never left it. It was her life. Younger than Rain herself, she had already been an OutRunner for several years. Rain had done her own duty for two years and had then become a wife and mother. She and Ron were going to Alabama Island to be considered for leadership within the Fold. She listened to the low whispers of talk between Bear and Candace and thought about her own life as she did.
She had come to this valley as a child with the original settlers. Years past now. That bought her to nearing her middle years, the age of leadership in the Fold. As she looked out over the valley she realized there was little left of the original settlement she had watched rise from the valley floor as a child. In those days the people had still clung to the old technology. That was long gone now, except with the OutRunners, and some other applications like the power plant, a few others. The people themselves had gone back to simpler roots. The old ways James had taught them. His motto had been, why use it just because it’s there? Do we really want to return to the old life, or do we really want to move on to something else? Always a challenging question, and one everyone had to answer in their own way.
The cave, the ruins of the stone houses; that was all that remained. It had all been destroyed in the wars. There was only a Nation at all because Bear had come back, killed the interlopers that had enslaved the people, freed them, Rain included, and taken the valley back. In those days the Fold was a small faction and the Nation ruled everything. The Nation went on to rule all of North America, but as all large peoples they had fallen. The Fold had ascended, and then they had fallen too. Now the remaining peoples waited for the real end. They ruled their own small places, nothing else. The end that had begun all those years ago was finally coming to fruition.
Those women born before the end had started, those women could reproduce. The new ones could not. The potion that had given them all a shot at living through the catastrophe had caused them to bear children that could not continue the human race. Occasionally one would bear a child, deformed, and they didn’t live long.
Bear spoke, interrupting her thoughts.
“A team is outgoing with Candace. She will tell them to look for you in the spring.” He smiled. “Maybe that will give me time to talk you out of leaving.” He smiled, but it was an uneasy smile.
Rain smiled. He didn’t know why they were leaving. They had told him it was simply time to move. She didn’t know how he would feel if she did tell him, but she hadn’t wanted to hurt him.
Bear turned back to the valley, speaking as he did. “They will know inside of a week.”
Rain made up her mind. “They have asked us to come… To be considered to lead… Mike himself asked for us.”
Bear turned and straightened. “Mike?” He nodded. “I thought surely he would be dead by now, he has been so poorly. Candace is still strong.” He looked from Candace to Rain as he spoke.
“He lives… Mother rules now,” Candace told him quietly.
“… I remember the times we spent there… When it was still good for all of us,” Rain said. Her eyes teared up, she shifted the baby, and looked at Bear.
Bear nodded. “You should not leave here. I have, just today, sat staring out at this valley and wished you would stay so I could offer you this leadership,” He turned away to hide his own eyes from her. “Not so large as Alabama Island, but large. And in need of new blood.” He turned back to face her. “Had I known, I would have offered. I was afraid you would refuse it.”
“I…” she caught herself as her voice broke. “I didn’t know…” She turned her head away and then stood quickly and walked away.
Bear turned to Candace. “I had thought that it would be that would lead after your parents stepped down.”
“It was offered, I refused. My place is here, in the Nation. This valley was where I was raised, not there… I … I refused,” her eyes seemed to struggle to say more, but it was not really necessary.
It was the same with many aspects of the split that had torn the Nation apart. There were sides and they were chosen. After all of these years he couldn’t think of a single reason why he had stayed and fought for the Nation as opposed to the Fold. He reached out and placed one large hand on her shoulder. “I understand your choices. I am glad that there are no barriers between your mother and father and you.” He waited for her eyes to meet his. “I hope to be going with you. I should make some changes here.” He glanced over at where Rain stood talking with Ron.
Candace followed his eyes.
Ron had watched Rain from the seat he shared at the fire with some of the other hunters. He excused himself, and followed her to the back of the cave where they made their own winter quarters.
“Rain?” he asked as he came to her and placed one massive hand on her shoulder.
“He is stepping down… He wanted me to know he would have already given the leadership to us.” She turned and buried her face in his shoulder and wept. The baby fussed for a second, upset at the confinement and emotion, and then went back to nursing, sniffling as she did.
Ron smoothed her hair with his roughened hands. He turned her slowly, and then pulled her and the baby down to the floor where he held her silently for a few moments.
“What do you want, Rain. What do you want?”
“I can’t leave now. I can’t. We can lead here. We can make it bigger. Rebuild it even more from the wars. It could be good,” Rain said as she looked at him with her tear reddened eyes.
“Trade the sea for the snow?” he asked with a smile.
“Leaders can visit.” She shifted around. “I think all the people that caused the wars are dead now. Just the ones who worked so hard to end it are still going, except Beth. Bear, Mike, Candace, Patty, Billy, and Pearl. They are still here. They still want it all back together. We should try to get this all as one again. As Leaders we could do it. I could accept leadership here, you could accept it there. It could work.” Her eyes pleaded with his own.
“They will turn both of us out if we tried that,” Ron told her.
“Not if we were straight forward. Accept leadership here and take the proposal to them next spring. We will already be leaders here. They can only say no, but I do not believe they will say no. I think it is time to put us all back together,” Rain said softly. The baby let go of her nipple and began to fuss. “Poor, baby,” she soothed as she put her over her shoulder and patted her back softly, rubbing for short periods. Her eyes met Ron’s own.
“Tell Bear. Tell Bear and see what Bear says about it,” Ron said after a few moments.
Bear watched the heavy flakes fall. He had not known what to make of Rain jumping up and leaving so quickly as she had. He only hoped it was because she wanted time to talk to Ron about what he had said. What he had essentially offered.
He had shocked himself. While it was true that he had been sitting here thinking about turning leadership over, he had not thought it would be so soon. He had hoped that when Rain and Ron came back from their trip to Alabama Island he could approach the subject with them. Now he could see that it would have been far too late then. They would have left and they would never have come back.
It saddened him to think of passing leadership to someone else, but in another way the responsibilities were too heavy. He was too old. Candace and Mike were both younger, Mike’s health was poor, but Candace was strong. He couldn’t understand why she would give up leadership. A position she had held in one capacity or another for all of the years since the end had come. She was a natural. What would make her consider stepping down, he wondered as he stared out over the valley.
He had been on the verge of rising, going to find Rain, when Ron dropped down beside him.
Bear held his eyes when he turned to him. “She spoke to you?”
“She did, grandfather.” He laughed. “She would never leave you now.”
“It wasn’t meant to make you stay… It was time,” Bear said. He turned his eyes back out to the valley. In the far distance a herd of bison grazed. Whether their own or a wild herd he could not tell. At one time the entire valley had been closed. No longer. A smaller valley on the opposite side of the mountain held the winter herd. Small. What they could afford to keep and feed through the cold months, and the cold months were lasting longer and longer now. The rest were turned loose. They mingled with the wild herds, but they never forgot the valley was their home, and so they could be depended upon to come back in the spring.
Ron followed his eyes and watched the herd of Bison in the distance through the blowing snow. “Big herd.”
Bear nodded and then turned. “You will stay?”
“She will stay…” he paused and let his words sink in. Concern mounted in Bear’s eyes. “She seems to think that I should take the leadership being offered by the Fold… Bring us all together as a people again.”
Bear smiled. “She is like my own blood.” He laughed. A small laugh, but then he let it roll out of his huge chest. “Might give Mike a reason to live after all. I can see it. I can see it.” He fell quiet, watching the bison as they moved more fully into the protection the walls of the valley offered. Their coats were already snowy, carrying the weight of the snow as it hid them from the eyes of predators. Ron watched with him.
“Almost gone already… If I didn’t know exactly where to look…”
“Yeah. I never get tired of it,” Bear agreed. “I’m older than all of them, you know. It’s so unfair. Beth was so young, should have outlived us all. Here I am in my late seventies, almost eighty now… Soon I will be…” He sighed. “Mike is barely fifty, Candace a little younger than that.” He shook his head. “Where did it all go to?” He turned and met Ron’s eyes, but Ron only shrugged as he held his eyes. Both men turned back to the valley, but just that fast the Bison, who had been moving nearer, had disappeared under their walking blankets of white.
“Insulates them too. Hard for me to believe that but it is true,” Bear said. He turned back to Ron. “She’s right… It’s what should have been done long ago.” He stood and turned back into the cave where Candace stood talking to several other OutRunners. The only vehicles they still had were the OutRunner vehicles. Everything else had long been given back to rust and age. The OutRunner vehicles had only gotten better. Built from scratch and modified with more and more technology as they came across it in the old, hidden military bases they sought out on their missions.
Bear stood to his full height and raised his arms high above him. “People,” Bear’s voice boomed out and the people in the cave stopped what they were doing and looked to him. He may have been closing in on eighty, but there was still a great deal of fight in that voice. Power. He waited until he had everyone’s attention, at least those that were inside. At one time there had been several thousand people here. Now there was slightly more than two thousand. Still a great responsibility, and a growing one even with the world on the brink of the extinction. Most were working at this time, but it didn’t matter. The news would find them.
Rain came from the back. The baby gone. Most likely sleeping on a pile of furs with a few others, Bear thought. She came to Ron. Her face tense. Unsure what was about to be said.
“You all know me. You all, I hope, know that I am not pretentious. I pray to God I never have been or will be. I am just a man.” He paused. “There is no easy way to say this, for I love you all. You mean something to me. Every one of you. And if you can look at this in that light you will realize it is past the time I stepped down.” A few gasps punctuated the silence and a very low buzz of hushed, surprised conversation.
“It has never been concealed from you that I have looked upon Rain as my blood. That is why I hope and pray that you will accept her leadership of this Nation.” Bear fell silent and the silence in the cave held for a few moments before the cheers began. With a few seconds the crowds around himself and Rain were so thick they found themselves pushed together and herded back into the central area of the cave. Questions. They would have them. He had to answer some of them at least.
Bear raised his arms and waited for the quiet. “I give you your leader… Will you accept her?”
The cave reverberated with the shouts of yes.
“It’s finished then,” Bear said softly. He said it softly deliberately, to hold their attention for a moment longer. “Before the celebration begins I will explain why it had to be now. When Candace and her OutRunner team leaves I will be going with them to Alabama Island. I will leave tonight with them, and I do not know if I will return. My wish will be to return, but that old dog age is nipping at my heels, and who knows, maybe I will reach the warmth of the sea and wish to stay there.” He waited for the laughter to die down. “You needed a leader now. A leader that can take you to the next place the Nation needs to be. The same place we have all worked to attain, togetherness, healing, advancement. A man or a woman grows, or they die. The Nation is the same way. We forgot that back in the wars. I have remembered it now. Rain has never forgotten it,” his voice fell even lower. “Something I only wish I could claim. Something I am proud of to see living within her.” He met as many eyes as he could.
“God willing I will see you all again,” Bear told them. He turned and embraced Rain as her tears fell and then his eyes fell on Candace where she awaited him. He kissed Rain’s eyelids, told her he loved her and wished her all the best there could be: He then joined Candace. A moment later they were making their way through the tunnel to the eastern side of the mountain where the OutRunners had their own quarters. The laughter and cheers of congratulation falling away behind them.
“You surprised me,” Candace said as they walked.
“I surprised me,” Bear agreed.
The OutRunners were ten all in all. He found that impressive. The first group he himself had formed had been only four. And what they had then was nothing compared to what they had now. Weapons, vehicles, armor and bags of tricks, some of which Bear was sure he himself didn’t fully understand the implications of.
They turned from the main tunnel way into a wide open area filled with large trucks and bustling with activity.
“Ten minutes…” Candace faltered, unsure how to address him. For so long she had addressed him as Leader: Grandfather, when she had been younger, she didn’t know what to do now that he had turned his reigns of leadership over so quickly.
“Bear will do,” he told her as her face colored. “Or grandfather.”
“Ten minutes… Grandfather,” she said at last. Bear nodded and turned his attention to his own preparations for leaving as he waited. He pulled his pouch from one wide pocket and rolled a cigarette.
“Roll me one,” Billy Jingo said as he walked up. “That was so fast, Bear.” Billy told him. Behind Billy, leaning against the wall from the tunnel, Pearl gave a hand wave and Bear smiled and waved back before turning his attention to Billy.
‘Shit will kill you,” Bear said as he rolled a second smoke and passed it to Billy.
“So I hear, yet I am still alive.” He studied Bear for a few moments. “Took me completely by surprise. I thought it would be this… The easy life right to the end, Bear.”
Bear sighed. “So did I, to be honest. Things sometimes do change fast though. And that is what happened here. I had a chance to do the right thing, and I did it. Doesn’t make up for all of my life… A little though.”
“I have always liked Rain,” Billy said. “She’ll make a good leader.”
“You’ll support her?”
“With everything I am,” Billy agreed. “Pearl, Dani too.”
“Bear,” Candace said as she approached. “We need to get going.”
Bear took the hand Billy offered, and then Bear hugged him, pulling him to him. “Been a long road,” Bear said huskily.
“It has. I for one believe you will be coming back. Don’t make me wrong,” Billy told him as he followed Candace to one of the huge trucks. Bear stepped inside and then turned back. “Give Rain a big hug for me… I will be back if I can, Billy. If I can.” He turned back, the door hummed and then disappeared. Billy stepped back as a moment later the truck came to life, and began to roll near silently across the floor to a huge metal door set into the wall. A second later that metal door began to lift, revealing the swirling snow outside. A few seconds later and the truck was gone. The door down, the floor wet and steaming. Billy turned and found Pearl behind him, she took his hand and together they walked back to the long tunnel that lead back to the main cave.
Before the plagues
Project Bluechip: Watertown NY
Complex C: Patient Ward
Test Subject: Michael Hunter
Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly. Before he could get fully turned around the chiming turned into a strident alarm that rose and fell. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn.
“What is it,” David Johns, wheeling his chair across the short space of the control room. His outstretched hands caught him at the counter top and slowed him at Kohlson’s monitor.
“Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctor’s one level up already knew. Michael Hunter was dead.
“I see it,” Doctor Ed Adams replied over the ceiling speakers. The staff called him Doctor Christmas for his long white beard and oversize belly. “Berty and I are on the way.”
“Lot of good that will do,” Johns muttered.
Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in… Do CPR if you want… They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that shit is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Michael Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets in there at all.”
“No argument,” Johns said. He wheeled back to his own monitor, called up an incident sheet and began to type.
“Me too,” Kohlson agreed. “Preserve the video, med and monitor data.” He punched a few buttons on his console and an interface for the medical equipment came up. He saved the last 48 hours of data, and then began to fill out his own incident report. These reports might never be seen by more than one person, maybe two if you counted the person that wrote it, Kohlson thought, but it would always be there. Classified. Top secrete for the next hundred years or so. And he wondered about that too. Would it even be released after a long period? He doubted it. The shit they were doing here was bad shit. Shit you didn’t ever want the American public to know about. This incident report, along with the one Johns was doing, would probably get buried deep under some program listing that no one would ever suspect to look into. Or, maybe, it would get burned right along with Michael Hunter’s body. He glanced up at the clock and then went back to typing.
“Uh… Call it 4:32 PM?” He asked.
“Works for me,” Johns agreed.
“I got 94 for the body,” Johns said.
“Yeah… Yeah, me too. That’s a fast drop but we both got the same thing. 94 it is… No heart, no respiratory, dead as dog shit.”
“Dog shit,” Johns agreed. They both fell silent as they typed. A few moments later the doors to the observation room chimed, the air purifiers turned on with a high pitched whine, and they could both feel the air as it dragged past them and into the air ducts. The entire volume would be replaced and the room depressurized and then re-pressurized before the doors would open. And that would only happen after the air was tested and retested. A good twenty minutes away before anyone would step foot into the room with Michael Hunter.
Complex C, Autopsy Room: 5:58 pm
Ed Adams and Roberta Summers had dissected Michael Hunters body methodically. The autopsy had been painstaking. It had to be, it was recorded in detail and some General somewhere, hell, maybe even the president would be looking that video over in the next few days. Maybe even watching live now. They had that capability. There was nothing to see. He had suffered a major heart attack. The heart had a defect. No history. One of those things that just came along and fucked up your two billion dollar research project all at once.
“Coronary Thrombosis,” He spoke in a measured voice. “Appears to be after the fact. The artery looks to be mildly occluded… The myocardial infarction appears to be caused from a congenital defect… Specifically an Atrial Septal Defect… Berty?”
“I concur. Easily overlooked. The lack of sustenance put a higher demand on the heart, the defect became a major player at that point… Bad luck for us.”
“Uh, bad luck for Michael Hunter,” Ed Adams added.
“Of course. Bad luck for the subject, Michael Hunter. I simply meant bad luck for a research volunteer to be defective in such a way that in effect it would compromise a project of this magnitude so badly.” She turned her eyes up to one of the cameras she knew to be there. “This in no way paints a true picture of V2765. We should proceed, unsatisfying as these circumstances might be, we should proceed with subjects 1120F and 1119X… Same compound.” She turned back to the corpse on the table. “You want me to do the brain biopsy,” She asked Ed.
Ed frowned as he made eye contact with her. They had decided, at least he had thought they had decided, not to mention brain biopsies. Three times now he had discussed the importance of not focusing on the changes that V2765 made to the brain. Anything that altered the brain could alter financing, funding, lab time. Even the government didn’t like changes to brain matter.
“Are you thinking there could have been an embolism?” He asked.
‘Well I,” she sputtered away for a second until Ed rescued her.
“I think all we would see is evidence of the embolism that occurred near the heart. We could search out areas of the body and most likely find more than one occurrence of embolism. Well thought, but I believe we will take a look at the brain later in the week. Right now I want to focus on the enzymes, blood work, and readying the other two for a conclusion of this trial.”
“Yes. I agree entirely,” Doctor Adams.
“You have your samples?”
“Yes of course, Doctor. Rex?”
Ed frowned hard and shrugged his shoulders in the direction of the thick glass. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “None down here. That was stupid, Berty.“
“What was that,” Kohlson asked Johns in the control room.
“What?” Johns asked.
“That… Whisper, I guess,” Kohlson said.
“Oh… That. You know those two got it bad for each other. Probably making little remarks you don’t want to hear. Besides which, you make a report on that and we all have to deal with it. Them, sure, but us too because they’ll be pissed off about it. Best to let that shit slide. If the boss wants to know he will. He looks at all of this shit in depth.”
Kohlson looked about to say more when Doctor Christmas began talking once more in the autopsy room.
“Let’s close him up,” Ed Adams said. He stepped on a switch set into the floor, paused, and then spoke again. “Lower the air temp. in here. We intend to keep him a few hours while we attend to other parts of the autopsy… No one in here for any reason.”
Out in the control room Johns keyed his mic button. “Will do… How low, Doc.?”
“I guess about 34 Fahrenheit will do… Just to slow it all down for a while.”
“Done,” Johns agreed. He adjusted a temperature graphic on a nearby monitor via his mouse.
Kohlson leaned over across the short distance. “So we got to look at that shit for a while? Great.”
“They’re gonna sew him up so it won’t be so bad.”
“Yeah… That’s like, I got a mild case of flu. It’s still gonna suck because every time I look anywhere I’m gonna feel compelled to look at it.”
“Yeah. Me too. It’s there. Draws you to it. Like the Bunny on the Playboy Cover. You look at the rest of the magazine, but you know you’re gonna end up looking at her. She’s the reason you bought the magazine after all.”
Kohlson nodded and smiled. “And I’d rather look at Miss January than a dead guy with big stitches across his belly and over his chest, sewing him back up again. That is some ugly shit.”
Johns laughed. “Human nature. Why do you think people slow down and look at accidents?”
“’Cause we’re morbid mother fuckers,” Kohlson agreed.
“Well, that too, but it is that fascination with death we have. Look,” He pointed at the monitor. Do you think Michael Hunter knew he’d be laying on a steel slab this afternoon, dick hanging out, with Doctor Christmas shoving his guts back in and stitching him up with his nursey assisting?” They both laughed and turned away.
“She ain’t half…”
A scream cut off the conversation and both men turned quickly back to the monitor.
Michael Hunter was sitting up on the steel table. Arms drooped at his side. Mouth yawning. Doctor Christmas had backed away until he had met the wall behind him. Nurse Berty was nowhere to be seen.
“What the fuck… What the fuck. Get a camera on the floor… Maybe she fainted,” Kohlson said.
“Got it,” Johns agreed. He stabbed at the keys on his keyboard and a view of the table at an angle appeared. Nurse Bertie’s leg could be seen, angled away from the table, skirt hiked high. The camera paused briefly and then the view began to shift as Johns manipulated the camera angle. Her face came into view. Mouth open, blood seeping from one corner.
“Doctor,” Kohlson called over the speaker system. Outside the airlocks had clicked on and the air was cycling. Good, he thought, in twenty minutes the Calvary would be here. “Doctor Adams?”
The doctor finally took his eyes off Michael Hunter and turned toward one of the cameras. On the table Michael Hunter leaned forward and tumbled off the edge of the table. At the same instant the air purifier quit cycling and three armed men in gas masks stepped into the airlock.
“Jesus,” Johns sputtered. “You guys can’t do that shit. That air has to be worked?” Three more men stepped through the lock and the door to the autopsy room opened as well as the door to the control room. A split second later the rifles in their hands began to roar. The sound was louder than Kohlson expected in the enclosed space. He clasped his hands over his ears, but it did little good. The soldiers, he saw, were wearing ear protection of some sort. Noise canceling head-gear. The remaining three soldiers had stepped into the control room, he saw as he looked back up from the floor. They kept their rifles leveled at them, the others were still firing within the confines of the small autopsy room. A small gray cloud was creeping along the floor and rolling slowly into the control room. The stench of gunpowder was strong in the enclosed space. The air purifiers were off. Kohlson knew there was another control room outside this one that controlled this space, and possibly another outside of that space that controlled that space. Built in protection, and from what was apparent they were in a very bad space.
Kohlson saw Michael Hunter Lurch to his feet and stumble into the soldiers who were firing point blank range in the tight confines. A series of bullets finally tore across his chest and then into his head and he fell from view. A second late the firing dropped off and then stopped completely.
Johns was listening to the sound of his own heart hammering for a space of seconds before he figured out it was his own. The smell of gunpowder was nauseating, and he suddenly lunged forward and vomited on his shoes. As he was lifting his head he saw that the soldiers were retreating back through the airlocks and into the outer spaces of the compound.
“Jesus,” Kohlson managed before he too bent forward and vomited too. He heard the air filtering kick back on and both of them rolled away from the puddles of vomit and quickly disappearing low, gray vapor from the rifles firing. The doors into the autopsy room suddenly banged shut and then their own door whispered closed as well. Once again they were isolated in their small space.
They both sat silent for a moment, and then Kohlson left and returned from the small bathroom with a mop and bucket from the utility closet there. He left and returned with a bottle of disinfectant and sprayed down the vomit and the balance of the small room.
“That won’t do shit,” Johns said solemnly. We’re infected. Whatever they infected that guy Hunter with, we got it now.
Kohlson ignored him, waited the ten minutes for the disinfectant to work and then cleaned up the mess. Neither spoke while he returned the equipment to the small closet and then came back and sat down.
“You heard me, right?”
“I heard you,” Kohlson admitted. “I just don’t give a fuck… It’s too fresh… I can’t believe it right now.” He looked up at the clock. “Mother fucker… I was off duty in twenty minutes… Twenty goddamn minutes!” He spun and looked at Johns, but Johns was looking up at the monitors that were still on in the autopsy room. The smoke was being drawn out by the air exchange, and the horror of the room was slowly coming into focus.
Doctor Adams lay sprawled in one corner, a line of bullet holes stitched across his back. The back portion of his skull was missing, jagged bone and gray-black hair clumped wildly around the fractured bone. Johns gagged and looked away.
“Jesus… They killed everybody,” Kohlson said as he continued to watch. Nurse Bertie lay where she had fallen. Only her legs visible in the shot they could see. Michael Hunter lay against the end of the stainless slab. His head a shapeless mass. The stitches across his chest and stomach bulging. Kohlson finally turned away too.
“They’re coming back for us.” Johns said.
Kohlson spun to the door.
“Not now, stupid ass, but you can’t think we get to live after that. They contaminated our air. We’re dead. No way are we not dead.”
Kohlson said nothing.
It was six hours before the soldiers came. They had finally taken a better look at the room. Johns moving the camera around as Kohlson watched..
“Dave… Tell me I’m wrong, but that fucker came back to life, right?” He was unsure even as he said it.
Johns shrugged. “I think what happened is they missed something… We missed something. Maybe a lead came off. You know, and the lead came off and so he seemed dead and he wasn’t dead at all, not really, he was still alive. Just that lead was off.”
“Yeah. I mean… I mean the alternative is that he came back to life… You don’t think that do you? I mean, do you? Cause that’s fucking crazy, Gabe. Crazy.”
“No. No, I can see what you mean I can see where…”
The air lock cycled on and six soldiers stepped into the hall like space that was actually just an airlock between the control room, the autopsy room, the former patient ward and the outside world. Johns tensed, waiting for the door to their space to cycle on, but it didn’t.
The soldiers were dressed head to toe in army drab plastic coveralls. Respirators, big units, sat on their backs and a full face shield and breathing apparatus was on their face, somehow joined into the coveralls. Tape was wound around the elastic cuffs of the legs and the plastic boot covers that joined there. Flexible olive green gloves covered their hands, also taped where they slipped under the plastic coveralls.. They never looked their way at all, just waited for the air lock to cycle and then stepped into the autopsy room. A second later the monitors went dead in the control room.
“Fuck, David Johns said. “That is not good at all.”
Kohlson got up and left the room. A minute later he was back with two diet colas. He handed one to David johns and then sat back down. Johns glanced down at the cola. The top was open already. He looked at Kohlson and Kohlson stared back unblinking. The med supply was also in that closet. They had talked it over once. They had decided that… He pushed it away and focused on the low whisper of the air exchange
“You think they will outright kill us,” Kohlson asked after a few long minutes of silence.
“Gabe… I think they will, Gabe.” Johns said after a hesitation. He tried to stop himself but he glanced down at the cola in his hand. It was half full. White powder floated on the surface. Clumped and drifting like tiny icebergs across a cola sea.. “Probably… No. They’re listening in right now, I’m sure. Listening to see where our minds are at. As soon as those flunkies in there are finished with that job they’ll be in here to finish up the clean up.” He swallowed hard.
“Yeah. I guess that’s how I see it too,” Kohlson agreed. He raised his can and tapped the side. “Been good knowing you, Dave.”
Johns stared him down for a few moments and then sighed. “Yeah. Same here. He raised the can in a salute and then downed it. Kohlson followed suit. Silence descended on the control room.
Watertown NY: Subterranean base.
Commanding: Major Richard Weston
Major Dick Weston read the report slowly. This was not the first hitch in SS. Last year they had lost a whole patient ward, three patients compromised, two doctors, and three control rooms, six personnel there that had to be terminated because of it.
He rocked back in his chair and pulled at his lower lip as he read the report. So it had some drawbacks, but there was too much focus on the problems, and not enough on the positives of V2765. Of all the compounds they had tested, this one did exactly what they needed it to do. It prolonged life far past the point of termination. Grave wounds, starvation, dehydration, nothing mattered. This compound changed the cells and made them able to adapt to the consequences of war. The only drawback was that it did it’s job a little too well. It continued to allow the subject to live after death. Everything stopped and then everything started up again. Usually with a much diminished capacity for understanding. Just the basic low end survival instincts any animal had, eat, protect, eat. And it did those things very well.
Some of the doctors at the third level, men whose reputations would be on the line very shortly when V2765 was released on a squadron of troops bound for the Middle East, in fact, wanted a brain biopsy. They had studied the video and decided that good Old Doctor Christmas might have been hiding something with the secrecy he had afforded the previous brain autopsies. He stopped pulling at his lip. Leaned forward and fed the paper sheaf from the incident into a shredder.
The thing is there was a secret. Major Weston had no idea what it signified, he was no doctor, but he had found the good doctor’s private files and brain biopsy reports on the previous candidates. Significant structural change to the brain cells. Not just slight modifications as the virus did when it infected the host, no, something deeper. A mutation. That file lay nearby on his desk too. He reached for it. If that information got out there would be a fast end to SS, and he couldn’t have that. SS was not his baby, some General he had never even met had that honor, but Bluechip was his base, and SS was a feather in his cap. It meant jobs. It meant growth. It meant over a mile of top secret base three miles below ground. These were things that could not be compromised. If, in the field, there were incidents, so be it. They could be isolated. Tests so far showed that very few came back after actual death. Destroy the brain and it destroyed whatever life had kicked back in. REX34T could easily take care of that if there was a large outbreak. REX34T took it all back to normal. The doctors had nicknamed it Rex. Rex, like a trusty dog that could get the job done, but what sort of job did Rex do? He didn’t know. Rex seemed to reverse the process that V2765 started. It undid the cell changes. It didn’t leave a single trace of the V virus when it was finished. The dead died. According to this report, there was a counterpart to REX34T that was meant specifically for the living. Release it in the air, same as Rex, and it affected only the living, reversing the changes that the V virus had made, and the living went on living, maybe. The testing insinuated that the longer the process that V2765 had started had gone on the more of a shock to the human body it was when it was removed. It suggested that some might not survive the withdrawal of the V virus.
He glanced down at the two vials that sat on the edge of his desk. One small vial filled with dark red liquid. The other a small aluminum canister that reminded him of the canisters that held the V virus. He beat out a nervous tempo with his fingers on the desktop and then picked up the two vials and slipped them into a plastic bag. He set the bag on the desktop, withdrew the test results from both Rex drugs from the thick file and then placed the bag into the file itself. A second later he placed the file into his personal file cabinet and locked it. He called up the same report on his monitor, excised the three pages of reports, and then saved the file. He pulled a fresh file folder from his cabinet before he closed and locked it, then dropped the pages into the empty folder. He hesitated and then fed that smaller file into the shredder too.
No problem, no liability, because if there was an acknowledged problem that was preexisting in this lawyer happy atmosphere every ex-soldier would be suing when the first x-ray showed the alteration in brain cell structure. No higher climb up the ladder for Major Dick Weston, and probably General whoever he was too. And that would be a long stop from where either of them wanted to be.
“Alice?” He looked over at his secretary.
“I want you to take this out and burn it.” He pulled the wastebasket free and slid it across to her. “I guess I’ve thought it out. Those two fools who took the overdose on morphine?” He waited for her eyes to meet his. “I think it was a mistake to try to save them. I would like you to take care of that personally, Alice… Doesn’t matter how. Let me know if you need anything.” He held her eyes for a moment. “That will be all,” he finished.
“Sir,” Alice said. She picked up the wastebasket and started to leave the office.
She stopped and turned back.
“Have that med closet removed. Stupid to put it in an interior control room… Have it moved to the very outside. From now on when they need something like that they can damn well get it walked in by our boys.”
“Sir,” Alice nodded. She turned and left the office.
America The Dead The Zombie Plagues. The dead begin to take over the world of the living #iTunes #dystopian #undead
America the Dead Episode 22: Check out this free Podcast from author Dell Sweet… #HorrorPodcast #Free #AmericaTheDead
The first days of the battle see large loses for the opposition, and because of their infighting the survivors have thus far escaped serious injury, and have taken the time to formulate a plan of their own…
EARTH’S SURVIVORS AMERICA THE DEAD: THE FOLD TWO
Copyright 2020 Lindsey Rivers
All Rights Reserved
Additional Copyrights © 2010, 2012, 2015 by Wendell Sweet.
All rights reserved, foreign and domestic
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2016 Wendell Sweet and his assignees. Dell Sweet and Geo Dell are publishing constructs owned by Wendell Sweet. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission.
Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.
NOTICE: This material is not edited for content
THE FOLD TWO
Rochester New York
While Jimmy searched out Hank Nelson, one of his ex-police buddies who had been helping to coordinate things, Frank set off with Gary to find Jessie. Jimmy could fill Hank in, and Jeremiah had gone over to the television station to set a plan in motion, that they had all agreed upon. Frank needed to find Jessie. He couldn’t leave without seeing her, even if it only made it harder for him, and she was also part of the plan they had come up with, and, she needed to know about the children, Frank reasoned.
He found her with Lisa and Connie, in the old County Court House building, setting up the make-shift Red Cross kitchen for lunch.
“Frank,” she asked when she saw his red eyes, “what’s wrong?”
“Nothing is,” Frank said, mildly, “but I need to talk to you…” he looked over at Bessy, the formidable woman who had run the kitchen on her own for three days, “Bessy?” he asked.
“Go on ahead,” Bessy said, “we’re just about finished here anyhow. Jessie, go on ahead, Lisa and Connie can help me serve.” The old gray-haired woman nodded her head sternly at Jessie as she spoke.
Frank waited until they were outside before he spoke. Gary had followed them out, but walked a short distance away. “First,” Frank said, “I love you, Jessie, I do with all my heart, and I should’ve already said it.”
“Jessie, we, Gary, Jeremiah, Jimmy and I have to leave. I can’t tell you all reasons right now… it has to do with something I know about those caves, but we have to go, Jessie. We have to.”
“Okay,” she said in a low voice, as she brushed tears from her eyes, “just come back, Frank…” she burst into tears as she finished. Frank took her chin in his hands, and gently lifted her face to his.
“Jessie, do you trust me?” Frank asked.
“Of course, Frank!” she was crying harder but her voice had taken on a rough edge, a panicked pleading was mixed in with it.
“Jessie, trust me, it’ll be okay, I swear it,” he said.
“I believe you, Frank, and believing will help me hang on,” she replied.
“I… I wanted to say something else, Jessie… Something.”
She put one finger to his lips and stopped his words.
“Frank… Not at a time like this… I don’t trust emotion in a time like this.”
He looked at her for a second and then nodded. He turned to Gary and nodded decisively.
The three of them walked quickly toward the television station, meeting Jimmy along the way.
“All set?” Frank asked.
“All set,” Jimmy answered, “Hank, will see to things here.”
They walked in silence to the station, and Jeremiah met them at the door. “Think it’ll work?” Gary asked him.
“No way to know, but it can’t hurt,” Jeremiah responded.
Two hours later, Frank, Jeremiah, and Jimmy, as well as Gary, were standing at the village of Fairport’s main dock.
“Several to choose from,” Gary said, as he stared out over the muddy banked channel.
“At least they’re not all in the mud,” Frank agreed. “Makes me wish we had John with us. I’d feel a heck of a lot better with him steering us out to the lake.” They had gone to John before they left to find out which was the quickest way to get to the lake, without chancing a trip through the north side of the city. John had suggested Fairport, because of its man-made channel that served the lake.
“Well, let’s do it, Gentlemen,” Jeremiah said, as he walked across the concrete lip of the channel, and out onto a short pier. A length of yellow nylon rope was still bound, although it was pulled tight, around a wooden piling, and Jeremiah followed the rope to its ending, at a fairly good sized fiberglass speed boat about three feet below them. Lilac City Baby, was stenciled just below the port side in script. After carefully untying the knot in the nylon rope; holding it tightly against the wooden piling as he did, allowing the tension to slowly bleed off, Jeremiah jumped down the three feet to the deck.
“Well?” he said looking up, “you guy’s gonna just let me float away?”
The remaining three men jumped down to the deck, as Jeremiah made his way back to steering console.
“No keys,” he said frowning.
“I can fix that,” Jimmy said, “lemme see…” he reached his hand under the panel, and emerged with three pig-tail ends of wire. “I learned this at the jail,” he said, as he slid two of the wires together, “listening to a kid we had in one night, talking about how he did it.” The small red indicator light to the right of the switch lit up. “Now,” Jimmy said, as he touched the remaining wire to the already connected two. “Presto-chango,” he finished as the electric starter began to whir, turning the in-board motor over. He reached to the throttle and edged it forward slightly, while still holding the wires together with one hand. The engine caught, and the low burble of the motor came to him from the exhaust that bubbled up from the rear of the boat. “No probleemo,” Jimmy said, as he released one of the wires. “I don’t however, know how to drive this thing,” he finished sheepishly.
“I do,” Gary volunteered, “I owned one like it.” He took over the controls and slowly backed the boat away from the dock, turned it around, and headed down the channel toward the lake.
“Owned your own gravel pit,” Frank said, “I guess you were pretty well off if you could afford a boat like this.”
“That I was,” Gary said, “but I ain’t sorry I don’t have it all still, Frank… In fact I’m glad I don’t. It was too much of a headache. When this is over I’m retiring.”
Frank chuckled. “Me too, Gary, me too.”
Twenty minutes later they were leaving the channel and entering the lake. The sun rode high in the warm air, and Jeremiah asked, “How long did John say it would take to get there, Frank?”
“Two, maybe three hours tops,” he replied.
“Gee, Frank, how come we didn’t think of this?” Gary asked, with a smirk on his face.
“Dunno, should have,” he said laughing. It felt good to laugh, he thought, and he was pretty sure none of them would be laughing once they got to Fort Drum.
“How are we going to do it when we get there?” Frank asked, to no one in particular.
The laughter died down quickly, making Frank wish he hadn’t asked.
“We’ll see when we get there,” Jeremiah said, “all we kin do, Frank.”
“How close you think you can get us, Gary?” Jeremiah asked.
“Well, if the town’s flooded like I think, we’ll probably be able to take it right into Watertown, and probably most of the way to Fort Drum. From there I guess we hoof it, guys.”
Frank checked the clip in the nine mm machine pistol, before he spoke. “You really think we’ll need these, Jeremiah?”
“I’m ‘fraid so, Frank, we can hope this Jeffery’s guy ain’t there, I doubt he is, but there’s the other guy to contend with… He may know we’re coming, he may not. Hopefully Jessie and Hank can fool ’em for a while… No telling, Frank, but I’m sure we’ll need ’em,” he checked the clip in his own weapon when he finished.
The machine pistols were fully automatic, and each held a two hundred round clip. Jimmy had liberated them from the evidence room of the Rochester Police Department’s downtown office, along with several spare clips, and more than two thousand rounds of additional ammunition. “These will do the job,” Jimmy had said, “if anything will.”
The machine pistols had been taken in one of the many raids on drug houses on the city’s north side, Jimmy had told them, as he had pointed out a room that to Frank looked as if it could hold a small banquet.
The room had been filled to overflowing with weapons of all types, including what looked to Frank to be an Army issue fifty mm anti-aircraft gun. “They use those?” Frank had asked, incredulously.
“Those and anything else they can get their hands on,” Jimmy had answered solemnly.
I wonder if we should have bought the anti-aircraft gun, Frank thought now, as he watched the calm blue-green water of the lake slip by. “I hate the thought of having to use this,” he said, as he slipped the gun into a leather side holster that had been with it. The holster had obviously been custom-made for the previous owner of the weapon and included a long slit in one side that allowed the weapon to be holstered with the clip in place. The initials A. S. were burned into one side of it.
“So long as you use it when the time comes, Frank,” Jeremiah said. “Don’t hesitate, just do it, it’s us or them.”
“Oh I wouldn’t hesitate, Jeremiah,” Frank said, “I just won’t like it while I’m shooting it.” He frowned, but in truth the weight of the gun against his hip was comforting.
Gary pushed the throttle forward as they left the shallows of the lake, and began to move across the dark blue waters toward Fort Drum. Frank relaxed back into one of the vinyl boat seats, and let the wind flow through his black hair. Had it ever smelled so sweet, or felt so good, he asked himself. Probably not, he told himself. He wondered if maybe that was the way it was though when you were about to die. If suddenly everything began to look a lot better, he supposed it was. He couldn’t rightly say that he felt as if he were going to die, but he couldn’t say he didn’t either. He looked around at the others. Gary had a grim smile plastered across his mouth as he leaned into the rush of wind, piloting the speed-boat. Jeremiah was sitting in the seat across from Frank, idly picking at a loose thread in the cushion, a worried look on his face, and Jimmy was leaned back in a backwards facing seat directly in front of Frank, with his hands clasped behind his head and his eyes shut. Frank tried but he could not shake the doomed feeling that had clutched him. It wouldn’t let go, no matter what he tried to think of besides where they were going, and what they were going to attempt to do. He couldn’t shake it, the grip was too tight.
Jeremiah turned and spoke. “Seems like the end don’t it, Frank,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Jimmy opened his eyes and leaned forward as Frank spoke. “It does at that, but I’ve never had much that I cared about in life except my kids, and now Jessie; and now God. I don’t want to die, but it isn’t something I’m afraid of anymore.”
“I feel about the same,” Jimmy said, “no kids, no wife, I thought being a cop was all there was,” he shook his head, “I’m in no hurry to die either…” he shrugged his shoulders, “It won’t make me avoid it though, or walk away from it, I’m in it to the end.”
They both looked at Jeremiah as he spoke. “It ain’t so hard to die. It ain’t something I want to do again though. At least I know there’s something there, and it makes a big difference far as I’m concerned.”
“What’s it like, Jeremiah?” Jimmy asked, echoing the same question that Frank had been thinking.
“I don’t know as I kin explain it well enough…” Jeremiah replied, “It’s sort of like what you think it is. Like…if you think it’ll be hangin’ around in a cloud all day, and talkin’ to angels, I guess it could be that for you,” he paused. “For me it was playing checkers. It was something I used to like to do, and never had time for. I played a couple of games with my dad…” his voice broke softly, “he hadn’t changed a bit, still cheated’. It also means spending time with God, talkin’ to him if you want to. I played checkers with him too, beat him on occasion, course I think he let me. It’s everything you think it is, that’s the best I kin say toward explaining it,” he paused, and sighed. “One thing is life does have a bit on it. The taste of a cold beer, food, Maggie, feelin’ hungry even, life does have something on it. But death ain’t a bad place at all, you kin live there and have it agree with you.”
“That’s a good thing to know, Jeremiah,” Frank said quietly, “if it’s what you say, I guess it isn’t half bad then.”
Jimmy had once again closed his eyes and leaned back against the seat. “It’s a damn sight better than I thought it would be,” he said softly.
“What the hell you worrywarts talking ’bout now?” Gary called out, over the sound of the wind.
“Just life in general, Gary’,” Frank answered. “How you doing?” Frank asked of Gary’s back. “Why can’t you put this thing on auto pilot or something?”
Gary stared over his shoulder at Frank, a look of disgust mingled with a smile on his face. “This boat doesn’t have it, that’s why, mister smarty-pants,” Gary yelled above the wind. “The throttle will stay open, but the steering won’t lock, we’d go around in circles.”
“Gee, so touchy,” Frank said with a smile, as he got up and steadied himself. “I’m gonna watch the water go by, I guess,” he said to Jeremiah as he walked away. He moved slowly up to where Gary stood, and stared out over the water. The waves were choppy and Frank could feel the boat skipping over them. They were hugging the coast line, about a mile out, he figured, and from here the world looked beautiful, he thought, it looked like nothing at all had happened. The vast expanse of water was entirely empty though, and that shattered the illusion. “Worried, Gary?” he asked.
“Nope, I ain’t,” he replied. “I’m ready as I can be, and I ain’t a bit afraid,” he added. “You?”
“We talked about it…” Frank said.
“Heard most of it,” Gary returned.
“What do you think, Gary?”
“Same as you, Frank, it’s a big comfort to know.”
Frank nodded his head, and the two men fell into a comfortable silence as the boat skimmed over the water toward Fort Drum.
In Rochester, Jessie sat in the small studio, staring intently at the television. Beside her John was silent, watching the recording that Frank and the others had viewed earlier.
She had never promised Frank she wouldn’t, and she wanted to see for herself what kind of a monster they were sent to deal with. They watched it all, and as they did the paleness that had crept into Jessie’s face turned red, and her eyes reflected the anger that was building within her. John reacted similarly, and Hank who was also with them refused to watch after the first few minutes, preferring instead to stare idly at the ceiling, as if inspecting it for damage, until the recording finished.
In a small run-down apartment on Hudson Avenue, on the north side of the city of Rochester, Willie Lefray sat talking to Alfred Harding.
Al had been with Willie since the day he had arrived in Rochester. Al was devoted. Totally devoted, and Willie knew he would balk at nothing he asked him to do. He stared at the slight red-haired pimple-splattered young man that was Alfred Harding, thoughtfully, before he spoke.
“Today, Al, today. Take three or four of your guys with you. Do you think you can handle it, Al?” Willie asked.
“Oh yeah, Willie, sure, sure I can,” he responded.
He’s like a fuckin’ puppy dog, Willie thought, before he spoke. “Okay wonder-bread, it’s on you. You get that bitch, and you get her alive, understand?”
“Sure, sure I understand, Willie, what’re you gonna do to her, huh? Gonna kill her or something, Willie?” his eyes shone with adoration as he spoke.
“Don’t worry, Al, tell you what, you want to do her first, Al? Before I do what I have to?”
“Oh sure, Willie, that would, you know, that would be cool, I think,” Alfred answered fairly drooling with anticipation.
“Okay, Al, calm down. Now tell me what you’re gonna do,” Willie asked.
“Sure, Willie,” he answered. “We’re gonna sneak in, and we ain’t gonna kill nobody unless we hav’to. We’re gonna get this Jessie and we’re gonna bring her back to you… Not hurt,” he added hastily.
Willie took a long swig from the bottle between his legs. “Good, Al, very good, now get the fuck out of here and get ready, ’cause in just a few, you’re going,” Willie said.
“Sure, I’m gone already, Willie,” Alfred said as he got up and beat a hasty retreat out of the living room, and through the front door.
Willie listened as the door slammed shut behind him, and took another long pull on the bottle.
He had run out of the white powder. He could settle for cocaine, he supposed, there was a virtual glut of it just laying around waiting to be picked up, but after the magic white powder that Luther had given him, cocaine was nothing.
He had fully expected to be dead by now, and it baffled him that he wasn’t. He hadn’t eaten in ten days or better, and he’d had nothing to drink that didn’t contain alcohol in at least as many days. He sighed. “Fuck it,” he said aloud, as he took another swig from the bottle.
The phone on the coffee table suddenly burred, and Willie nearly choked before he managed to swallow, and then quickly snatch the phone from the table.
“Yes,” he said into the phone, in a small voice. “Yes, today, Luther,” he set the phone back down and got serious about killing off the half empty bottle, “No place to hide, nowhere to go,” he muttered as he drank.
Jessie was angry…No, she corrected herself, pissed off big-time, not just, or only mad, pissed off big-time, in big capital letters. She envisioned it in her mind, PISSED OFF BIG-TIME, that’s what she was she told herself, as she sat at the small table and stared at the blank screen of the television monitor.
John spoke. “You okay, Jessie?”
“No, I’m not,” she said, “I’m Pissed off… Big-time,” she said vocalizing the thought. “What a rotten piece of shit he is,” she said, referring of course to Luther.
“Yeah, he’s a piece of work all right,” John agreed with a sigh, “you’ve got to let it go though, Jessie, we have things to do, and you can’t allow your anger to get in the way of it.”
“I know that, John,” she said, still angry, “I’m trying to get a handle on it, okay?”
“Okay,” John said soothingly, as he got up. “Want some coffee?”
“Yes,” she replied, a little bit calmer, “that might help.”
“Be back,” John said, as he walked off.
Hank had stepped out a few minutes before. When Jessie had finished watching the recording she had been steaming, and it had scared him.
Hank liked things nice and straight forward, and in his mind women didn’t get that mad. Why, women were kind and soft and gentle, like his mother, he reasoned, things like that. But they were never angry, they never swore like Jessie had, and men were never afraid of them either, he had told himself as he left the room. Maybe it would be a good idea if he just took a short walk, he had convinced himself. In fact it was time to take a walk… A long walk. Time to lay low maybe, he told himself.
Jessie drew in several deep breaths, as she sat at the table, and once she felt she had herself under control, she snatched the disc from the machine and forced herself to set it down instead of throwing it across the room, which is what she wanted to do. “Prick,” she mumbled under her breath, as she sat the disc down. She reached across and picked up the disc that Frank, Gary, Jeremiah, and herself, as well as Jimmy, had made before they left. She slid it into the machine and hit the play button, then leaned back into her seat to watch it.
Frank turned from staring out over the water and asked, “How much longer you think, Gary?”
“Twenty minutes, maybe less,” he responded, after checking his watch.
Frank turned. “Almost there guys,” he said. Jeremiah and Jimmy walked forward and stared out over the water.
“It’s changed a bit,” Gary said, “we should already be on dry land, and, as you can see, we ain’t.”
“That bad?” Jeremiah asked.
“Not if we want to save time it ain’t,” Gary replied, “the closer the better, I just gotta be careful is all, don’t know how deep it is here.”
“Seems pretty deep to me,” Jimmy said doubtfully.
“Seeming deep, and being deep, is two totally different things,” Gary said, as he dropped the throttle to a low idle. They coasted slowly up what looked to be a wide and calm river.
“This is new,” Gary said, a trace of wonder in his voice “looks like it might be what used to be White creek. If it is, we’ll be coming in a lot closer than we figured to be,” he finished.
“How’s that?” Frank asked, feeling foolish.
“White creek comes right into Fort Drum, is why, and if this is it, we’re coming straight into… Damn if it ain’t!” he said pointing ahead. “That’s the water tower, and soon as we get through these trees, I’ll bet ya dollars-to-donuts it says Fort Drum on it,” he finished excitedly.
“Well, how far from here to that Jeffery’s place you figure?” Jeremiah asked.
“Mile, maybe mile and a half,” Gary answered, smiling. Jeremiah started to turn to Frank. “Be about forty hours left,” Frank answered, before he could ask.
The boat coasted through the trees, and they all read the lettering on the water tower, slapping Gary on the back as they did.
“Good navigating, Gary,” Jimmy said.
“Fine, that’s for sure,” Jeremiah said also. They all knew they were trying to hold the lighthearted mood that they had just acquired seconds before, they knew as well that it was no use. It was time to be serious, lives, not the least of all their own, were at stake.
Frank jumped to the grassy shore, caught the rope Jeremiah threw to him, and pulled the boat in closer, tying it off to the thick trunk of a nearby tree.
“Think that’ll be okay, Gary’?” he asked as he knotted the rope, and the remaining three men stepped ashore.
“I take it you were never in the Navy, Frank,” he said, as he looked over the three square knots, Frank had used. “It ain’t going nowhere I don’t think. The rope’ll break first, Frank.”
Frank put one more knot in the rope to be sure, before he looked up and then followed Gary, who was shaking his head, away from the boat.
“What?” he asked, as he caught up to him.
“Nothin’, Frank, I was just bustin’ your chops is all,” Gary replied smiling. They walked up to a vine covered road. Or at least it looked like it had been a road, Frank thought, as he joined Jeremiah, and Jimmy.
“What’s with the vines?” Jimmy asked.
“Don’t know, but they’re everywhere, Jim,” Gary replied, “started the same night the bombs fell… Jeremiah?”
“Don’t know any more than you do, walked over a whole bunch of them myself. Wasn’t something He thought to let me in on,” Jeremiah replied. “Which way, Gary?” he asked, as he looked up from the vines, and down the road in both directions.
“Left,” Gary replied, and started away. The others stood for only a second, and then fell in behind him.
Jessie watched the recording that was due to be transmitted in little over four hours. It was an old ruse, probably wouldn’t work, she thought, but it had been the best they could come up with on short notice.
The six of them, John included, stared grimly at the camera. Their reasoning had been simple. If Luther was aware that they could transmit, then he had probably been, and would probably continue, monitoring their broadcasts. The recording was set up to appear live, and the speed with which they had recorded it heightened that quality.
Frank stared grimly into the camera and spoke…
“…We felt we needed to inform you of something that developed earlier today,” he began. Behind him a large screen lit up and began to replay carefully edited parts of Luther’s recent broadcast, as Frank spoke. The clock behind Frank read 6:00 PM, and the hope was that Luther would buy it as a live transmission. If not it would all be for nothing…
“…Think it will work?” John asked from behind her as he re-entered the room.
“No,” she replied, “I don’t, at least not entirely. Can somebody like him even be fooled?”
“I don’t know,” John said tiredly, “if he can’t be fooled, maybe he can be confused. I mean he can’t be all seeing, and all knowing… he’s not God.”
Jessie’s eyes brightened. “Maybe then,” she said hopefully.
“Maybe,” John agreed, “just maybe.”
They watched the rest of the short ten minute recording in silence. It consisted of showing the edited recording, while Frank talked about their need to discuss it with everyone else, and a short plea for more time at the end. They made no mention of Luther’s demand to turn over five of the assembled group. It had been Frank’s suggestion to leave it out, but Frank did say they were considering his demands, which left it open to Luther’s interpretation. At the most, they knew, it would only buy them a few extra hours if Luther went for it, but those few extra hours might allow Frank, Jeremiah, Gary and Jimmy, to get to Fort Drum.
They also knew that once Luther realized that he had been tricked, he might push the button right then. The whole thing’s a crap shoot, Jessie thought, as the recording ended, and she turned off the machine.
She looked at John. “No way to know,” he said, as if reading her mind, “but it beat’s doing nothing.”
“Jeremiah thinks they’ll come at us today from the north side,” she said.
“When did he say that?” John asked, surprised.
“After Frank went for coffee, he told Hank, I guess. He didn’t want Frank to know. Hank told Jimmy too, and Jimmy told him to make sure that I was aware. Jeremiah told him to tell me I should make myself scarce,” she said, “wonder why?”
“No telling with him, but… If it was me he had said that to, you can bet I’d be making myself scarce,” John said thoughtfully, and then continued. “Odd though that Jeremiah didn’t tell you or me directly,” he shrugged. “I believe I’ll just keep an eye on you today, if you don’t mind,” he held up his hand when she began to protest. “I’m not saying you can’t handle yourself, Jessie, but two is better than one any way you look at it,” he favored her with a stern look. “I mean it, Jessie, if he said it, even if he didn’t say to us directly, he didn’t say it to hear himself speak.”
“Okay, “she said, “you win. You can babysit me, John.”
“That makes me feel better,” John said. “I’m an old man, Jessie, but I spent a lot of years in this city dealing with the bad elements of it, I can hold my own, and then some if I have to,” he patted the .38 that was holstered at his hip as he finished speaking.
“I intend to stay right in here today anyway,” Jessie said, “I want to make sure nothing goes wrong when we broadcast that recording.”
“Well in that case,” John said, getting up from the small table, “I guess I’ll go get us some more coffee,” he walked off as he finished speaking.
“Thanks,” Jessie called after him.
Willie Lefray leaned back into the worn old couch in the living room of the house on Hudson Avenue. The empty bottle lay in shards in one corner of the room, where Willie had flung it. He had drained the last drop from the bottle, and then flung it against the wall when he realized there was not another bottle to replace it. He had of course called Mike in from the front porch, and had him dispatch someone to liberate a new supply from one of the many liquor stores that dotted the avenue. Whoever he had sent would be in hot water when they returned though, Willie promised himself, they had already been gone for more than three hours. How long does it take to follow simple fuckin’ directions and go to a damn liquor store, Willie wondered. Probably forever, he told himself. Especially with this bunch of morons he was saddled with.
He debated calling Mike back in to find out what was taking so long, but rejected it. Mike was dumber than Alfred, he knew, and Alfred was a frigging moron. A creepy moron, but still a moron. Actually, Willie thought, the guy scares me a little. He looks like a little kid, and even acts like a little kid. Sort of naive, maybe even innocent-looking to someone who didn’t know better. Willie knew, however, that it was nothing but an act. Alfred was a straight out nut-case, and the calm kid-like demeanor could change in an instant, without warning.
The kid was also loyal. Well, not loyal, he reasoned, more like devoted, or fanatical. Alfred embraced evil and death, more even than Willie himself did.
The day Willie had arrived he had dismissed Alfred out of hand, simply because of that kid-like quality. Alfred had begged Willie to make him one of his right hand men, the friggin’ kid had been in tears over it, and Willie had jokingly told him that all the positions were filled, and that if he wanted in, he would have to kill his way in. Willie had figured that would satisfy the kid. Either he would be killed trying to take out someone, or he would simply walk away, and Willie would have bet ten to one on the walking away. Either way Willie didn’t have the time for him.
But, no sooner had the words been out of Willie’s mouth, than the kid had turned quickly, cat-like almost, Willie thought, and slit the throat of one of the guys Willie had bought with him. The guy had been standing there laughing at Alfred. At how pitiful he looked, and a second later he had been gagging on his own blood, and trying to hold his neck together, before he crashed to the floor.
Yeah, Willie thought, Alfred was a nasty little bastard all right, and he had no doubt that he would manage to bring the woman back.
The phone call from Luther had been short and to the point. Get her, but get her alive. “It should be easy, even for a no-brained fuck-up like you, Willie,” Luther had said. “After all, Willie my sweet, I did the hard work for you, I lured their big shots away, I opened the door and left her alone, and I think you should be able to handle one old man, hmm, Willie, think you can handle it?”
Luther had an inside man over there, Willie correctly guessed. He had no idea who, and hadn’t asked, but whoever it had been had told him that the four men, who in Luther’s estimation held everything together, were gone. While Alfred went for the woman, Willie himself would lead a small army right into their midst. There wouldn’t be anyone, or anything, to stop them, Luther had assured him.
Willie planned to be sneaky about it though, he already had snipers stationed close to the roadblocks. They were so stupid that they didn’t even try to hide behind their barricades. They just walked back and forth, like they were on guard duty at a friggin’ factory somewhere. Apparently, Willie thought, they didn’t take a threat from the north side seriously. After today they would though, Willie promised himself, and smiled as he did.
He got up from the worn sofa. “MIKE, where the fuck is that little bastard you sent to the liquor store?” he yelled, as he opened the front door. If the little prick didn’t get back soon, there wouldn’t be time for another drink before he’d have to leave.
Jessie stood up from the small table. It was nearing 6:00 PM, time to play the tape. John had left ten minutes before to get them some fresh coffee, but hadn’t returned yet. What’s keeping him? She wondered, as she walked toward the hallway. She was almost to the door when a red-haired wild-eyed looking kid came running through it, nearly knocking her over.
“Ma’am…Miss Stone, ya gotta come quick, ya gotta, they’re coming through the barricades, and they got John, Ma’am, they got… you gotta come quick!” the kid said in a panicked voice.
The kid was clearly scared witless, Jessie realized. “Calm down, calm down,” she said as she grabbed him by the shoulders, and shook him. The kid was carrying what looked to be a machine gun, Jessie saw. What the hell are they doing putting a young kid like this on guard duty? Jessie thought angrily.
“Miss Stone?” the kid asked still sounding panicky, “you are Miss Stone I was supposed to come get, right?”
“Yes, now calm down,” Jessie said sternly, turning away from the kid and heading toward the table where she had left her gun, “just let me get my…”
“Good,” the kid said from behind, cutting her off. “Real good.”
Bright stars exploded in her head, cutting off the rest of what she had been going to say. WHAT… she thought, as she crumpled to the floor. She was dimly aware of the sound of gun fire, before she passed out.
Hank Nelson entered the room just as Alfred clubbed Jessie in the back of the head with the machine gun. Alfred quickly reversed the gun and aimed it at Hank.
“Hey!” Hank yelled in surprise, and then looked fearfully to the gun in Alfred’s hands. “Hey, don’t kid, I’m on…”
Alfred didn’t let him finish. He squeezed the trigger and in a split second Hank was cut in two by a hail of bullets.
“Fuck you,” Alfred spat, as Hank fell to the floor. Two men appeared in the doorway behind him, Alfred whirled around cat-quick but lowered the weapon once he recognized them. “Pick her up, let’s go,” he ordered. The two men quickly did as ordered, and followed Alfred out into the hallway. They passed John’s lifeless body in the corridor, where Alfred had let it fall, after he had snuck up behind him and clubbed him in the back of the head as he had Jessie. He had slit John’s throat, almost before he had hit the ground, and so he had made no sound whatsoever. Alfred kicked an empty paper coffee cup, resting by one of John’s outstretched hands, out of his way as they trotted by.
Outside, in the late afternoon air, the sound of gun fire reverberated through the Streets. It was audible now, even inside the building. Alfred mowed down a group of seven people with the machine gun, who had been crouched fearfully just inside the doorway to the building, as he came upon them. None of them had the chance to return fire, or even turn around, and Alfred, followed by the two men, trampled over their bodies as he pushed through the doorway and out into the street.
The South side of the city was in the grip of a battle that had begun two blocks away, when Willie himself had taken out the patrolling guard, and then quickly rushed through the barricade, toward the War Memorial.
All was not going as planned however, as a heavily armed group in the County Court House building had pinned them down before they had been able to take the War Memorial, and that had allowed the people in the War Memorial, to react.
As a consequence Willie’s group was rapidly falling in numbers, and although he did not wish to, he would have to drop back, or risk losing all of his men if Al didn’t show soon. He had just started to draw back, when Alfred came trotting out of the television station, in a deafening roar of gun fire. The kid had done it, Willie realized, as he saw the two men running behind him, carrying a slumped form in their arms as they ran. He could see even from the distance of the two hundred yards that separated them, that the form was female, and he was quite sure that Al knew better than to bring him the wrong woman.
As Willie watched, one of the men carrying the woman was cut down by gun fire, and Alfred quickly picked up the fallen mans’ burden and continued forward. Willie was torn, Alfred had to make it through in one piece with the woman, or Luther would have Willie’s balls, he had told him as much, and Luther didn’t bull-shit.
The gunfire from the Court House, and the War Memorial was restrained somewhat, but they apparently had more than a few shooters who could aim well enough to miss the woman. When they were less than a hundred feet away, the kid went down, and the remaining man struggled to get the woman over his shoulders and continue on. Willie hesitated, only an instant longer, and then leapt up and sprinted for the man. Chips of asphalt flew all around him as he ran. The War Memorial crowd was trying to stop him from reaching them, he realized. But gunfire was nowhere near as bad as Luther, so he kept on, marveling that he hadn’t yet been hit, as he ran the last few feet and grabbed the woman’s body along with the other man.
He felt the man behind him go down just ten feet from the safety of his small band of disciples, and he felt as well the ripping of his flesh, as three rounds caught him in the back. He stumbled the last few feet pushed forward by the impact of the rounds, fully expecting to finally drop dead as two men rose from behind the barricades to take the woman’s body.
He had done it, he had reached safety, he realized, and he had also caught three solid rounds in the back doing it. That made him happy, as he wanted nothing more than to lay down right here on the pavement and die, it would feel so good, so right, he thought, as he began to ease toward the road. His hands were clasped across his stomach. What’s left of it, he thought. He could feel his insides trying to squirm out through his fingers.
Good, he thought, very fuckin’ good. Very, very, good. So, how come I’m not dead? he asked himself.
Takes longer, his mind whispered, this ain’t a friggin’ movie.
Okay, fine, he reasoned, this ain’t a movie. But how come it don’t hurt even, huh?
Shock, his mind told him.
Well fuckin’ fine, but…
Two of his men squatted and quickly picked Willie up, just as his eyes slipped shut. “His gut’s is hanging out, Tommy,” one complained, gagging.
“Shut up and get going, we ain’t leaving his body here, no way.”
The two men ran off down the street, and deeper into the north side of the city, carrying Willie’s body between them as they ran.
Frank crouched low, looking over the layout of the Jeffery’s farm along with the others, from a thick stand of trees that came up to within one hundred yards of the rear of the house. The barn and the twin silos were even closer, maybe two hundred feet, he estimated.
A heavily bearded, biker type stood on the rear porch of the farm house, casually picking his nose, while simultaneously, drinking a can of beer. His machine gun resting against the porch railing less than two feet from where he stood.
“That guy’s got to go three hundred pounds,” Frank whispered, as he watched him.
As if he had heard him, the biker suddenly tossed his thick greasy hair out of his eyes, and looked out toward the woods, directly, it seemed to Frank, where they were hiding. Frank held his breath and waited, mentally kicking himself as he did. If he had heard him though, he certainly didn’t act like it. He suddenly crushed the beer can in one fist, threw it out into the yard, where it joined countless others, turned heel and walked to the opposite end of the porch. Once there he lowered his wide bottom into a rusted green metal deck chair, and propped his feet up on the rail of the porch as he lit a cigarette. The machine gun still rested against the rail on the opposite end of the porch, perhaps twenty feet away, Frank saw.
“Piece a work, ain’t he?” Gary whispered, to no one in particular.
“That he is,” Jeremiah whispered back.
A foggy belch, along with the hiss of an opening carbonated beverage, could be plainly heard from the rear porch in the quiet mid-afternoon air.
“Real pig too,” Jimmy whispered, “if he drinks enough we might be able to just walk over to those silos.”
“That’d be nice,” Frank whispered back.
“Gonna have to try for it soon,” Jeremiah said, “maybe now’s the best time, he ain’t got his rifle. Might not get a better opportunity.”
They had spent over an hour crouched down in the trees hoping for a good opportunity. Trouble was, Frank thought, we still don’t know if there’s anyone inside the house. The biker was the only one they had seen so far, and he had not ventured into the house once while they had watched him, so they had no idea what to expect if they tried to move on the silos. There could be, Frank thought, a whole house-full of re-enforcement’s just waiting to come out of the rear of the house. Jeremiah was right though, he realized, they had to make a move soon, either that or wait for night fall, and none of them wanted to do that.
“Lets’ do it,” Frank grunted decisively as he slowly stood up. The other three men stood up with him.
At first the biker type seemed not to notice them as they slowly walked from the woods. The way his feet are propped up, Jeremiah thought, he might not be able to see us. Two steps later though, the biker suddenly jumped up and began to sprint for the machine gun at the opposite end of the porch. All four of their machine pistols chattered at once, and before he had made it more than ten steps, he was cut down. Frank ran as hard as he could toward the silos behind Jeremiah. Jimmy and Gary brought up the rear. They all dropped to the ground once they reached them, and scurried around behind them.
Although the silos protected them from the gun fire they expected, they also blocked their view of the house. They heard nothing, no doors suddenly slamming open, no footfalls, but that didn’t mean they weren’t already closing the distance to the silo, Frank knew.
“Gonna check,” Frank grunted, as he belly crawled around the side of the silo so he could see the house. No one was in sight, and he could make out the prone body of the biker behind the spindles of the porch railing, where it had fallen. Frank stared at the house for a few minutes longer, before he crawled back around the silo.
“Looks good,” he whispered, “can’t be certain, but nobody’s come out yet.”
“We have to check it though,” Jimmy said, “no telling for sure until we do.”
“Yeah,” Gary agreed, “I don’t want to get inside this silo and then find out that we were wrong, that there is somebody in there.”
“It don’t make sense,” Jeremiah said, “that they’d put the guy out here alone… Not if it’s really important anyhow.”
Frank looked at the silo. It looked like an ordinary see-it-any-day-of-the-week sort of silo. He had seen hundreds just like it back in Seattle. He looked down at the base of the silo. The base was just concrete. Could be Peter’s lied, his mind whispered. It might be just an average ordinary silo, and he didn’t feel like getting his ass shot off for an average ordinary silo. The door however, was around the front, and like it or not, they would have to be reasonably sure the house was empty before they entered, or they would be trapped, he realized, like fish in a barrel. “Lets’ go,” he decided, crouching low as he ran around the silo toward the house.
The house was empty. The house was completely empty. No people, no furniture, no nothing. The only thing that was in the house were three cases of beer piled just inside the rear door, that matched two on the rear porch, apparently to keep the biker type happy. Along with a deep midnight blue Harley sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, its chrome winking, even in the muted light falling through the windows of the kitchen. Other than that it was completely empty. They searched the attic, basement, and found nothing. After the quick search they trotted past the body on the rear porch, and back out to the silo.
“Here goes,” Frank said, as he shot the padlock off the silo door they had hidden behind. He turned the knob and the door swung open. The door was not lead lined, Frank noticed, the pristine interior of the silo was empty. No silage, and definitely no missile, and no false bottom either, the floor was solid concrete, they crawled around the perimeter and checked on their hands and knees to make sure.
“Other one,” Frank said, “it must be in the other one,” he finished, and bolted toward the other silo, with the others close behind.
The second silo had a small key-pad installed into the solid metal door, with both a green and a red indicator light. The red indicator light was pulsing steadily.
“Bitch, what do you make of it, Gar’?” Frank asked.
“Looks almost like a simple house alarm type setup,” Gary responded.
“I wouldn’t try shooting it off, Frank,” Jeremiah cautioned, “could be maybe it would set off some sort’a warning.”
“Believe me I wasn’t entertaining the thought,” Frank responded dejectedly, even though he had been thinking of doing just that. “Does anyone have any idea on how we can get in?”
The silo was connected to the barn, or at least to Jimmy, who had been looking it over, it appeared to be. “Through the barn maybe?” he offered, “looks to be connected to me.”
They circled the entire barn twice, before they came back to the double sliding front doors. From a distance they had appeared to be ordinary doors, but up close they could tell that they were not. They looked to be better than ten inches thick, and that was only what they could see. The sliding mechanism was only for show, the doors either swung inward, or outward, it was hard to tell, but they definitely did not slide. The windows were likewise fake. Within ten feet they had been able to tell they were nothing more than painted replicas. The weathered wood siding was also a sham, Gary discovered, after he kicked the side of the barn in frustration. One rotting board had fallen to reveal the thick concrete shell of the building beneath.
“Well, one thing’s for sure,” Gary said, “there’s something in there, or they wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of disguising it so well.” He stepped back and stared up toward the roof of the deceptive building. “Might be maybe another way in though,” he said, gazing upward.
The other three men stepped back and looked up as well.
“Through that air vent you thinkin’?” Jeremiah said.
“Might work,” Frank agreed.
Jimmy’s eyes flew open. “I saw a ladder, one of those aluminum jobs around the back,” he exclaimed.
“I saw that myself,” Frank agreed, as he followed Jimmy around the building. They were back in a few minutes carrying the long ladder between them. Jeremiah helped set it up, and then began to climb it toward the top.
The others were positive, at first, that Jeremiah would come tumbling back down the roof to the hard ground.
The roof pitch was steep, and once he had left the ladder he’d had a bad moment or two before he gained his balance. “Don’t worry, I ain’t goin’ to fall,” Jeremiah assured them once he regained his footing, “I climbed my own barn roof more times than you could shake-a-stick-at, and this one ain’t near as steep.”
Still, the three remaining men on the ground were apprehensive, until Jeremiah gained the top of the roof, and the large turbine-type air vent. He seemed to test the solidity of the mounting once he reached it, and then called, “Look out boys, she’s comin’ down.” He twisted the round steel top, the muscles in his arms standing out, crouched down, and let the top fall free, as it came loose with a high squeal of metal against metal. The top tumbled end over end to the ground, the turbine still spinning, until it hit the ground and burst apart, no longer an air-vent, but a small pile of shiny scrap metal.
“Well, what you waiting for?” Jeremiah called down, a smile on his face. “She’s open straight into the loft, come on.”
The others wasted no time in climbing the ladder, and they dropped the six feet to the loft floor, as Jeremiah had, once they had crawled through the now open vent.
The interior of the old barn had been as extensively modified, as the exterior. The entire upper loft area still resembled an actual barn, but below that was where the real renovations had taken place. The entire one hundred foot by forty foot space was completely open, and steel girders now supported the weight of the structure, instead of the massive hand hewn beams that had once done the job.
Excluding the small loft, that had been left intact to facilitate easy access to the roof vents, heating ducts, and electrical conduits, eighty feet of the structure rose unobstructed to the ceiling from the concrete floor thirty feet below. There was no sign of equipment, military or otherwise in the building, it was empty, and the pristine off white of the concrete seemed to bear out the feeling they all had, that the renovation had been fairly recent, and whatever equipment that had been destined to be installed in the structure had not been.
“Looks more like an aircraft hangar than a barn,” Jimmy said, as he stared down into the well-lit space. The building was obviously powered by some electrical source, but no tell-tale sound of a generator could be heard within the structure, and they had heard nothing outside that would indicate the presence of a power plant either. In fact the only sound in the building itself, was the low buzz of the florescent lights suspended from the steel girders.
“You think it’s powered from the caves?” Gary asked.
“Has to be,” Frank responded. “Unless there’s a sound proofed building close by that we missed, and I doubt that,” he finished, and shrugged his shoulders. The empty building echoed their voices, seeming to amplify them as they spoke,
Has to…has…Be…be, and that tended to make them speak in whispers, to avoid the eerie echoes of their own voices.
The barn was extremely oppressive to Frank. He had the feeling that a full scale war unfolding directly outside the building would not be heard, and it was almost as if the building ate the sound of their voices, or absorbed them into its walls after it bounced them around.
“I really don’t like this place much,” Frank said, vocalizing his apprehension.
“Me either… Lets’ see what we got, and whether we kin get into the silo,” Jeremiah said, as he began to climb down a steel ladder to the floor below, “then lets’ get out of here.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Frank said, as he followed. Jimmy scrambled down next, and Gary followed at a slightly slower pace nervously clutching the steel rungs as he did, as though they would suddenly disappear.
“Hey, you comin’, or what?” Frank called up teasingly, as Gary slowly descended. He regretted it a few seconds later as Gary turned his sweat slicked face to him. “Scared a heights a little,” he said through clenched teeth.
“Sorry, Gary, take your time,” Frank said apologetically, as he mentally chastised himself.
To Gary the thirty feet to the concrete seemed more like a mile, and until he finally set one foot on the cement floor, he had been convinced that the ladder would either suddenly fall away, or his own fear would cause him to lose his sweaty grip on the iron rungs, and he would plummet to the cold concrete far below. “Unreasonable, I know,” he said with a shaky voice once he was standing beside Frank. “Unreasonable or not though, I never been able to shake it. Goin’ up ain’t much of a problem, but comin’ down…” He finished, shaking his head, with more than a trace of embarrassment.
“I wish you’d told me, Gary you could have stayed up there, or outside, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have kidded you about it, I feel like a real ass,” Frank said, concern in his eyes.
“Oh sure, I stay outside and get my ass shot off, while you guys get to do the fun stuff,” Gary said in a serious voice. “No thanks, we’re stickin’ together. I’ll deal with the ladder, it ain’t so hard going up, only comin’ down,” he finished smiling. They walked toward Jeremiah and Jimmy at the rear of the structure.
The silo did have a connecting hallway to the barn, but another key-pad, complete with a flashing red indicator light, protected the steel door of the silo, just as the one outside had.
“Any suggestions?” Frank asked.
“Maybe you’ll have to shoot it off after all,” Jeremiah said, a frown settling on his face.
“Maybe I can take it apart,” Jimmy said, as he bent and began to study the key-pad, “gimme that pocket knife of yours, Gary.”
Two slotted screws appeared to be all that held the small black device to the wall. Using the edge of one of the smaller blades Jimmy carefully unscrewed the key-pad, and gently started to ease it away from the wall. The mounting screws were apparently an intrinsic part of the alarm system, for as soon as Jimmy lifted the key-pad a loud braying siren began to wail in the building. “Damn!” Jimmy yelled, and dropped the key-pad as though it had burned him.
“So much for surprise,” Jeremiah yelled above the braying of the siren, panic in his voice, “We better take out the door if we’re going in.”
Eleven miles away, Luther sat mesmerized by the pulsing message on the monitor. He was replaying for yet another time just exactly how he would enter the remaining codes, and launch the missiles from wherever they were buried in the huge underground complex.
He had men searching them out, but there were miles of underground roads, tunnels, corridors, and natural rock passages to search, and it would take forever for them to search them all. He could only hope that they would stumble upon them in their searching. After all, the law of averages must be tipping in favor of it, he thought, they had already searched better than half of the complex itself.
It still made him angry that their location had not been known to him. He had known several other things. He had known of their existence, hadn’t he? So why was it he didn’t know where they were? He supposed it didn’t matter, not really anyway, as everything was close to being over, and regardless of where they were, they would still do their intended job.
He was anticipating word from Willie later on this evening, concerning the woman. Her capture was assured though, he knew, and Willie would not really be telling him something he didn’t already know, rather just confirming it for him, and once he had the woman, he would have them all.
Another thing that really pissed him off was that he was not positive of where the four men were. He had been able to see them leave Fairport he had even been able to glimpse them briefly as they sped across the lake. After that though, he had not been able to track them, and had no idea where they had gone. But they would have to come here eventually, wouldn’t they? After all they were seeking the missiles, and they had left Rochester.
So far they had not been spotted trying to enter the caves. They would be, he assured himself, and the orders he had issued concerning them were to shoot to kill, on sight, no fucking around. He had no doubt that he would be in possession of their bodies by night fall, and once he was, he would punch in those codes, and send the fools in Rochester a little present.
He didn’t question why in his mind it was so important to him that their top people were dead or at least captured, before he sent the missiles. It was just part of The Plan. His Plan and he had thought it out carefully. Plans were important, and once a plan was devised it was even more important to stick to it. Follow it. See it through to the end. He wanted their deaths to be more personal, he wanted to look at their dead bullet-riddled bodies, and maybe stomp what was left of them, or order their remains torn to shreds.
Yes, he decided, as he watched the screen, torn to shreds, ripped limb to limb. “Yes indeedy,” he said aloud, and shuddered with delight.
He was still thinking of how much he would enjoy the little scenario he was playing out in his fevered mind, when the screen suddenly went blank, and then a split second later began to flash a new message. The wide grin that had been plastered on his face, suddenly slipped as he looked at the screen.
SECURITY BREECH ZONE 7…….
INITIATING POWER DOWN SEQUENCE IN TEN SECONDS.
ENTER COMMAND CODE SECTOR SIX, ZONE SEVEN TO
ABORT POWER DOWN SEQUENCE NOW __
A small cursor blinked, waiting for the requested input.
Now what the fuck did that mean exactly? Luther wondered, and where the fuck was sector six, or zone seven for that matter? And just what the fuck was going on, he asked himself. Power down what? Sector six and zone seven? Did it mean that the four men had somehow managed to enter the underground facility undetected? If so, Luther assured himself, somebody’s balls would be hanging from his belt. They would join several others he had skewered, that now hung suspended from a leather thong at his waist. Fucking-up was not allowed, and the punishment he had devised for it, was a powerful deterrent. As he watched, still puzzled, the screen changed once more.
INITIATING POWER DOWN NOW.
ESTIMATED TIME TO POWER DOWN SECTOR
SIX TEN MINUTES.
ABORT COMMAND ON STANDBY.
A small computer generated digital clock appeared in the upper left hand corner and began to track the time second by second.
Slowly it began to dawn on Luther that the termination might be referring to the missiles. That maybe sector six, zone seven, might be where the missiles were located, and that possibly the four had not only broken into the underground facility, but that they may also have found the missiles, and that maybe, just maybe, they were trying to disarm them, and if that were the case, it couldn’t be allowed, it just could not. Because, he told himself, well because it couldn’t, because…Well, because that wouldn’t be fair, that would be cheating, and even that old bastard who was passing himself off as God wouldn’t cheat, would he? Could he?
No, Luther decided, he was too much of a goody-two-shoes, for that shit, and besides, he didn’t know how to cheat, that was… Well, that was just the way it was, he reasoned. Only I can cheat, it had always been that way, and… and… Well, anything else wouldn’t be playing the game fairly, it would be… cheating, and cheating was no fucking fair, no fucking fair at all, and… So, it couldn’t be, it was against the rules. Not allowed, but… Just in case he was thinking of cheating, not that he could, he assured himself, but just in case, just in case that old bastard was trying to be crafty, hadn’t he better try punching those codes in right now? Hadn’t he better? He glared at the computer screen. Yes, he decided, just in case, not that it was possible, but… “Just in case,” he whispered, as his fingers deftly punched the terminals keyboard, and entered the final codes. “Just in-fucking-case,” he whispered again. He was rewarded with a new screen for his efforts, as the old one blinked away.
TERMINATE POWER DOWN SECTOR SIX ZONE
SEVEN? Y/N __
The screen asked, as the cursor blinked, waiting for input. He quickly punched Y on the keyboard and was rewarded with yet another screen.
CONFIRM ACTIVE LAUNCH STATUS Y/N __
He pushed Y once more.
ENTER LAUNCH COORDINATES_________
Luther referred briefly to a small blue book he had liberated from the base commanders safe. He punched in the specified code for an in-country launch, and then entered the required coordinates.
SPECIFIED COORDINATES INDICATE
10% SURVIVAL RATE THIS FACILITY.
Luther pressed P, and the screen went blank.
Frank emptied the full clip of the machine pistol into the steel door, which seemed to absorb the bullets rather than bounce them back at him which had been his concern. The heavy steel lock-set blew apart and fell to the floor. Smoke and the smell of burnt gunpowder hung heavy in the air. Jeremiah wriggled his fingers into the bullet-warmed opening that had once contained the lock-set, and tugged sharply. The door swung slowly open, and they stepped inside the silo.
Luther had begun to panic. A new screen had not appeared, and just what did that mean? He wondered. He refrained from touching the keyboard, or the monitor, although he would have liked to, he was too afraid he would not be able to control himself, that he might just rip the keyboard from the station and smash it to bits, and if it didn’t respond soon, he was afraid he would, and what would that do, and… The screen blinked back on, interrupting his thoughts.
CALCULATING SAFE-FLIGHT STAND BY.
The screen blinked.
Now what the fuck did that mean? Luther asked himself. What was safe flight, and how come it had to calculate anything, and how come it wasn’t just launching the fucking missiles, and this is really beginning to piss me off, and… The screen changed.
Frank stepped into the silo behind the others. The smoke was heavier inside the room, and the stench of sulfur dioxide was almost gagging in its intensity. The room however was not so obscured by the smoke, that he could not see that it was empty.
“There ain’t a damn thing in here,” Gary said, echoing their thoughts, “now what d’you make of that?”
Frank was examining the walls of the silo. What had appeared to them to be solid brick on the outside, was not. “Fiberglass cast,” Frank said, “it’s fake, this isn’t a silo…” He had been about to say more, when the floor beneath his feet suddenly began to tilt. “Out!” Jimmy yelled in surprise. “Its’ under the damn floor, get out!”
Luther stared at the new screen.
SYS LOC.EXE INSTALLED.
24:12:06 TO LAUNCH.
The clock-like entry began to run backwards second by second, as Luther watched in anger.
“NO!” he screamed into the room. “Right fucking now, not twenty-fucking-four-fucking-hours, RIGHT NOW!” He fought to control his temper, and forced his hands to release the key board.
He typed out with a jab of one finger, and pressed enter. The terminal beeped, but other than the small beep, nothing happened. He forced his anger down, typed,
and again pressed enter. Other than the same small beep, nothing happened. His hands spasmed and he once again grasped the keyboard. One finger jammed the enter key, and a rush of beeps issued forth from the terminal.
NO, he told himself, as he ripped the key board loose, and rocketed it into the screen. The screen imploded with a bright orange shower of sparks.
“NO, NO, FUCKINGFUCKINGFUCKING,” he screamed as he pummeled the monitor with his fists.
As the four men watched from the relative safety of the hallway, the concrete decking tilted to one side, and a slim white missile glided out of the abyss below the silo. Before it was entirely out of its dark prison, the fiberglass silo began to tip and then crashed to one side. All obstructions removed, the missile, along with its launch mechanism, glided out of the dark socket, and rose majestically into the late afternoon air. Once fully extended the launch assembly swiveled, and canted the missile to an almost flat trajectory, then the hydraulic machinery fell silent. The missile was aimed to the southwest, Frank saw, directly at Rochester.
Ten seconds later the same heavy thudding of hydraulic machinery, came from the direction of a field behind the barn. All four men sprinted to the outside, and around to the rear of the barn. A second missile was rising out of the field, impossibly white against the back-drop of the deep blue afternoon sky.
They watched in silence as the missile swiveled, and assumed the same nearly flat trajectory as the first had. When it was finished the silence seemed deafening in its intensity. Frank broke it.
“We’re screwed,” he said softly, a defeated look on his washed out face, “it was all for nothing.”
“What about trying to find the wiring and cutting it?” Jimmy asked, with no trace of hope in his voice.
“Never get to it time,” Gary said softly, his eyes locked on the missile that had magically risen from the field. “And where would we look?”
“Why ain’t it launching?” Jeremiah asked, Shouldn’t it oughta?”
“We’re screwed,” Frank repeated, as if he had heard none of the other men speak, as if he were totally alone, and really only speaking to himself. “We are screwed.”
Jeremiah’s hand shot out, and smacked loudly against Frank’s cheek. “We ain’t screwed, Frank, so don’t say we are, we ain’t,” his eye’s flashed with anger. “It ain’t launching, Frank,” he repeated as though he were speaking to a child. “And if it ain’t launching,” he continued, dropping his voice to a calmer level, “we ain’t screwed.”
“He’s right, Frank,” Gary said, with a note of hopefulness in his voice, “there ain’t no steam, or whatever that stuff is you see when a rocket gets launched. There ain’t none of that comin’ out the bottom… they ain’t launching, least ways not yet they ain’t.”
Frank shook his head and looked at the missiles, first one, and then the other. “Can we disarm them somehow? Turn them away from Rochester somehow?” he asked.
“We kin try,” Jeremiah said, “but we don’t want to get too near ’em. In fact maybe this is too close, anybody know?”
“If they’re nukes, we’re way to close,” Gary said, “but who gives a shit, I don’t. If they launch they’ll kill a hell-of-a lot more’n just us four. I vote we try, if it kills us… so be it. I’d rather die trying,” his face was grim and determined when he paused and looked around at them. “Well,” he asked, “what’s it gonna be?”
Luther was standing in the Main Operations Room. His mangled hands dripped green fluid onto the white composite top of the partition he was leaning against, as he watched the wall of screens. The fluid bubbled and hissed as it ate its way through the top and ran down the sides.
The room was nearly empty, save Luther himself, and some of the computer jocks. He had sent everyone else searching for the four men he was convinced were somewhere in the facility.
All of the screens were in countdown mode. They had switched automatically as soon as the last sequence of numbers had been entered.
If Luther had been in the operation room before the change-over, when the screens were still monitoring outside cameras, and if he had been looking at one monitor in particular, he would have seen the objects of his wrath, as they had stormed the Jeffery’s farm, and killed the biker that had taken up residence there.
Luther knew about the biker. He had been informed by Willie himself two weeks before when the man had moved himself into the farm house. “Willie,” he had said, with a sneer, “who gives a shit about a farm house?”
Willie, who had thought at first that it might be important, had immediately dismissed it, and told the control room personnel not to keep track of the farm.
Steve Iverson, however, had kept track of the man in spite of being told not to. The biker seemed to be up to something, and Iverson hoped that he would be the one to figure out what. Today the watching had paid off, and Luther would have known what had transpired, if he hadn’t ordered one of the men in the control room to shoot Iverson, who now lay dead on the floor by Luther’s feet. Iverson had watched the whole thing, and had been in such a hurry to tell Luther, that he had forgotten to ask permission to speak.
Luther had been far to consumed with anger, to listen to someone who did not even have the courtesy to wait until he was asked to speak, and so had ordered Iverson shot, without ever knowing what sort of information he was so eager to depart.
Far better to nip disobedience in the bud quickly, Luther thought, as he gazed down at Iverson’s crumpled body.
Once he had been able to calm down, he had wondered briefly what Iverson had wanted to say, but only briefly, and then his attention had been drawn to the screen-wall, and the count-down clocks that they showed.
He knew for sure now, that he had been cheated, but it was still salvageable, he told himself. He had called Willie, to make sure that they would get the woman, impressed upon him how severe the penalty would be if he didn’t, and then had allowed himself the joy of watching the screens count down.
It could have been worse, he reasoned, the missiles might not have set at all, the old bastard might have jinxed that too. But he hadn’t, and if he had to wait a few hours so what, hadn’t he already waited for thousands of years? What was a few more hours compared to that?
“Nothing at all,” he whispered calmly into the quiet room. “No big deal.” No sooner had he spoken the words out loud, when all the screens in the Operations Room went blank.
“We do it,” Frank said, as he stared at the missile in the field and sighed. “Gary’s, right, four of us, or all of them.”
“How come there were no warnings,” Jimmy asked, “shouldn’t there have been those triangular warning plaques inside if they’re armed with nuclear war-heads?”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Gary said, “but what else would they be? I don’t have a clue, ‘less they’re chemical war-heads could be some sort of regular war-head. Maybe even CFP’s. Trying to figure out what it is, ain’t gonna help us at all,” he said, as he turned and started toward the missile behind them. The others followed, and when they reached the missile, they began to circle it. Taking their first real look at it.
They had been too panicked before to notice much of anything, other than, it was white, it was big, and it looked like death, and it was the last thing they had really wanted to see, even though they had come here to find it.
The launching mechanism was almost as big as the circumference of the silo had been, and the massive steel girder-like arms that protruded upward, cradling the missile securely, also held two thick cables of wires that entered the body of the missile about twenty feet from the ground.
“What happens if we cut those wires?” Gary asked, as Jeremiah and Frank left to get the ladder they had used to climb onto the barn roof.
“Wouldn’t it blow up?” Jimmy asked.
“It ain’t like a bomb, like you see defused on TV,” Gary answered. “Least I don’t think it is. But I ain’t sure if cutting those wires will do the trick. It might not. I think though, that they might be to guide it… I wish to hell I knew for sure, but I don’t, I’m guessing. But it’s a place to start, I suppose.”
Frank and Jeremiah came back around the barn with the ladder, and leaned it up against the smooth surface of the Missile, adjusting it so it fell just below the cables that entered the body.
“I’ll go,” Jeremiah said, as he started up at the ladder before anyone could protest. He gained the top of the ladder, and gently pulled at the bundle of wiring, after first peeling back a protective rubber hood that shielded the wires where they entered the missile. The wires did not budge.
He looked down at the upturned faces of the other men. “Looks to be a special sort of plug-like thing can’t see how it releases though.”
“Probably don’t ’till it launches,” Gary said gloomily, “cut the buggers, Jeremiah, if she blows, she blows, we got nothin’ to lose.”
Jeremiah began to cut, and as he cut each wire all of them cringed, expecting the missile to suddenly explode. When the steel blade of the knife grounded out one of the wires that was obviously hot, the resulting shower of sparks caused them all to cry out. The shock nearly knocked Jeremiah from the ladder, but he managed to loosen his grip on the knife and hold on. The knife fell to the ground below, the blade distorted and notched where the high voltage from the wire had arced into it, the plastic handle smoking.
Frank was up the ladder quickly, and only half way up did he remember that the ladder was metal, and if… If nothing, he told himself, as he continued to climb.
“You okay?” he asked, once he had gained the top of the ladder, and grabbed Jeremiah’s jeans to steady him. “Come on, let’s get down from here, come on, Jeremiah, back up, I’ll hold you.”
Once they had reached the ground, and Jeremiah had shaken his head several times, he began to feel somewhat normal again. He didn’t remember Frank climbing the ladder, and he didn’t remember coming down either. He picked up the knife, which was still warm to the touch, and looked at it. The blade was curved, almost hooked now, and he could clearly see the notch that the wire had burned into it. The plastic wood grain of the handle was nearly smooth too.
Other than a small burn in the palm of his right hand, and a slight vibrating sensation in that same arm, he felt okay, he guessed, and he certainly looked a lot better than the knife did, he reasoned. “I think I’ll live,” he stated matter-of-factly, as he let the knife fall back to the ground, “anyone have another knife?”
Gary pulled one from his front pocket, and Frank grabbed it before Jeremiah did, turned, and quickly climbed the ladder up to the bundle of wires. “Don’t be a friggin’ hero,” Gary called after him, “for God’s sake be careful,” he warned
Frank had no intention of being anything but careful. He slowly pulled each wire apart, making sure it couldn’t touch any others, as he finished cutting all but the last wire. “Now what?” he asked, “if I cut the last one the cables gonna fall, and if it hits the beam, or the ladder…?”
Jimmy scrambled up the ladder and supported the cable as Frank hacked through the last wire, then they carefully backed down the ladder. About ten feet from the ground the cable came up short, and Jimmy was forced to let go of it. They both jumped, as he released the cable, and landed in yet another shower of sparks, as the cable swung against one of the steel girders support rods. It stuck fast, at first, welding itself to the rod. But its own weight pulled it free within a few seconds, and it swung out and away, ending up far from the girder, where it slowly swung to a halt.
“Lets’ do the other one,” Frank said, as he and Jeremiah carefully pulled the ladder down.
Twenty minutes later they were finished. Frank had taken a great deal of care with the second cable, to be sure there was no repeat of the first incident. They had taken the ladder down, and left it in the field.
“I wish I knew for sure if those wires being cut will stop ’em from launching,” Gary said glumly, as they walked away from the missiles. They sat on the long rear porch of the old farm house and stared out at the missiles that sat gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.
“I don’t see why they haven’t launched already,” Jimmy wondered aloud.
Frank pulled a case of the beer close to him, opened it, and they each took one, sipping quietly, as they stared glumly at the two slender white needles that rose from the farm.
“I’m going back,” Frank said at last. “If they launch on the way… fine. If they don’t, maybe I’ll be able to see Jessie once more before they do. I sure don’t want to just sit here and die, or wait to die,” he finished solemnly.
“How long before radiation can kill you?” Jimmy asked in a resigned voice.
“Maybe a couple of days at the outside,” Gary replied. “But, we’ll probably wish we were dead long before that,” he paused. “Might be that they ain’t nukes,” he continued hopefully, “but if they are, I guess we’ll know soon enough. Maybe within a few hours, as close as we was to ’em.”
“Well,” Jeremiah said, “seems to me that if they were nuclear warheads, that silo would’ve been lead lined. Don’t that make sense?”
“Yeah!” Jimmy said enthusiastically. “It should’ve been and it wasn’t, just fiberglass, and that wouldn’t have been any protection from radiation, and the Army had to have had guys working here, right?”
“Okay,” Frank said, “maybe so, but if they aren’t nuclear, then what are they?”
“Maybe conventional,” Jimmy said, still enthusiastic.
“Probably chemical,” Gary followed, “and if they are, it probably won’t matter where we go, or what we do…The wind will spread it everywhere. I ain’t so sure we killed ’em. I ain’t so sure they ain’t gonna launch.”
They sat in silence, sipping at the warm beer, staring at the missiles.
“Then we have to do more,” Frank said, a determined look on his face. “We have to make damn sure they don’t launch.” Frank looked around at the farm.
Besides the barn, silos, and house, there were two other outbuildings. Both were falling down sheds really, they didn’t look to him to have been converted for use by the Army. “Listen,” he said “farms have tractors, right? You ever see one around here, Gar’?”
“Always used to be,” he answered, “what’re you drivin’ at, Frank?”
“I think he’s thinkin’ about pushin’ those babies over,” Jeremiah answered. “That about right, Frank?”
“Yeah, it is. I mean they look as though they’re only resting in those launchers, don’t they? It shouldn’t be too hard to tip them up and over, would it?”
Jeremiah was already up and walking toward one of the sheds. “Could blow ’em though. You think, Gary?” he asked, as he walked away.
“Could, but you’re gonna do it anyhow ain’t you,” Gary sighed, as he got up and followed.
“I am at that. Course it’s been a while since I was on a tractor. I hope this time ain’t like the last,” Jeremiah said.
Gary looked over at Frank. “Beats me,” Frank said as he shrugged his shoulders.
The first shed was empty, but the second yielded the tractor, and not the old International that Gary remembered, but a new-looking John Deere model.
Jeremiah started the tractor, after locating the keys on a peg just inside the shed door, and drove out into the field, coming to stop underneath the slim missile. He raised the bucket slowly until it clinked softly against the metal underbelly, then slowly gave the up-lever little nudges, until the missile lifted about a quarter inch off the launch cradle. He jockeyed the tractor forward, and carefully lifted the bucket simultaneously, raising the missile higher as he did. The tractors front tires began to sink into the ground once the full weight of the missile was on the bucket, and the missile screeched as it swiveled up from the launch mechanism. Jeremiah cramped the wheel full right, as he backed slowly away, and just cleared the launch arm with the forward most part of the missile. He lowered the bucket as he continued to reverse, transferring the full weight of the missile onto the front of the large tractor, and dragged it the remaining few feet, up and over the launch assembly. The rear of the missile reached the edge of the launch arm, and they all held their breath as Jeremiah slowly reversed, and the missile came free, crashing rear first into the ground.
The impact buried the rear of the missile a good foot into the ground. But it did not explode, or start ticking, or whatever the hell it was that missiles did, Frank noticed with relief.
The second one was even easier, due to the concrete pad of the silo, and the much harder ground surrounding it. Less than an hour after they had begun, they were finished, and once again seated on the rear porch of the old farm house.
“That was nut’s,” Gary said, “nobody would ever believe it if we told ’em. In fact if any of you guys had told me I’d help do something like that, I would’ve told you, you were soft in the head.”
“Yeah,” Frank said smiling, “but we did do it, didn’t we? Can you believe it?”
“Only ’cause I did it,” Jeremiah said.
“Surprising what fear can make you capable of,” Jimmy said softly.
“I’ve read stuff like that though,” Gary said, “people lifting” cars off loved ones, things like that, fear is a mighty strong motivator all right.”
“Well if you ever write a book, you can add this to it,” Frank said, “chapter seven four scared men dismantle two nuclear bombs. Should sell like hot-cakes.” He stood as he finished speaking. “I’m going back, how about you guys?”
“Only thing to do, we’re done here,” Gary agreed.
Jeremiah and Jimmy stood, and the four men began to walk back toward the road, away from the farm.
“If it kills me; if it was a nuclear job,” Gary said, as they walked away, “I don’t care. It was worth it.”
“Is it a good idea to go back?” Jimmy said, suddenly alarmed, “could someone else… Well, could someone else catch it, are we, like, contaminated or something?”
The question brought them all to a sudden halt in the middle of the vine covered road.
“Don’t look at me,” Gary said, as they all turned toward him, “I don’t know, I really don’t,” he paused for a second. “He’s got a good point, and I ain’t got a clue, ain’t that a bitch?”
“Lets’ not go jumpin’ to conclusions,” Jeremiah said calmly. “If we are, going back ain’t gonna make a real big difference. Nothing saying we gotta leave the boat once we get there, especially if we take sick along the way. It’s a good three hours back, and as close as we were I think we’d be feelin’ it by then. If we’re sick… We just stay on the boat in Fairport, we don’t get off, so we can’t make anybody else sick, if it is catchin’,” he finished.
“If we aren’t sick?” Frank asked.
“We play it by ear, I guess,” Jeremiah replied. “But staying here ain’t gonna help us at all, is it?”
“No, it sure ain’t,” Gary agreed.
Jimmy seemed calmer, as he agreed, and Frank nodded his head as they struck off down the road, back to the boat. Silence descended between them as they walked. Even once they had started the boat and Gary had piloted them out into lake, the silence still held.
We’re waiting to see who gets sick first, Frank thought, as the boat plowed through the water.
When darkness finally descended a few minutes later they were all relieved. The darkness was good, Frank decided, they didn’t have to look at each other as they waited.
America The Dead: The Fold 2. The Fold begins to grow from discontent and becomes an enemy #iTunes #Horror #Survive https://books.apple.com/us/author/w-g-sweet/id1156638419
Mister Bob: Collected Short Stories: Listen to the Title story, read by the author on YouTube… Alandra is a little girl who awakens her mother in the night with a strange story. From the Book Mister Bob: Collected short stories. Read by the author…
Have you ever been on your way to the kitchen to make a peanut butter sandwich, with jelly of course, at 1:30 A.M. and of course you just get the bread out and the noise of the plastic wrapper alerts the cats, and they are on you like… Well, cats on people with food.
So, you managed to get the bread out of the bag, whole wheat, if you are going to eat P&J at 1:30 A.M. you need to be health conscious: So, you leave the bread on a napkin on the counter, if you have ever been married you know this is not like the bad old days, the single days, you can’t leave crumbs on the counter and hope the dog gets up there and cleans them up before breakfast; because if the wife sees them you are in for it. She buys napkins for a reason, after all. Ask her, she’ll tell you. Screw up and leave crumbs she’ll also tell you.
So, bread on the napkin and off to take care of the cats, because cats are not like dogs. Dogs wait to be fed, cats demand to be fed at any time they choose. If a dog wants breakfast they will wait patiently until you get up and then accept the breakfast, and maybe a few bites of whatever you are eating, that they knew would be coming. A cat, on the other hand will jump up onto your face at 2:00 A.M. and smack the crap out of you until you get up and feed them.
So, bread on the napkin and off to the cat food bag, a handful on each plate because cats cannot stand to eat together, they must have their own plates so that they can then shove the nearest cat out of the way, eat all their food, and then go back to their own plate. Then you have to get the wet food, because a cat will surely kill you dead if you think they are going to simply eat dry food. With a dog you can run a little warm water over the dry food and tell them it is gravy. Don’t try that with a cat.
So, wet food interspersed with the dry food, set down both plates and then go back to the sink to wash the cat food smell off your hands, and on the way you notice that the cat food doesn’t smell as bad as it usually smells. Not fishy, more… Well, tasty smelling. Like it could be something gourmet, like that coffee Jules’s friend Mister Tarantino serves in Pulp Fiction. So, because you are a man you stop and sniff your hands. No, women don’t do this, just men, it is a cave man thing, evolutionary in origin, probably came about because some cave wife yelled at her cave husband for having stinky hands. Most cave men probably did. After all, there was no antibacterial soap back then, in fact Dial had not even been invented, so your hands were going to smell bad on occasion: It only makes sense that a cave wife wouldn’t stand for that too long.
So, you sniff your hand, and Whoa!!! It is some gourmet stuff! It smells really good, like it might make a much better sandwich than that P&J you were about to build; way better. It smells as good as that sandwich you got out a vending machine that time you were drunk and hungry and happened to be at the hospital. That good; of course you can’t really remember how good it was exactly because you were drunk and in the hospital after all, and really the whole night was a blur, but the sandwich, the sandwich stood out, and you’re pretty sure it had nothing to do with your vomiting later on, that was just too much drink, that’s all.
You look from your hands to the bread, then you think… There are a few more cans left… Maybe… But, you are civilized and so you continue on to the sink and wash your hands, even though you don’t even have a wife anymore, and so if you wanted to have stinky hands you could, but no, civilized, and so you wash your hands, make that P&J and spend the next few minutes eating it and hating the cat for having better food that you do…
Has that ever happened to you? … Me either… AA
Posted by Ami
Happy May, almost June. It still feels like March here, but I am always hopeful summer will finally move in. The fifth Earth’s Survivors book is now available to download from Amazon, Nook, I-Tunes and Smashwords. Thanks to all who pre-registered for the book.
It has been a crazy week. The next Outrunners book is still with the editor, but may arrive tomorrow (Yes we work weekends too) or early next week. It is a long book. Bigger takes longer. It’s worth waiting for though, I think.
I did a small amount of work on Hurricane this past week. I also UN-published all the short stories and I will compile them into longer works over this winter. A few places will not let digital publishers give away books, so I have to charge the minimum of 0.99 cents per short story. To me it makes more sense to compile all the short stories into a few books and publish them that way. Which would be cheaper overall for you the reader. I also like the idea that if I want to treat you to a short story here in my Blog it isn’t a problem with one of the vendors. It would not be a problem with independAntwriters, but other places have rules against offering up anything for free if they are selling it. Sort of makes sense, except sometimes I want to do it, and I own the work, so…?
I also worked on the house this week. Man, what a deal that has turned into. Let me explain a little so you will understand what I am dealing with.
This whole area is right next to the largest U.S. Army Base for Winter Training in the world. It has always been a big base back to the early part of the century.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s the people that lived around the base were mostly poor people who managed to afford the couple of bucks for an acre of land, but had no money left to take to the lumber mill for the lumber to build a house.
The base used to sell scrap lumber on the weekends. Ammunition boxes, leftover wood from barrack building or tear downs. The base also displaced an entire town so there were (Still are in places) houses standing empty. The base would sell truckloads of lumber for a dollar or two. As a result, many of the houses that were built in this area were built that way.
I knew that coming in to this work. I looked over the house and had a pretty good idea that it was that sort of build back when it was built in the 1950’s. But the price was great, I couldn’t resist it. Resist, should be spelled Idiot!
I stripped out the living room ceiling first. It was a dropped ceiling, I assumed there would be a sagging old plaster type ceiling up underneath it and there was. I pulled that down along with a couple of young guys I hired for the week. Let me say this about that. Hire a young guy to do those hard jobs. They will work like crazy for you.
So down came the ceiling, but underneath the ceiling was a surprise. The entire ceiling was made of two by four lumber pieced together. And going further, the rafters and cross pieces for the roof itself were also made of two by four pieces of lumber. I actually stopped and wondered why in hell the guy did that. Then I remembered this was back in the fifties, there were no building inspectors, codes, etc.
I decided to go ahead and strip out the walls. They appeared weak, flimsy, they were. Turns out, behind the wallboard someone had added in later years, were walls made of cardboard from a refrigerator box with a label from 1954. The cardboard had been nailed to the studs, taped just like wallboard would have been, and then wallpapered. It looked like finished wallboard/Sheetrock to me.
So that was where I was a few weeks back when I started this: Since then I have strung all new rafters, crosspieces and built a vaulted ceiling; while I was there I had the wiring replaced too. I mean, why not, the walls were open.
It has been interesting. I had intended it to be a project that lasted a few weeks tops, and I am far past that. But all the serious stuff is done now. A few more weeks, maybe the end of September and I should be done with all the major stuff. In the mean time, it is fun to once again work with my hands, and once it’s done I probably won’t be doing that again so I am enjoying it.
The week has been crazy hot, and then dipped back into the thirties. Crazeeeee. I will be glad when things level off. This week I will give you the Great Go-Cart Race. No, it is not a horror story. There are no Zombies in it. I wrote this story back in the early 1980’s. I only recently got it back.
It is a story of childhood that is a thinly disguised story about myself and my friends. I think it’s a good story. The children in this story are the main characters in the forth coming Fig Street. I hope you like it. Have a great week and I’ll be back next week…
The Great Go-Cart Race
© Wendell Sweet, all rights reserved. Published by: independAntwriters Publishing
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please point them to this Blog Entry. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
The Great Go-Cart Race by Wendell Sweet
This short story is Copyright © 1982 – 2015 Wendell Sweet No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print
The Great Go-Cart Race
The summer of 1969 in Glennville New York had settled in full tilt. The July morning was cool and peaceful, but the afternoon promised nothing but sticky heat. Bobby Weston and Moon Calloway worked furiously on the go-cart they had been planning to race down Sinton Park hill, in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. Both boys had grown up in Glennville. Bobby on upper Fig, Moon on lower Fig. And even though they had gone to the same schools and grown up just a block apart, they had only recently become friends. The Go-cart was a project they had devoted the last two weeks to, and it looked as though today would finally see it finished.
By eleven thirty that morning they had the wheels on the go cart, and had dragged it up Sinton Park hill. An old piece of clothesline tied to each side of the two by four the wheels were nailed to served as the steering. One nail pounded through the center board and into the two by four allowed it to turn. It was the best go cart either of them had ever built, and it rolled just fine. The plan was for bobby to give Moon a ten minute head start down the hill. That way he should be at the intersection by the time Bobby got there, they figured, and able to make sure that Bobby got through it in one piece. Just exactly what Moon was supposed to do to stop a car, or Bobby-the go cart had no brakes, except Bobby’s Keds-he didn’t know. They hadn’t figured that part of it out.
“So, how am I supposed to stop a car?” Moon asked. He didn’t want to sound stupid. Most probably Bobby had it all figured out, but Moon couldn’t see it.
“Easy,” Bobby told him, “you don’t. You’d get freakin’ killed.”
“Well, I knew that,” Moon lied.
“See, you’ll be on your bike. You’ll be sittin’ up higher. You’ll see if there’s a car coming, I won’t, on account of how low to the ground I’ll be.”
“I knew that too.” Well, and then what? Moon asked himself.
“So easy. You just yell to me before I get to the intersection, and I cut off to the left and go into the sledding hill instead. You see that way I’ll be going up, instead of down, see?”
“Oh yeah!” Moon said, as it dawned on him. The sledding hill was there. Of course it wasn’t a sledding hill in the summer, but it was a hill, and he could see exactly how it would work. “I knew that too. I just wasn’t sure if that was what you were goin’ to do, or not,” Moon finished.
“Of course you did,” Bobby agreed.
Moon was just getting ready to bike back down to the bottom of the hill, when John Belcher showed up. John Belcher lived on West avenue, and his dad raced stock car out in Lafargville.
As a consequence, John Belcher had the coolest go-cart around. His dad had helped build it. Real tires-they even had air in them-with a real metal axle running from side to side to hold them. That was the best way to do it, Moon had said, when he’d first seen John’s go-cart. That way you didn’t have to worry about the tires falling off when the spikes pulled out, and the spikes always pulled out. It also had a real steering wheel, a real one. Moon had exclaimed over that. His dad, John had told him, had gotten it out of an old boat out at the junk yard.
“Hey,” John said, as he walked up, dragging his go-cart behind him. “Goin’ down?”
“Bobby is,” Moon said respectfully. You had to show a lot of respect to someone who owned a go-cart that cool. “I’m watchin’… At the bottom. So he don’t get killed, or nothin’,” Moon finished.
“Watch for me too?” John asked.
“Sure, man, a course I will. Bobby don’t care, do ya?”
“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “You gonna try for the whole thing?”
“Why, are you?”
“Yeah… Right through the intersection, and if I can all the way downtown. Probly won’t roll enough on the flat part to do that though, but at least through the intersection and as far past it as I can get.”
Sinton Park Hill began at the extreme western end of Glennville, and continued-though somewhat reduced-as State Street Hill all the way to the Public Square three miles from its start.
“Cool!” John said. Now it was his turn to sound respectful. “I dunno, man. If I do it and my dad finds out, he’ll kill me.”
“Well, who’s gonna tell him?” Moon asked. “I won’t, and neither will Bobby.”
“Yeah, but if someone see’s me…”
“Yeah… I’m gonna though,” Bobby said. He could see John was aching to do it.
“Okay… I’m gonna,” John said decidedly.
“Cool!” Moon exclaimed. “Really frickin’ cool!”
John grinned, as did Bobby. “Well,” Bobby said, “guess you better head down, Moony. Moon didn’t need to be told twice. He stood on the pedals, and fairly flew down the hill.
“Think he’s down the bottom yet?” Bobby asked John quietly. They were both sitting at the side of Sinton Park hill. Their sneakers wedged firmly against the black top to hold them. John had allowed ten minutes to tick off, keeping faithful track of the time with his Timex.
“Oughta be,” John said in a whisper, licking his lips.
“Uh uh… Well, a little.”
“Me too… Ready?”
“For real,” Bobby said solemnly.
John didn’t answer, he simply pulled his feet from the pavement, turned and grinned at Bobby, and began to roll away. Bobby followed, both of them hugging the side of the road, as close to the curbing as possible.
It was a slow build up for the first few hundred feet. Sinton park hill didn’t begin to get really steep until you were better than half way down, it was gradual up until that point. Even so, within that first few hundred feet, Bobby realized that everything had changed. John was already a good fifty feet ahead of him, and pulling away fast enough that it was noticeable. They were not going to hit the bottom of the hill at even close to the same time. Moon would have to watch for both of them separately.
John made a sharp curve up ahead, and disappeared from view. Everything, Bobby knew, was sharp curves from here on out, and that would not change until they were well past the halfway point. And, this was much faster than he had thought it would be. Much faster.
He fought with the rope through the curve, but he could no longer keep to the side. He was going to need the entire road.
And if a car came? he asked himself.
He had thought of that, but he had thought he would be able to stay to the side. No time to think. Another curve just ahead, and he had only barely glimpsed John as he had flown around the curve. Just the back tires really. He probably wouldn’t see any more of him at all until they were down at the bottom.
The second curve was not as bad as the first had been. He didn’t try to fight this time, he simply let the go-cart drift as far as it wanted too. He came off the curve and dropped both sneakers to the pavement. Instant heat, and the left one flipped backwards nearly under the two by four that held the rear tires, before he was able to drag it back in.
“Jesus,” he moaned. It was lost in the fast rush of wind that surrounded him. Torn from his throat and flung backwards. He hadn’t even heard it. Another curve, and the Indian trail flashed by on his right.
The Indian trail was just that. An old Indian trail that cut down through the thick trees that surrounded Sinton park. He and Moon had carefully negotiated it several times. The Indian trail was just before the halfway point, he knew. There was a really sharp curve coming up, just before Lookout Point. You could see nearly all of Glennville from there.
He fought the curve. Harder this time. It felt as if he were going at least a million miles an hour. Two million maybe, he corrected himself. And the go-cart was beginning to do a lot more than drift. It was beginning to shake. And, his mind told him, you ain’t even at the fast part yet! Lookout Point flashed by, and he fought his way around the sharp curve, going nearly completely to the other side in order to do it…. Yes I am, he told himself.
The road opened up. A full quarter mile of steep hill lay before him, before the next curve. It would be a sharp one too, but not as bad as the one he’d just come around. John was nowhere to be seen ahead of him. Presumably at and around the next curve already. No cars yet, and hopefully there wouldn’t be any at all. It was Monday, Sinton Park saw most of its business on the weekends, if they’d tried this then…
The quarter mile was gone that quick. This curve, and one more, and the rest was all straight-away. He gritted his teeth, and flashed into the curve.
Halfway through, nearly at the extreme edge of the opposite side of the road, the first raindrop hit him. A small splat, or it would have been. The speed with which he was moving had made it sting. Splat, splat. The tires were nearly rubbing the curbing when he finally came out the other side of the curve and hit a small straight-away. And now fat drops were hitting the pavement.
He sped into the last curve, and this time the wheels didn’t skim the curbing, they seemed glued to it. Screaming in protest as he tore through the wide curve and made the other side. The rain came in a rush. Turning the hot pavement glossy black as it pelted down. He used the rope carefully to guide himself back towards the side of the road. Slipping as he went, but making it. His hands were clinched tightly, absolutely white from the force with which he held the rope.
Straight-away, slightly less than a mile, and far ahead, where the stone pillars marked the entrance to Sinton Park, he watched John fly through the intersection. Nothing… No car. Nothing. He made it. He could make out Moon sitting on his bike at the side of the road. Leaned up against one of the pillars. Moon turned towards him, and then quickly looked away. The hill was flashing by fast. Too fast. He’d never be able to cut into the sledding hill. Not in a million years, and especially not with the road wet like it was.
Halfway. Moon was turning back, waving his arms frantically. Bobby slammed his Keds into the slick surface of the road. Useless, and he dragged them back inside after only a split second. Nothing for it, nothing at all. The intersection was still empty, however, so maybe…
Moon scrambled away from his bike letting it fall, and sprinted for the middle of the road, but he was far too late. And even if he hadn’t been, Bobby told himself as he flashed by him, the go-cart probably would’ve run him over.
“Truck!” Moon screamed as Bobby flew past him. He stumbled, fell, picked himself up, and ran back towards the stone entrance post, watching the intersection as he went.
The truck, one of the lumber trucks from Jackson’s Lumber on Fig street, made the intersection in a gear grinding, agonizingly, slow shuffle, before Bobby did. Bobby laid flat, and skimmed under the front tires.
Moon stopped dead, the handlebars in one rain slicked hand, and his mouth flew open as he watched. The undercarriage was just above his head, and if he hadn’t laid down…
Moon watched, frozen, as Bobby shot out the other side as neatly as if he had planned it, the back tires missing him by mere inches, and suddenly Bobby was well on his way towards State street hill, and…
Moon grabbed the handle bars tighter, flipped the bike sideways and around, and pedaled off after him as fast as he could.
Bobby raised his head quickly. He had truly believed it was over. He’d been praying, in fact. He hadn’t expected to make it all. He fought his way to the side of the road, and watched as far ahead, John slipped over the top of State Street Hill, and headed towards Public Square.
There were cars here, and more than a few blew their horns as he slipped slowly by on the side of them. He dragged his feet. Pushing as hard as he could, but managing to slow down very little. The top of the hill came and went, and reluctantly he pulled his feet back once more, and hugged the curbing. The only problem would be from cars cutting off the side streets.
The rain began to slack off, as he started down the hill-a brief summer down pour, they had them all the time, but the road was still wet-at least he could see better. The rear of the go-cart suddenly began to shimmy. He risked a quick backwards glance. Very quick, but it was enough to show him that the rubber was shredding from the tire on the outside, and it was also beginning to wobble. The spikes were coming out, and if that happened…
He pushed it away, and began to concentrate on the side streets that seemed to be flashing by every couple of seconds. Oak, Elm, Sutter, Hamilton. Nothing and nothing, and thank God. The rubber went a few seconds later. He could hear the metal rim ringing as it bit the wet pavement. The hill began to flatten. State Street Hill was nowhere near as long as Sinton Park Hill, and thank God for that too. Finally, he slipped past Mechanic street, and the hill flattened out. He could see John ahead, coasting slowly to a stop nearly in front of the First Baptist Church that held a commanding presence of the Public Square. He watched as John finally stopped, got out, and looked back. Moon whizzed past, standing on the pedals, screaming as he went.
“We did it! We freakin’ did it!”
Bobby smiled, a small smile, but it spread to a wide grin. So wide that it felt as though his whole lower jaw was going to fall off. His stuck out his much abused Keds for the last time, and coasted to a stop behind John’s go-cart.
“Man, did’ya see it? When ya went under th’ truck, Holy cow, for real, did ya see it? I thought you were, like, dead, man, for real!” Moon said as he ran up, John along with him.
John looked pale, really pale, Bobby saw. He supposed he looked the same.
“Under a truck?” John asked. “A freaking truck? A real one?”
“For real. Scout’s honor,” Moon told him. “It almost ripped his head off. I saw it! For real! Next time I do it,” Moon declared as he finished.
“Next time?” John asked. He looked at Bobby.
“Uh uh,” Bobby said. “There ain’t ever gonna be a next time, Moony, right, John?”
“For real. Uh uh. No way. Not ever.”
Moon smiled. “Well, too bad, cause I woulda… For real.”
Bobby looked at John. “Did you know it would go so fast? How fast were we going, Moony?”
“No way,” John said softly.
“Probly… Forty, at least forty.” Moon said confidently.
“You think so?”
“Could be,” John agreed, “cause like the speed limit is thirty five, and we were passing cars, and that was on State Street Hill, not Sinton,” he opened his eyes wide as he finished.
“Hey, maybe fifty,” Moon assured them.
“Did it look scary to you?” Bobby asked.
“Scary? Uh… Yeah, it did. I thought you guys were dead, for real. I was pedalin’ as fast as I could, but it took a long time to catch you. Was it?”
Bobby looked at John. “Yeah,” they said, nearly at the same time.
“Really scary,” John added.
They all fell silent. John, Bobby noticed, seemed to be getting some color back in his face.
“Wanna go buy some Cokes?” Moon asked at last.
“Can’t,” John said, “no money.
“We’ll buy,” Moon said, smiling once more. He helped drag both go-carts up over the curbing, and turn them around. Moon rode his bike, as Bobby and John pulled the go-carts behind them.
They rehashed the entire ride as they walked towards Jacob’s Superette. Laughing, the terror already behind them.
Later that day when Bobby and Moon finally made it back to Fig street. They stuck the go-cart in the old garage behind Bobby’s house. They talked about it from time to time, even went in the garage and looked at it occasionally, but they never rode down Sinton Park Hill, or any other hill, with it again. It sat there until the fall of 1982 when Bobby himself dragged it out to the curb and left it with the weekly garbage.
Free Book for the Weekend:
Earth’s Survivors: Apocalypse.
Earth’s Survivors Apocalypse follows survivors of a worldwide catastrophe. A meteorite that was supposed to miss the earth completely, hits and becomes the cap to a series of events that destroy the world as we know it. Hopes, dreams, tomorrows: All buried in a desperate struggle to survive. Small groups band together for safety, leaving the ravaged cities behind in search of a new future…
U.K. Link: Kindle, Amazon Digital
U.S. Link: Kindle, Amazon Digital
I hope you enjoyed the story. Have a great Labor day and I’ll look forward to your company next week, Dell Sweet.