Werewolves of the Dead chapter twenty-nine

Chapter Twenty-nine

Drexler closed with Ohkawa first. The little Asian was the worst shot Drexler had ever seen. Drexler’s heightened sight allowed her to see the bullets being fired at her part the air. The fires that raged near them gave the ripples stunning ethereal rainbows. Drexler always loved that effect; that’s why she allowed people to shoot at her. What was life without fun?
She would save Ohkawa for torture last. The ones that cracked the easiest were always the best to torture with false promises of freedom. The brawnier woman, she realized her name was Delford only because the Asian kept screaming at her for guidance, was a hard ass. Hard asses were no fun to break. Those delusional or stupidly brave eventually did, and their final screams were actually less pleasing than the ones that folded under her punishment right from the outset. Pathetic.
“Dammit,” called Delford as she moved to keep Ohkawa out of her line of fire while keeping Drexler inside it. “Shoot straight!”
“She’s moving too fast. I’m reloading,” answered Ohkawa even as Drexler leapt over her kneeling form.
Drexler was simultaneously pleased and amazed that the soldier had stopped moving. Being a faster bipedal, Drexler allowed herself and extra second to analyze Ohkawa. The soldier had dropped to her knee and was attempting to reload her rifle. Idiot, thought Drexler as she sprang vaulted over Ohkawa’s head, and landed at a crouch behind her.
Ohkawa tried to turn to face Drexler, but Drexler was faster. She snatched Ohkawa by her body armor and ran directly toward Delford with Ohkawa held out before her.
“Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” cried Ohkawa as Drexler carried her forward at a sprint, closing the over fifty feet between her and Delford.
Drexler laughed raucously up until her left knee exploded in inexplicable pain.
“Oh God, why!” cried Ohkawa, as Drexler lunged forward into the sod.
Drexler tumbled into the grass, while Ohkawa slid fast first into the dirt and grass in front of her.
“Shoot it,” cried Ohkawa as she scrambled to her feet. She spat dirt out of her mouth and rubbed her eyes as she blindly stumbled away from Drexler and toward Delford.
Drexler stood, and promptly almost went back down. It wasn’t her leg that had taken the hit, it was her knee. Regardless, it throbbed like a bitch in heat, the tell-tale sign that it was already healing. She moved with a lessening limp counter clockwise to Delford as Delford tried to clear the walking obstacle.
“Goddamn it,” screamed Delford as Drexler swatted Ohkawa aside.
“Stupid bitch,” remarked Drexler aloud, stepping forward. Even she wasn’t sure if she was talking about Ohkawa or Delford.
Delford had put more space between herself and Drexler. The extra fifteen feet the soldier had gained would do little to help her. Drexler was sure of that.
“You’re going to shoot me again?” taunted Drexler, stepping forward.
Drexler’s eyes narrowed. Her grip on the M4 was off. No, not off. It was wrong. Instinctively she knew what Delford was doing. But Drexler was a werewolf, and superior to these shawarma sluts. A loud thump sounded, and all Drexler saw was something moving toward her. It was cylindrical and slow enough for her to follow its path. She smacked the gold tipped projectile aside and at that instant she realized what it was; a 40mm grenade. The grenade went off at the same instant that Drexler’s hand made contact with it.
The resulting blast threw her backwards. Shrapnel smacked her hand and her face with equal force. The hot metal tore away flesh from her face and hand. It burned the fur on her chest and her left breast burned from the searing chunks of metal.
Drexler stumbled backwards, muttering. She looked from her chest to her hand, and then to Delford, helping Ohkawa to her feet. “Stupid bi-” She tried to yell only her words came out as a croak. She fell to the ground, and blackness encompassed her.

***

“Is she dead,” asked Ohkawa, as Delford helped her to her feet.
“Unknown. Only one way to find out. You okay?” Delford tried to sound professional and in charge, but this close contact was shaking more than her voice.
“I’m good. I think I’m good.”
Delford released her grip on Ohkawa’s armor. “Stay here.”
“What are you doing?”
“Checking the kill.”
“That’s stupid, Corp. Come on. Let’s get the hell out of here. Okay?” Ohkawa’s voice was pleading, boarding more on pants wetting terror. She wasn’t as much of a soldier as she thought she was, and she knew it.
“Stand by.”
Delford moved hesitantly toward Drexler’s body. She’d taken a gamble on being just inside of the arming radius for the high explosive round. She’s gotten lucky. She was sure of it. The closer she got to Drexler’s prone figure, the more she was sure of that feeling.
She stood over Drexler, watching for any signs of movement. No occurred and she wondered if werewolf deaths were like the movies. Drexler wasn’t reverting to human, but her chest wasn’t moving with the effort of breathing either.
She stepped back, checked the rifle’s magazine, charged the weapon more, and stepped forward again with the rifle raised in her shoulder.
“This is when the monster wakes up and-” yelled Ohkawa, trying to warn Delford.
This is when the monster wakes up and grabs you was correct. Drexler howled weakly as her hand closed on Delford’s left ankle, and yanked her off her feet.
Delford squeezed the trigger reflexively. Automatic fire poured from her weapon. She’d done everything right except making sure her weapon was on semi. The 5.56mm rounds stitched down Drexler’s back, and the grip eased completely.
“Fuck fuck fuck-a-doodle do,” cried Delford kicking away from Drexler.
Once she felt comfortable being away from Drexler she stood and checked her weapon. The bolt was back, and the magazine was empty. She dropped her made, placed it into an empty magazine pouch with a shaking hand and loaded a fresh one into the rifle.
“She’s gotta be dead, right?” asked Ohkawa. She appeared through the adrenaline fog, and clutched Delford’s shoulders.
Delford jumped at the words and touch. “What? Yeah. Gotta be. Come on, girl.” Delford said in a shaky tone. “We have to clear the battle space.”
Ohkawa hooked her arm into Delford’s and lead her away. Delford tried not to glance back at Drexler’s body, but she couldn’t resist the pull. She’d look forward and then back. Had the body twitched when she last looked back, or had it been her fear and adrenaline fueled imagination? She didn’t care much about anything other than getting away. She focused forward and quickened her pace. “We gotta clear the battle space.”
They trudged on and for the first six miles Delford kept her mind centered on their situation and how they needed sleep and a vehicle; not necessarily in that order.
They bedded down in the remains of a UPS truck for night. Ohkawa took the first watch, which surprised Delford.
Delford slept fitfully for her stretch and was grudgingly grateful for being awake. Her dreams were filled with Drexler and her mocking voice, and explosions. The real world seemed a bit better.
“The truck’s operational, though it’s only got a quarter of the tank. Keys were in the ignition and I’m betting the driver won’t be back for it anytime soon.” Ohkawa gave Delford the run down on the whole lot of nothing that had occurred while Delford was asleep.
“It’s an automatic, right? We can drive it if it is.”
“Yep.” Ohkawa took off her helmet and put on her patrol cap. She leaned against the balled up UPS driver’s jacket that Delford had used for a pillow. “Corporal?” she said after pulling the cap’s bill over her eyes.
“Yeah?”
“She’s not dead, is she?”
“She has to be. Yeah.”
“We’re the only ones left, so be honest with me.”
“Okay. She’s alive and pissed, and is going to be coming for us after she licks her wounds. Happy, now?”
“Fuck yeah. At least I know what to expect.”
Delford spun around to face Ohkawa. She stood outside on the ground and almost jumped into the truck to come face to face with Ohkawa. She held her temper in check.
“Then why did we stop here?”
“I thought it was as good a place as any to make a stand.”
Delford mulled on that for a second. “Go to sleep,” she said bitterly. “We’re leaving in a few hours.”

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Werewolves of the Dead chapter twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-eight

Hecate and his people were tired. They were tired, hungry, filthy, and irritated. The woman that had stayed played him for a chump. The moment her friends were gone, they’d snatched an M4, a thermal imager, and some ammo and had vanished into the ether. He disliked losing a civilian, but he hated the loss of valuable equipment and weapons. He didn’t bother trying to track her even though she had a kid with her. His people were edgy, scared, and on the verge of splintering off on their own. Chasing her and the boy would have been a waste of precious morale. That above all else was in shorter supply than ammo and hot food. Besides, the smell of rotting flesh and decaying garbage was everywhere, and it covered her tracks more than effectively. Now, he had this goddamned traffic jam to navigate.
He had his lesser ranked dismounts on watch around the main mass of abandoned vehicles that were bottlenecked because a series of tractor trailers decided to try converging into one. What happened next was a mass killing of anything with a pulse. He hoped that any undead in the area had moved on. He hadn’t smelled any lycans in the area and that was a small mercy as far as he was concerned.
“School circle,” Hecate cried, waving his people and charges in. “The situation is as follows. We need wheels if we’re going to make any progress in linking up with the 115th. Last report put them forty miles northwest of here after they were forced to pull out. They said they’d wait-”
“Like they waited for us back in town, when was that? A week ago? Two weeks? Three days? Shit, I don’t even know what day it is anymore,” spat Ohkawa.
“Lock it up,” growled Weddington. “No one cares about what you think.”
Hecate glared at Ohkawa. It took tremendous discipline to keep from telling her to keep her fucking gob shut. “They said they would hold their ground and wait for as long as they could and if they had to pull stakes they’d let us know. That was eight days ago.” He decided to let the cat out of the bag. “No contact has come from them since then.”
Weddington shifted his foot and stepped on Ohkawa’s. He frowned at her before grimacing as he absently scratched his left tricep.
Hecate had noticed him favoring that arm as they were leaving town. He had tried to keep eyes on all his people, but there was only so much of his attention to go around, and so many of them plus two civilians. He wasn’t up for this. He wanted to run like Hell and not look back. But that wasn’t an option any more than it ever was. Still, he’d have to look in on Weddington’s wound, and soon.
“Your orders, sir?” said Delford before Weddington could open his mouth.
“Delford, Weddington, Ohkawa, Park. I want a perimeter seventy yards around this position. Weddington, Ohkawa, you two are going to watch over Ms. Nicks and her son. Ohkawa,” he stared at her intently. “You will watch them as you’d watch over your own mother, roger?” Ohkawa answered in the affirmative. “I and the others will look for something with wheels that works. If any of you know how to hotwire a car and need to, do it. I want several anythings that goes vroom-vroom in the next ten minutes. Let’s roll.”
Weddington gave a more enthusiastic Hoo-Ah, than the others, but each soldier set about their assignments with a serious if not weary zeal.
Five minutes into checking vehicles one of his soldiers called him over. The man’s name was Kimmler, a private that was fresh out of AIT and still full of grab ‘em by the nose and kick ‘em in the nuts repeatedly bravado that Army basic gives you. He was only 18 years, 5 months, two weeks, four days, and a handful of hours old. Hecate made it a point to memorize each man and woman’s birthday down to the hour. Kimmler was more than a child to him, but he was one of his kids.
“Whatcha got, Bobby?” he said, joining the soldier at a Staples box truck.
“This truck looks big enough to carry us all, sir. It’s got the keys in the ignition and I think it has close to three quarters of a tank.” Kimmler climbed the step and glanced in again. “Yep, it looks like it.”
“And the holdup is?” You got a winner so why isn’t it running yet.” Certainly one of his kids, but also got on his nerves for not taking the initiative when ordered to do so. Hecate grinned at him, but that grin was a bit strained.
“Door’s locked, sir,” answered Kimmler with a look of youthful bewilderment on his face.
“For the love of-. Get down. Watch me.” Hecate pulled him from the step, took Kimmler’s place, and smashed the driver’s side window. He unlocked the door and swung it open, quickly getting to work at sweeping the glass away with his gloved hand. “That’s how you do, son. Now get in.” He jumped down and held his hand to the open cab.
“Me?”
“Your find, your ride.” Hecate jumped down and wiped his face. “Now climb in and stand by. I’m calling the others in.” Hecate walked to the rear and was about to climb on the back step to call his people in when he noticed the narrow stream running where his left boot rested. He’d smelled gasoline the moment they’d arrived on site, but he brushed it off to various the collisions littering the area.
“Kimmler, wait one,” Hecate said, moving to the driver’s side. “You look like you’re leaking fuel.”
Hecate flattened himself on the ground and to examine the gas tank. Immediately he was greeted by two large red gas cans that looked like they’d been haphazardly flung under the truck.
Alarm bells went off in his head. IED, his mind screamed at him. IED, dumbass! RUN!
“Get out!” Hecate screamed as he grabbed Kimmler by his body armor. With every ounce of strength he threw Kimmler into the air as far as he could, all the while screaming into his microphone, “Cover! IED! It’s an ambush!”
Time slowed down for Hecate as his hearing picked up the first ring of a cell phone. And then the world went white, then dark, and then was filled with a creamy yellow light accompanied by long awaited peace.

***

Delford was keeping watch on her sector when PFC Quaker yelled that he’d found a couple of discarded gas cans.
She ignored his yells up until the time he called her out by name.
“Good for you,” she responded sarcastically, not bothering to take her eyes off forward. “I’ll be sure to recommend you for an Army Achievement Medal when this shit gets straightened out. Are they full?”
“No they’re empty.” He joined her, holding the cans up to her face. The smell of gas so close to her nose made her gag.
“Get that nasty mess away from me.” She slapped the nearest can out of his hand. It made hollow boing-boing noises against the ground as it bounced away. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“It just seemed odd, Corporal,” Quaker answered spitefully. “There’s like fresh gas spilled around a minivan over there. I think someone was here recently.”
“What?” Delford’s eyes widened and she jerked turned to face the search area. “What do you mean, fresh gas?”
“Over there,” said Quaker, pointing to where he’d come. In that moment both soldiers saw a figure fly through the air as Hecate’s voice blasted from their headsets, “Cover! IED! It’s an ambush!”
Training kicked in for Delford. She flung Quaker to the ground, shielding him with her body. She’d always scoffed at the possibility that she would do something like that. It seemed too John Wayne for her and she usually left those actions to more hardcore troops. But she did it, and didn’t realize it.
She’d done two tours in Iraq, and never once had been involved in an IED. She considered herself lucky. She knew what happened to those that survived that, and that made her lucky and grateful.
This wasn’t like the daisy chained 155mm howitzer rounds that the Muj assholes in Iraq used. This didn’t have that type of power, thank God or whoever, but it was still devastating.
Fabled steel rain fell down around them. Chunks of metal and plastic this, that, and the other fell on and around them. Something with a decent amount of weight thumped on the back of her armor before falling off her. A second later something slammed into her helmet, forcing her face into the turf. The smell of dry earth mingled with that of melted plastic, burning steel and aluminum, and barbeque filled her nostrils. It was as close to the scent of Hell that Delford would ever want to get.
It wasn’t until Quaker started squirming underneath her that she realized that the rain had ended. And that’s when she realized what she’d done. She’d urinated on herself, and on Quaker.
They stood, looking at each other. She was certain she was yelling at him, asking what the fuck had happened, and that he was doing the same. It was the goddamned ringing and disorientation from the blast that made it hard to focus and even harder to hear.
She keyed her mic and called for a sitrep, but was unsure if anyone else was using the net as she was, or if anyone besides her and Quaker were still alive.
“I’m going to check for survivors,” she said, facing Quaker.
“What,” he screamed back, or she was sure he was screaming. She sure was.
“I’m…” She pointed to herself. “Going to…” She pointed to the blast zone. “Look…” She pointed to her eyes. “For survivors!” she pointed back up the gentle slope.
She saw Quaker’s mouth form the word okay, and then set off.
The explosion was more than she expected. Numerous vehicles were ablaze. The black smoke from melting rubber and plastic that would feed the infernos for who knew how long was acrid, thick, and nauseating.
Delford approached an overturned WTAV news van that was blazing merrily away. She saw the unmoving blackened body of a soldier, but she was damned if she could ID who it had been.
“We’ve got to go around,” whispered Quaker. He was actually yelling inches from Delford’s face, but he sounded too far off to pierce the ringing. He pointed to his right for emphasis on which way he thought they should go.
She nodded agreement and went to move away to continue searching when Quaker stopped her.
“Did you piss yourself,” he said, emphatically pointing to her crouch.
She looked at her pants, and then back to him.
“Did you piss on me?” His face looked unbelieving as he felt around the back of body armor. “You fucking peed on me!” he roared, pulling his hand back to front. He looked at it as if the thought was worse than the body of their charred companion was nothing in comparison.
She didn’t need perfect hearing to know that was what he was saying. Her only answer was, “Shut up.” The little ingrate should be thankful that she hadn’t also shit on both of them.
“Anybody receiving me, over?” Delford released the button and looked around for any sign of anyone left standing. She pulled her helmet off and pressed the headset further into her ear. She heard nothing but open air over the comm. “Does anyone read me? Over.” More dead air.
Another explosion sent a sedan of some kind several feet into the air. It landed on top of a pick up’s hood and wobbled before coming to a rest.
“Fuck me,” she said, flinching away from the blast. She switched radio frequencies. “Any station this net. Any station this net.” Juliet Three has…” She stopped and considered what she was doing. There was a chance there was no one to receive her situation report. As far it was looking so far, she and Private Nitwit were the last troops standing.
“Hey. Hey, Corp. Look.” Quaker pulled hard at her arm as he pointed into the flames. “Over there. Eleven o’clock. Movement.”
Delford looked up and saw a figure staggering around trying to find a way past flaming wreckage. The figure weaved in and out of her line of sight as it sought an exit.
“Come on,” she said, reaching for Quaker. To her surprise he was already ahead of her and closing fast on the survivor.
She sprinted after Quaker and nearly ran into him as he rounded the far side of the blast wreckage.
From the debris came Weddington. Most of his face and upper body was as charred and red as the metal that he’d fought his way through. His uniform and armor had reached its heat resistant point and beyond. What didn’t melt had melded with his skin. His right arm hung from thick ropey muscle and his left arm reached out to them. The hand was beseeching and held palm up. His eyes were sorrowful and his mouth kept opening and closing. This was wrong. That much damage should’ve incapacitated him, but here he was moving toward them.
“Sergeant,” called Quaker. He sprinted toward Weddington. Delford made a grab for him, but missed.
“No!” she cried out. She’d noticed him rubbing at the area of the arm below the armpit, and didn’t give it much thought. If Weddington had been bitten, he’d have told them. She thought he would have.
With speed that didn’t match his wounds, Weddington lunged forward, dragging Quaker by his body armor toward his open mouth. Even as Weddington tore out his throat Delford could hear the scream that ended in a bubbling gurgle.
“Weddington!” she called as Weddington feasted on the struggling soldier. Quaker’s movements became less and less. “Weddington!”
Delford shouldered her carbine and sighted in as Weddington looked up to her. He chewed thoughtfully, head cocked to the side, and stood. He walked slowly toward her, Quaker meat hanging from his burned away mouth as he chewed ferociously at the mouthful. Delford closed her eyes for a second, breathed deeply, and then out. The shot happened and the left side of Weddington’s head geysered out. Weddington took an extra step before collapsing face first into the road. Delford blinked. The shot hadn’t come from her.
“I’ve waited for a long time to do that,” said Ohkawa, rising to her feet twenty some odd feet away. “Self-righteous dick.” Ohkawa, sweaty and obviously feeling proud of herself, joined her. “You okay?”
“The fuck? Ohkawa, you- What the hell?” Delford reached for her mic, and Ohkawa’s headset. “Comm check,” she said briskly, holding the headset as close to her ear as her helmet allowed. The ringing had faded some, allowing her to hear the echo of her voice from Ohkawa’s headset. She slammed it against Ohkawa’s chest, pushing her away. “You fucking moron. You stupid fucking shitty excuse for a person. Why didn’t you answer when I called? Huh?”
“Didn’t feel like it at the time.” Ohkawa’s bottom lip stuck out in a pout. It infuriated Delford more.
“You arrogant, spoiled-”
“Corporal Delford,” said an unknown voice behind them. The voice had a thick sound to it, and a resonating base that jarred Delford’s being in all the wrong ways. The sound of the voice alone caused Delford to not shove Ohkawa. Her hands were pressed flat against Ohkawa’s body armor.
Delford lowered her hands and she turned her body to face the same direction as her head. Ohkawa gasped and jerked her rifle up to face the eight foot tall lycan. Ohkawa was a full second slower than Delford. Neither woman knew it, but they were face to face with Drexler. Drexler’s muzzle was parted in a fiendishly sweet smile as she stared at the two women.
“My name is Margaret Drexler, and I’d love to play a game with you.”
“Light it up,” cried Drexler moving away from Ohkawa. The human women moved in opposite directions, firing as they moved in a slight crouch.
Drexler began to dodge most of the shots. A few impacted uselessly against her thickened hide, but she didn’t mind. Drexler loved a challenge.

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Werewolves of the Dead chapter twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-seven

Approaching Hecate with their urge to leave wasn’t as difficult as they thought. Hecate was amicable about their separation. He touched on the safety in numbers rule, but didn’t push the subject. He agreed to their leaving alone only because of the growing restlessness growing within his own ranks.
“I know I have problems within, and taking a civilian and her child will be problematic, but I have a responsibility to myself to do what’s right.”
“You’re going to have your hands full with that one,” responded Deidre, waving lazily at Kelsey standing at the opposite side of the room. “Take care of her.”
“Will do,” Hecate said, shaking hands with Shannon and Deidre.
He gave them a civilian map marked with the location of their rally point with other military forces. “Just in case you change your mind. It’s a twenty two mile hump, but it could mean safety if you change your mind,” he said, handing it to Shannon. They walked to the revolving doors and stopped. “I’m serious; I’ll take care of your friend and her child. If she were leaving with you I would’ve raised a stink, but…” His shoulders moved in a very unmilitary shrug.
Hecate asked once more if they wanted to go through with their idea. The answer stayed the same. He reminded them once more of where the undead were massed and the probable lycan hotspots were in the area. With a handshake and a smile, Shannon and Deidre moved through the doors.
As Shannon walked through, Greene appeared. He offered discomforting news in the way of offering his opinion that things were surely going to be difficult for the military party. He didn’t offer details, and Shannon didn’t ask. His words were enough to reassure her that they were making the right decision. She’d almost stopped considering him a figment of her mind, and more of a bizarre guardian.
“I hope to God they’ll be okay,” he said wistfully, appearing in the window of a T-Mobile store they were walking by. Shannon could see his sadness reflected in the window. She didn’t know what to say to herself concerning Kelsey let alone a disembodied spirit.
Shannon stopped, and turned around to find Deidre staring at her. “Ready,” asked Deidre. Her tone was flat, and she looked unconvinced on Shannon’s ability to see a dead friend.
“As I’ll ever be,” answered Shannon.
Neither spoke of Kelsey as they moved along in a wary half crouch. Kelsey was determined to stay with what she thought of as a safe bet. Who were they to force her to move with them and not the soldiers?
Shannon and Deidre stepped into the street, one after another. A well-lit city street would have given comfort, but now dread began to blanket them. They could feel the eyes that watched them as they moved along silently through the city streets. Both women didn’t bother to comfort themselves with the thought that Hecate’s people were watching over them.
Shannon briefly glanced up at a streetlight. How long before the power eventually failed, she wondered. For now the illumination gave the city a lonelier feel.
The city was still in ways that left both feeling vulnerable. Shannon allowed herself a look back at the store after they had walked three blocks. She saw the soldiers moving out in cautious twos and threes. One of them stopped and waved. Shannon could smell it was Hecate. She waved back, causing Deidre to urge her along. “We’re in the open, and too well illuminated. Come on. That way.”
“Right,” said Shannon, returning her attention to their trek. They moved to a sidewalk, staying clear of windows, doors and walls as much as possible.
Neither spoke for an hour. Their attentions were focused on making it out of the city without incident. “I don’t know how much further I can go on,” said Deidre finally. Her voice was filled with a reverberating sadness that Shannon had never heard from her. “What if this is it?” she said, stopping suddenly. She held her arms out, the shotgun held out in her right hand by the pump foregrip. “What if there’s no coming back from all this shit, Shannon?” Deidre’s arms fell to her sides, slapping her ribs. She turned back in the direction they had been heading and resumed walking. Deidre’s feet rose and fell in automatic steps, and Shannon wondered when if the change had been sudden or gradual. Her body spoke volumes of feeling alone despite Shannon’s presence.
Shannon kept pace beside her, taking notice that she was the only one looking around as they walked. “What if it’s not? What’s eating you, Dee? It’s been close to a week since things started falling away. We can turn this around. This isn’t the end.”
Deidre stopped short of walking up an interstate on ramp. She turned to Shannon, her hands working the shotgun angrily. “We’ve got zombies, werewolves, and zombie werewolves. You’re a werewolf and while this may be old hat to you, it’s new to me. It’s new to Kelsey and Rance. For most of the normal nine to five goddamn world it’s new. Look at us!” Deidre raised her weapon, and thumped her chest with it to accentuate her words. “We’re two women without a plan, without even short term supplies, moving toward something we don’t even know about. And just why in the blue fuck are we moving north? Why?”
Shannon didn’t know what to say. Her mouth opened, shut, opened again, and then shut for good. Like it or not Deidre had a point. Where were they going and why.”
“See what I mean? You have no idea either. What are we going to do? Move north until we get to Canada, and then what? Montreal is gone from what I heard. So’s Alberta, Ontario, and Toronto. Fucking Nashville, goddamn Tennessee is gone. This shit is everywhere. Everywhere!”
“Is this about Kelsey?” Shannon spoke without knowing why she was speaking.
“It’s about Rance. He’s the whole reason I traveled with you people. There’s nothing left to work for now that he’s gone.”
“Don’t you have family?”
“Mom and dad’s dead. My sister lives in Nebraska. She has a husband and two kids, and her own problems to deal with.”
“Live for them then. I know that’s trite and clichéd, but that’s all you’ve got then. If you won’t live for yourself then live for them.”
Deidre laughed. It was hushed, desperate laugh. “It’s a long walk to Lincoln, Nebraska, Shay.”
“Like Canada’s any closer.”
Deidre blinked in surprise. Canada was a nice idea, and most certainly no worse an idea for a destination than Nebraska. “Why?” she said, regaining her composure.
“Why what?”
“Why are you here? Things are going to hell and your kind’ve helped with that, but yet here you are. Why?”
Shannon shrugged. She looked away in the distance, and then down at the ground before meeting Deidre’s eyes once more. “Got nothing better to do. This is a break for me. First time in my life I don’t have to worry about hiding what I am. Trust me, it’s not fun for me either, but it makes for an interesting change of pace.”
The exchange lightened Deidre’s attitude. Thinking of what family she had had a calming effect on her. “You and your fucked up sense of positivity. Okay,” she said, smiling. “Nebraska it is. Like you said, got nothing better to do. Haven’t seen Janet and the kids in two years. Zombie werewolf apocalypse is a good enough reason for a road trip.”
“Then what are we waiting for?”
“You know how to get there?”
“No. Do you?”
“We need a map.” Deidre dug the Hecate had given them from inside her shirt. She turned it over, looking at it with mild bemusement. “This piece of crap will get us out of Arizona but past that we’re screwed. Come on. There has to be a convenience store somewhere near the freeway.”
Deidre turned back to walk down the road when she heard a far off boom. She would’ve ignored it and doubled down on moving forward if not for Shannon grabbing her arm and saying, “Look.”
“What do you think that is?” asked Shannon flatly.
“Something we don’t want to be a part of. Let’s get back to it.”
“Yeah, let’s,” answered Shannon.
In the distance black, oily smoke rose skyward. Whatever had happened was large indeed, and neither woman wanted to be anywhere near what could have caused it.
Deidre paid more attention to her surroundings from then on. They walked on for several miles until they came to an atypical stop of for families traveling between home and their vacations. The area was covered with the infill of Shell and Gulf stations surrounded by fast food places and mom and pop greasy spoons.
Shannon and Deidre’s stomachs growled in unison at the sight of Arby’s and McDonald’s signs blaring their specials for all to see. Food, or the prospect thereof, would have to wait. First they needed to make sure the area was clear of threats.
They climbed over the guardrail and slid into a gully two hundred yards from the nearest building, a newer Motel 6 claiming that it had the softest beds in 100 miles. The motel was also the biggest structure in the vicinity that could hold problematic concentrations of werewolves and zombies. Both looked it over like wary rats eyeing a piece of drying bologna on a trap.
Three dust covered cars sat idle in the motel’s parking lot. None of the neglected vehicles had been driven in days. The desert grit blanketed them like a perverse kind of snowfall. But even their apparent disuse didn’t mean the motel or the surrounding business fronts were empty. No lights shown through the windows, and the majority of the motel curtains were pulled shut.
The sun was setting behind them, and a number of street lights flickered on. Some of the lamps pulsed, giving the area a strobe lit effect. Shannon tapped Deidre’s shoulder and pointed at the Shell station. The gas station’s interior was still well lit and the parking lot was deserted save for a Los Angeles police cruiser. The police car sat vacant with its driver’s side door open at a gas pump. The nozzle hung from the tank. Nothing moved inside the store or around the car.
“Far from home, ain’t he?” mused Deidre as they moved forward for a closer look. They moved just outside of the range of the gas station’s exterior lights, observing the scene as they lay prone.
“Maybe he knew a lost cause when he saw one and took off. LA’s a big city. Bound to have more than its share of corpses roaming around.” Shannon sniffed the air. She could smell the cold engine of the Ford Crown Victoria, the stink of one, no, two cops that had occupied the car. One was a male, the other was confused. A male that liked to be a female? No. She couldn’t place it, but the smell was wrong. She was thirsty and tired so maybe that was messing with her sense. That and the stink of the gas station’s tanks filled with mostly fumes. A number of the tank caps lay open. Scavengers had to have come by looking to boost their fuel supplies with what was left.
“Maybe, but I’m not taking any chances that Officer McGruff is inside and still in the mood to serve and protect. Let’s hang here for a while, keep watch on the place. We’ve got nothing to lose by doing that.”
Shannon shrugged her shoulders. It was a plan, and their best chance to find a map and get some kind of supplies, provided that it hadn’t been emptied. Still, they couldn’t wait too long. Each moment they delayed was a moment someone else, a bigger badder someone else at that, could roll up on them.
Shannon chose another tact. “We need to get in there, but we’re going to have to sleep sometime, Dee. We’ve walked too far with too little rest.” She stretched her limbs like she was tired. The truth was she wasn’t in the slightest. She could go three days without sleep, but she didn’t need to use her nose to know Deidre was close to running on reserves. Deidre’s steps had picked up after her rant, but over time had slowly moved from natural easy walking to forced steps.
“You sleep,” said Deidre. “I’ll take the first three hours.” She rubbed her eyes. It was clear she was exhausted.
“Deidre. I can go longer without rest. You sleep and I’ll watch. If anything happens I’ll let you know.”
Deidre considered it. “Okay. Let me know first thing if trouble shows up.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Shannon tried to sound reassuring, but she felt exposed. They were hidden from human eyes, but it was the now reigning monsters of the world that concerned her.
“Just wake me up if you see something, okay?” Deidre shrugged off the half empty backpack and laid her head on it.
“I will.” Shannon focused on the gas station, and a minute later light snoring drifted up from Deidre. The snores weren’t loud, but it was an unnatural noise that certainly could draw attention. Shannon wondered if she snored when she slept. It was a silly thing to wonder, but silence was now their best weapon, and if they couldn’t sleep silently then they were in greater danger.
As if in answer, Deidre’s snoring ceased. Thank God for small favors, she thought as she peered into the growing twilight.
Shannon watched as the occasional zombie moved past the Shell. Once an undead woman walked in, moved behind the counter, picked something up and shuffle back through the door. It wasn’t until the dead woman was down the road that Shannon realized the woman had taken a carton of cigarettes. Shannon resisted the urge to call “thief” after her. Instead she pondered why a roaming dead person need a carton of smokes. Smoker in life, smoker in death, she thought as she turned her attention back on the Shell. The act of observing the dead was growing monotonous quick, fast, and in a hurry. She silently swore that she’d wake Deidre up in an hour to get the good goddamned map if nothing perilous showed up.
Then something more puzzling than the nico-zombie happened. An undead teenaged girl slunk from the motel. She walked to the police car with a lazy purpose that Shannon found captivating. The girl removed the nozzle from the police car before dropping it to the ground as she tried to place it back into the cradle. She did this twice before being able to set it back home.
Watching the girl sucked up Shannon’s full attention. Mentally she cursed herself for allowing it to happen, but she couldn’t help it. The undead girl seemed to be trying to put the car and gas pump to rights. Shannon watched the girl make her way to the driver’s side, climb inside, close the door, and then sit motionless for a couple minutes. The door opened again and the girl got out, slamming the door with a strength that impressed Shannon. The undead girl seemed perplexed as to why the car wasn’t moving. Three times she walked around it before giving it an awkward kick and then drifting off into the darkness.
“Lousy car thief,” snickered Shannon.
“What was that?” asked Deidre in a sleepy tone.
The remark startled Shannon. “What?” she answered, louder than she intended.
“Shhhh, damn it.” Deidre gave a quick stretch before rolling over. “What was that about a lousy car thief?”
“I think a dead girl tried to drive off in the police car.”
“You’re kidding.” Deidre rolled over to face Shannon. She sat up and stared at the vehicle in hopes of seeing the girl.
“Seriously. This dead girl came from the motel,” Shannon pointed to the Motel 6, “walked to the car,” she mimed a person walking with her fingers, “removed the gas nozzle, and then got in. It looked like she was trying to figure out what to do next before she wandered off.” Shannon then pointed to where the teenaged zombie had stumbled off.
“No shit.” Deidre quickly lost interest. There was nothing to see now. “Any activity other than that?”
“Zombies walking around, but nothing in great numbers.”
“Any of your ‘people’?”
Shannon’s face went sour. She sensed the quotation marks. “No, I haven’t seen any of ‘my people’.” The insinuation annoyed Shannon. Deidre didn’t mean anything by it, but Shannon the remark still agitated her. “If I had I would’ve woke you up.”
“Don’t have to get bitchy. It wasn’t a put down.”
“Hmph,” answered Shannon. “It doesn’t matter. There’s to see anyway.”
“Fine. Has it been three hours yet?”
“It’s been…” Shannon checked her watch. “Four hours.”
“So much for three hours. Your turn.” Deidre put her shotgun aside and brought her machine gun up to her shoulder.
“Not sleepy.”
“Okay. We’ll sit here and watch the sunrise together then.”
Together they lay prone on the ground, watching the area. As the sun was showing its orange and rose pink glow over the horizon a group of seven zombies approached the gas station. The night had seen singles and duos stumble through the dark, and most unheeded their surroundings. The size of this group, six in all, was enough to put them on edge. It was when two of the stumblers turned, staring in their general direction that Shannon and Deidre began to worry. The sight of them moving toward them was a wake up better than any hi-octane triple shot of espresso.
“Do they see us?” whispered Deidre, putting the butt of her weapon into her shoulder.
“God I hope not. Goes without saying that this isn’t right.” Shannon flicked her safety off.
“Those two know we’re here. How’d they notice us when the others didn’t?”
“I have a bad feeling,” she said bitterly. The annoyance was creeping up on her, overruling her tiredness. She hated closing her eyes to rub them, but she needed to in order to regain her focus. She opened them as Deidre’s nudged her elbow. The two had reversed direction and were lazily trailing after the group which had stopped and now appeared to be huddled together in conversation.
“Is it me, or do they look like they’re having a meeting?” Shannon stared hard at the group.
“Sure as shit looks like it.”
Without warning the group began to writhe collectively before collapsing to the ground. Shannon and Deidre watched in horrified dismay as they began to transform.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” muttered Shannon. Deidre gave her own curses as they watched the group rise up.
“Fucking were-zombies,” hissed Deidre. “We’ve gotta go. We’ve gotta go now.”
“We move, we die.” Shannon desperately grabbed Deidre’s shoulder, stopping her. “Do you think we can out run them? There’s too many. We have to stay low and not move unless they come at us.”
Deidre growled her disagreement but decided that staying put was the best choice. They watched the group prowl the area. It was obvious they were looking for food and both were sure that they would be found. “I can see escape and evasion isn’t in your vernacular so what do we do?”
“We wait, see what they’re going to do and then act.” Shannon sniffed the air between them. “Try to get your fear under control. They can-”
“Screw that. I’m a split second from pissing myself.” Deidre kept her finger on the trigger. He was using amounts of self-discipline that she never knew she had to keep from firing. Sweat beaded on her face before trickling down to her shirt. She had no idea her breasts could manufacture as much sweat as they did now.
The were-lycans advanced cautiously, their noses flaring violently as they sampled their scent cones. They spread themselves out, each sniffing a different area while making sure their cones overlapped.
At thirty yards away, one of them halted unexpectedly, its nose jerking upward to the sky. Unexpectedly, the were-zombie began sneezing. Ropey string of pale yellow infection flew from its nose. Bits that resisted from falling away wrapped around its muzzle as its head whipped furiously with each exhalation.
Deidre bravely stretched her head higher for a better look. Shannon didn’t have to; she could hear the infection expanding and contracting inside its chest and nasal passages as it violently expelled air. She tried to ignore the sound but couldn’t.
“Kind of like maple syrup and pebbles banging around in a bucket,” said Greene, standing up to watch. He nonchalantly smoked a cigarette as he watched. “That’s something Nyquil’s not getting rid of.”
Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, thought Shannon, trying to banish Greene.
“No. Not right now. You know, things are about to get interesting, and a better OP would be over there in that cement mixer.” Greene pointed to a red and white big rig with Tucson Redi-Mix painted on the mixer. The rear end protruded from the back of the Shell. “Driver’s dead inside, but it’s good to go, if you want to go check it out. Oh and cover your nose and mouth. He’s been that way for a while so he’s kind of past the buy before date. They shouldn’t notice you. If you and sweaty tits there go when I say.”
Fuck off, Steve, fuck off, Steve, fuck off, Steve.
“Okay, okay.” Steve flicked the cigarette away. “Don’t say I didn’t try to help you. You know you have a fellow watcher about two hundred yards to your rear, right? Lady-girl’s been following you for the past four miles. Just saying.”
Greene vanished and Shannon reflexively looked to their rear. She didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary. That wasn’t saying much because now the world smelled like death, decay, and the living. The smells of the living seemed to be comprised of piss, fear, shit, and impending death.
“I think we need to get the hell out of here, like yesterday get the hell out of here.” Deidre’s whisper was underscored with pants filling dread.
Shannon turned to face forward again, but her eyes strained at the corners for a sight of anything concerning Greene’s warning. She saw nothing, smelled nothing, and that scared her.
The sneezing were-lycan was surrounded by its friends. Each was partially crouched and two were pacing back and forth, watching their ill comrade. The sick lycan snarled in between sneezes, warning the others to keep away. It fought valiantly to keep from as it stumbled in small circles trying to keep the others back. It raised its muzzle to roar at them, but doubled over, sneezing. It writhed on the ground, slamming its muzzle and head into the macadam.
“Weak,” said one in a slow, thick grating voice.
“Sick,” said another in return. The sick one rolled onto all fours and howled weakly.
“All sick,” said another. “This,” it jerked its muzzle at the sick one, “different.” That one cleared its throat and spat on the ground. “Kill. Eat. Smells different. Smells like food.”
Shannon gritted her teeth. Her nose was picking up something she hadn’t expected; the sickness was leaving the were-lycan on the ground. “Steve’s right,” she muttered. “Okay, we’re leaving soon. We can’t go forward, we can’t go back so we’re going to the bottom of the drainage ditch and heading left when I say.”
“When you say?” snapped Deidre. And Steve was right about what? Listen-”
“No, you listen, Dee. That bastard on the ground is changing, and I don’t mean back to a zombie. It smells like his body’s fighting whatever the hell this is, and when he does, this shit’s about to turn into another bloodbath.”
“Expelling? You mean like healing?”
“Shut up and listen, dammit.” Shannon didn’t take her sight off the group as her voice went lower and more menacing. “They’re going to attack it, and they’re going to kill it. They’re not acting like a pack. They’re acting like a mob of individuals.”
And they did attack. The moment the no longer not-so-sick werezombie took his eyes off one the killing began. Shannon smelled something akin to healthiness creeping back over him as the others pounced on him. She caught a glimpse him putting two on their asses before the remaining two closed in. The snarls and roars filled the air with the blood that was being spilled.
Shannon and Deidre retreated as fast as they could down the drainage ditch.
“I left some of our gear back there,” said Deidre in between gasps.
“Forget it,” answered Shannon, pressing her forward. “We can get new shit when we need it.”
An infuriated tangle of roars from behind gave both a mental shove forward. The pace was picked up and they topped the rise in time to see the bloodied werezombies charging at them. Their muzzles and the fronts of their clothes were covered in their former friend and they were hell-bent on having Deidre and Shannon as deserts.
“Shit,” cried Deidre.
“Run!” urged Shannon, her voice echoing off the surrounding deserted structures. She began the change, and then her blood and heart stopped. The wind had shifted a bit and then she smelled her. The rage fueled bitch dyke lycan, Drexler, was…close. Shannon’s mind reeled and for a brief moment the world stopped along with her heart. Drexler wasn’t close. No. She was near, maybe a quarter of a mile at the most, but close enough for the scent to register on the wind. And Shannon’s fear went from to the bone to a hellacious soaking at a cellular level.
Drexler was threat level she had never thought possible, and mixed with the current threats, there was no way in any hell that she or Deidre would make it through the next sixty seconds.
“Dee,” screamed Shannon as she embraced the change. It might help her survive, but she was certain that Deidre was fucked. She had to at least warn her. The drainage ditch had played out. The end was grated with heavy metal grid work. Their only chance was to crest the ditch and make a run for it on the road. Shannon followed Deidre up the side and for a moment she was gaining on her. It was when Shannon stopped to look over her shoulder that their distance opened up again. Damn could that girl run.
Deidre was forty feet ahead and still moving away. She glanced over her shoulder as Shannon screamed her name again. “Dee! Run! That lycan bitch is-”
The werezombie in the lead opened its muzzle as it charged forward, set to release a roar of impending triumph. A snap rushed past Shannon’s ear and its throat exploded. The undead lycan took a half step and then collapsed. A few seconds of weak mushy breathing came from the shredded throat, and then nothing. The shot had taken out the werezombie’s spinal column. It died unmoving as its comrades trampled or rushed past its body. They were rabid with blood lust. Froth, infected saliva or both flew from their muzzles, and nothing could convince them to change their minds or their course of action. They ran ahead, unmindful or uncaring that something had killed one of their own.
Three more snaps, three well placed shots to the head, in rapid succession fell the remaining threats. The werezombie pack died quickly and oblivious to the death of the others.
Shannon was fully changed, and she hoped to God that her shaking wasn’t visible to either Deidre or Drexler. She need to maintain confidence for one and dominance for the other. The dominance aspect was a pipe dream, and she knew it.
“Remember when I told you to get to the truck, and you didn’t?”
Greene was back, and his tone was vengefully accusing.
“Why didn’t you go to the truck like I told you? If you had, things would’ve been different. But no.” He drew no out in a long unflattering to anyone mocking voice. “You fucking knew better. Idiot. Stupid fucking idiot. You stupid fucking idiot mutt.”
Shannon turned to face Greene, to scream for him to shut his damned mouth, but he was gone.
Her gaze fell upon Deidre, poised in a crouch nearly against the wall of where Greene had urged Shannon to retreat. She didn’t take notice of Shannon or the expression of utter rage covering her face. She was too busy looking for the sniper.
“She’s moving away, I think.” Shannon spoke mostly to herself as she turned around sniffing.
“Dude, she’s retreated so get to the truck like I told you.” Greene’s disembodied voice felt like it was nowhere at all. It felt like it just was. What disturbed Shannon was Greene’s continued push to get to the truck even though the danger had passed. She didn’t like the new scent. It was too young, fresh, and familiar.
“Stay right there,” Shannon ordered as she passed Deidre. “Don’t move.”
“What do you mean, don’t move?”
“Stay,” commanded Shannon, hand held out like a canine trainer. She felt the urge to follow it with, “good girl,” but didn’t. A new reality had presented them personally not with a shit sandwich and a steaming glass of Ovaltine flavored diarrhea, but a shit salad smorgasbord with all you can guzzle green apple splatter cider.
And that new reality had now presented her and Deidre with Rance’s head perched precariously on the steering wheel. Lumpy fecal matter was smeared on his upper lip and chin in a parody of a mustache and goatee. On the windshield interior was the shit scribed message, written in Drexler’s elegant hand, “I tried to care for him, but you know how it is with livestock. They’re so hard to keep alive. Plus, pigs live in shit. You live with pigs, ergo you live in shit as well. Miss you much. D”

(C) Jason G. McKinney All rights reserved.

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-six

Rance, Deidre and Kelsey were still in the toy department when Shannon and Hecate found them. Kelsey and Rance were playing with some colorful space police toys with another female soldier while Deidre and Ohkawa exchanged suspicious glances. Weddington stood away from everyone, eyeing both women.
Ohkawa tensed the moment she saw Hecate and Shannon’s approach. She gripped her rifle tighter than before. Rance’s smile widened the moment he saw Shannon. Kelsey gave a relaxed wave before returning to playing with her son.
Weddington met Hecate and Shannon halfway to where Rance played. “Sir,” he said. His voice was heavy with concern. “Anything happening on the roof?”
“All quiet so far, Sergeant. I think our plans have moved up. With our new friends arrival we can’t afford to stay put, and that window of opportunity on exfil seems to be our best bet. Pass the word that we’re wheels up at 2030. You, the sergeant major, and I’ll form a plan of action and I’ll brief everyone at 1700. Now, how are things down here? I see you’ve let Ohkawa tag along.”
“More to keep an eye on her than anything else.” Weddington paused, thinking he’d said too much. He looked to Shannon and then to Hecate. He didn’t say what was on his mind, but it was obvious.
“Go ahead. She’s with us so she needs to know the group dynamic. Especially in this area. I don’t want her or the others to be broadsided because someone’s got the jumpies.”
“You’re the boss,” Weddington said, giving Hecate a dubious glance. Ohkawa is becoming a problem. Crist and Lyle informed me that she’s mentioned ‘taking over’, whatever the hell that means. More disturbing is that Deitl, Moore, and Singer have been hanging around her more. Their little confab is making a few folks nervous. It’s only been a few days and unit cohesion is beginning to suffer. The remaining newbies aren’t meshing well with the others to begin with, and Deitl…”
“He’s been with the platoon for two years and was rock steady until recently. Still, I get where you’re coming from.” Concern creased Hecate’s brow. Shannon had a feeling that it was something that he rarely showed. “I guess we’ll just put those few on point and rear guard when we move out. Make them aware that they’ve got to worry about others more than themselves.”
“Sounds fair enough to me, sir,” replied Weddington though his voice indicated otherwise.
The three looked to Ohkawa. She was watching the group instead of Deidre. She thought she knew a threat when she saw one.
“Your ears burning, Private?” said Hecate to Ohkawa.
Her light brown face blushed. “No, sir.” She looked down at the Kelsey, Rance, and the female soldier still playing on the floor.
Hecate chuckled. “I love doing that to people. Please excuse us, Shannon. Sergeant Weddington and I have things to discuss and talk about. You know that whole boring military thing.” He smiled and Weddington nodded. The two soldiers left without saying anything further.

*******
Rance and Kelsey had been enjoying his time with the toys while Deidre stood off to the side. Deidre watched Rance and Kelsey play with the new arrival. While the female soldier seemed friendly enough she was as war of her as she was of Ohkawa.
And Ohkawa’s angry gaze was fixed solidly to Deidre, Rance and Kelsey.
Deidre could take the daggers cast at her. If she’d cast so much as a cross glance at Rance of Kelsey, Deidre would deal with her. But before any action could be decided, Deidre wanted more background on the spiteful private.
Deidre joined the playing trio and sat between Kelsey and the female sergeant. Deidre took the initiative and dove into conversation.
“Hi, Deidre Martin,” she said, thrusting her hand to the sergeant. “Waitress, former lawyer, all around pain in the ass.”
The sergeant looked up, startled by Deidre’s forwardness. Kelsey blushed and Rance giggled.
“Um, Corporal Yvette Delford,” said the soldier hesitantly at first. “Motor transportation, soldier and mother. If I still have a family. I haven’t had contact with my family in a week. Husband was deployed to Flagstaff, and our kids went to Colorado Springs to stay with his parents.” They shook hands. Delford had a war firm, steady grip and Deidre appreciated it given her current situation.
“What’s the situation here, sergeant?” Delford’s head jerked up and she looked at Deidre suspiciously for a moment. “Is Rance overrunning your space defenses or what?”
“I’m a Power Ranger,” proclaimed Rance.
“Yeah. He’s a space cop and we’re the bad guys, but he’s not going to get us,” said Kelsey, moving a garish villain farther from Rance’s.
Delford smiled before dropping a wooden block on a garish colored space vehicle near Rance’s hand.
“I see,” responded Deidre, repositioning herself closer to Delford. “Can you tell me what the deal is with that woman? She keeps staring at me.”
“Ohkawa? She doesn’t like strangers, I guess. Why don’t you go ask her?” Delford appeared annoyed with Deidre’s blunt question.
“I can appreciate that attitude. I was just wondering if she specifically had regular problems with anyone not in her unit.”
Kelsey’s eyes moved back and forth between Deidre and Delford. She didn’t want her and Rance to be caught in the middle of trouble.
Delford moved closer to Deidre. “Look, we’ve all been through a lot lately. Ohkawa just isn’t comfortable with people anymore. That’s all.”
“Has it been that bad for you guys?”
“What do you think?” answered Delford peevishly. Her good humor and warmth evaporated in an instant. “We got cut off when the pullback order came. We were less than a company at that time. Even then we were an ad hoc group of various units and jobs. She was a rook in my unit when she first showed up a month ago, but no one’s a rook anymore. See here’s the thing; talk to her if you two have issues. Copy?”
Deidre didn’t know what to say to the corporal. She knew that if Ohkawa’s attitude continued for the duration of their being with the soldiers that trouble would occur. Still, looking for confrontation didn’t fit into what she had to do. She chose instead to grin at Ohkawa, infuriating the private even more. Deidre doubted that Ohkawa knew that even though she was smiling, she seethed internally with hostility and the urge to pry out Ohkawa’s eyes with the Power Ranger action figures curved fingers.
Deidre forced her attention to playing with Delford, who was no chilly to her, Rance and Kelsey. She breathed a sigh of relief when Shannon and Hecate appeared. Deidre watched, and tried to listen, as the three spoke before Hecate and Weddington left. Each woman was startled to see the grim look on Shannon’s face. It expressed the underlying uneasiness and fear that Kelsey had, while Deidre became more aware of their surroundings.
“Hi,” Shannon said to Delford as she joined them.
“Hello. Corporal Yvette Delford.” Delford extended her hand. Shannon took it and introduced herself.
Shannon made the motions of politeness before Shannon asked to speak to her friends in private. Shannon sniffed without willing herself to do it. Suspicion blanketed Delford, and Delford had no problem showing it. She eyed Shannon and the other women before leaving. Shannon noticed Deidre wasn’t above suspicion either. Her paranoia was at an all-time high.
Shannon spoke once she knew the coast was clear. “We need to get out of here. Come on over here.” She spoke in an urgent whisper, and led them to a bookshelf filled with children’s books.
They followed her, but kept in sight of Rance as he continued playing with the toys.
“Why,” asked Deidre. She wanted to know if her intuition matched up with Shannon’s report.
“Are you crazy,” asked Kelsey before Shannon could answer. Her voice was more of squawk than a tone. Deidre and Shannon recoiled at the sound. “We’re safe here. They’re soldiers! They’ll protect us!”
“Why do we need to leave,” asked Deidre again. Kelsey’s growing hysteria annoyed her. It was better to focus on Shannon. “What do you know?”
“But the soldiers…” began Kelsey. Shannon cut her off quick.
“They’ve got problems of their own. The one in charge, Hecate, told me that there’s dissention in the ranks. More specifically aggression against me. And if there’s a beef against me, then you’d better freaking believe it’ll involve him sooner or later. I’m not planning on sticking around to get shot.”
“But…” Kelsey said again.
“Will you shut up,” snapped Shannon. “You’re starting to make my headache come back.”
Shannon’s headache had been alleviating itself once Hecate had left. Now it was starting up again. Never before had she had such a reaction to any situation or person. She was sure that Hecate was a part of the problem.
“No. I will not shut up!” Kelsey’s voice continued to rise. “I will not let my son’s life be jeopardized because you have a bad feeling.” Kelsey waved her hands in an ooga-booga gesture.
“Obviously, you’re staying,” said Deidre. “I’m going to hear Shannon out.”
“After all she’s done?” Kelsey had no qualms about reminding the world of Shannon’s past transgressions.
“Like I could’ve forgotten,” Deidre shot back. “But like it or not, Shannon’s our best chance of survival.”
“But we’ve got the Army now. They can protect us.” Kelsey was starting to calm down, but her voice still sounded like a hissing animal’s.
Shannon didn’t shrink from Kelsey’s words. Instead she took charge of the discussion. “Their ability to defend anyone’s up for debate. They come from a mish mash of jobs. Half of them aren’t even experienced soldiers, and most are fresh out of whatever training they’ve received and are new to their jobs. And FYI, Kelsey, their leader’s a werewolf and he’s killed more of his own people than I have.”
Kelsey’s mouth dropped open, Deidre’s eyes narrowed. “What,” sputtered Kelsey while Deidre exclaimed, “Oh fuck me.”
Kelsey glanced nervously at Rance while Deidre sidled closer to Shannon. “What does all that exactly?” Deidre spoke with a graveyard seriousness.
“He’s well over two hundred years old and he’s killed his own men before in battle while acting under blood frenzy. If we’re playing the dangerous-to-keep-around card, then it makes him just as dangerous as me. Trust me when I say the facts are the same and the numbers don’t matter. I have a bad feeling about this. We should go.”
Shannon grabbed for Deidre and Kelsey’s hands. Deidre angrily pulled her hand from Shannon’s, and Kelsey refused to move as Shannon tried to pull her forward.
“Bullshit the numbers doesn’t matter. What are his numbers, Shannon? Hmm? What are his goddamn numbers?”
Shannon was overcome with the feeling that Deidre would soon be physically shaking the facts from her. She thought it best to give up the info. “Over thirty of his own people and over a hundred of the enemy during World War One.”
“See, it’s shit like that that makes me wary. To Hell with numbers don’t matter. You’ve killed two, maybe three; that makes you dangerous. He’s killed almost a hundred and fifty; that makes him someone to give a wide berth to. You’re right; we need to get the hell out of here.” Deidre paused, looked to Kelsey and then to Shannon. She couldn’t bear to see the woman on the verge of a breakdown. She believed they had found safety at last, and it was being ripped away. Ultimately it was Rance’s safety that worried her the most. She looked back to Shannon. A thought had crossed her mind and it would decide what she would do. “Does his people know?”
“Know?” asked Shannon, avoiding the answer.
“Yes, Shay, know. Does his people know what the fuck he is?”
“Only that sergeant, what’s his name. Wellington?”
“Weddington, corrected Deidre. “Now that makes up my mind. I’m not sticking around with a fratricidal lieutenant and his potentially fratricidal soldiers. We’re leaving with you IF you’re on the level about leaving. And is there anything else that you want to share with me?”
Shannon swallowed hard. Telling Deidre that Hecate traveled with the spirits of those he killed was something she wanted to avoid. Even with zombies and werewolves out in the open, ghosts seemed to be something that would be hard to swallow.
Shannon considered what she wanted to do was a bad idea against what should be done, and she went ahead anyway.
She screwed her courage together and told Deidre about the German and American spirits that had followed Hecate for the past nine decades. Deidre took it well, nodding in places, and muttering, “Uh-huh” occasionally, but her concern showed when Shannon told her about Steve Greene.
“Greene’s following you?” Deidre was less than thrilled to hear that Shannon had the same affliction as Hecate. “So Greene’s ghost is following you, and can only be seen by you, at his choosing, and only in reflective surfaces like mirrors and such. Is that right?”
“That’s it in a nutshell.”
“Damn day keeps getting better and better.” Deidre shook her head and turned to Kelsey. Kelsey had been silent while Shannon explained the “ghost” situation. Shannon didn’t seemed totally convinced of the truth of Earth bound spirits following their lycan murderers around, whereas Deidre thought it was total bullshit. Kelsey had different thoughts.
Right as she was about to ask Kelsey to collect her things, Kelsey blurted out, “We’re staying put.”
“That’s a bad idea, Kelsey,” remarked Shannon. “Little things aren’t adding up. How come the streets were clear for example? Doesn’t that mean anything to you? And how come they’ve stayed put so for long. It doesn’t add up.”
“And let’s not forget the psycho werewolf that seems to have a mad on for Shannon.” Deidre paused. “Though that is an argument to leave you,” she said thoughtfully.
“Are you really going to stay with her?” interjected Kelsey angrily. “No offense Shannon, but this has got to be the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. We have a chance of safety and I’m not going to blow this for Rance or me. You’re really basing this on a gut instinct? No proof other than what you feel? Uh-uh. We’re staying put.”
“Kelsey, while I agree the evidence is circumstantial as hell, first impressions are the best. In this situation we have to-”
Kelsey cut her off. She cut off every argument that could be leveled at her. “No. We’re staying with the Army and that’s it. No more talk, no more looking at every angle, I’m staying. Rance is staying.”

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Firehouse: A tale from the Dog ‘Verse

It can be called flash fiction, or very short story, or something that just came to me. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a tale from the Dog ‘Verse.

Fire House

Derrick sat at the dining room table, flicking the Zippo lighter open before snapping it closed. He paused long enough to look at his half-eaten cheeseburger and now cold fries before pushing it away. He sighed heavily before resting his chin in his right hand to resume flicking the lighter open and then snapping it shut. “Take a look around you, boy. It’s bound to scare you, boy,” came from the radio in the corner of the dining room. Click, snap. Derrick shook his head in disappointment at the song. Close to what he wanted to hear, but not the right one. Click, snap.

 

“Malford, either pick up smoking or put that thing away,” said Tommy Flannigan, his best friend. Tommy was Irish by descent and by nature. Tommy pulled out a chair, turned it around and sat beside Derrick. “Man, it is unnerving to see a fireman playing with a damn lighter.”

 

“Firefighter,” corrected Derrick, striking the lighter before snapping it shut once more. “we’re firefighters, Tommy. Fireman or firemen is a sexist term that belongs in the 50’s. And this thing hasn’t ever had fluid in it.”

 

“Really?” Tommy snatched it, flipped it open and sniffed it. “Hm. Why do you even own it?” Tommy tossed it back.

“Kid I ran with in high school had one. Naturally he smoked, and I didn’t, but he had this cool habit of flicking it open and striking it all with one hand and in one fluid motion. Coolest thing ever.”

 

“That…sounds really boring. You need a girl, mate, or a life beyond the confines of Company 31. Instead, here you are, ruminating like an old fart, playing with a Zippo sans fluid, while your food dies a freezing death on the plate. Oh and it’s your day off. Or supposed to be. Why are you here?”

 

“Jernigan’s home sick so I volunteered for his shift.” Click, snap went the lighter. “Now I’m just waiting for something to happen.”

 

“I feel ya, mate. You know, lots of us are out sick these days. I heard Tower 3 is almost nonexistent because of this shit. Between that and the rash of dog attacks recently, we’re being kept busy as hell.” Tommy reached over Derrick and snatched several fries from the plate. “These are better cold,” he said, cramming them into his mouth.

 

“What the hell is going on with these animal attacks anyway?” said Derrick, sliding the lighter into his pocket. “Metro PD is going crazy trying to convince people that this isn’t some roving gang thing or something targeting people wherever and whenever. I saw the news conference last night. That was the third one in the past week and a half.”

 

“Yeah, right? Freaking weird.” Tommy snatched more fries. That’s not as weird as the two alarm we responded to last week. You were out that night, remember? You were bummed that you missed it.”

 

“Not that bummed. Once I found out that Feds were involved I was glad that I was off shift. ATF is one thing, but damn, I heard you had everyone this side of the Marines involved. Seriously; Homeland Security showed up?

 

“I can’t say.” Tommy looked around the room before stealing Derrick’s abandoned burger. “ Hell yeah the alphabet soup showed up. DHS, FBI, and ATF showed up and, get this, were cooperating with each other.” Tommy raised his eyebrows. “Eh. How’s that for weird. The moment they showed up, they shut out MNPD and kicked us out. Just like that.”

 

“So they did pull bodies out of that mega church?”

 

“And a survivor. Guy was burned over sixty percent of his body, and still raving like a fucking loon. Crying about the Anti-Christ come to Earth as Anubis, killing the shit out of everyone in the area. This is the south so you know people had guns on them. This crispy critter says, “Guns ain’t gonna stop him!” Tommy waved his hands in the air melodramatically, and chuckled. “Sorry. It’s not funny.”

 

“You’re disrespectful. But you’re also funny as hell.” Tommy smiled.

 

“When there’s nowhere else to run. Is there room for one more son. One more son. If you can, hold on.”

 

The lyrics came across the room and lifted Derrick’s spirits, causing him to smile fiendishly.  “I wanna stand up, I wanna let go,” he said with the song. “You know what, Tommy. That guy was supposed to die, but I guess with him still being with the living, the Feds and everyone else naturally assumed it was him that started the fire. Being a raving nut job only cemented that. Truth is, it was me.”

 

“Huh?” grunted Tommy as he was finishing off the burger. “Wha-?” That was all Tommy could say before Derrick slammed his head into the table’s edge. The edge tore through his skull cap, forcing skull fragments into his brain killing him instantly.

 

I..was waiting for…something to…happen, and… it has.” The change overtook Derrick. He grasped the table firmly, snapping the plywood, sending splinters into his hardening palms and thickening nails.

 

In a matter of moments Derrick transformed into his werewolf self. The song was the trigger to let him, and those like him in the firehouse and around the world, know that the overthrow of humanity had been given the greenlight.

 

From adjoining rooms the sound of growls, howls, fighting and screams rushed to his ears. The smell of blood, spilt bowels and bladders, and terror welcomed his glorious realization that he and those like him were on their way to being the rightful rulers of the planet.

 

Central dispatch came over the loudspeakers, declaring emergencies across the district. Derrick howled in joy. The end had come, and with it a wonderful rebirth.

 

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter twenty-five

 

Chapter Twenty-five

The jam lasted for miles. Everyone that had remained in the city and its suburbs had made a massive egress to nowhere. Most vehicles were empty and those that weren’t contained a driver that had either committed suicide behind the wheel or were killed by someone inside. Doors hung open leaving Shannon to wonder if the occupants had left on their own or if the undead had gotten them. She pondered whether or not the undead had enough memory to remember how to work a car door.

The soldier in the tank could speak, albeit in a very slow speech, but he was able to speak. Her mind raced over the evidence presented to her. She’d seen a zombie act like nothing from a movie. She thought back to a Return of the Living Dead movie with talking zombies, directing people to send more cops or ordering people to the hospital. Those could talk, but they sounded more like a living human, like their brain functioned at near enough to one hundred percent. But that was a movie. Those zombies also drove a jeep and acted like they were a proverbial heartbeat from life. Those undead came from the ground, after years of dried rotted stillness. They weren’t recent kills like what they’d gone against. And then there was the Romeo and Juliet type zombie movie she’d heard about. Love could restart an undead heart? Asshole, please.

Shannon hated trying to make comparisons to the few zombie movies she’d seen. Those were for comedic value only. They were hardly a standard by which to measure the real world. And they were fiction too. Again, asshole, please. What she was doing was no different than comparing werewolf movies to the real deal. Everyday people had no experience with lycanthropes. Those that did were either dead or soon to experience their first transformation. Somehow she doubted lycans went to movies only to howl and call BS or foul on werewolf facts.

The question remained whether Deidre and Kelsey had come across anything like she had. She was about to ask, but decided to wait. IF they had, and that was a big if, they’d have said so, she thought. She’d wait to ask. There’d be time to talk later once they were out of the open. The pressing question now was whether to enter the city or not. Their pace slowed once they were a mile from the city, and they discussed the pros and cons. The pros far outweighed the cons. Four walls and a roof should offer more safety against zombies and werewolves than being out in the open.

Tucson’s appearance was more than enough to activate everyone’s pucker factor. Nothing moved, no undead lumbered from around a corner, surprising them, or even congregated in large milling mobs. Even pigeons were missing from the cityscape. And the feeling of being watched continued to plague them. It intensified the moment they entered the city proper.

The city’s appearance and condition wasn’t how Shannon had imagined it. It certainly wasn’t how Steve Greene had talked about it. There were no checkpoints, no command centers. No military vehicles sat abandoned in the city streets. Eerier still was the lack of traffic jams. Vehicles sat parked against sidewalks.

“Where’s the bodies,” asked Kelsey. She hugged Rance close as they moved along. “Don’t tell me that the people just up and left in an orderly fashion.”

Shannon and Deidre, two people that should have been more observant, hadn’t noticed the absence of dead. They’d been too focused on broken out windows and rooftops. Each had seen a suspected dark figure dart past a window or move out of view on a rooftop.

“There are living here,” said Shannon, gripping the automatic weapon tighter. “Lots of people died here. Lots and lots of dead were here. I smell lycans too, but it’s faint compared to the other stinks.”

“I don’t smell anything, Deidre said. “Any idea on how far away they are?” Deidre walked ahead of the pack, cautiously looking into as many shadows as she could.

“We should leave,” advised Kelsey. Her response was the most cautious and prudent.

“We need to get out of the damn street,” answered Deidre. We’re fucking targets like this.”

“Hey!” screamed Greene from a sidewalk. “What the hell are you doing?” Shannon looked around hurriedly, and found Greene’s reflection in a sub sandwich shop’s window. He had his pistol drawn. “Listen to her, Shannon! Get off the freaking street.” He glanced around and the building fronts. “Here,” he screamed, pointing a free hand to a department store’s revolving doors. He disappeared only to reappear in the picture window next to the doors. “There’s soldiers in there! They’re okay!”

Shannon shook her head no, but Greene became more adamant about it. “Get over here, you moron!” Shannon drew her lips tight as she made her way to Greene’s direction. As annoying as her new guardian was, she had to know whether it was new instinct to be followed, or just another symptom of new found lycanthropic madness.

Her foot had touched the sidewalk eighty feet from the entrance when a shrill whistle drew everyone’s attention. Two soldiers stood at the entrance. One kept watch while another frantically waved them over. Deidre and Kelsey hissed at Shannon to stop. She didn’t.

“Come on, come on,” said the soldier, waving them over. “Get in here before they see you!”

Shannon ran through the revolving doors, the hushed sweeping noise it made was oddly comforting. The nearly half dozen assault weapons leveled at her now stole that short comfort. “Are you dangerous?” asked an Asian female. She moved forward and pulled the machine gun from Shannon’s hands. “Answer me,” yelled the female Asian soldier.

“Only around a full moon,” Shannon said, trying to be amusing.             “She’s one of them,” muttered another soldier. He was black and medium height, and his eyes showed a sort of calm that disturbed Shannon. He was a lycan, but his scent was light. It had been years since he’d turned.

“I’m going to do her,” said the female, thrusting her rifle muzzle toward Shannon’s left eye. Her nametape said her name was Ohkawa. Shannon didn’t feel any discomfort at the threat. Ohkawa was sweating profusely; her eyes were wild with fear and apprehension. Shannon was content with dying, even though the odds were in favor of an accidental discharge more than an intentional one.

“Stand down, Miakai. You know we’re going take her to the Captain first,” said the black soldier. He continued staring at Shannon. His nametape identified him as Strayer. Kelsey and Deidre whirled through the door then. A few of the aimed weapons focused on them.

“Christ,” hissed Deidre, skidding to a halt before falling on her butt.

“For God’s sake,” hissed the soldier that had kept watch outside.

“We’ve got a kid here! Lower your weapons.” He and his partner stepped in front of Kelsey and Deidre, attempting to get the others to take their weapons off of the two arrivals. “I said lower your weapons,” said the whistler. A few of the greeting committee were reluctant to do as they were told. With the exception of Ohkawa, the weapons were lowered.

“She’s a dog,” spat Ohkawa. “She could be with those things. Let’s kill her now to be on the safe side.”

“Not going to tell you again, Private Ohkawa,” said the whistler. “Lower it.” He walked into the muzzle of Ohkawa’s weapon. His body armor pressed against the muzzle, forcing her back. “Lower it… now”

Ohkawa did as she was told. “I’ll see you later,” she said, stepping back.

“Look forward to it,” responded Shannon. “I’ll be here all night.” She blew a kiss to the soldier. Her reaction startled her as much as it did Ohkawa. Unlike Ohkawa, it scared her to death.

Deidre was at a loss for words. She hadn’t expected to be greeted with bouquets and mimosas, but she hadn’t thought they’d receive an armed, threatening response either. That moment seemed to justify her initial reaction to steer clear of where the soldiers had shepherded them in. Damn you, Greene, she thought bitterly.

“It’s not what you think,” he answered, rolling his eyes. “Have faith, will you?”

Two soldiers stepped up taking all of Deidre and Kelsey’s weapons. One of them went through Greene. Shannon didn’t think she’d ever get over that.

“So what’s on the menu? A little rape for the ladies, both hetero and lesbian action, I’m sure. Maybe have the kid for dinner?” Shannon held her hands on her head as she spoke.

“Put your arms down. We’re United States Army soldiers, lady. Not barbarians,” said the black soldier. “Ohkawa, Filmore, Lurch. Stay with me. The rest of you return to your posts.” He spoke without turning to face the soldiers. “Sergeant James Weddington, Fox Company, Second Battalion, Third Regimental Combat Team, Thirty-fifth Infantry Division. You’re safe here, but first you have to meet our CO, Captain Hecate. He’ll make the final call on what’s going to happen.”

“Hecate? Like the witch?” asked Kelsey.

“On what to do with us? So you guys are doing the protect the civilians gig?” said Deidre. The situation looked bleak. She tried to think of it as iffy, but that wasn’t happening.

“So, you guys come here often or is this an out of the norm shopping run?” Shannon’s newfound smart mouth fired off with a mind of its own.

Weddington ignored Shannon, and looked to Kelsey. “Yes,” he said, giving a faint smile, “like the legendary evil witch. And no, we’re doing good to protect ourselves for the moment. We’ve been looking for an exfil point for the past two days, but keep running into…complications. And the answer to your question,” he stared at Shannon. His eyes were suspicious and his face set. “We only come here when there’s a sale on shoes. So far, we’re having a bitch of time finding someone to help us.”

“Kind of an odd time to be making jokes,” Deidre said, looking at him with appraising eyes.

“If not for jokes, I’d go crazy. Here,” Weddington said, pulling out an Almond Joy from a cargo pocket. He bent down to Rance, holding it out. “Been saving it for a special occasion. It’s nice to see someone not in camouflage, and a kid.”

Rance moved behind Kelsey. “It’s okay, baby. I don’t think he wants to hurt us.” She moved him out from behind him. With trembling fingers, he took the candy bar from Sgt. Weddington’s gloved hand.

“Thank you,” Rance said, tearing the wrapper open.

“Come on,” Weddington said, extending his arm toward the rear of the store. “Time to meet the wizard.”

Two of the soldiers, Filmore and Lurch, walked behind them as Ohkawa and Weddington led the way. Ohkawa whispered to Weddington. Weddington gave back a narrowed eyed, stiff jawed, silent response.

They came to a door marked Security with two soldiers standing watch. “You four stay here,” said Weddington to the others. “Ladies and sir, please.” He opened the door to two soldiers standing over a map on a table.

One soldier was marking on the map with a black grease pencil when he looked up. He was maybe five foot, eight inches tall, and seemed to be dwarfed by the stern female soldier standing cross armed beside him. She was six foot, six and made even Deidre feel short. Behind the two soldiers was a wall filled with monitors. Images of the store’s interior and the exterior up to a block away alternated between different locations. It was easy to see how the soldiers had seen them coming.

The map covered table took up most of the middle of the room and a radio sat in a chair next to the table. A voice came over declaring a section was quiet and that the speaker was moving to OP Mike. Another soldier keyed the handset, answering, “Roger” to the speaker before following up with phrases Shannon didn’t understand. Shannon assumed the taller, female soldier was Hecate. She didn’t understand what the small patches on the body armor meant, and no idea what marked a captain from a sergeant first class.

“Forgive me, but I’ll be with you in a moment,” the male said. He was Hecate, not the woman. He looked too young to be in charge to Shannon, and his obvious weary scent and appearance didn’t age his face much. His tanned face was awash with thought and experience that also didn’t mesh with his boyish features. Hecate also had the smell of a werewolf that changed often enough to be considered near full time lycan. He also had the smell of dead flesh to him. It smelled too much like undead lycanthropic flesh to Shannon. She hoped her intuition that he wasn’t malignant was correct.

“So we were being watched,” said Deidre to Weddington. She motioned to the screens. “How many OP’s do you have up at any given time?”

Weddington removed his helmet and turned his head toward Deidre. “Seven. You former?”

“Former Navy. JAG for what it’s worth.” She glanced to Rance. The boy appeared intimidated by the room. She moved to him, putting herself on his opposite, exposed side. Gingerly, she rubbed his back to reassure him. He trembled nervously underneath his sweat soaked t-shirt.

“You strike me as an officer. Lieutenant? Maybe a Lieutenant Junior Grade at the least.” Weddington gave Deidre’s appraising stare back.

“You know Navy rank.”

“My dad was a sailor, got a sister who’s a JG on a destroyer, and a brother who’s a Marine red shirt on the Kennedy. Makes for an interesting holiday season when we all get leave at the same time.” Weddington seemed to be the most relaxed in the room. He was on the side with the most guns, so it was easier for him to be ease.

“You should’ve joined the Marines. Closer to Naval service. Would’ve made everyone happy.”

Weddington scoffed. “I can swim, but I hate water past bathtub level. I like terra firma and the firma the terra the better.”

“What do we have here, Sergeant,” said Hecate with almost obvious impatience at the interruption. He dismissed everyone except the tall NCO, and Weddington before turning his attention to Shannon’s small group.

Weddington’s chin rose, but only slightly. “Civilians, sir. They came in from the southeast quadrant on foot. Packing enough firepower to hold off hostiles for a few hours. We would’ve let them pass, but for the child.”

Hecate looked the group over. “Little young for enlisting aren’t you, young man?” he said to Rance. “Of course I’m willing to bet you’re the tiger of the group.” He tried to smile, but his bloodshot eyes and dirty face made it look more like a grimace.

Rance said nothing as he returned Hecate’s gaze.

Shannon thought she’d smelled a wolf in the mix, and she was right. Hecate’s gaze and smile held a lot of wolf staring down a succulent sheep.

“Sir,” said Weddington. “Private Ohkawa says this young lady here made a remark concerning being dangerous only when there’s a full moon. It unsettled some of the others.”

“Hm. And by others you mean our esteemed Private, Danielle Ohkawa alone, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Big surprise,” said the Amazon statuesque female NCO.

Hecate ignore her. “So, lady that may be a werewolf… Are you a werewolf?”

Shannon didn’t think twice when she said, “Yes.”

No one moved. No one spoke for half a minute. “Well,” said Hecate thoughtfully. “Are you a good wolf or a bad wolf? To be honest I don’t think you’re a bad one. I’d have known it immediately if you were, and dealt with you accordingly. You also have on your side humans, well-armed at that, and a human child no less.”

Everyone in the room, save the two soldiers, was surprised by Hecate’s outright confession that he too was a lycanthrope.

Hecate came from behind the table and took a seat on it. He then turned the radio up slightly and switched to a frequency that held nothing but static. “Background noise. Don’t want too many people hearing what I’ve got to say.” He smiled a tiredly once again. “Don’t be too shocked now,” he said, breaking the silence. “Past few days have been a real eye opener for me as much as anyone else. I’m sure you’ve come out of the closet recently too.”

“I have,” said Shannon in a flat voice. “It was a matter of survival.”

“You got that right.” He sniffed the air between them. “You’ve even killed people that trusted you.” He raised his palms up in a so what fashion as if he’d just heard some discouraging sports scores. “It happens to young ones like you, especially under times of stress. I hate to sound cold, but you’ll get over it.”

Hecate walked to the door. He stood looking at it like a two-way mirror. “Sergeant Weddington, please dismiss everyone outside. Ohkawa’s getting them worked up again. So far she seems to be working them against her. She needs to be careful not to get herself into any further trouble.”

Shannon, Deidre and Kelsey collectively strained their ears. Shannon was the only one that could hear the muted talk beyond the door. Ohkawa’s voice would rise in excitement about the dangers of having Shannon around and then fall once someone would tell her to shut up. Shannon was amazed that the woman was still alive. People prone to excitement like her were always the first to fall in an emergency.

Weddington opened the door and reassigned the six soldiers lingering in the hall to other duties. He made it a point to put Ohkawa into a position that would leave her physically isolated from the others.

“Thank you, Sergeant,” said Hecate once the door closed. “Ladies, and young sir, I am two hundred and seventy-six years old. I’ve fought in two world wars, a civil one, and a few others on foreign soil. I’ve been a gunner on Old Ironsides, a Marine at Belleau Wood during the Great War, and again in Korea; I was a Navy Sea-Bee during World War Two, and even fought as a Legionnaire in Indochina. I’ve been around a while and make no mistake; I’m a professional soldier. I’ve never picked a fight that would put me in the wrong nor have I joined one. Please rest assured,” he spoke to Rance in a solemn voice. “I don’t harm the innocent, and I promise you that I have no intention of allowing harm come to you. Now, with that said, what brings you and your companions to Tucson, rookie?”

“Shelter maybe, just traveling until we can find a safe place somewhere.” Shannon felt her confidence coming back. She wondered if it was in part because of Hecate. He seemed to have the effect of inspiring those around him.

“Understand that. Hopefully we can all get out of here in one piece.” He turned to the maps, and then caught himself like he’d forgotten an important question. “Before I forget, seen any spooks lately?”

The question didn’t rock anyone other than Shannon. Her eyes widened and Deidre spoke before she could cover her shock.

“Spooks?” asked Deidre with a laugh. “What are you on about? You had my attention until you asked about ghosts because that’s what I’m assuming you’re talking about.”

“Your canine leaning friend there knows what I’m talking about. Don’t you, Ms… I’m sorry. I’ve been rude. What are your names?”

Everyone gave his or her name. Hecate remained silent and nodded with each introduction. “Pleased to meet you all. May I use your first names?” The four consented. “Great. Look, I’m polite, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a forceful person. So, on that note maybe we should give Master Rance the tour of the place while we talk. The toy department is on three, and I bet he could use the distraction. You can go with him of course, Kelsey.”

Deidre’s mistrust of Hecate was growing once more. Considering their dire situation he was being too friendly for her tastes. She was torn between going with Kelsey and Rance and staying with Shannon. Her eyes shifted from Hecate to the door and then to her friends. She knew Shannon could give as good as she got in a fight, and despite her recent killing spree her heart still saw Shannon as a friend. In the end she wanted to be with Kelsey and Rance more. Her face must have spoken volumes to Hecate.

“You can go, too. Sergeant Weddington, return the young lady’s weapon. We need all the ready gun hands we can get.” Hecate didn’t smile. Any other time he’d never let a civilian, regardless of their background, go armed in his area of operations. Unfortunately times had changed for the worse.

Deidre and Kelsey left with Rance and Weddington, leaving Shannon alone with Hecate. There was no uneasy silence in between the door closing and Hecate speaking. He spoke as soon as the door latched shut.

“How many have you seen, Ms. Morris? If you’re lucky it’s been only one. Unlucky is every single person you’ve killed since this shit storm started.”

Shannon didn’t like confronting or even commenting on in the open what she’d seen reflected in mirrors and shop windows. She feared that discussing it would manifest Steve Greene back to life; complete with the death wounds she’d given him. Her head wanted to swivel around for his intact face in a reflective surface, but she resisted. Regardless, Hecate was smart enough to know the symptoms and urges.

“Nothing reflective in here, Shannon. It’s all LCD matte finish, fiberboard, and concrete. Whoever’s haunting you can’t gain a foothold here.” Hecate stood still in a relaxed position of at ease. He patiently waited for her to speak.

“Three,” blurted Shannon. “I’ve killed three people that never did a harsh thing to me.” Tears welled up. She couldn’t hold them back so she released them.

Hecate moved to her side. He didn’t know her beyond the fifteen minutes they’d been acquainted, but he recognized her as one of his kind. Without invitation he hugged her, letting her tears fall on the straps of his dirty war gear. “Get it out. I know it sounds cheesy, but you need to get it out before you can move on.”

Shannon’s sobs dwindled to stray tears before stopping fully. She did feel better. There was no way for her to tell if it was due to Hecate’s presence or the act of emotional cleansing or maybe both. She released herself from him, amazed that he didn’t struggle to continue his hold.

“Want to talk about it?” Hecate pulled a chair from a corner for her to sit in.

Shannon sat, wiping her eyes clear. She then launched into an unexpected story of everything that had occurred since Greene and Helfron had gotten weapons from the Marine patrol.

Hecate sat quietly, listening. To Shannon’s amazement, her tears were gone by the time she reached the end.

”Damn. As rough as you have had it, and I’m not trying to diminish anything you’ve been through, you’ve been lucky. Three deaths, as sad and needless as they were, in the space of ten years is pretty good. I’ve known werewolves that don’t go past one year without wigging out.” He waved his hands theatrically in the air. “Some go their whole lives without spilling human blood, but those are rarer than rare. I went eighteen months after I turned without killing anyone innocent.”

“Just that once?” She rubbed her temples. Crying always gave her a headache so she did very little of it.

“No. Twice. The second time was in 1918, and that was the worst. Remember when I said I’d served as a Marine in World War One?”

Shannon looked up, head throbbing and nodded.

“Belleau Wood is a big deal to Marines, even today. It’s where the Germans gave them the nickname Devil Dog. Tuefel Hunten. Marines like to say that its because we fought like the hounds of hell, but that’s only partly true. Marines of the Fifth and Sixth Regiments held back the German push to Paris. We paid dearly to do it, but so did they. I lost my control in Belleau Wood. I killed thirty-five Marines and one hundred and three Germans single handedly. I did it with claws, teeth and bloodlust.” He sighed and spread his hands apart in an oh well gesture. “It started as innocent as it could in war; they were killing my Marines. I went out to probe enemy positions, which was my way of thinning the enemy ranks. The more I killed, the more I enjoyed it. The more I enjoyed it, the more I lost myself. By the time I was finished, I was the only thing living in my sector. That was also the only time I deserted. I’d fought at Bull Run, both battles. I’d fought the British at Bunker Hill, froze at Valley Forge. I struggled with and against brave, valiant humans and one little engagement, as bloody as it was, sent me into frenzy. One hundred and thirty eight human souls followed me after that. I learned German after that. Bad news is I can now understand their curses at me, and cries for their mothers, as well as their bad jokes.” Hecate smiled. Shannon wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at brevity or the truth. “The Germans were actually more forgiving than my fellow Marines.”

“They follow you everywhere?”

“At first. Only ten remain with me now. They move on once they find peace or get tired of hanging around. Don’t believe the television; the white light is constantly around them. Ghosts can leave at any time. So, now you know you’re not alone. This Steve Greene, was he a good friend?”

“As good as could be when you hold someone at a distance.”

“My advice is you need to stop doing that, because you’re still doing that. How you kept it at bay is beyond me. Unless… Did you hunt when you were changed? Livestock maybe?”

“I hunted us.” Shannon wondered what his reaction would be. Morbid curiosity wasn’t the reaction she expected.

“All or only a select few?”

“Only those that hunted humans. My boyfriend was the first.”

“Oh. Well, not to be too personal, but was it requited love gone bad?”

“He infected me through sex. I wasn’t happy with it. Especially since he did it as a joke. He hated humans, and after that I hated him.”

“Hervorragend ,” he answered, using the German word for outstanding. “What’s your tally?”

“A lot.”

“Ah,” his smile never disappeared. “The magic number between quite a few and a whole hell of a lot.”

“Sums it up.” Shannon felt like she was being terse. It was a reaction she clung to as a way to keep everyone at an arm’s length. The time for that was more than over since she’d let her vulnerability show.

“Fair enough. We’ll keep it at that.” Hecate walked purposefully to the door and opened it. The smile was gone and his face was placid. It was hard for Shannon to read. “Let me give you the tour of accommodations.

Shannon followed him back down the hall, unsure of what to say or how to act. She felt exposed emotionally and she hated it.

He showed her where the troops had been sleeping in shifts, where they ate and more importantly, the exits.

The roof tour yielded only a few soldiers on over watch and a stack of covered bodies. The site of the thirty to forty wrapped figures was startling to her. She didn’t know why but they seemed more like mannequins than once living beings. The smell was more than enough to betray the bundles as bodies. The soldiers had ventilator masks on to guard against the smell. Even with the wind blowing the stench away from her, she still fought her gag reflex.

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad,” said Hecate. “In the four days we’ve been here we secured the floors and bolted down every rooftop entrances, but they still got in. I’m guessing they were here before us, and were biding their time.” He motioned to the bodies absent mindedly. “These were my people. Werewolf or werewolves unknown breached our perimeter. Five dead, two injured. Now, I’ve got half of my force checking the remaining six floors. I know the contact was broken. Whoever did this got what they needed, which reeks of sport, and nothing more.” His tone was as even as he could keep it. A hint of rage could be sensed, but he kept in check. He looked back to her as he moved to the roof’s edge. He stared down before speaking again. “I can’t give them a proper burial. I can’t burn them in the furnace either. The smoke would give away our position. And I sure as hell am not tossing them over. They deserve better than that. In the end, we’ll have to leave them behind. We’re leaving tomorrow. This position is tenable at best.”

Shannon briefly mulled over the silence that followed his admission that the situation was more than perilous. She appreciated not wanting to leave the dead behind, but they were dead, and wouldn’t it make more sense for the living to leave them behind so they would have a better fighting chance at survival. She kept that thought to herself. She knew enough to know that soldiers were very touchy about comrades, living and dead.

“Did you know that some of us have taken to eating our own kind?” Hecate’s statement stunned her. She’d eaten a human before, and she often wrestled with the cannibalistic aspect of that, but to hear that took her aback. “Even with the necrotic activity going on they might take a nibble if we tossed them over. Either way, it would be pretty obvious that the living are inside. Speaking of, have you encountered any undead lycans?”

She joined him at the edge, and what had been a background dullness in her head ramped up to undeniable pain. Heights bothered her, but not to this type of paralyzing extent. She looked over the edge, her shoed feet gripping the rock and tarred flooring.

There was nothing below to be seen. Shannon used the moment of silence deciding how to answer Hecate. “Yeah,” she said, fighting through the thumping pressure. “The first was at an old mental hospital. I did that one alone. The second run-in was at the checkpoint on the outskirts of town. They were with me for that one.”

“Hm. So that was you. At the checkpoint I mean. And I’m not really surprised that it was you doing the shooting, but just that you survived. Our scouts reported survivors were holed up in the nearby community center. That was when we were sending people out to recover civilians and any remaining personnel. That was also when our scouts started disappearing. We cut that activity short quick.”

“You knew about those people? The ones in the that building?”

“Oh, so you weren’t with that group. Good for you, and yes, we knew. Those people are dangerous. The scouts that did make it back reported that they drew fire immediately. I’ve decided to let those people alone. With the way they were blowing through ammo, they’re bound to be overrun by undead, werewolves, or both sooner or later.”

Shannon was stunned to hear his callous and casual statement. “Maybe they were just scared. You know, panicked shooting because they thought you were raiders. Those do exist now.” More venom than she meant to use laced her words, and a coming headache was fast approaching a crescendo. It beat in time with every word that Hecate spoke. Her stomach became excited with stomach acids churning to escape.

“Scared?” Hecate spoke slowly with his own brand of venom. His tone sounded ancient somehow, like the sound of a millennium scroll being unrolled. There was no pity or careful tone of well-groomed but false caring. It was frigid and spiteful. Shannon emotion’s unexpectedly matched the word Hecate had spoken. She was scared. “No doubts there, Miss, but they’ve got their pitiful enclave, and that’s fine. We only take in those that want rescue. We can only help those that want to be helped. They’ve made their Hell.” Hecate fell silent and stared at Shannon. “Maybe we’re the ones that are dead and this is our Hell.”

He turned from Shannon and walked to the service elevator entrance. “Let’s go check on your friends, shall we?” His tone was less hostile, but still chilly.

 

[Ma1]Change this to correct word.

 

 

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter Twenty-four

 

Chapter Twenty-four

 

 Shannon slept dreamlessly, but well. Her body called revile and she jerked awake, chiding herself for allowing what felt like too much of the day to slip by. With the world burning in the midst of an extinction level event, it seemed selfish to have slept so well let alone want more such nights. Still she wished for more and loved the longing.

 

The only thing she longed for more was toothpaste. She smacked her lips and clicked her tongue in disgust as she looked through the commander’s view ports. Nothing stirred. She was about to turn away until she saw activity at the tree line. Focusing her vision to the movement, she saw a woman step out. It was Deidre. She motioned toward the trees and Kelsey and Rance slunk out to join her. Kelsey was carrying a rifle, and Rance appeared to be clutching a pistol.

 

The trio ran to the roadblock and Shannon watched them until they disappeared from the view port’s line of sight. Shannon sunk to the turret’s floor. She wasn’t totally sold on greeting them. Her conscious thought urged her to undog the hatch and call out to them.

 

“Why should I,” she muttered bitterly. “They left me. Jackasses.”

 

“Oh yeah. Like they didn’t have problems of their own. I bet they did.” She answered without hesitation. Talking aloud to herself was something she’d never done before. She wasn’t sure if she liked it, let alone that she wasn’t going insane.

 

“Nothing ventured,” she said again, finally undogging the hatch. It squeaked loudly before banging a metal on metal announcement of her presence to the world.

 

A scream, followed by Kelsey telling Rance to hush caused nesting birds to take flight. Shannon looked around. Deidre, Kelsey and Rance were standing beside Shannon’s refuge. All had their firearms aimed at her.

 

“Want to get shot often,” Deidre asked, smiling. “Damn glad to find you okay.”

 

“Where you in there all night,” asked Kelsey.

 

“Cool! You slept in a tank!” said Rance enviously. His tone quickly changed. “Better than a ditch like us.”

 

“You left me behind,” growled Shannon. “What the hell is wrong with you?” She jumped down. The four tucked in pistols dug into her stomach and back. The pain reminded her that she was alive.

 

“No other choice, Shay. Damn walkers came out of nowhere. We had to get the hell out of there. Shit, you were better off on foot in dog form than we were in a one ton mobile value meal box.” Deidre was trying to explain, but it sounded too much like a defense of their actions. Shannon could see that Deidre wanted absolution for leaving her behind more than she wanted a fight.

 

“It’s true. We owe you a back window on your car, among other things. They almost got us all.” Kelsey hugged Rance closer, fight back against her maternal doting.

 

“Told you so,” Shannon whispered in near triumph. “And that wasn’t my car. Doesn’t even matter if it was.”

 

“Say what?” Deidre looked Shannon over with cautious eyes. It was a response she hadn’t expected.

 

“Nothing. Just talking to myself. You do that when you’re alone. It does keep you sane.” The words tumbled out of Shannon’s mouth. Better to get it all out in the open than surprise them further when it happened again in a big way. Shannon knew in her gut that it was inevitable.

 

“Survival makes you…,” Kelsey trailed off as she looked down at Rance.

 

Deidre’s mouth puckered briefly. “Well, we’ve got better things we need to think about. Walk with us, Shannon.”

 

Deidre took a few steps away and stopped once she noticed Shannon wasn’t with them. Shannon silently stared at them before joining.

 

“You can choose not to go with them if it pisses you off,” said Greene from the tank. Shannon growled, and Deidre took it personally.

 

“I’m sorry we ran out on you. I really am, and I hate to say it, but you have to get over it.”

 

Shannon remained silent as she looked ahead. They walked in silence for a moment before Deidre spoke again. “Anything useful in these vehicles? Yours appears to be in decent shape …”

 

“Wait. What happened to the truck?” Shannon held a hand out, stopping their walk. A pang hit her heart though she didn’t know why.

 

“We had a run in…” began Kelsey.

 

“More like a run over, Momma,” Rance interjected.

 

“Shhh,” hissed Deidre with a laugh mixed with uneasiness. “See it’s like this. The end of the world is still a new thing so telling you this is kinda difficult at best.”

 

“What happened to my car? Where is it?” The sense of loss grew bigger. She hadn’t worried about the car before now, and she felt idiotic about the sudden disconnect from a simple gas guzzling conveyance. True, it wasn’t much, but Shannon loved the Nova and now it was gone. “You trashed it, didn’t you? You hate me so much that you fucked my car over.” She felt her voice’s pitch rise and the need to fight to avenge the car rose with it.

 

“It’s not like that. Damn, girl. Relax and let me explain. Deidre licked her lips and rubbed her right foot into the ground. To Shannon she appeared as nervous as a child explaining how mom’s favorite decorative plate got broken. “See, we were cut off and had to run the zombies down. Your radiator got punctured. Kel and I think it was a couple of ribs that did it. We’re sorry, and if it makes you feel any better, we killed a whole lot of them. Maybe fifteen or twenty.” Deidre smiled nervously, while tightening her grip on the M4 she carried.

 

“Can it be salvaged?” asked Shannon testily. “Maybe we can patch it up.” Shannon felt stupid, talking about a car that could easily be replaced with something better and for free no less. Still, the car had served her through her entire decade long wolf hunt. “Where is it?” She had to see it if only to say goodbye.

 

“Eh,” said Deidre casually. “Don’t get too emotional, okay? It’s just a car, you’re a grown woman, and trust me, no amount of Stop Leak is going to fix it. It’s waaaaay past a patch or something like it.” Deidre walked forward, leaving Shannon to look at Kelsey in astonishment.

 

“She’s right, Shannon. The…” Kelsey paused to find the right word to describe the offending puncturing object. “The offending object? Yes, the offending object went through the front before being pulled across the metal water reservoir thingy.”

 

“It was the top half of a zombie!” said Rance, smiling still. “It was gross!”

 

“What? A zombie half? But my car!”

 

“Sorry, Shannon.” Kelsey face held a reassuring smile as she stepped into Shannon and hugged her. “It’s gone.” Kelsey broke away, took Rance’s hand and followed Deidre, who was further down looking into an abandoned Humm-Vee. It stood alone on the side of the road in a failed attempt to escape.

 

Shannon joined Deidre as she moved away from the vehicle. The hood was up and had been pock marked with bullets. The engine and passenger compartment was also ruined. “Well, this thing’s a loss. Maybe there’s something further down the road or in town.” With dawning realization, Shannon understood that town meant Tucson, thirty miles away.

 

“Had no idea we were that close.” Shannon muttered miserably as she peered into the passenger compartment. The remains of two dead soldiers rested inside. They looked no better than the devoured dead Shannon had seen at the asylum. It was clear though that the aircraft had done the damage and not undead.

 

“I’m kind of surprised too. I had no idea we’d come this far either. Time travels fast when you’re running for your life.” Deidre moved along with Kelsey close behind while Shannon stood facing away from the ruined vehicle. She listened for anything unusual. The cliché of something being too quiet fit. Nothing moved and that suited her well enough.

 

None of the women made to examine more of the abandoned vehicles closely. It was pointless with the way the traffic had been stopped bumper to bumper not to mention the wrecks that lay on the grass shoulder.

 

Shannon and Deidre occasionally glancing into a vehicle while Kelsey moved along in between them. Kelsey clutched Rance’s hand, eyeing each car suspiciously as they moved forward. Her paranoia, or situational awareness as Deidre called it, was high. It unsettled Shannon to see Kelsey act so. Surviving in the new world alone was hard enough; doing so with a child was something Shannon couldn’t fathom.

 

She thought of the father that had killed Helfron. She couldn’t imagine the fear the mother and father had felt. The emotion behind ending their children’s undead lives was something she didn’t even want to consider.

 

Pushing the thought aside she pressed onward. Moving to a large population center was a bad idea to her, but they needed to… To do what, she wondered. A car could be found anywhere. Well almost anywhere. Where were they going, and what was their end goal.

 

Maybe I should strike out on my own. The thought hung heavy in her mind, but then she considered what had happened in Woodrow and the lycan female that Ricketts referred to as Drexler. That one seemed dangerous and striking out on her own wouldn’t help anyone, let alone Deidre, Kelsey, and Rance. She pulled her mind out of her reverie and focused on her environment instead.

 

The damaged vehicles lining the highway increased her uneasiness. More often than not bodies littered the ground and there was no way to distinguish infected from not. All the bodies had been charred. “What a waste,” she murmured, before jogging to catch up to the others. She had lagged a little behind. “Hey, Dee,” she called, joining Deidre. Any idea if some of these could’ve started as survivors from that place that looked like a rec center? Maybe some of them bailed out before all this, thinking they had a better shot here than there.”

 

“Christ on a cr-,” began Deidre “You like thinking about inconsequential stuff, don’t you?” Deidre sighed. “You aren’t thinking anything I haven’t.”

 

“Look, about that place…” began Kelsey. Shannon could see the tension on her face. The way that Rance gripped her hand spoke volumes of trouble.

 

“Doesn’t matter, now,” interjected Deidre. “We went there last night looking for shelter, but we got a shotgun reception instead. I got two of them. Maybe they were sentries or maybe scouts, or maybe they were sick fucks looking for women to add to their little group.” Deidre shrugged. “The point is, they shouldn’t have threatened us.” Deidre’s tone was even. She spoke like she was describing a moderately good novel.

 

“But who were they exactly?” Shannon’s curiosity was high, and most of it was morbid. She wanted to know what other people were up to.

 

“Don’t have a clue and couldn’t care less,” began Deidre. Kelsey cut her off. “We had to. One of them grabbed Rance and said they’d kill him if we didn’t put down our weapons and come with them.” Kelsey visibly shuddered. It was something that she wanted to forget, but couldn’t.

 

“I’m surprised the shooting didn’t wake you. I guess the tank was good for sound proofing,” said Deidre.

 

“I didn’t hear a thing. I was dead to the world.” Shannon immediately realized how silly the term had become and she felt her face redden.

 

“Well, Kelsey’s bloodied now. She killed one with her bare hands. Me, I beat mine to death with my 16. They were male and I didn’t have to ask what their intentions were. It was pretty clear when they entered our area and started talking right from the off about what they wanted to do with women and kids. None of it was positive so we gave them some food for thought.” Deidre lit a cigarette. She looked at the empty pack before cursing and throwing it to the road. “In retrospect, we killed them so I guess they’re not learning anything now.”

 

Shannon remained silent. The further along they traveled together the more she understood the human desire for living that she’d ignored for years. So much of her time was spent living as a werewolf among humans that she’d forgotten that she had base human emotions too. “It’s kind of early for scavengers, isn’t it?”

 

“Not really,” said Kelsey, pausing to lift Rance onto her shoulders. “Think about Katrina. Not every looter was looking for diapers and toilet paper. I mean, what good’s a plasma TV when you have nowhere to plug it in? A lot of people looted what they wanted, and not what was needed. In the end, what were they left with?”

 

“Got that right,” said Deidre in between drags. Shit hits the fan there are two groups of people; those that’ll help and those that’ll take from any and all. In the end, we have to be careful not to get mixed up with either. I’m not going to take from others, but I sure as hell ain’t going to put my stuff in a community pile.” She shifted the bag she carried. Between it and the large military backpack, Deidre was carrying the bulk of ammo and supplies. “Shannon, be a dear take the bag will you?” It was more of an order than a request. Deidre was tired of being the pack mule.

 

Shannon silently took the bag. It was heavy, but nothing she couldn’t handle. Shannon thought she was the toughest of them at the onset of the outbreak. Now she considered Deidre to be the queen warrior woman. She wondered if Deidre had always been so aggressive, but had hidden it like Shannon had. Deidre definitely seemed different. Before everything she’d smoked constantly. Now, she smoked very little. It seemed like cigarettes had become a coping mechanism in her journey through global armageddon. “We ought to be in the Tucson city limits by midafternoon,” said Shannon in an attempt to change the subject. She concentrated on her stride as she hefted the pack further up her back.

 

“My thoughts, too,” answered Deidre. “You okay with Rance, Kel? I can take him for a while if you want.” She looked back to Kelsey, expecting her to hand the boy over. Instead, Kelsey shook her head no. “Let me know if you want to swap, okay?

 

“Okay,” she said, looking around as she walked. “I get the feeling we’re being watched. I don’t know why but I do.” Her face was uneasy through the dried sweat and dirt that caked it.

 

“We probably are,” answered Deidre, nonchalantly.

 

Deidre’s lack of fear bothered Shannon more than Kelsey’s overabundance of it. She hoped against hope that Deidre wouldn’t do something foolish because of it. The truth was, they were being followed. Drexler was close, but not too close. She caught a brief smell of her, but couldn’t lock on to it. The she-werewolf was teasing her, and it made Shannon’s mind itch.

 

Once they existed the traffic jam’s kill zone, the feeling of human eyes joined the feeling of Drexler’s hunting. Whoever was watching them kept their distance.

 

The wind shifted from time to time and her nose filed with the smell the raw stink of their bodies, and well maintained weapons. Whoever was pacing them was trained at least. They kept their movements as quiet as possible while they continued their surveillance. In the shadows of the pile up’s left side she thought she’d seen a shadow move. She hoped that her turning to look behind them would give those following reason to not attack. That was her hope at least.

 

She glanced at an abandoned Ford Mustang’s rolled up window. Greene’s face was there, giving her a wink. Shannon didn’t scream or yell. What she did was fall sidle wide around it His appearance had startled her more than she cared for.

 

“I know now’s a bad time to mention it, but we’ve got to talk, girlfriend.” His voice drifted to her ears and was followed by ringing laughter. The dementia she felt had to stop. Of that she was sure. “Nope, you’re not going crazy, and you’re too young for dementia,” he said. His answer reaffirmed that she was the craziest one on the road. How else could he have known what she was thinking?


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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter twenty three

 

Chapter Twenty-three

 

The scene where Shannon and the others had seen the Marine Hornets flying toward served as a further example of Hell on Earth realized. The destruction wasn’t anything that any of them had expected.

A nightmare painting unfolded before them as they weaved their vehicle around burned out hulks of civilian vehicles. The charred steel bodies still smoldered even after the brief rain storm from the night before. More bodies than they were comfortable with, both charred an uncharred, lay around them in. The undeniably dead lay still on the ground or trapped within their cars, trucks, and SUVs. More blackened and shriveled corpses lay piled up on top of each other at and along the checkpoint entrance. The military had put up concrete dividers and a fence that stretched as far as Shannon could see. The military top brass had either hoped to funnel the people into the checkpoint for scanning or to create a concentrated free fire zone should the situation become desperate. The situation had obviously deteriorated to beyond desperate if the boots on the ground had called in jets for close air support. It was a true scorched earth policy in effect.

Shannon was stunned by the sheer size of the checkpoint. The military must have acted at a moment’s notice because it hadn’t been there the last time Shannon traveled along the road two days earlier. Or had it been three? Shannon had to admit that she was losing count of the days. It may have very well been four.

Large sections of fence were down, and numerous barriers had bodies draped over them. Off to the northeast an even larger portion of bodies lay still in the desert grit. Maybe those that had died had done so trying to flee the dead or the machine gunning soldiers. It was hard to visually separate the previously dead and the new inductees. Bodies were scattered in every conceivable direction and position. The scene almost made Shannon gasp at its scope. She drove them further in.

Burned out tanks and troop carriers blocked the path of escaping vehicles. Those vehicles and their occupants sat smoking or still burning. The stink of burned flesh was overwhelming. Even with the windows up, vents closed and air conditioning off they could smell it.

Shannon stopped the car on the opposite side of the decimated traffic jam. “I’ll check it out,” she said putting the car into park.

Deidre looked to Kelsey and asked for the only belt fed weapon in their arsenal. “Take it,” she said. She pulled the charging handle back, loading a round in the chamber. “It’s only got one setting, full auto, ready to kill. Helfron was nice enough to load it before he died. Careful though. I’m told it’s got a kick. I don’t think it’ll bother you though.”

Shannon took it with a nervous smile, hoping that it was a sign that Deidre was trusting her again, and not that their predicament called for everyone to be armed. Shannon knew the latter to be truer than the former.

She cautiously among the bodies. She was hard pressed to tell the difference between the charred walking dead and the fried to a crisp formerly living. All had been burned at an incredibly high heat.

Her heart beat in her chest like a base drum. She was unaccustomed to such nervousness. More than once her heart skipped a beat when spied people that had fallen while clutching one another. Her active imagination told her that the body doing the clutching had been a non-breather attacking a breather. Some mouths were held in a silent yawning near a throat or limb. Some had been biting when the fire overtook them. She tried her best to not stare at the ones that were in process of being devoured when final death hit.

She couldn’t say why she moved closer to the destroyed military vehicles. We need any ammo that may be left, she thought as her fear increased. She knew it was a lie, and that she was being stupidly curious.

Moving behind the husk of a Humm-Vee, she changed. The smell of cooked long pork and melted rubber and plastic magnified to unbearable levels. She bore through the stomach turning, eye watering stink. Better to be a lycan with a gun than an edgy human, she thought halfway through her transformation.

Once completed the smell of death and over cooked meat made her gag. It was more acute now and she thought about changing back. In for a penny, in for a pound, she thought, stepping from cover into view of the Nova. Deidre threw the door open, and stepped out with her M4 pointed at Shannon.

“It’s me! Shit, Deidre, relax,” shouted Shannon, raising the squad automatic weapon above her head. Deidre nodded and then urged her forward with the rifle’s barrel.

Shannon moved forward once more. She approached the nearest tank. The paint had been burned away, the rubber road pads on its tracks had melted, and its main gun sagged to the ground. It reminded her of a sad looking elephant she had seen at the circus as a child. It was a stupid comparison and she knew it.

Against her better judgment she mounted the tank. The metal was still warm and it groaned in protest to her weight underneath her calloused hands. She reached up to the bustle rack and grabbed onto something that flaked off under her hand. Whatever it was held. She pulled herself up and came face to face with a blackened tank crewman. His helmet was melded to his head and his mouth hung open as if he had spent his last moment asking a stupid question. Revulsion gripped her as she wiped her palm on her t-shirt. The feel and look of the remains reminded her of charred grease from one of the grills at the diner. It was something she could have done without.

Mounting the turret gave her a clearer view of the opposite side of the checkpoint. The jam stretched on for farther than she could see. At least two miles had been turned into bumper-to-bumper scorched wrecks.

Shannon tried not to think of the living that had occupied the vehicles at the moment the Marines had dropped their ordinance. Against her will she thought of the frightened screams as the undead, or possibly worse, grabbing at them while fighter jets dumped flaming finality onto them. Her mind went wild with imagination of their deaths.

The hand that clutched her ankle was thought of as imagination at first until a groaning voice came with it. “Give… me… eats,” it moaned. A scrapping noise accompanied its desires.

At first Shannon looked down at it with curious, uncomprehending eyes. It talked, her overworked mind told her. Goddamned thing had talked.

The inability to understand disappeared as the reaching mouth of a charred tanker neared her ankle. It, the name tape said its name had been DeCoverly, had pulled itself from a turret hatch, tearing the remnants of a uniform and burnt flesh away on jagged piece of metal protruding from the cupola ring. It looked at her with eyeless sockets as it pulled its way out of the cupola. Shannon watched in disbelief and all she could think of for a moment was, how can it see? It has no damned eyes?

She recovered from the thought and fired a burst into the zombie tanker’s head, surprised more at the weapons controllability against the recoil her than at the strength of the dead tanker’s grip. It slid back inside the turret still gripping her ankle.

Her balance disappeared along with the tanker. Shannon toppled backwards onto the tanks engine area. She stood and looked up to the tank.

“Where there’s one, there’s more, dummy,” said Greene. He leaned against the tank’s hull, grinning at her sarcastically. She was about to respond to her perceived insanity when shooting from somewhere close by punctuated the truth in Greene’s words.

“Shannon,” yelled Deidre as gunfire filled the air. “Shannon! We’ve gotta get the hell out of here!”

Shannon rounded a corner near a burned out Stryker vehicle, and ran right into a half burned lycan zombie crawling across her path. It had been an infantryman that was now locked in a permanent halfway transformation.

It stopped moving, and turned its head to her. It stared at her with almost pleading eyes before it began clawing its clawed its way toward her. Shannon took a step back, but paused. Her ears drowned out the gunfire and shouts in the background as she watched it crawl faster.

The right hand had been burned badly and the bones showed through the flesh. “Kill me,” it pleaded with a raspy moan. It stopped and looked up at her with up turned hands, leaving the lycan zombie’s intentions clear. “I’m… so hungry. Wwwwant meeeeat!” It gave a hoarse, pitiful howl and then looked Shannon in eyes. “Dooooo… it.”

Amazement gave way to practicality as the zombie-lycan-soldier’s head disappeared from the SAW’s burst. Her ride was under attack, and sentimentality had no place in her actions at the moment.

Shannon lopped to where she had left the car only to find it gone. Six newly deceased undead lay around where it had been with another eight looming around, looking for what she assumed was a fresh meal.

“Aw, snap,” Shannon said without thinking as she skidded to a stop.

The undead stopped and looked at her. The time to go had come and gone and now she was in another fight of her life. “I miss being the hunter,” she said, looking back toward the roadblock. The shooting had drawn undead from the opposite side and their scent said it was more than the eight she had coming at her.

Her only option was the meager tree line that the city council of the distant Tucson suburb of Woodrow had put up decades earlier. Once she had thought it was stupid to plant trees as a welcome to any city, especially one bordering a desert, but now she thought otherwise. However small it was, it might give her a chance to escape.

Shannon raced into the wooded area. The dead fall crunched under her feet as she fired short bursts into the crowd on the run. The crowd had grown and she briefly spotted a commotion in the back of the coming crowd. “That can’t be good,” she said, quacking her pace. She had no desire to greet what was pushing their way to the front of the shambling zombies.

She’d caught a quick whiff of the faint stink of were-zombies earlier, but had dismissed it as too distant to be worried about. Now she cursed herself as she glanced over her shoulder once more. She’d dumbly disregarded the rule that if you could smell them, they could smell you. “Stupid bint,” she cursed aloud. She swore harder at herself at using such an uncharacteristic turn of phrase as an insult.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement. Reflexively she dropped and rolled away from the swipe of a massive clawed hand aimed at her head. She opened up with a prolonged burst from the SAW. Her aim was off slightly, but it was on target enough. The rounds struck the werezombie’s chest and stomach. If it had been a normal zed it would have been torn in two. This guy wasn’t normal, and even though she had hurt it, it was also severely pissed off.  Worse still, three uninfected werewolves were rushing through the mass of zombies toward her.

“Fucking Deidre,” she yelled, raising the automatic weapon. She squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. She’d exhausted the SAW’s ammo belt. She yelled derogatory comments about Deidre once more and threw the SAW at the lead werezombie’s head. It caught it squarely in the forehead. It staggered backwards, grasping blindly at its face for a moment before stumbling over the werezombie she had shot. It looked quizzically at the one it she’d shot. The confused lycan regained its composure and then roared angrily as it kicked the downed werezombie in the head. The uninfected lycan glared balefully at her. “Her” it growled angrily. “We want her! Not this dead rotting piece of meat.” It pointed to her as it spoke.

“Time to go,” Shannon said, dropping to all fours.

As demeaning as she considered it, her retreat demanded running like a dog. Better to be ashamed and alive than proud and dead, she thought increasing her speed with every ounce of energy she could muster.

Shannon sensed their closing on her as she raced from the woods and onto the well-manicured grounds of open land. She stopped one hundred yards outside of the wooded boundaries, startled to see she had run into a park and welcome center of sorts.

“Fuck!” she howled, turning to face her pursuers.

But they weren’t there. Something had distracted them or intervened. The smell of the undead mixing with her pursuers gave Shannon time to contemplate where to go next. The tang of fresh spilled blood mingled with the sweet smell of decay told her she was safe from her attackers. She’d somehow led the lycans chasing her into the ripping hands and greedy mouths of a hoard of the undead. She forced herself to catch her breath and focus on the sounds of wolfish growls against a back drop of groaning zedheads. She heard them fighting for their miserable lives to keep from ending up on the dinner menu. The echoes of pained howls and gurgling opened throats told her that the lycans had lost.

A shadowy figure loomed out of the woods and was joined a moment later by another and then another.

“There’s not enough time to go around,” screamed Greene. “Move, goddamnit. They’re closer than you realize, idiot.”

“You again?” Shannon bemoaned. “Don’t you have a graveyard-” Something that felt like a mental shove motivated her legs, but she refused to move. She stared at the figure of a woman that had emerged from the woods. The scent identified the newcomer as the lycan that had lead the chase.

She’d somehow gotten away from the undead that had attacked her and her compatriots. And she’d gotten infected during the battle with the zombies.

The woman was naked and in human form, as she wandered almost aimlessly from the wooded area. Shannon got low and watched. Her crouching position in the open space would do nothing to hide her from view and her scent was sure to alert the woman if her sight failed to do so. The crouch was more to spring to attack if need be. The woman was alone and the smell of the dead said that the horde was far enough away that an attack was feasible. Shannon wanted to see what would happen before she committed to a fight.

Shannon sniffed the air lightly. She wrinkled her nose as the odor of zombie infection and lycan virus mingled together. “Maybe you’ll be okay,” Shannon muttered absentmindedly. “Maybe the wolf in you will keep the undead shit at bay. You could pass as a human if that’s the case.”

“It’s interesting to say the least,” answered Greene. His response startled Shannon and she almost yelped in surprise.

“Beat it, bit of underdone potato,” answered Shannon. “I haven’t figured out what you are yet, and now’s not the time to start.

“You’re not Scrooge, and I’m ghost. She can’t see me any more than she can hear me. No. I think this one is about to…”

Greene vanished and Shannon looked at the woman in time to see her raise her face to the sky and scream. It was an ululating sound that was equal parts of pain, rage, and hunger.

The woman’s shamble became jog and then a run as she closed the distance between her and Shannon. The zombie infection was indeed active alongside the lycan virus, and both fought for dominate control of the woman. Shannon stood, fur bristling, and hunched at the shoulders as she prepared to meet the woman head on.

The woman was less than seventy feet away and still Shannon watched the two viruses battle for supremacy. Rotting places on the undead woman’s appeared and disappeared as the lycan virus sought to heal the host, while the undead virus turned the flesh grayed and lightened. The undead virus fought just as hard until what came out was a werewolf that was for all intents and purposes a loping, hungry undead beast.

The were-zombie leaped through the air in an attempt to land on Shannon. Shannon sprang from her crouch and met it in the air. The undead werewolf snapped its jaws at Shannon’s throat and shoulders. Fetid saliva dribbled from its mouth. Shannon almost grabbed it by her yawning mouth, but stopped. If she cut her hands on its teeth she knew she’d be just as damned.

Shannon angled her lower body and kneed it in the crotch. It may not have been male, but a crotch shot could drop a female too.

The were-zombie howled in frustration, unheeding of the pain. Shannon cursed her stupidity and by sheer force of will and brute strength forced her opponent onto its back. Quicker than the she-were-zombie could respond, Shannon was on it, pinning its shoulders to the ground with her knees.

“Petulant child,” growled Shannon. She spoke like she was in a Jane Austin novel and not a real-life book titled Shannon Morris’ Fucked Up Life. Thought won out over instinct. Shannon grabbed the were-zombies head and began to repeatedly smash it to into the ground. The undead beast didn’t need to breath, but Shannon swore she heard gurgling from its throat as its pawing at the ground disappeared.

Shannon stood and kicked dirt onto the dead lycan’s face. She watched as the zombie virus won out finally, turning the body into a gray mass that once had been human.

A stirring from the trees caught Shannon’s attention. The other two lycans had survived after all, but not without taking some damage. The first, a gore covered male stared at her, his chest fighting for breath it no longer needed. “There,” it moaned, pointing to her.

Shannon sniffed the air reflexively. These two were undead as well. “Shit,” she screamed in a high-pitched tone. She was unclear if it could see her through its fogging eyes, though she was sure it’s nose and ears still worked perfectly.

She ran full out on all fours for the building. She weaved her way through a blood spattered playground, the smell of fresh spilt blood filled her nose. Humans had been there, and died there. Shannon didn’t want to give any thought to the bloodied equipment.

“I’m almost there,” she said, dodging a platform designed for handicapped children. Her breathe was ragged in her throat, and her chest was afire with exertion. She ran faster than she ever had and fatigue was closing the distance behind the pain. “Almost there, baby,” she said fighting against the wheezing that clawed at her throat. She dodged around three blood stained baby carriages. Don’t think about that, she thought as she leaped over a fourth.

She’d put considerable distance between her and her assailants when the shots came. They zipped past her, causing her to howl approval at what she assumed was someone shooting at the advancing mob behind her. A shot hit her in the leg that had just healed. “Oh for fuck’s sake,” she bellowed hoarsely. So much for thinking positively, she thought as she slid across the dirt face first. Her stressed jeans tore and she howled again in frustration. “Shit fuck fuckity shit shit!”

Dirt flew up around her head and in her face as more firing came from the building before her. Her dirt bath stopped abruptly as the building’s defenders turned their attention to the undead werewolves behind her.

The mushy smacking sound of the rounds hitting numerous undead bodies was nice to hear, though not as nice as her cover behind a merry-go-round. Still exposed Shannon decided to turn human. Human made a lesser target than werewolf, allowing her to witness the action without further exposure.

Occasionally the defenders fired at her when she showed too much of her head, but most of the shooting remained focused on the undead.

Shannon looked behind her. Her heart nearly stopped as she saw that the band of undead was much bigger than earlier. The shooting had drawn more, and though they didn’t seem to notice her, that wouldn’t last long. The undead, human and were-zombies alike, took hits, but kept coming. Constant headshots only happened in movies and TV shows, and training of any kind was difficult to overcome. Mix the dedication to training with fear and you had panicked shooting across the board. The attention the survivors were attracting was too much danger for Shannon’s taste.

“When all else fails, the ridiculous is plausible.” She had a plan, as crazy as it was. She began testing the bolts holding the merry-go-round in place. The bolts were rusty in places, but the merry-go-round’s steel itself was solid. She checked her leg. It was nearly healed, and the copper jacketed bother lay on the ground, glinting with her life’s fluid.

Shannon slid under the merry-go-round and forced the change to her human form as slowly as she could. A slow change was the worst of all transformations, but not as painful as getting shot multiple times.

Her body grew again, forcing the plaything up, against its center axle. Bolts resisted, shrieked, and then popped off. She’d gained the attention of the shooters and the zombies as the far end of the merry-go-round rose into the air. The shooting in her direction increased, but the merry-go-round withstood the impacts. The ringing of the rounds ricocheting off the metal was intense. Shannon forced her thoughts of anything getting through away. “I’m gonna live,” she growled. “I’m not dying in a kiddie play yard.”

With a squeal and cry of rending metal the axle broke free from the base. She gripped the bottom braces and used it as a shield for her retreat. As much as she hated the option, the forest had once again become the only safe place.

The gunfire followed her in, and so did the remaining were-zombies. The undead humans, the new-comers and those that had survived the were-zombie culling, pressed on in their assault on the humans in the building. Shannon had no problem leaving them to each other. She couldn’t blame the people for shooting at her, but a little survivor courtesy wouldn’t have hurt either.

The were-zombies’ healing abilities was severely muted. In the glimpses she got from them, she could see the wounds pulsating in the throes of trying to heal. Shannon didn’t care why or was even interested any longer in learning more about them. The only thing she cared about was living. That fact forced her to realize that to survive was to fight and to fight would allow her to find Deidre and kick her ass for leaving her behind.

She arrived at the opposite side of the destroyed Army roadblock. This time she selected a clear place to make a stand if the worse came to pass. Her choices were plentiful, but none were as good as one of the few undestroyed Abrams tanks sitting abandoned three hundred yards away from the roadblock chokepoint. The three tanks smelled and looked abandoned as they sat facing the traffic blockage.

She lopped closer, listening to her distant pursuers as they bumbled their way along searching for her. With quick caution she sniffed the turret and hull. The soldiers’ death odors fought for dominance against their stink of final fear. Thankfully the stink of lingering undead was absent. And as far as she could tell no new lycans laid in wait for her.

She climbed up the hull toward the turret and stared inside. A partially devoured human soldier laid there, hand raised and draped over some object like his last action had been pleading with God for mercy. She stared at him, focusing on his clean shaven, and young, sad face. Tears had streamed from his eyes in his final moments. They left trails down his cheeks, streaking the dirt on his face. His neck and chest protection had been torn away, and the man underneath had been ravaged.  Normally Shannon would be heartbroken for the man, but she wasn’t it. She allowed herself a moment to reflect on the peace of the situation, amid all the gruesomeness. She didn’t reflect for long. The lycans were closer now; growling at each other like dogs quietly arguing over who was alpha.

Shannon had no idea how to start a tank up let alone how to load a main gun or traverse the turret. But she seen a documentary where a Browning M2 machine gun needed to have the charging handle rack twice before use.

She moved to the gun when something grabbed her by her shirt. It was the soldier. His face no longer looked sad and his hand now had a handful of her future instead of reaching for a god too busy to clean up the mess someone had created. And he looked angry as hell. His other hand groped at her until it closed on a handful fur. He was on tight and as Shannon turned and pulled away, he followed her.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” she moaned as she took in the sight of the ragged stumps that were his legs.

“Stop playing with it and kill it, “admonished Greene, sitting cross-legged on the turret. His arm rested on the machine gun by the crew hatch and his face rested in his palm. He looked bored. “If you don’t want me showing up to give commentary then you need to do what needs to be done. Stop dicking around.”

I have got to get rid of you both, she thought.

“Not gonna happen, girl,” answered Greene in the middle of a yawn. “Well, not me at least. Ulp. There he goes, getting a free feel.”

Shannon had allowed herself to get distracted. How could she not have felt the dead man’s grab at her breast? She cursed loudly at the fact that nothing seemed to be operating at normal for her.

She grabbed the back of the zombie soldier’s helmet and yanked it viciously over his face, pulling clumps of scalp away as the skin and helmet came forward. “I. Don’t. Have. Time. For. This,” she bellowed, moving the helmet back and forth until it and the head came off in her hand. The body slid a bit before it rolled off the tank.

Shannon looked angrily at the still active head. The zombie’s mouth seemed to be making “Oh” motions. Its eyes moved, looking from her face to its surroundings. Disgusted, Shannon peeled off the helmet, and tossed it aside. With renewed anger she smashed the head face first into the hatchway rim. The skull caved under the assault, ending both of their suffering.

She lowered herself into the turret, giving a final look to the woods. She judged by the rising undead scent that it’d be another five minutes before they found her, plenty of time for her to resume human form one more time.

The change back to human was just as painful quickly as her recent slow change to lycan. It was all the transformation back and forth in so short a time period that caused her body to hurt. “Once this shit storm clears, I’m finding a place to roost for the night,” she mused stripping off her clothes to look at her wounds. Her body was healing, but she felt beat to shit. Sleep was as much a priority as food.

“Five minutes my ass,” she hissed her ears picked up the sounds of shuffling feet and clawing hands against the tank’s thick armor. The zombie mass made it to her position in half of her projected time. She dressed quickly before popping the hatch open. A few that heard the hatch open looked up at her and became excited at the sight of living meat. The majority however moved away from the tank. They knew she was about, but were unable to fully regain her scent.

“Yoo Hooo! Boys and girls!” She waved at them, muttering, “Or whatever you are these days.”

Those further out turned to the sound of her voice and began their awkward charge.

“That’s it. It’s feeding time at the zoo.” She traversed the heavy machine gun and pressed the butterfly trigger. Nothing. She pressed once more and still nothing. “Duh,” she said wearily. She had forgotten about the charging handle. Her tired arms responded sluggishly at pulling it back. It took both hands to do it, and the second pull was harder than the first. She managed it before trying the trigger again. Her entire body reverberated with the satisfying bum-bum-bum of the massive rounds leaving the barrel, and the melodic rattle of empty casings hitting the turret.

The lycan zombies’ heads and upper bodies became dull red spray and chunks of joy as far as Shannon was concerned. Undead lower bodies fell in half running steps to the ground. She knew better, but she fired at their remains just for the fun of it.

She eased off the trigger and looked around. Nothing further came from the tree line or from either side of the road. She waited longer, wondering if she shouldn’t fire into the trees in the hopes of hitting the building on the other side. She knew she could more than likely hit it, but didn’t fire. The thought of families being trapped in the building stopped her. Her anger rose at what had happened, but she kept her thumbs on the wooden grips. Leaving whoever was there alone was a better choice than stupid revenge.

She released her grip on the Browning and moved back down inside the turret. “Well, at least we know what the other guy’s last meal was,” she said, staring at another soldier seated in a splayed fashion in what she assumed was the commander’s position.

“Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” She kicked the body and tittered. The man had several large chunks of flesh torn from his throat and bite marks decorated his face. It was clear he had spent the last of his energy shooting himself and not his attacker. “Well, up and at ‘em.” She laughed louder and wondered if this was what the onset of insanity felt like. She glanced around at the white interior and its sticky and gummy, red splashes. The patterns the matter made was pretty, and she laughed again at the sight.

With shaking hands she muscled the remains of another crewman toward the open commander’s hatch. Her body cried out at the strain in getting the body out. Normally it wouldn’t have been so hard, but even a werewolf got tired after nonstop running and fighting. The adrenaline rush had left her. Every move was hard and arduous. Finally she got it to the top of the gently sloping turret and climbed out. It was only a matter of pushing his body off the turret to the road. Weary as Shannon was she persevered and dragged the body away from her home for the night.

She went to the other tanks. Most had been riddled with something far bigger than a .50 caliber machine gun, but smaller than a tank’s main gun. The crews were truly and really dead. The heavier rounds had punched through the armor and shredded the crew members. Outside bodies were everywhere and Shannon didn’t waste time in investigating the burnt out remains of military vehicles. The scant few she had searched stank of cooked pork, and worse.

A good number of the dead soldiers manning the roadblock appeared unbitten. “Killed by your own people while trying to get away,” she muttered. “What a waste.”

In the glow of the setting sun she went from body to body, patting them down for anything worthy. She was fortunate to find undamaged ammunition, a few uneaten MRE’s and some protein bars. Water wasn’t a problem as most had full canteens in reserve to the now punctured CamelBak’s.

She gathered a couple Sig and Beretta pistols and magazines and carried them back to the tank that now served as her rest area.

The sun was disappearing behind the horizon, and nothing seemed as safe as a tank. As long as she remained quiet Shannon figured she could hold out the night in the turret.

Shannon settled in, locking the hatch behind her. She ate her meal of beef stroganoff and protein bars, listening to the metal cool in the night air as the darkness arrived. Later she listened to the wind sweep by and the occasional undead footfall scrap by. The sounds gave her peace, oddly enough and she fell into an unusually restful sleep.

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter Twenty-one and Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-one

 

She watched as the women made ready their vehicle for departure. She’d been aware of them since the moment they’d entered town, and had taken precautions for at best hiding her presence, and at worst masking it. She wasn’t concerned if this one was tagging along with humans. She was doing the same, albeit using them as expendables. It had been easy to manipulate them into doing what she wanted and needed. God bless the predictability of humans. She’d used the misogynistic attitudes of her fellow law-enforcement officers to groom the human females into killing whoever she wanted.

Initially the elder lycan had looked on the shambling undead with worry as the humans had. They did nothing but interfere with her hunting. They were carnivores like her, and she didn’t like competition. However she came to look at them as excellent cover for her nocturnal excursions. It was glorious to hunt as she was meant to hunt. And the continuing collapse of the infrastructure was a god-send. Bloody brilliant. She had planned on keeping the women around as fodder for the immediate and as food for the long-term. And then the female lycan and the humans came.

Ricketts and the others had been very keen on killing the male police that had deigned to finally do the right thing. “Fuck protect and serve,” declared Ricketts, the most eager of the group. “What’ve they ever done for us? And the assholes in this precinct; fuck ‘em. ‘Oh, well. A good ass fucking will fix that attitude,’” she’d said in a mocking bass tone. “’Damn, woman. You on the rag or something?’ Heh. Showed them, didn’t we?” Ricketts had been most receptive to the idea and was very happy to convince the newer female members to join her. “Stupid,” muttered the elder female lycan as she watched Kelsey help Rance into the vehicle. She assumed the utterance was for both sets of women, and hadn’t meant it to be said aloud.

The female lycan was exiting the building when she paused suddenly and peered into the elder’s general direction. The elder narrowed her eyes and mentally snarled. The elder had heard her name as Shannon. That one needed watching indeed. How long would it be before the smell of fresh blood registered in her nose? Speaking of which…

She turned to Ricketts and motioned for the woman to follow her away from their observation post.

Together, with the lycan in the lead, they threaded their way through the city proper. The elder paused inside an abandoned real estate office when she was certain they were not only downwind of Shannon and the others, but also clear of where sound could carry. She did, however, make sure the wind would carry her final message of the day to Shannon.

“I’m sorry, Margie,” said Ricketts in a whining tone. “Wench got the drop on me. They sucker punched, and tortured me. I can make it right. Let me go back, Margie. Let me go and I’ll-”

The elder put a finger on Ricketts’ lips. “Shhh. Address me as Sergeant Drexler, Jonnie. I call you Jonnie and you call me Sergeant Drexler. Or just Sergeant. That’s how command works.” She removed her finger from the woman’s lips. “You did fine, dearie. Perfectly fine. I’ll let them live first. It’s been too long since I’ve had the opportunity to have this kind of experience.”

Ricketts rubbed her hands together eagerly. “Can I have my pistol back, Mar… Sergeant?” She looked around. “Where’s Feagle, and, um, Moore?”

Drexler smiled faintly. “I killed them. Once I realized the newcomers had a talented lycan in their midst, I had to free up some dead weight as it were.”

“You killed them?” Ricketts’ eyes widened and then narrowed. They darted left and right continuously as she ascertained what was about to happen.

Ricketts’ right foot took a step backwards, but it was a wasted movement.

Drexler’s right hand shot out, and grabbed Ricketts by the throat. She crushed

 Ricketts’ airway even as she was lifting the woman up off the ground. With an experienced motion she lifted Ricketts above her head and slammed her against the ground. Ricketts’ spine snapped and her head collapsed.  Ricketts’ eyes were wide and confused for a moment and then they grew dark.

            Time to write home, thought Drexler as she threw the dead Ricketts onto her shoulder.


Chapter Twenty-two

 

Deidre didn’t rush anyone into moving on mode. Instead she moved with slow precision, almost as if she were moving on strict muscle memory. The times she walked past Shannon she almost avoided meeting her eyes.

Once they had the last of salvage from the sheriff’s office Shannon stopped her with a reassuring hand on Deidre’s shoulder.

“Hey, shit happens. Even I’ve been gotten the best of,” she said, unsure of how much she wanted to share. She was taking a chance on reconnecting with a woman that wanted to kill her the day before.

“I’m not a great warrior. Never was. I know my way around firearms because I volunteered for it wherever I could. But I knew better than to go it alone with watching that bitch. I knew better and went ahead with a wrong call.” Deidre ran her right hand through her sweat stained, dirty hair. She welcomed the small breeze that cooled her face. “She got away, and that’s my fault.”

“She didn’t get far,” said Shannon with a more concentrated reassuring tone. “She’s dead. I can smell it on the wind.”

Deidre went to shoulder her shotgun, but Shannon stopped her.

“The old lycan that did her in is gone.” Shannon sighed. “I need to see the body.”

“Deidre blinked at Shannon in bewilderment. “Why? She’s dead. You smell that so end of story.”

“No. Not end of story. She, and the killer is a she, left that woman’s body where I could sniff it. She wants me to see it. Send me a message if anything else.”

“Oh hell no.”

“Oh hell yes. We’ve bought ourselves some trouble with this town that outranks the undead. Girl, I’m thinking the forecast is there’s an eighty percent chance of we’re fucked. I’m going to take a look. I’ll be back in a moment or two. If you hear a fight going on, you get Kelsey and Rance out of here. Don’t look back, just get the hell out as quick as you can.”

Deidre laughed bitterly. The sound caused Kelsey and Rance to look at them. Deidre waved them back to whatever they were doing.

“You don’t get to pull that gung-ho, Lone Ranger BS. Where we go one, we go all. That, and I’m still not sure you aren’t working with this…woman or whatever the hell she is.” Deidre smiled weakly.

“Yeah. That’s what we’re doing. Working together to fuck with your heads.”

They found Ricketts almost ten minutes later. The human woman had been hung nude, upside from a lamp post and gutted like a deer. Kelsey clutched Rance closely and looked away as Shannon and Deidre examined the corpse.

“I told you I wanted to come alone, but no, you had to come along,” taunted Shannon mirthlessly as Deidre vomited. “We’re probably going to be seeing more like this in the coming days.” Shannon walked around Ricketts’ body. She wanted to throw her stomach’s contents up as well, but she kept it all down.

Small wonder I’m able to, thought Shannon as she examined the body. The elder had taken time in covering Ricketts in her excrement. The foulness was mixed with both what she had expelled in death and what lined her intestines. To add insult to injury with the body a rolled piece of paper protruded from Ricketts’ rectum. It looked like a perverse Tootsie Roll Pop. Tootsie Roll Poop, thought Shannon. The thought came against her will. She hated herself for it.

“Tell me you’re really not going to pull that out,” asked Deidre, wiping her mouth as she joined Shannon.

“Unless I miss my guess, this is a message in a message.”

“Not funny or ironic or whatever this chick thinks it is. Humans are shit is what I get from all of it”

“Exactly.” Shannon looked around and found a discarded Nestle Crunch wrapper to use as a shield against touching any of Ricketts’ waste. She leaned closer to the swinging body. The wind had picked up and the body was beginning to twist. “Hold her steady.”

“Piss on you. You’re on your own.” Deidre took a step back, and her scowl deepened.

“Don’t you mean shit on you? Look, just hold her body, dammit.”

Deidre bent to the head and took it in both hands. The coagulated mess of Ricketts hair squished lightly in her hands. Deidre stared into the empty eyes and felt a pang of pity mix with her revulsion. She went to readjust her hands and her fingers scrapped against something sharp mixed with something repulsively soft. Oh my God I’m touch busted skull and grey matter, she thought. “Hurry up. I’m getting nauseated.”

“Oh. Sorry. I was done right after you grabbed her head.”

“Bitch,” said Deidre as Shannon joined her.

“The real bitch had the decency, maybe, to wrap the ass end in some sandwich baggie. Here.” Shannon thrust another hand written note to Deidre.

“Don’t want it.” Deidre took a step back. “How about you read it.”

Shannon looked crossly at Deidre, and then began.

“’I don’t know what your name is, nor do I care.’ Feeling the love already,” grumbled Shannon. “’But you seem to be worthy of my attention. Whether that is to hunt you and your companions won’t be made known to you until I wish to make it known.’” Shannon smirked. “Yada, yada, yada. ‘I hope you won’t be a disappointment.’ Blah, blah, blah.” Shannon crumpled the note and tossed it aside. “It’s just hot air and bluster. I don’t care how old she is, this chick is off her nut, as my mom used to say.”

“What?” said Deidre incredulously.

“What are you talking about?” called Kelsey. “What’s going on? I think we need to leave.”

“Just wait,” Deidre called to Kelsey. “You stay over there with Rance, and let us deal with this.” She looked back to Shannon. Her brows furled together as she leaned forward. “Fifteen minutes ago you acted like this was something harsh that could only be handled by you, and wanted us to get the hell out of here so you could deal with. Or join her. Now, you’re blowing it off. What’s going on/” Deidre realized then that her nails were tapping impatiently on the 9mm on her thigh.

“Alright. You want to know what the note says, you read it.” Shannon didn’t want her to know the truth of the matter. The note was succinct, and nothing good came from it.

“Fucking bitch,” hissed Deidre, calling Shannon’s bluff. She bent down, and swallowed her pride as she scooped the letter up. One side bore the redundant declaration that McDonald’s hamburgers were made 100% real beef and on the other was the message, hastily scribbled in greasy black letters. Is that eyeliner, pondered Deidre as she turned the waxy paper over in her hands. Written on it was three common words that meant trouble would follow them as long as they lived. You’re fucked now.

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter Twenty

I’ve been busy these past three months, so you, dear readers, have been neglected. I’m a crappy author in the sense that it feels like I’ve abandoned you. I guess I have. There’s no denying it, I’ve let you down and not fulfilled my end of our bargain. I owe you a refund for the price of admission. With that said, I hope you enjoy chapter twenty of Werewolves of the Dead.

Chapter Twenty

 “Come on, sunshine. Wake up. We don’t have all night.” Deidre patted the woman’s right cheek with back of her hand. “Come on, now.”

The cop’s eyes fluttered open. “Wha-,” she said half asleep. “Where… What-.”

Shannon slapped her viciously across the face. “How many are in your group?” Shannon slapped her again. “Answer me!” She raised her hand to slap again, but Deidre stopped her.

“Relax, okay? Smacking the crap out of her isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

Shannon jerked her hand out of Deidre’s. “She needs to talk and quick. For all we know there are few dozen about to come in through those doors at any moment.”

The woman laughed. Tears from the slaps trickled from her eyes and down the red hand-sized welts on her cheeks. “Are you really playing bad cop good cop? You must think I’m stupid. Seriously? Do you dumb cunts have any idea-”

Deidre’s fist collided with the woman’s nose. The crunching cartilage was louder than either Shannon or Deidre had expected. The cop’s head flopped backwards and then rolled onto her right shoulder.

“Shit,” spat Deidre. “I hit her too hard.” She flexed her hand, wincing at the pain. I’ve never had to hit anyone outside of a martial arts class. Damned if it’s not the same without a glove. Did I kill her?”

Shannon checked her wrist and neck. “Nope. You just knocked her out. Anymore hits like that and she’s going to have some serious Derpy eyes.”

“To hell with her eyes. I think I messed my hand up.”

“You didn’t mess your hand up too badly. Stop whining and help wake her up. Hey,” Shannon snapped her fingers impatiently at Deidre. “Go get some water to splash on her.”

Deidre returned with a bottle of water, which she poured onto the woman’s head. The water ran down her face, trailing blood onto her uniform. She spluttered and gagged, spitting out blood in between gasps for air.

“Hey. “Come one…” Shannon fingered the woman’s name tag. “Ricketts. Come on, Ricketts. She didn’t hit you that hard.”

Ricketts’ eyes fluttered open. “Wha-,” she said thickly.

“I hit you,” answered Deidre, cutting off any further questions. “Listen. How many are there of you?” Deidre spoke slowly as she bent closer to Ricketts’ face.

“Just the two of us.”

Shannon moved behind Ricketts, and leaned to her ear. “Stop lying. I know you’re lying. Now answer the question truthfully. How many more of you can we expect to walk in?”

“There was only two of us.”

Deidre looked up to Shannon. Shannon tapped her nose and held up four fingers.

“Wrong,” said Deidre, punching Ricketts in the stomach.

Ricketts wheezed loudly as she fought for breath. “Just-”

Shannon grabbed Ricketts’ hair and pulled her head backwards. God, what am I doing, she thought as she pulled out a knife and put it against Ricketts’ throat. Oh shit! I’m going to cut her throat, now?

Deidre locked eyes with Shannon and gave her a stern don’t-do-it look. Shannon ignored it.

“I’m a hair’s breadth away from cutting you from ear to ear. Don’t lie. How many?”

“There’s just us two,” screamed Ricketts. Tears poured from her eyes while pain and rage fueled her defiance.

“Liar,” hissed Shannon as she pressed the knife against Ricketts’ throat. A thin horizontal line appeared under the blade and a trickle of blood ran down toward the woman’s black uniform.

“Four,” cried Ricketts. More tears came from her eyes at the realization that Shannon meant to cut her throat.

Shannon removed the knife from her throat, and forcefully pushed Ricketts’ head forward. She stood, and gave a thumbs up to Deidre.

Deidre responded to the motion with a baleful look. “When are they due back?”

“In the morning,” said Ricketts in a low voice. “They’re only a supply run.”

“We need to be gone by then,” said Shannon.

“No shit. Look, Ricketts. We’re going to leave you here until we’re ready to leave. We’ll cut you loose before we beat feet.”

“Drexler will kill you. When she catches you.” Ricketts spoke in a hoarse whisper. “She’s not going to let you get away from robbing us. We’re cops, you know. What we have, we-”

Shannon balled up her hand and clubbed Ricketts across her right ear, knocking her to the floor and to unconsciousness once more.

“You didn’t want to hear that any more than I did.”

“The fuck was that, Shannon? You were going to cut that woman’s head off.”

“And you were going to beat her to death. What’s the difference? My way was faster.”

“Your way was morally wrong,” answered Deidre indignantly. “And I wasn’t going to beat her to death.”

Shannon cocked her head. “You’re going to talk to me about morals? Torture’s torture regardless of the ultimate goal being death or not.”

“And you’ve never tortured any of your,” Deidre paused, searching for the word. “Prey,” she said finally.

Shannon’s mouth opened and closed and then opened again. She closed it leaving any rebuttal unsaid.

“Thought so. My morals are played out with this one here.” Deidre motioned to the unconscious Ricketts. Look here. We need to keep watch on this one until morning. We’ll let her go, but not before I strip her ass damn near naked and send her on her way.”

“Letting her go is the only decent thing to do.”

“This coming from the werewolf that killed a couple of our…my… friends. Leaving this one alive is a mistake. I think you know it, even if all you want to do is assuage your poor, guilty conscience.” Deidre spoke the last four words dripping with sarcastic pity. “Go on to bed. I’ll keep watch over her.” She hiked her thumb toward the door, urging Shannon to leave. Shannon did.

On her way upstairs Shannon wondered if she was doing right by leaving Deidre alone with Ricketts. Deidre was showing aspects of herself that Shannon had never considered had existed. She had no other option but assume that Deidre was going to do the right thing; regardless of what that right thing would be.

The next morning Shannon awoke, feeling refreshed as the sun streamed into the office she, Kelsey, and Rance occupied. Her roommates were still sound asleep. She stretched and looked at the sunlight. She jumped to her feet and looked around the room in a panic as she realized that it was around 9AM. She glanced at her watch and saw that it was indeed 9:33 AM. She’d slept longer than she wanted and longer than was warranted.

She rushed down stairs, dropping the magazine to her 1911, confirming that it was full. She paused suddenly. There were two new scents in the air, and one of them had been a werewolf.

Fuck me, she thought, pulling the pistol’s slide back. She’d gotten good at catching the round that flew from the ejection port in midair. She pocketed the unspent ammo and cautiously crept to the basement.

She sniffed the air and methodically cleared every hallway and room she came across. The scents were fresh, only a few hours old, and their owners had done the same as her. She could smell the cautious anger and gun oil that lingered with the smell of two women. One belonged to a mid-twenties human while the other, the one that had been in the lead, smelled of old lycan. Older than Shannon certainly and by default much more dangerous than her.

Shannon entered the armory and found Deidre tied to a chair. Clumps of her hair lay around her, and dried blood covered her upper lip. Aside from those indignities, Deidre was relatively untouched. A note was penned to Deidre, and Shannon bent down to read it.

Dear Lycan I’ve never met, it said. We’re leaving your friend relatively unharmed. We’re not the savages you may think we are, but certainly appear to be. Officer Ricketts failed us, and she will be dealt with. And so will you. In time. Best regards, ME. PS: We left the keys on the desk.

Shannon’s eyes darted over the handwritten note. The scrawl was careful and at any other time would have been beautiful. The note was melodramatic to her, and she knew that the woman, lycan, or whatever would hunt them in time. That was a thought to contend with later. Right now she had to revive Deidre.

“Deidre,” she said, retrieving the handcuff keys from the desk. “Deidre. Wake up.”

Deidre snorted, her eyes fluttered, and she started snoring.

“That’s not what I need right now,” shrieked Shannon as she shook Deidre so violently that she overturned the chair she was bound to.

“Fucking shit,” Deidre screamed in raging defiance. “Why am I tied to this chair? Goddammit, Shannon!”

Shannon righted Deidre and unlocked the handcuffs. “Where’s that bitch at? Last thing I remember was hearing someone say hey behind me, and then… Fuck! Where is she, Shannon?”

Shannon looked around the room. She didn’t have it in her to look Deidre in the eye. Whoever had come in and rescued Ricketts had done so under her nose too. And her nose was supposedly far superior to Deidre’s. “She’s gone.” She turned back to Deidre. “Another lycan and a human got her. You have a mild concussion. I can smell it.”

“Piss on that,” railed Deidre, kicking a chair into a reinforced window. She paused, breathe heaving. “Maybe I do need a sit down. I’m a little light headed.”

Shannon helped her to sit down. Shannon had her back to the armory entrance; she stood facing Deidre.

“Body’s gone,” said Deidre finally, motioning toward the makeshift barricade. “Probably took it with them to give it a proper burial or some such.” She sighed and stared into Shannon’s eyes. “How’d they get by us? By you?”

“I don’t know anything other than we need to get our crap and go. This place isn’t safe, if it ever was.”

“Brilliant deduction, home-girl.”

Deidre walked out the door, and Shannon could see her wobbling walk. Deidre was trying her best to cover it up even while she muttered that she had no reason to get mad at Shannon. “You’re the one that fucked up not her. Home-girl? What the fuck was that too say.”

Shannon wanted to say something pithy behind Deidre, but couldn’t. If what she smelled was real and true, then they were in some truly real trouble. An Elder, as she called them, meant she was seriously out classed, outgunned, and out experienced.

“Fuck this for a game of soldiers,” she groused nervously as she climbed the stairs.

As Shannon hit the second floor landing she could hear Deidre ordering everyone to get their proverbial shit together. “We’re outta here in five.”

Deidre rounded the corner and almost knocked Shannon over.

“Sorry,” apologized Deidre, moving around Shannon.

“We should’ve never been here in the first place,” muttered Shannon. And Shannon moved faster than she ever had in getting her personal effects ready for departure.

This is copyrighted 2016 work. You must ask for permission to redistribute. If you haven’t asked and use it anyway, then you suck, you bloody thief.

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