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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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

 

Deidre had to use the stairs to get to the basement. She had opted for the elevator at first, but someone had locked off the basement. That in and of itself was enough to set her Deidre-sense off. She pondered whether going below was a good idea, but she went ahead anyway.

As if she needed another clue to stay out, the double doors were barred shut with a 12 gauge riot gun. She pulled the shotgun out from the handles and examined it. It looked functional, but someone had left it for a reason. “I’ll worry about you later,” she muttered, leaning it against the door frame.

Deidre flipped the switch at the head of the stairs. Nothing happened. She flipped it off and on again. No change.

“This is a bad idea, she said, stepping down onto the first step. She switched on the tactical flashlight on the shotguns handguard. The set of winding stairs were lit by emergency lighting that was well on its way to going out. She played her tactical flashlight on a hastily scrawled message. Armory empty. All Dead Below. The three foot tall message was scrawled on a beige painted cinder block wall at the bottom of the first turn of the stairwell. Deidre absentmindedly chambered a round into her own shot gun. The unspent round flew out and tumbled down the stairs.

She turned and put a foot on the step on the step above. She froze, thinking of the unspent round. “Waste not, want not.” The reminder came unwanted even as a voice told her that phrase didn’t necessarily apply to that situation. She walked down anyway.

The hallways were dark and only illuminated by the dying light of the emergency lighting. She cursed the buildings former occupants for destroying the overhead lights.

“We’re underground. No point in killing the lights. Stupid monkeys,” she muttered. She paused at a corner, took a breath and quickly stepped into the intersection. The shotgun’s flashlight illuminated empty hallways. She looked around the walls. There were no signs indicating the armory’s location. Figures, she thought, moving down a hallway picked at random.

Deidre moved cautiously from hallway to hallway, slowly opening doors. She found nothing, but storage spaces, broom closets and assorted offices.

“Where’s the fucking armory,” she said with more bitterness and loudness than she’d wanted. Her mind heard a groan, or she was sure it was her mind.

She spun around, letting the beam of light fill every suspect and non-suspect space it could reach.

She heard the groan again.

This is stupid, her mind said with growing anger. Turn back. You can get the hell out now and you know the way’s clear.

Could be a newly turned zed. I could run into it on the way back, she argued.

Or-

“Now I’m arguing with myself,” she hissed moving back down the hall where she’d come.

She took the only turn she hadn’t taken and came across a pock-marked wall facing a hallway with even more bullet holes.

Bodies lay on the floor and congealed blood was pooled everywhere. You’re right, she said to her better sense. This is a bad idea. She went ahead anyway.

Every still body she came across was most certainly dead. And they had been wholly and richly alive when they’d died. Dead bodies don’t bleed, and Deidre was very happy to remember that tidbit. The group she inspected had numbered a dozen, with some police, but mostly civilians in their numbers. It appeared that they had tried to take the armory. It didn’t make sense to Deidre, especially when she saw the woman clutching the months old baby. She was one of only two people who had fallen facing the opposite direction.

She stepped gingerly over the woman and her child. Reflexively, and with no small amount of revulsion, the touched the child. He, or she, was dead. She rose and then a black clad figure stepped from around the corner, startling her. She meant to lean into the shotgun and order the person to back up but she never had a chance. She slipped on the woman and baby’s blood and fell backwards as the figure squeezed the trigger of their MP5 submachine gun. The rounds buzzed madly over her face and Deidre accidently squeezed the trigger of her tactical shotgun.

She swore later that she could see the startled eyes behind the gasmask change to anger right before the 12 gauge slug tore through their head. The SWAT dressed person crumpled, their finger stuck on the trigger firing the weapon once more. The round landed between Deidre’s splayed legs.

Deidre scooted backwards on the bloody floor though not far. Her jeans rubbed against the nearly drying mess as she collided with a wall. The abrupt stop was enough for her to rap her head hard against the gray painted, cemented cinder blocks.

Her heart beat fast and she forced her breathe to a normal pace which also helped slow her heart down. “You tried to kill me,” she said in astonishment. “Why did you try to kill me?”

“What we have, we keep,” wheezed a voice from down the hall. “Goddamned…looter.” The last part was spoken in the middle of a wet cough. The defiance and certainty that the voice’s owner was in charge reignited Deidre’s rage. “You tried to kill me,” she screamed. “Who do you think you are?”

She stood and hoisted the shotgun to her shoulder. She was about to charge around the corner, which led to the armory, but stopped in time, saving herself the hassle of being shot. Chunks of the corner scratched and her face. She closed her eyes in time, avoiding most of the dust.

“What we have, we keep,” said the voice again. This time it sounded weaker and the cough was louder.

Deidre quickly stepped around the corner, taking a fraction of a moment to judge the distance to the speaker. He, she, whatever, wasn’t but sixty feet away and laying on the ground, peeking from behind a barricade of overturned tables adorned with bullet resistant vests. She could see the faceplate of a riot helmet, peeking out from behind the barricade.

The speaker raised their pistol, and squeezed the trigger once more. The shot missed. Deidre swore she could have seen the air part as it passed her. She might have found that interesting if it were on TV, but this little shit heel was trying to kill her in real life. She sprinted down the hall. Two more poorly aimed shots streaked in her general direction. It wasn’t until later that she realized she had pissed herself.

She rounded a corner and discovered another cop propped against a steel door, staring up at her. “You’re fast,” the officer said between gasps. Deidre did a quick assessment. It was a woman, and she was bleeding out from her right armpit behind her body armor. “Stupid asses,” she paused and drew in a sharp breathe. Her voice was muffled through the gasmask she wore. “Stupid asses tried to get in, steal our stash. What’s ours, we keep.” The cop flipped up her face plate, and moved to take her mask off. “Si vis pacem parabellum.” She struggled and then finally pulled it off. The chubby face underneath the mask was sweaty and dirty and her complexion was only five minutes ahead of a zombie’s. She gasped and then chuckled weakly.

“You tried to kill me. Fuck those people out there. You tried to kill me.” The baby flashed through Deidre’s mind. She regretted the fuck those people remark instantly. The time to be emotional for others wasn’t then, and she knew it. Dead was dead and she wasn’t.

“Si vis pacem parabellum, bi-”

The female cop didn’t get the opportunity to finish. Deidre raised the shotgun and squeezed the trigger. The face disappeared in gush of skull, teeth, skin, hair and gore.

The shotgun’s magazine had been staggered with buckshot and slugs, and a pellet the size of a .32 caliber round ricocheted into Deidre’s thigh. Her pumping adrenaline allowed her to ignore the pain, but she knew she’d taken a hit.

“If you want peace, prepare for war. But you weren’t prepared for me, were you?”

Deidre turned to the bodies down the hall. “What’s this world coming to?”

The armory was mostly cleaned out of weaponry. The cops that had defended it had stocked up on food and water. They had been smart enough to keep their communications going along with centralizing what ammo and weapons remained. Securing food and water had been paramount to them.

Deidre was inventorying their stores when a noise from the hallway reached her. It could have been a dragging foot or a muted moan. It could have been anything, and anything these days usually entailed trouble.

She ducked into a corner behind a stack of boxes laden with SPAM. She waited and then a dark figure stepped into the room. The figure had a Mossberg police shotgun and it scanned the room before moving toward the dead female cop. The figure kicked the feet, making sure the body was no longer a threat. Nothing happened.

“I know you’re in here,” said a female voice, trying to sound convivial. “I’m not going to hurt you if you give up now.”

“What you have, you keep, right?” responded Deidre.

“Only if you’re male,” answered the female officer.

“And what if you’re an armed woman?” Stop trying to dialogue with them, screamed Deidre’s more cautious mind. They’re only going to kill you anyway.

“I’m not going to kill you, unless you come at me intent on killing me like you did Dalton. No loss though. Marjorie was a pain the ass brown-noser.

Deidre could feel the woman stealthily closing on her position. Before she knew it the woman was almost in front of her. Deidre leapt up and stuck her shotgun in the woman’s jaw. “Don’t,” she said, pressing harder. The new arrival ceased movement.

“You’re not going to shoot,” she said, moving her hand down to her thigh holstered pistol.

Deidre swung the butt of her shotgun into the back of the woman’s head. The cop’s helmet took the brunt of the hit, but she still fell to the floor.

A sound of something soft and heavy hitting something hard and unyielding caused Deidre to look over her shoulder.

The female cop took advantage of Deidre’s lapse in attention and sprang from the floor, grabbing Deidre’s shotgun. Deidre pushed the woman forward and kneed her in the stomach as hard as she could. Her knee connected with the solid flak jacket the female cop wore.

The female cop raised an elbow to bring it down on Deidre’s collar bone, but froze with the elbow raised beside her ear.

“Fuck me,” screamed the cop. Instead of an elbow, the cop kicked Deidre in the crotch. The woman had her pistol raised toward the doorway before Deidre hit the floor.

Shannon stepped further into the room and flung another SWAT garbed figure at the cop. The limp figure collided with the woman sending her tumbling backwards into the reinforced wire cage of the armory.

Shannon was in full werewolf form and on top of the woman before she could recover. Deftly she cut through the chin strap and removed the helmet. “Don’t you know how to treat guests,” raved Shannon as she brought the helmet down against the woman’s head. Three blows and the female cop was unconscious.

She dropped the helmet and moved to Deidre.

“I’m okay,” said Deidre, forcing herself to her feet. “Did you kill her?”

Shannon picked up the shotgun and handed it to Deidre. “She’s alive, but she’ll probably wish she wasn’t come the morning.”

“You should’ve killed her.” Deidre motioned toward the other unconscious officer. “Her friend dead?”

“No,” grunted Shannon. She returned to human. The pain was intense and Deidre looked away. The sound of ripping flesh during the change was what she imagined she’d hear as zombies tore into her. It made her want to cry and then shoot Shannon, or vice versa.

“Can you pick another time to do that other than around me? That’s creepy and not to mention gross.” She gave the naked Shannon a disgusted look. “And you’re naked. Why are you naked?”

“It’s easier to hunt this way sometimes. Plus I was in the shower. They have hot water still.”

“Hate to get you bloody again, but you need to kill them.”

“Really?” Shannon looked quizzically at Diedre. “I mean…really?”

They tried to kill me. They would have tried to kill you too. As well as Kelsey and Rance. If we let them live they’ll just kill the next person that stumbles into here. Heaven forbid they run low on consumables.” Deidre sighed. “Jesus, I can’t believe I’m explaining this to you of all people. Just kill them.”

Shannon smiled, pulled one of the cops up by her throat, and twisted her neck sharply. The sound of the vertebrae giving way made Deidre’s stomach involuntarily clench.

“I totally agree with you. I just was surprised to hear you say it so readily.” Shannon paused halfway down to the next one. “What if they have friends out there?” Shannon said haltingly. “It’s possible.”

“Possible.” Deidre shrugged. “It’s even probable. If anything else we’ll leave them here as a message.”

“I think we need to interrogate this one. Keep her alive for that much anyway.”

Deidre thought it over a moment and then answered in agreement. “Where’s Kelsey and Rance? They good?”

“They’re fine. When do we begin?”

“Right after you get some clothes on.”

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A Game Called Wick by Sarah McKinney

Hey there, everyone! Today I have a guest post by my oldest daughter, Sarah McKinney. Saturday, Sarah turns the magical age of 13. That’s right, she becomes a full fledged teenager. I thought I would celebrate her day in advance by showcasing a story she came up with for her 8th grade English Language Arts class. She based it on a horror game on Steam called Wick. Her writing prompt was to write it in the present tense so it’s a little different than what most readers are used to reading. I hope you all enjoy it as much as she enjoyed writing it.

Wick_Greenlight_screenshot_FE_Title-1024x640.png

A Game of “Wick”

Sarah McKinney

HR: Smallcomb

Narrative Writing Essay

9/1/2016

The pine needles that cover the forest floor crunch under your feet. You hear the loud creak of the old park gate as it opens slowly. You and your friends have decided to play a game called Wick. One person will be blindfolded and sent into the woods with a single light source, a candle, and will stay there until morning comes. Supposedly, dead children haunt the woods and if you go after hours, you can see the children by the light of a candle, and, supposedly, they will try to kill you. You all had drawn straws to see who would be left in the woods, and you were the losing party.

“Are you guys sure about this?” one of your friends asks.

“Yeah! There is no way that stupid little legend is true!” another replies. You hear a flare of a match and someone lighting a candle.

“But what if it is?” the third calls.

“Then we wouldn’t be doing it!” the other said enthusiastically.

“Well, we’ll see you at six! Don’t die!”

You wait until the sound of their footsteps have faded to remove the blindfold. The forest is black as pitch, save a glowing candle on the ground. You pick up the candle and look around. You could have sworn that you saw a small figure, but surely it was your eyes playing tricks on you. You begin to walk, glancing around occasionally. You know for a fact there have been children that have died here, but there is no way that legend is true, right?

Not so far after you begin this unrealistic game, you come across a small line of gravestones. You approach them cautiously, feeling a malevolent presence close by. Next to one of the gravestones is a candle. You light it with the one you are carrying and pick it up. As you look up, for a spit second, you see a young boy with a mask on. Your eyes are playing tricks on you, or you must be really tired, right? You shake your head to clear it and move on.

By now you have been in this forest for what feels like hours. You tilt you head up to look at the sky, but sure enough, you can’t see it through the cluster of branches above you. Instead of focusing on something that you cannot see, you focus on the path. A young boy comes from out of the trees and runs across your path. It appears to be the same boy you saw last time, but surely your sleep deprived brain is messing with you, right? You become more suspicious. Your tired brain making assumptions that are certainly wrong. That legend isn’t true! It is just an old wives’ tale to keep people from going into the forest at night!

You continue down the path, but not for long. There he is, that hallucination you have seen twice now. He drops from a tree and is running straight at you. You didn’t have time to think; you only run. You didn’t care if he is a hallucination at this point; you want to run, to escape what is surely a grizzly fate. You hold the candle in front of you, covering the flame from the wind that is rushing past you to keep it lit. Then, a strong gust of wind blows by you; the candle goes out.

You throw the candle on the ground and strain your muscles to run faster. You can hear him chasing you, but you don’t think to turn around. You just run. Your whole body hurts, but you keep running. You won’t risk slowing down. You feel a hand tighten around your wrist, and you turn around. The boy is there. He punches you and pain shoots through your body. You fall onto your back, and he punches you again. Your vison blurs. Another hit, your vision is darkening. Hit again, you can hardly see anything or move. Through your blurred vision, you see him looking at you with his smirking mask and a tilt of his head. You can tell he is taunting you, and you want to rip his mask off and destroy his smug face…but you can’t. He throws his head back and head-butts you. Everything goes black.

This is a work of fiction and Wick is the creation of Steam, and the story is the sole property of Sarah McKinney and reproduced her with her permission. Copyright September 2016.

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen

 

They piled their weapons and the remainder of Shannon’s clothes into Shannon’s restored Chevy Nova. Shannon was ordered to drive, which was fine by her; it was her car. The march of the undead had dwindled to almost a sporadic single or due. When they pulled out the parking lot those nearest lurched hurriedly toward them.

Shannon, feeling cockier than the situation called for, aimed for one and missed. Instead it latched onto the rearview mirror and hung on until Deidre rolled down the window and shot it in the head.

“Don’t be such a wildcat,” ordered Deidre, replacing the spent round from the shotgun.

“And maybe you shouldn’t waste ammo or fire so close to the interior,” retorted Shannon.

“Touché.” Deidre searched the glove box. She was rewarded with a handful of McDonald’s napkins, which she used to wipe down the shotgun’s muzzle.

The first ten miles afterwards were uneventful. They only encountered two deadheads, and those two had somehow taken down a coyote and were feasting on it. They were in the middle of the road, and paid no attention to their approach. Without a word Shannon accelerated, hitting the one closest to their path. She suppressed a laugh as the zombie bounced from bumper to hood to roof. As she watched it roll across the blacktop she thought they were lucky that it hadn’t hit the windshield.

“We need to eat,” said Deidre, breaking the hours long silence. “And we need to plan our next move.”

“Wow. Food and planning. You’re just now coming around to that train of thought?” asked Shannon caustically. She was hungry; tired of the silence and well past being tolerant of the silent treatment she had been getting for several hours.

“Shut up, smart ass. That’s been on my mind since we left the diner. We need to get out of Arizona. I’m thinking we should head north.”

The Nova, with its dark green paint, was an easy target from the air, but on the ground it looked like a one of the few desert plants from a distance. They stopped three miles from the road and ate cold sandwiches and drank warm water as the temperature rose. Shannon and Kelsey kept watch on the car’s roof as Deidre tried to teach Rance correct pistol operation. Even though Shannon ate and stared into the distant horizon, the memory of Greene’s face in the mirror haunted her. She tried brushing it off to stress once more before the sound of a far off helicopter captured her full attention.

Kelsey saw Shannon’s head go up and she followed Shannon’s gaze. Her eyes focused on nothing aside from clear sky. “What is it?” asked Kelsey around her chewing a piece of bacon sandwich.

“I thought I heard a jet.”

”Civilian or military?” asked Deidre, urging Rance into the car. She pulled a pair of binoculars from her duffle bag and stood on one of the car’s doorframes.

“I don’t know,” answered Shannon. “I’m not even sure it was a jet. It sounded far off enough to be dubious to even my ears.”

“I don’t hear anything,” said Kelsey. She clicked the safety off on her M4. She looked around, hoping that Shannon was wrong. Still she heard and saw nothing. “Maybe it left or it could’ve been the wind or something like that.”

“Just because you can’t see it or hear it doesn’t mean it’s not there,” answered Deidre. “Military snipers and scouts are trained to not be seen or heard. Civilians spend a month or two a year gearing up to hunt animals and they can be just as good. You’d better get back down. You’re enough of a target just sitting there.”

Shannon said nothing during their exchange. She hadn’t heard the wind or been mistaken in what she’d heard.

“Do you hear that?” asked Shannon, looking from one to the other.

An angry roar came and went with the light breeze that was blowing. Only Shannon looked into the direction from where the sound emanated.

“There,” announced Shannon, helping to give them a focal point to the east. A splotch appeared on the horizon, but then it became separate dark, fast moving dots. The dots became F/A18 Hornet fighters that zoomed overhead before turning to the northeast.

“Their racks are filled with bombs not missiles. Guess it’s not a dogfight,” Deidre commented, her finger following them as they zoomed by.

The fighters flew several hundred feet from the ground, as if they were trying to avoid radar. One of them peeled off from the others and did a fly over on Shannon and the others. The pilot waggled its wings, signaling that it had seen them. The fighter flew to rejoin the others, taking the vengeful howls of their engines with him. Inside the car and unheard by the others Rance was screaming himself hoarse at the noise. He cupped his ears. The sound was too much for him.

A minute later, faint distant explosions could be heard. They were too far off to see any fire or smoke, but Shannon felt the ground rumble underneath her.

“Did you see that?” screamed Kelsey, referring to the jets. “They’re still in the fight,” she screamed, feeling hopefulness vindicated by the sight of military jets.

“They’re Marines,” said Deidre. “Heading into the fight to empty everything they have before hitting a FARP for another run, I bet. Chances are that FARP isn’t too far off from here. The battle is farther east than the one I saw the other night. I thought we were moving away from it, but it’s going to catch up with us. We’re boned if it does. We need to leave. Now.”

“Why,” asked Shannon. She couldn’t contain the hope Kelsey certainly felt. “That FARP thing is good, right? If we find it, we can find out where everything stands. We just follow the jets to wherever that might be. It seems like a good idea to me.”

Deidre became irritated. Not at being questioned but at the time it took to explain. She’d rather be on the move. “First off, no it’s not a good thing. Not for us anyway. A FARP is an anagram for Forward Arming and Refueling Point. It’s for combat ops, not for refugees. Secondly, if they take us in, they’re going to take our guns and ask questions. A lot of them. Worst case scenario is there are some opportunists with an eye for the ladies. Personally, I don’t think the world’s that far gone yet. Humor my paranoia for a change. We need to lay low off everyone’s radar and see where everything goes from here.”

“You’re right. You are paranoid.” Shannon spoke with certainty that Deidre wanted to move for reasons other than safety.

Shannon could see the anger lingering behind Deidre’s eyes. Her scent was changing for the worst as well. She could tell that Deidre was fighting against the angry, profanity riddled diatribe fighting to free itself from Deidre’s mouth. It was Rance’s presence was stopping her.

“Godd-,” started Deidre. “Yes, I am paranoid. Think woman! The dead are walking around and eating the living. Some of your buddies have joined them and that’s double trouble far as I’m concerned. And where there’s large groups of people making large amounts of noise there’s less chances to live. Greene’s not the only one who’s watched a few horror movies. I won’t get eaten, and I won’t allow any of you to get eaten! Damn Shannon! I’d expect you to know fucking better! Sorry about the language, Rance.”

Shannon didn’t know how to respond. There was more than truth in Deidre’s argument. A refugee camp, if any were still in could potentially be a guaranteed meal, or made into one. Shannon shuddered under the hot desert air at the former. “Then what are your orders, Captain?” She sketched a salute in an attempt to be funny.

“I was a Navy lieutenant, not a Marine captain.” Deidre smiled briefly. “Honestly…” Deidre bit her lip, searching for words. “My gut tells me to back off and go around, but on the other hand I want to check out what’s going on. Whatever’s going on up there could conceivably give us a leg up on the situation. It’s dangerous, sure, but we’ll know what’s what. I could be wrong, but it may mean that humanity’s winning. It’s in the general direction anyway.”

“You do know that it’s heading back toward Tucson? But hey, whatever you decide, we’ll do.” Kelsey peered into the backseat. Rance lay on the floorboard clutching his favorite teddy bear.

“Uh-uh. You’re not putting this off on me. We’re taking a vote. Mob rule is better than no rule. Those in favor of checking out the action, raise your hand.” Deidre raised her hand.

Shannon raised her hand more out of curiosity than any in any hope of safety. Kelsey raised hers also. The decision had been made.

“Fine. Get in. We’re going to see what’s going on.” Deidre tossed the binoculars into the passenger seat. “Hoo-yah, going to town.”

She climbed into the driver’s seat, and turned to the others before starting the engine. “There’s a small town in between here and there. It’s an ink spot on the map and kind of out of the way. I think we should detour through there and see if we can get shelter for the night. We need to let things cool down at that battle space first.” She looked to Shannon.

“Sounds good to me. If whatever those Marines were shooting at isn’t taken care of, then the boogeymen will have moved off after a while. Sounds prudent to me.”

“But we could-” started Kelsey. Deidre interrupted her before she could finish.

“What? Miss the soldiers or whatever is there? Damn right we could. That’s what you were going to say, right?”

Rance stirred uneasy on the seat. Kelsey absent-mindedly started to brush his hair. “Not necessarily.”

“Uh-huh. Look, if the military is losing over there then we need to steer clear until the literal heat dies off.”

“But we could miss them if they’re winning,” argued Kelsey.

“Trust me; they aren’t,” retorted Deidre.

“Close air support is for when the ground forces are in heavy contact, losing, or both. My guess is both.” Deidre looked to Shannon and gave her a glance that said back me up.

Shannon did. “I think Deidre’s right. Let’s wait overnight and see what happens. There’s three or four hours of daylight left. It won’t kill us to wait. We’ve been on the road most of the day and haven’t seen anyone. That doesn’t mean our lucks gonna remain that good, Kel.”

Kelsey looked to be sulking now. “Okay,” she answered, stroking Rance’s hair even more. “I think it’s wrong, but we’ll see.”

“Settled,” said Deidre, starting the engine.

They returned to the road, eyes keenly kept on the area for any kind of trouble. The signs of battle showed up an hour later beyond a quarter of a mile from a sign saying, Welcome to Woodrow. Tranquility Realized. Population 11,432. The town was certainly living up to its name. Nothing was on the streets. Neither man nor beast could be seen moving about.

Deidre drove through what was the main street slowly. All three women looked into the windows of the businesses lining the streets. The windows gave good views inside and what they saw scared each of them. The peace coupled with empty shops and the odd car sitting in a parking space like normal was unsettling. The sun was setting and the coming dark added more creepiness that each could have done without.

“Where are we,” said Rance, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

“Somewhere we can maybe spend the night,” said Kelsey.

“You smell anything unusual, Shannon,” asked Deidre, circumventing a sheriff’s cruiser that had crashed into a Town and Country station wagon. The station wagon had seen better days before the accident and the driver’s door of the sheriff’s patrol car stood open, showing the blood adorning the interior.

“That’s creepy.” Shannon ignored the question and spoke in low tones as if she were afraid of recalling the people involved. Only one accident in the whole town. If the people left then they did it in an orderly fashion.”

“Or they’re still here and hiding. Do you smell anything unusual?” Deidre asked the question with more force.

“No. I smell things that are in the past. Maybe a day old. If there’s still people here they’re hiding better than werewolf I’ve ever hunted. This place is almost deserted.”

“Almost?” asked Kelsey and Deidre simultaneously.

“Werewolf and dog noses aren’t infallible. If I say that it is totally deserted and we get jumped, then you’ll both be pissed at me. Nope. I’m not giving a definite when I have doubts.”

“You’re no help,” mumbled Deidre.

“You asked,” said Shannon. But she had smelled something, however faint for just a moment. She didn’t know what it was exactly, but it stank of sickness and lycanthropic anger. The sickness had to have been the zeds in the town, but this distinct reek of werewolf was something she’d never encountered before. She was going to keep that to herself until she could catch it again, and she hoped that she wouldn’t.

They drove around the town once more before deciding to stop for the night. The sun was halfway down and being caught in the open under any circumstance was not an option.

“This looks good. What do you think,” asked Deidre, pulling the car into the back parking lot of the Tranquility Sheriff’s Department. “It should be secure enough for the night, and maybe we can scrounge something from inside.”

“Always said I’d end up in jail,” said Shannon, opening the Nova’s door. She stepped out and looked around. Her nose followed her vision and scanned for anything that might pose a problem. “Clear,” she announced. “Nothing within the past day has been here.”

“Outstanding,” answered Deidre. She exited the vehicle and looked around herself. Good field of view for us to see trouble coming, and have time to get out quick if we need to.”

“Also a good line of sight for some enterprising sniper to take a shot at us,” answered Shannon. She opened the door for Kelsey and Rance.

“You said there was nothing to worry about,” said Kelsey stepping out with Rance in her arms.

“Yeah, but someone could come along and surprise us.”

“Now who’s paranoid?” said Deidre, joking.

“Just being practical.”

“Shannon, you hit the door first, if there’s anyone in there, you’ll catch them first. Kelsey will be in the middle and I’ll be rear guard.”

Shannon cocked her head in disbelief. “Are you kidding? The place is empty. No one’s here or been here in a day or so. Really?”

“Humor me.”

“For the love of God,” spat Kelsey moving up the handicapped ramp of the back entrance.

“Wait,” hissed Deidre. “The door could be booby trapped.”

Shannon rolled her eyes. “Get a grip, Dee.” She followed Kelsey up the ramp.

“Door’s locked,” said Kelsey, trying the handle.

Shannon moved Kelsey aside and looked through the reinforced glass. “I can break through the glass and maybe get to the lock, but it’ll leave our back door open.”

Deidre took a breath. “I’m not getting it in the back door.” She chuckled.

Shannon stared intensely at Deidre while Kelsey gave her a quizzical look.

“You told me to get a grip. I was trying to be funny.”

“That’s…not funny,” said Kelsey hesitantly.

“Be right back,” said Shannon, handing Deidre her M4.

“And you’re going where?” inquired Deidre.

“To see if I can find another way in. Give me five minutes.”

“Wait,” said Deidre, but Shannon had vaulted over the railing and taken off at a run around the right side of the building.

After ten minutes Deidre was about to call a retreat to the car and leave Shannon on her own. Just as she opened her mouth to give the order, Shannon appeared at the back door in werewolf form.

Locks clicked, and the door swung open.

Deidre ushered Kelsey in first and Shannon quietly shut and relocked the door after Deidre entered.

“There’s a kitchen down the hall. First left and then two doors down. Take Rance there,” advised Shannon.

Kelsey looked to Deidre, and Deidre nodded her approval.

Kelsey cautiously side stepped Shannon, never once taking her eyes off Shannon’s towering form.

“Give me a moment,” said Shannon lowly. “Could you… you know, turn around. This is gonna be disturbing to hear, and much worse to witness.”

Deidre hesitantly turned away and the sound of wet canvas ripping and flesh groaning in wet high-pitch squeals filled the hall. It made Deidre’s flesh crawl, and the roots of her teeth ache while she resisted the urge to both look and scream at the sounds.

“I’m good,” said Shannon, breath ragged after a moment of silence.

“That was anything but good,” said Deidre turning to face Shannon. “And your clothes are fucked up. Again.”

“Occupational hazard. Listen. This place wasn’t all that empty. I found three deaders stumbling around-”

“You said this place was good to go,” hissed Deidre angrily.

“There’s a hint of death everywhere, and the air-conditioning is still on so it hid the scent a bit. It was nothing I could deal with.” Shannon subconsciously took a step forward. “Keep your damn voice down. You’re not whispering as much as you think. This place was used as a rescue center before the townsfolk moved off. Those that remained got infected somehow and turned on the cops inside. The second floor is lousy with bodies. They tried to fight off the zombies, but failed. We can’t let Kelsey and Rance get to the-”

A scream came from above them.

“Right on cue,” said Shannon with more spite than she wanted.

They ran up the stairs and Deidre was stunned to see the failed barricade mid-way down the main hall. One side had been moved to allow entry, and that was when Deidre saw that the barricade had been solid on only one side. Dark crimson pulp was everywhere. Deidre didn’t stop for a moment to wonder where the bodies had gone.

“Sonuvabitch,” murmured Deidre, entering the only set of double doors on the floor. The room was worse than the barricade. Bodies were almost everywhere, and pressed against the wall next to the doors was Kelsey. The room had been used as a place to house everyone that had come to the Sheriff’s office. When the bitten or infected had turned, they’d attacked those inside. The infection had spread quickly and no one had been safe.

“This is what I was trying to warn you about” remarked Shannon, moving past Deidre. “It’s a damned slaughterhouse.” She moved to Kelsey and was beginning to reassure her when she realized Rance was missing.

“Downstairs in that kitchen area,” answered Kelsey. “Hiding in a cabinet.”

They moved the sobbing woman downstairs and was approaching the kitchen when a shot rang out.

Kelsey cried out louder and broke away from Shannon and Deidre.

“She left him with a gun?” exclaimed Deidre in disbelief.

The two women rounded a corner and found Kelsey hugging Rance tightly. Rance was crying with Deidre, and several feet away laid a 9mm Glock. Nearby a cooling shell casing caught the light and glinted like an evil eye at the women.

“Is he injured,” asked Deidre, dropping to her knees beside them. She fought Kelsey for Rance and quickly check him. The boy was uninjured.

“I got scared. I…I thought I saw a dead person,” said Rance with a hitching voice.

“It’s okay, baby. I’m here. It’s okay.”

Deidre stepped forward. Ferocious rage radiated from her face. “Kelsey,” she said sharply.

Kelsey ignored her. She began to sing Once Upon a Dream to Rance. The song seemed to slow and then stop his hitching voice. Kelsey continued to sing.

“Goddammit, Kelsey,” said Deidre. She reached for Kelsey, but Shannon grasped her wrist. She locked eyes with Shannon.

Shannon’s grip tightened and she shook her head no. “Hallway, now” said Shannon.

Deidre’s scowl deepened and she went to pull away. Shannon tightened her grip and whispered, “I can break it like a breadstick if I wanted. Don’t make me do it just to get my point across.”

Deidre gave no sign of giving in. Shannon squeezed harder and she could feel the bones groan under the pressure.

“Fine,” relented Deidre.

“What the hell was that,” asked Deidre, rubbing her wrist as they closed the door to the kitchen behind them. “I don’t care if she’s comforting Rance. That was goddamned good and well stupid on her part. Who the fuck gives a gun to a child that doesn’t have a clue how to use it? And just who the fuck do you think you are talking to me like that. Keep in mind you’re no more than our guard dog.”

Shannon brushed her dirty blonde hair back in exasperation. “First off, it’s pretty clear you don’t care right now. Secondly, in her mind she could’ve walked in to find Rance dead because of her carelessness. Trust me, I’m willing to bet she won’t be making that mistake again. And third, I’m no one’s guard dog. Do you understand? You may think you got me on a chain, but the more I see it,” she stepped closer to Deidre. “The way I see it, you need me more than I need you. And that is the goddamned truth.”

Deidre sighed. Shannon could smell Deidre’s anger turning itself down. “All right. You’re not my dog, and I don’t control you. Yeah, we need you more than you need us, but make no mistake on this; me and her aren’t done on this matter.”

“No surprise there.”

Deidre momentarily covered her face. “If he’d sh-”

“He said he saw a dead person. His words. If he had we’d have seen him, her, or it and then dealt with whatever. As it stands, I can’t sense any danger near us.”

“Shit, it was probably his overactive imagination. We’re all tired, and this shit is bananas.”

“B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I’ll take first watch tonight. This building is cleared so we don’t have to be worried about anything already being here. The roof’s got a good vantage point so that’s where I’ll be for the first three hours.”

“Is that how you got in? The roof?”

“Fire escape on the left side of the building. Almost did a complete circle around before I found it. It was hellacious jump up to get it. Around ten feet I figure.”

“Did you pull it up or whatever after you got up?”

“Best your ass I did. Momma Morris didn’t raise a moron.”

Deidre chuckled. “We done here?”

“Almost. Hey, listen. Give Kel her space right now. She literally saw her life flash before her eyes. If you’re needing busy work I found their armory. Not sure if there’s anything left that’s worth a damn, but it’s worth a look. It’s in the basement. Well, more like it is the basement. You can’t miss it.”

“I’ll poke around there in a moment. Right now, I just want to look around. This shit… Well, this is shit.

“Girl, you ain’t never lied.”

 

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Werewolves of the Dead Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen

 

As the night progressed, more undead than previously seen made their journey past the diner. At first watching the staggering duos or trio only unnerved Kelsey. As their pack sizes increased, so did Kelsey’s uneasiness with being trapped in a building with large windows. She sat perfectly still, watching them pass with wide unwavering eyes. Being on first watch, and alone for it, allowed her mind to run free.

What unnerved her more was the lone zombie stopping and then turning to the window as zombie-Greg had. She was sure they could see her. Like Greg they ventured to the window for a look, and like Deidre had, she hid. Sometimes she could hear the zombies’ light scratching at the glass and off times not so light, banging on the windows. Those times she was certain they had seen her. After fifteen minutes or half an hour of useless trying to get in they would wander off.

What scared her most were the ones that would try opening the door. Like any human thinking a locked door was a mistake, they would shake it back and forth. More than once an undead performed the human ritual of attempting to enter a domicile. None gained entrance.

Kelsey waited out her shift leaning against the counter. The longer she spent on guard the more she was sure that the main wave of the zombie exodus had once been residents of Zellar. She wasn’t ready to test her assumption. An assumption was good enough for her.

She sat, watching the zombies file past, wondering where she and Rance could go or what they should do. She knew she couldn’t make her way through the world on her own. She’d been living with her parents, and even that relationship had been strained. They only tolerated her because she was of their blood and nothing more. She’d been foolish enough to get pregnant by a man that didn’t stick around like so many other women. And like so many other women she was dealing with the consequences alone. Well, mostly. Mom and dad had once been devout Mormons, and they believed that unwed sex was evil, and out of wedlock pregnancy was worse. They broke with the church because of her and Rance, and Shannon had the feeling that they held a simmering grudge because of it.

Unconsciously she wiped away tears. “I’m always crying,” she mumbled. “I’m tired of crying.”

Kelsey hadn’t thought of her parents since it all started. Now she wondered how they were faring or if they were even still alive. She pushed the thought of them from her mind and focused on the future.

“Better learn how to use this thing,” she said, examining the US military M4.

After a few moments of fumbling around she found the magazine release button. The magazine fell to the floor. Anger flooded her awareness as she examined it. Had Deidre purposefully given her an unloaded rifle? It certainly looked like she had. Someone like Deidre wouldn’t so easily forget to load a weapon. She angrily tossed the useless magazine across the room. It clattered loudly as it bounced of the wall and hit the floor. “That explains the knife she put on the end of this thing.” Kelsey was so mad that she spoke louder than she had intended. That made Deidre stir where the magazine through hadn’t.

Kelsey’s mind then turned to learning everything she could about firearms. If Deidre treated her like this when things were precarious at best, what would she do if she went from being a single-mom friend to dead weight that Deidre would always have to worry about? With the act of handing over a useless weapon Deidre proved that she was trust only slightly more than Shannon.

“Fucking bitch,” whispered Kelsey through clenched teeth. And then Kelsey wept for the last time.

Four hours later, Kelsey angrily woke Deidre to take her place by kicking her in the butt.

“What the fuck,” groused Deidre, snapping to awareness. “Why’d you do that?”

“Thanks for the empty fucking gun, Deidre.”

Deidre gave a start. The kick alone was surprising, and the foul language was all out shocking.

“What? What are you-”

Kelsey tossed the empty magazine to the floor beside Deidre. “Were you afraid I’d shoot myself, or you by accident? That was a lousy thing to do. It explains the knife on the end. I’m surprised you let me have it. I might have accidently cut my own throat with it.”

“It’s a bayonet,” answered Deidre in a low voice. “Look, Kel,” she started, regaining her composure.

“Don’t you dare ‘Kel’ me. Don’t you fucking dare. You untrusting cow. Screw you and burn in hell.”

Kelsey turned toward where Rance was sleeping, but stopped suddenly. Deidre was watching her, and then her sight went to what she had stopped her. Both women were stunned to find Shannon still awake. Shannon said nothing as she returned their stares.

Kelsey walked silently by Shannon, and Deidre moved to get her shoes on to take her post. Neither felt a need to communicate with Shannon or untie her.

Great, thought Shannon. Here I am with a full bladder and an empty stomach while those two go through their trust issues with each other. What a world, what a world.

Shannon lowered her head and tried to sleep. She had surmised that the M4 Deidre had given Kelsey had been empty. It was the way Deidre had turned away from Kelsey when she pulled the bolt back. It was like she didn’t want Kelsey to see something. With an empty magazine the bolt would have been locked back once pulled. Shannon hated that she was right. Kelsey needed Deidre more than Deidre needed her, but Kelsey could be taught. Now, Deidre had pissed on Kelsey’s trust. It didn’t matter what Deidre’s intentions had been, she’d set Kelsey up for failure, and Kelsey wasn’t about to forget that lack of trust.

Shannon’s mind kept her body from reaching a state of relaxation. Her ears were automatically attuned to any approaching shuffling sounds from outside. The varying degrees of sporadic pounding during Deidre’s watch did nothing for her desire to sleep. And her current situation was most unhelpful as well. In a breech situation she couldn’t count on either woman to cut her free.

She tried to steady her paranoid, hyperaware mind with watching Kelsey and Rance sleep. Shannon watched Rance and his newly aware mother with growing admiration. Something akin to jealousy entered Shannon’s mind in regards to Kelsey and Rance’s bond. At least Kelsey had something to live for past self-imposed vengeance. She had a child born from her body. What did Shannon have? Nothing but hate from what she could tell. That hate and her mission kept her… What? She had no idea at that moment, but she was determined to find out.

Shannon spent the night into the predawn hours waiting, watching, and listening. As the night approached dawn, Shannon fell asleep. Against her will her body shut down for rest.

The rest was brief and useless. If anything it made her feel worse.

“Hey. Wake up. Come on. Wake up. I don’t have all day to coddle you. Wake your ass up,” said Deidre, shaking her.

Deidre tried harder and harder until Shannon’s eyes opened. She was sitting Indian style in front of Shannon, hands folded in over the shotgun in her lap. Deidre had been poking Shannon’s forehead with her right index finger, knocking Shannon’s head against the post.

“I dozed off,” Shannon mumbled, blinking against the morning glare pouring into the kitchen.

“Like hell. You’ve been asleep for three hours. I made it a point to check on you every thirty minutes until I was sure you were asleep. I didn’t need you choking to death on your drool. God forbid that shit should be my fault somehow. Something’s happened since you were down. Listen…”

While Shannon slept the zombie march had increased from a handful her and there to several dozen at any given time. Deidre had watched them from the roof, hoping for a clue to their reasoning and destination. The roof had served as a better observation spot for that than the diner’s interior. Aside from better line of sight, sound traveled better.

“Go figure, right?” said Deidre in a near conversational tone. It was the only time Deidre had halfway smiled at Shannon since Shannon’s rampage. “Anyway, cupcake.” Shannon wasn’t sure if she meant it as her term of endearment or insult. Deidre used the word both ways, and sometimes it was hard to discern one meaning from the other. “I heard something big going down more than a few miles down the road. I heard gunfire, both automatic and semi. And what’s more, I heard what I’m sure was tanks. It was all far off and the wind made it sound faint, but I know what I heard. It doesn’t hurt that I saw what I appeared to be muzzle flashes from big guns too. Could be the military has regrouped and is making a stand.”

“Could be scavengers in Army vehicles, too.” Shannon cleared her throat. She was thirsty. Her throat was had turned into an outpost of the Mojave; a sign that bad news was on the horizon. Growing up she knew trouble was on the way when she became inexplicably parched. “Not all guys who know their way around a tank are still in the service, Deidre. Could be scavengers fighting the military with their own gear. The sounds of battle doesn’t necessarily mean help’s coming.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” roared Kelsey from the corner. Although she was smarter than she had been hours earlier her mind was still strained and grabbing at any straw of hope.

“Language, mommy!” howled Rance in protest. He was his mother’s watchdog with the very bad words.

“Sorry, baby,” answered Kelsey, her eyes never leaving Shannon. “What do mean by all that? Don’t you have any positive thoughts? See, that’s how you got infected to begin with. That negative attitude of yours.”

Shannon chuckled in spite of herself. “I’m just trying to be a realist, Kelsey. That’s all. Besides, after yesterday, I don’t have much reason to be that positive.”

“Hey, I agree with you, believe it or not. I took the same track as you, but Sally Sunshine here wants to check it out. Frankly, so do I, but fuck if we don’t know what’s waiting down the road a mile away, let alone thirty miles from here.”

“Language, Aunt Deidre,” interjected Rance again. His face was pouty. He was tiring of hearing words he couldn’t say.

“That’s getting old quick,” Deidre whispered to herself. She looked at Rance. “Sorry, doll. Look, Shannon, against my better judgment, Kelsey and I have decided to make you the tiebreaker. I trust you about as far as I can throw you these days, but my gut tells me that you didn’t mean to do what you did.”

“So what then? You’re taking me along with you? Just like that. You decide that I’m a good enough dog to have around, but you’ll kick me if I show a moment of getting out of line?”

“Something like that, though not so nicely put from my line of thought.” Deidre unfolded her hands to wave Shannon’s pistol in her face. “See, I’ve got your gun.” She waved it again, left to right before Shannon’s eyes. “Not afraid to use it neither, but I think you know that. Get out of line and I’ll put you down, capeche?”

“Yeah, I get it.” Shannon felt dejected. She was fairly sure that she was going to be the point woman for every iffy turn of the corner. She was relieved to be free, she really had to pee plus the freedom of movement was an added plus. “Can I use the bathroom?”

“You can do it right there for all I care.” Without a further word, Deidre cut her free. “You know where the Jane is. If you run, I won’t be that heartbroken or even come looking for you.”

The ropes fell free and Shannon made for the bathroom.

Lifting her skirt and lowering her underwear, every horror film that had a bathroom scene flooded her mental movie screen. Reluctantly, she drew her legs up in preparation for a bite or a body to come slithering under the stall door. Neither occurred as Shannon had the most nervous urination of her life.

She washed her hands, appalled at her own fear. She lowered her face to the sink, and splashed cold water to rouse her fully. It helped to clear away some of the dirt clinging to her. She righted herself and wiped her face with paper towels. She opened her eyes and shrieked in terror at the sight of Greene’s face overlapping her own.

“Hell of a night, huh? Did you sleep okay? I bet you didn’t, being all tied up like that.” His image spoke with clarity, not from inside her head, but from in front of her. The calm in his voice unnerved her even further. She shrieked again and tried to step away from the sink. Her feet tangled together and she fell, landing on her ass. She scooted hurriedly from the sink and backed into the door opening.

Deidre burst through, armed with the 12 gauge. “What is it? What’s going on?” She swept the area before rushing to the window overlooking the graveled rear parking lot. “What’d you see? Was a zed at the window? What?” She looked excitedly to Shannon and then around the bathroom.

Shannon’s began to rise on its own to point at the mirror. Her mind overroded the knee-jerk reaction and stopped the movement. “Nothing. I, uh, I saw a rat. That’s all. A rat ran by me. That’s all. I saw a rat.”

Deidre looked at her crossways before looking to the floor and under the stall. “The longer this goes on the more I think you’re worth more dead than alive.” She gave another suspicious look to Shannon, shook her head, and then left.

Shannon cautiously approached the mirror. She nervously ran her fingers across the silver surface. She half expected to see a hand grab hers, but nothing happened. Greene’s face didn’t appear either. She chalked the image up to nerves, lack of sleep, and a guilty conscious. With hands shaking more than ever, she finished her impromptu cleansing never taking her gaze away from her reflection. Greene’s face didn’t reappear, but her mind couldn’t escape the sight of his image.

Shannon walked into the kitchen and found Kelsey and Deidre stripping out of their work clothes. On the counter by the griddle were two stacks of clothes that looked familiar. After a few seconds of close scrutiny Shannon realized they were hers.

“Deidre, you’re taller than me. Why wear my stuff? I get Kelsey. She’s shorter. But you?”

Both women ignored her as they continued undressing.

Rance sat six feet away on a chair, hands over his eyes. He was still at the cute stage where seeing girls naked was yucky. His attitude endeared him more to Shannon than ever before. Regardless of what had happened, Shannon knew she would do what it took to protect the boy.

Turning her attention back to the two women, Shannon appraised their under garments. It was true that you could judge a person by the undies they wore on a day-to-day basis. Deidre was strictly a Victoria’s Secret gal and was built like an Amazon super model more than a waitress.

Kelsey had the body of a mother that worked to keep weight off. She was in good shape though not as toned as her taller compatriot. Her under garments were utilitarian; whatever it took to get the job done. Hers were new, bought from a Wal-Mart or K-Mart. It was clear Kelsey didn’t spend her money on unnecessary frivolities.

Deidre pulled on a pair of Shannon’s male cut jeans. The jeans fit her better in the legs than Shannon as Shannon always wore bigger than needed. On the other hand a similar pair hung off Kelsey, and needed to be rolled up at the bottom.

Kelsey blushed when she looked up, and saw Shannon’s stare.

Deidre looked up as well, and offered Shannon a wry smile. “Sorry about raiding your stuff, but we needed clothes. Good thing you buy big or I’d be dazzling the undead.” She reached into one of Shannon’s bags and pulled out another pair of jeans. “Here, get changed. We leave in twenty.”

Shannon stripped down to her underwear and instantly became self-conscious. She hadn’t been in any state of undress in front of anyone since she’d been infected. “Wow,” said Rance’s little voice. Shannon looked up in time to see him cover his eyes with his fingers.

Deidre was lacing up her tennis shoes as Kelsey slipped on one of Shannon’s t-shirts. Both looked over to Shannon. “Got yourself a six-pack, don’t you? I know that doesn’t come natural.” Deidre appeared envious but appreciative toward Shannon’s physique. Kelsey’s face reddened once more, though Shannon suspected it wasn’t because she was being modest.

“Everyone lives with what they’re given,” said Shannon, refusing to meet their eyes.

“Not all of us were given that.” Kelsey turned away to tie up her shoes.

“Not all of us were porked by a werewolf and then blessed with Supergirl’s body.” Deidre was straight faced as she buckled on an Arizona State Trooper’s issued gun belt.

“Fuck you, Martin,” murmured Kelsey. “This from the bitch with the Wonder Woman body.”

“Mooooom!” urged Rance.

“Quiet, Rance. All rules are off. We get to say what we want for now on.

“Look, we’re not going to fight over who’s got the hottest body, are we?” said Deidre. She adjusted the belt to her hips. “That shit is soooooo ten days ago. Case in point: society has fallen. There is only survival, now, and not what someone else dictates what we should look like. Frankly, you have a great figure for a woman with a kid and besides, I’d trade my body for a kid any day.” Deidre’s face went red at the admission. She quickly looked down to check the police issued gear to cover the blood that rushed to her face. Regret had a smell, and it wafted off Deidre in waves.

Deidre’s words had a positive impact on Kelsey. Her face brightened. “Really? I’d never thought I’d hear that from you.”

“You’re going to hear a lot of weird shit from me from now on. Come on, time to load up and get the hell out of Dodge.”

 

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