Chapter 26: Your own personal Jesus
Chapter 25: The colors of a ghost
Chapter 24: Right place, wrong time
Chapter 23: Wounded, but convicted
Chapter 22: And hell followed with her
Chapter 21: The same material
Chapter 20: Keep on rocking until the night is gone
Chapter 19: Uninvited
The temperature had dropped since Elderton and Martha had arrived at Taco House. A fog had arisen in through parts of the town. The air was moist. A rain was coming from beyond the mountains. Most of the storms Tipton received developed out over the Pacific and came in from the beach. They would be heading directly into whatever was coming their way. But perhaps the rain, fog and more would aid them in their escape. And the way Elderton saw it, they would need all the help they could get to make it out alive.
The four hurried out of the building. They gathered behind the trash bin which was conveniently under a tall tree. They knelt and checked their surroundings. There was lots of noise through the city. Screaming, gunfire, growling. It was hard to tell where any of the noise was coming from, it sounded like it was all around them. She was in front, leading their squad of survivors. Mandy and Maggie were in the middle behind her, Martha was in the back. Mandy and Maggie were each entrusted with handguns and as many clips as their jackets could hold. Their pant pockets were laughably feminine and could only hold one clip per back pocket, half of the clip sticking out the top of each.
“Screw the patriarchy,” Mandy had scoffed while trying to find space in her pockets.
Elderton motioned for them to move with her and they all ran in a straight line. They crossed the street and made for the Aldi. They lined up against the side of the building where a light had been blown out for several years. They used the darkness to edge down to the back of the store. They could hear a great deal of commotion coming from behind the store as they approached. When they got to the back, Elderton motioned for them to stop.
She peeked around the corner and saw a small group of soldiers tangling with several of the townsfolk. Her instinct was to run in and help her neighbors, but then she noticed the familiar traits. One was covered in blood from previous feasts, growling and drooling for another bite. A soldier caught him upside the head with the butt of his rifle, the man fell to the pavement. He hissed at the soldier who put two bullets in his head. The other townsfolk were in similar states. One was her next-door neighbor, a staunch Catholic and busybody named Maude. She had once called the police on her, because she saw a black man knocking on her door. It was Elderton’s cousin paying a visit. Maude was still in her nightgown and robe, but the gown had been torn to shreds and for the first time she was seeing her old, saggy breasts flapping in the wind. It was a sight she’d take a lifetime trying to forget, assuming she lived through the night.
She assessed the situation and liked the odds. It was an even match between the soldiers and Aggressors, a name they had all agreed to call the infected. She turned back to the group behind her and explained the situation. They would cut across the back of the lot, through a patch of trees, and into Mrs. Hinkley’s award-winning garden. If they were quick and quiet enough, they could avoid detection by both parties and continue their journey for the church—their halfway point.
They ran for the back of Mrs. Hinkley’s yard, Martha keeping an eye behind them to make sure they went undetected. It was looking good until Maude looked up from gnawing on a soldier’s neck. She sniffed about and spotted them. She growled and started to sprint after them.
They all ran into Mrs. Hinkley’s sunflowers. They dropped down to the garden floor to take cover. Martha grabbed Elderton by the shoulder. “Maude spotted us, she’s coming.”
Elderton could see the silhouette of Maude running haphazardly towards them in her slippers. “I got this. Stay down, stay quiet,” Elderton said. She slid her shotgun around her back with the strap. She pulled out a pistol with a muzzle on it. She waited for the opportune moment.
She stood up and took one shot in the dark.
A flash from the gun lit up the area just long enough for everyone to see that her single shot entered between the eyes of Maude. Elderton was back down in the sunflowers before Maude had even hit the pavement. They all waited to see if she got up.
They waited to see if anyone else from the group noticed the shot.
After a moment of stressed silence, Mandy leaned in to Elderton, “Damn girl,” she whispered.
The clouds opened and a mist began to spray them and the lot behind them. The ground let up steam, still warm from the day. Between the fog and the steam, the air was thick as a shower curtain. They continued walking underfoot Mrs. Hinkley’s garden. Around the house, through a rusted gate, and into the front yard. They rested beneath an old oak tree her great-great-grandfather had planted so many years ago. She bragged about it to anyone who dared pass her house while she was on the porch. People eventually learned to cross the street to pass her house. But sometimes that wasn’t enough, sometimes she’d just yell at a person not knowing if they’d hear a word she said or not. But assuming they did. Assuming they gave two shits and a nickel.
It was two blocks from Mrs. Hinkley’s house to the church. They could see it on the corner, well-lit by streetlights. A group of townsfolk came running down the street, screaming. They appeared to be uninfected. But just as they were crossing the intersection in a frenzy, a military Hummer came plowing through at a fast pace. It ran over half the people and screeched to a halt. A soldier popped out the top and used a 50-caliber mounted gunner to take down the rest. Limbs and blood flew everywhere. A head exploded. And then there was silence. The soldier surveyed the carnage.
One person was trying to crawl away without his lower half.
Not satisfied, the soldier pulled out a pistol and shot the man three times. Dead. He tapped the top of the Hummer and it drove off.
They paused for a moment, leaned against the sturdy oak.
Elderton knew what they were all thinking about. That could be them in a matter of moments. And even if they made it fine, they’d have to walk right over them to get to the church. Nobody wanted to move from that oak. The rain began to pick up, their body core temperatures were dropping. But nobody moved.
Chapter 18: Sting of the rose
The door slowly opened, and Mandy was relieved it was only their local sheriff. She had to hold back the feeling of diving into a hug until she knew it was safe to come out of the safety of their metal walls. Elderton seemed ok. Martha came up and looked in over Elderton’s shoulder in at Mandy and Maggie.
“How long have ya’ll been in there?” Martha asked.
“Not long,” Mandy said. “Lucas had just turned.” She stepped out holding Maggie’s shaking hand. “What is going on?”
“Not real certain,” Elderton started, “But something in the water at least is affecting people, turning them into rabid-like creatures. The government is here, Homeland Security, Army, and something else. They aren’t talking much. Kept us under guard until we escaped.” Elderton paused for a moment, looked at Martha for approval or disapproval before she continued. Martha simply nodded to her. Elderton continued, “And, there’s some alien creature and egg or pod thing. We don’t know how it all comes together, but we need help. Real help. Because the ones that are here are not helping. They’re just trying to cover it up.”
“Wait, did you say water?” Maggie asked.
“Yeah, why?” Elderton said.
Both Mandy and Maggie looked at each other and said, “Dylan.”
Maggie broke away from Mandy’s grasp and ran to the back of the store, where they’d found Dylan hiding before. She found him in the corner with a broom in hand, he was shaking. She slapped him across the face. He yelped.
“You’re a real piece of work, ya know that?” Maggie yelled at him.
Mandy and the others came running up behind. Mandy pulled her back and stepped between the two.
“He just ran and hid,” Maggie said, “While we had to fend for ourselves against Lucas. Ran and hid!” She yelled the last words at him.
“Alright,” Elderton said. “Let’s all calm down. We need each other alive. Come on, let’s sit down and talk.”
Hurts so good...
After they had shared everything they knew with each other, they sat motionless in the booth they had occupied for twenty minutes. Dylan had remained quiet for most of the time. Mandy kept checking him, afraid he was going to turn on them. He had drunk a lot of water and she just wasn’t sure he was all there upstairs.
“So what should we do?” Mandy asked.
“I think we need to get as many of us out as possible,” Elderton said. “But that’s not going to be easy. They’ll no doubt have the roads in and out blocked. And as you know, there’s only the North and South roads between the mountains. So we’ll have to escape on foot. But we can’t make it over the mountain pass.”
Martha chimed in, “When we were kids, my mom would take us into Canada along the beach. The North beach wraps around the mountainside and if you stay on it you can cross into Canada unnoticed. We did it all the time when we were kids, because there was a little ice cream shop in the border town.”
“I didn’t know that,” Maggie said.
“I’d heard of that, but never tried it,” Elderton said. “I like it. It’s a lot of area to cover between here and the woods, and then the woods are almost all uphill. It ain’t gonna be easy. Let’s try to cut the distance in half. Why don’t we make it to the church first, and then head over to the woods from there? That way if we get separated, we know where to go next. Sound good?”
Mandy and Maggie agreed. But Dylan got up and moved to the window.
“There’s something going on out there,” Dylan said. He peeled back a sliver of cardboard and what he saw was a gathering group of survivors and military in the Aldi parking lot across the street. “Hey, the military is gathering up some townies at Aldi. Looks like they’re trying to help us.”
The rest moved to the windows and peeked out as well.
“I don’t know, Dylan,” Elderton said. “I don’t trust them. You didn’t see what we saw.”
Dylan shook his head. “Screw it.” He opened the door and looked back at Mandy, “You coming with?”
Mandy couldn’t believe that he had the audacity to act like he was her savior after everything that had happened. She wanted to slap him just as Maggie had, but chose the more diplomatic route instead. “Dylan, Elderton and Martha know about these guys, you don’t. You better listen.”
Dylan shook his head. “It’s our military. They’re on our side.”
Elderton chimed in, “It’s not even debatable. They are not helping us. We stick to the plan and save ourselves.”
Dylan bit his lip, and then ran out of the door. Mandy grabbed the door, so it wouldn’t slam shut. They watched from behind the cardboard as Dylan crossed the street and entered the parking lot. The soldiers were startled and raised their weapons. Dylan stopped and raised his hands. A lot of shouting was going on between Dylan and the soldiers, but they couldn’t hear what was being said from inside. They watched as they welcomed him over. They added him to the group of townsfolk. They looked around for any other survivors. The commanding officer gave an order, and the soldiers had the townsfolk get into a single line. After the last soldier had stepped away from them, the soldiers opened fire and gunned them all down like a firing squad.
The gunshots rang out through the night, the soldiers scampered into a military jeep. They peeled out of the parking lot before a group of infected showed up and began eating on the corpses. The jeep full of soldiers came back and began to do donuts around the feasting. Soldiers were hanging out the side of the jeep spraying bullets into the crowd of chaos. They didn’t stop until the last one had dropped. They tore out of the parking lot and headed down the street and out of sight.
All they had left behind was a pile of corpses and blood. Dylan was at the bottom somewhere.
Mandy was in shock. She couldn’t believe what she had just witnessed. It had all happened so fast. One second they were alive, the next they were dead. And the soldiers didn’t even hesitate from following the heinous order. They really were on their own.
Elderton stepped in front of Maggie and Mandy. “As you can see, we have to save ourselves. We head to the church, and then the beach, and then out of Tipton for good.” Everyone silently nodded in agreement with Elderton. “Now, do you girls know your way around a gun?”
Chapter 17: The drums of war
Agent Wilcox stood just outside of the cafeteria at the high school. He pulled out his cigarette case, lit up another cigarette, and assessed the situation before him. He was fighting a three-front battle and was losing a lot of men in the process. It was time to cut some losses. It was time to narrow the playing field.
He watched as two soldiers carried another into the cafeteria, he was screaming in pain. His right leg had been torn off by the alien and he was losing a lot of blood quickly. He was a loss to cut. Wilcox was only interested in abled men moving forward. He looked through the window into the cafeteria and could see the scientists and doctors were rushing to make room for his men, but it was a waste of time. They couldn’t sit in Tipton all night nursing wounds, they had to act. They had to go on the offensive. No more reactionary decisions. It was time to play his hand.
He took a deep puff of his cigarette.
He entered the cafeteria and found Dr. Ulysses Spurgeon. It was Spurgeon who was overseeing the scientific side of their operation. Finding the crash site, salvaging a pod, and returning it to Nellis Airforce Base in Nevada. Beneath Nellis was where he and Dr. Spurgeon were used to working. Just outside of the notorious Area 51, a tourist distraction for the American citizens. Nellis was where the United States had been conducting their alien research since 1938. It was after an unreported and unprecedented event occurred just outside of Reno, Nevada. An alien craft had crashed, the military had swooped in, and collected it up. They took it back, along with their first pod and the corpse of the alien. They weren’t sure how to preserve Agent One-Nine-Four-Seven at the time. Many of the men and women involved in the handling of the crash turned and were put down by those who weren’t. What was left of the agent was destroyed by lengthened exposure to the atmosphere, namely oxygen. The two did not mix well.
He and Dr. Spurgeon had been brought into the then veteran research facility in 1981. They had come up the ranks together. He started out as a private, and Spurgeon was a simple lab technician. But after many retirements and untimely deaths, Wilcox ran the show, and Spurgeon was in charge of the science division. But everyone, including Spurgeon, answered to Wilcox. He was the final authority between humanity and an alien species with the potential to wipe the entire population of Earth out.
He didn’t take his job lightly.
It wasn’t often they had access to one of the pods, but they knew the power in it could change the way wars were fought forever. That was the aim. Learn to harness, use, and reproduce it. But the aliens were always very productive of their chemical warfare toxin. Guarding it like a mother would its only baby. It was always a mess when they had to snatch a pod from a living alien. It was always better if they could shoot the craft down and the alien die on impact. They had not been so lucky this time. Not only had they not killed the alien, she was hunting them. And to make matters worse, a German named Richter had crept in out of nowhere and attacked their convoy. He wasn’t sure how the Germans knew about their operation, but he suspected there was a leak or mole. He didn’t trust anyone in the best of times.
He just wanted to kill his entire crew and start over from scratch. No more leaks or moles that way. The investigation that he would have to launch upon returning to Nellis would be a tremendous pain in his side.
Too many fronts. He needed to cut losses.
“Dr. Spurgeon,” he said with his cigarette bouncing between his lips, “A word.” He pulled Spurgeon from one of his soldiers and stood near a cash register. “I need you to take as many blood samples as you want in the next 30 minutes. After that we’re closing up shop.”
“Excuse me?” Dr. Spurgeon started. “What are we to do with all the inflicted? They need our help.”
Wilcox removed the cigarette from his lips and let out a cloud of smoke, “We have to cut ties. My men will know what to do.”
“You’re going to kill my patients.” Dr. Spurgeon said. He was visibly upset. “These are still human beings and they need medical assistance not a bullet.”
“Keep arguing and I’ll drop the time to 15 minutes, Doctor.”
Spurgeon thought before he spoke, and then made one last plea, “It’s murder what you’re doing. This isn’t quarantine or for some greater good. It’s murder.”
Wilcox dropped his cigarette on the tile and stepped it out. “And it’s 15 minutes.”
Spurgeon turned away and began to call his colleagues together into a corner away from the soldiers and other patients.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray”
Spurgeon had a lot of thoughts racing through his mind as he tried to determine the best route to take. His doctor’s oath told him everything he and his colleagues were being asked to do was undeniably unethical. But to deny a direct order from Wilcox, a trusted colleague, would surely mean death. He knew full well the job had been a tittering balancing act between complete disregard for human life and saving it. He had always tried to lean to the latter. He had never been faced with such a task, prioritizing a mission over human life. He wasn’t sure he could make the call.
“Dr. Spurgeon?” A doctor, Dr. Susan Mills, recognized he was shaken and tried to get his attention.
“Sorry,” Spurgeon spoke, “It’s just that I’ve been presented with an impossible task. Wilcox has given us only 15 minutes to collect the samples we’d like, and then he’s going to terminate the patients.”
“All of them?” Mills asked. “Stage 2 patients I can kinda see, they seem gone to the virus. But Stage 1 patients still have cognitive functions.”
“I am there with you, Dr. Mills,” Spurgeon said. He rubbed his hand through his silver hair and thought for a moment. “A slight show of hands who agree that what Wilcox is doing is murder?”
All hands rose.
“I see,” Spurgeon continued, but at a much quieter volume, “A show of hands of those who think we should spare as many Stage 1 patients as possible?”
Again, all hands rose.
“What we are considering a serious offense,” Spurgeon added in a hushed tone.
“We know, Dr. Spurgeon.” Mills said.
They quickly mapped out a plan that involved them pretending to get their last samples of a few Stage 1 patients. They would inform the patient they were working with that they were going to loosen their restraints and help them make an escape through the cafeteria kitchen. Wilcox and the other soldiers had stepped outside the cafeteria to discuss what was about to go down. They were given a small window to retreat to the opposite end of the cafeteria from Wilcox and his men. There would be no time to waste.
Spurgeon came up on a patient he’d been working with for the past hour. His name was Richard, and he kept asking about his daughter. He had been with them for an hour and his Stage 1 condition had not progressed to Stage 2. He was the only one who had lasted beyond twenty minutes in Stage 1. He was certain Richard might hold some clues as to a vaccine or cure.
“Hello again, Richard,” Spurgeon spoke to him in a warm voice, “How are you feeling?”
“Pissed.” Richard said. “You can’t keep us here like animals. We’re not animals. And where’s my daughter? Have you heard anything about my daughter? Is she still alive?”
“I agree, Richard,” Spurgeon leaned in and continued, “My colleagues and I are going to get you and some of the other patients out of here. But we have to be quick. The military wants to kill you. But I’m going to save you, if you follow what I say to the letter. Do you understand, Richard?”
Richard simply nodded.
“I’m going to pretend to use this needle to extract some blood, but I will loosen your restraints instead, and we will run to the kitchen and out through the back.” Spurgeon whispered to him. “Do you understand?”
There was a slight commotion as two soldiers reentered the cafeteria. Spurgeon saw that Wilcox had left and wasn’t even going to stick around for the dirty deed.
Spurgeon loosened Richard’s arms first. Richard stayed still; his eyes were set on one of the soldiers coming their way. The restraint on the legs was going to be a dead giveaway, so Spurgeon turned quickly and loosened it as fast as he could.
“Doctor! Wait!” The soldier yelled at him and raised his rifle.
Before Spurgeon could finish loosening the restraint, Richard sat up and stole away the needle. Richard held Spurgeon in his arms, the needle against his neck threatening to use it on him. The soldier backed up.
“Finish your work, Doc,” Richard said.
Spurgeon began to sweat, not sure if Richard was serious about the hostage situation or if he was just trying to help with the escape plans. He finished loosening the restraint.
Richard stood up, jerking the good doctor about in his grips. He moved over to the soldier. “Don’t move, boy, don’t move,” he said, “I want you to hold that rifle over your head or I’ll break this off in a very important vein of the doctor’s neck.”
“Doctor?” The soldier looked to Spurgeon for guidance.
“Better do as he says, soldier,” Spurgeon had a good feeling that Richard was trying to take control of the situation for their escape. Disarming the soldiers was the right route. No bloodshed would be necessary.
The soldier held the rifle over his head with two hands.
“You too!” Richard yelled at the other soldier. “Over your head, both hands!”
The other soldier complied from across the aisle of tables.
The other Stage 1 patients sat up, loosened by the other doctors. Everyone watched Richard, unsure of his next move. The pause seemed like an eternity.
Richard grabbed the pistol from the soldier’s holster and shot him point blank to the face. His helmet flew off his head with a spray of blood and brains. Richard turned and shot the other soldier who hadn’t quite gotten the rifle down from over his head. The bullet hit him in the left shoulder and knocked him back. Richard shoved Spurgeon to the ground and charged the soldier. He took two more shots; one to the chest, another to the head. He surveyed the cafeteria for anymore threats. He dropped the needle on the ground. He picked up the rifle from the soldier near him and slung it over his shoulder with the strap. He walked back to Spurgeon.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Spurgeon pleaded as he helped himself up with the table close to him, “We could have gotten away without any bloodshed.”
“Unleash all my brothers and sisters, Dr. Spurgeon,” Richard said when he reached Spurgeon.
“But the Stage 2 patients are unstable,” Spurgeon tried to explain. “They won’t know up from down, right form wrong. They’ll kill us all.”
“We’re. Not. Animals!” Richard yelled in Spurgeon’s face and spit all over it with each word. He stepped back and shot Spurgeon in the chest.
Spurgeon fell to the ground and watched in horror from the ground as Richard and the other Stage 1 patients forced his colleagues to prepare to loosen the restraints from the Stage 2 patients. He knew they would die a miserable, lonely death. He thought he could control Stage 1 patients, but he now knew the Stage 1 patients were the Alphas and Stage 2 were Betas. Before the first Stage 2 patient could be set free, his eyes slowly closed, and he died.
Alphas and Betas
Richard stood atop a table and looked down on all the Alphas and Betas before him. The Betas could scarcely contain themselves, they wanted to eat the doctors badly. But Richard had forbidden it. The doctors were horrified, surrounded by the Betas.
“They came to OUR town,” Richard started, “And they tied us down, like dogs. Like bitches. We are not their bitch. We are not their dogs! This is OUR TOWN. We will take back what is ours.” The Betas growled in agreement. The other Alphas looked up to him and nodded. “Now. Now you may eat.”
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