Here's Part Three of my zombie story...
WARNING: Due to scenes of violence and mild language reader discretion is advised!
The End of Days
“Where are we going?” Jessica demanded, trying to dull the edge of her hostility. Was it a sin to yell at a priest?
Father Paul’s stride didn’t change.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he intoned. “I thought I told you to find a safe place to hold up?”
“And I thought I told you that I have no idea where to go?” she replied, angry that she’d managed to find the only person in town not interested in self-preservation.
He turned on her and Jessica jumped back, expecting a blast of anger. Instead the priest had the posture of someone resigned, defeated.
“Any place would be better then where I’m going,” he said. “I suggest you find a way to protect yourself. Go to the gun shop. I suspect that if it’s as bad as you say it is then half the town will be gathered there already.”
The priest made to resume his trek when Jessica grabbed his arm.
“And what about you?” she demanded. “What’s going to protect you?”
“If afraid I don’t know yet. That’s what I need to find.”
The holy man’s cryptic reply distracted her. He drifted out of her grasp and began to walk towards the featureless black monolith which was the distant factory, oblivious to the sounds of rustling in the darkness ahead. Clad as he was, Father Paul was instantly consumed by the stifling dark.
And once again Jessica was terribly alone. She wrapped her arms around herself, shocked by how clammy and wet her skin felt. Mid-shiver, she jumped in reaction to a scream nearby and shouts that followed.
She hadn’t had much time to explore the town during the past five days, but then again, she’d been quick to realize that there was very little to see in Styler. She was convinced that the ruckus was coming from the very same place the priest had told her to go.
She began picking her way though the park, listening intently for unnatural sounds and hoping to give anything nasty she encountered a very wide berth.
The ungodly stench that washed over Bobby as he grappled with the creature was sapping his strength. To make matters worse, the ghoul’s power belied its slow movement. Bobby was helpless as the creature pulled his forearm close, meeting it with a pair of filthy incisors.
The quarterback was hoping the dislocated jaw of his assailant wouldn’t be able to work up much biting power but there was no such reprieve.
Bobby bellowed in pain, pulled his arm back, and came down with the butt of the pistol to try and ward away his attacker. He heard a gruesome sound, like an axe blade being driven into rotten wood. He stumbled back and looked up, stunned by the abstract sight of the pistol lodged in the thing’s eye socket, the barrel sticking straight up in the air. Temporarily pushed back, the fiend steadied itself and renewed its grasping attack.
The youth decided not to linger and ran back into the woods. When he thought he heard voices and something shuffling through the trees to his left, he just ran faster, eventually bursting out of the underbrush and spilling onto the grass close to “Manton’s General Store” and “The Gun Rack.”
He scrambled to his feet, feeling that at any moment something ravenous would be upon him. As soon as he was up, his eyes were drawn to the drama unfolding in the gun shop.
“Clint, don’t shoot! It’s me, Harmony!”
The end of the shotgun’s barrel finally stopped shaking. The look of mania in the man’s eyes slowly began to melt away.
“Jesus, girl,” he managed. “I though you wuz one of them!”
The mechanic dropped the shotgun onto the counter and backed away. His face was so pale he looked like the plastic model of the “Visible Man” in Harmony’s biology class.
“Are you alright?” she offered.
Clint snorted his derision and ran his fingers though his close-cropped hair. Harmony realized that she’d never seen him before without his trademark ball-cap.
She propped the axe up against the wall and came around behind the cabinet to console him. He was hunched over now, elbows on the glass, head in hands. He was shaking all over.
“It’s okay, Clint. I’m alright. You didn’t shoot me.”
“Yeah, but I almost did,” he muttered. “Cripes, I feel like I’m goin’ nuts...”
Harmony patted him on the back gently. He smelled like sweat and motor oil, and for some reason she found this reassuring.
“What the hell are you doin’ out here alone, anyway?” he yelled.
“They came into my house,” Harmony managed to reply. The silent tears re-appeared again, leaping out her eyes like victims of a burning building. “They got my dad.”
Clint was collected instantly when he heard this. He stood back up and embraced her.
“God, darlin’. I’m so sorry. Between that and what went down with Pa earlier...”
“What happened to you?” Jessica asked, trying to distract herself. She’d just noticed one of his blood-spattered torn suspender straps for the first time.
The mechanic breathed a world-weary sigh.
“I was leavin’ the house to go back down to the station to see the Sheriff when I noticed someone was in my truck. I saw it was that Howlett character, which didn’t surprise me too much since I’d seen him rummaging around on our property before. I went over to grab him cuz I figgered he might of had somethin’ to do with what happened to
He paused and became agitated again, his eyes jumping towards the door and then all around the store.
“Well it was him alright, but he was gone. He was all messed up, like the rest of them. He was, he was...”
Harmony reached out and grasped his blackened hand.
“It’s alright,” Harmony said. “It’s going to be okay.”
The words sounded hollow in her own ears but she had to believe it. Maybe if everyone believed it then it might make it so.
Clint looked up and began to say something before the color drained out of his face again. He made a motion for the shotgun before Harmony could see what he was reacting to. She managed to push the barrel aside just as she recognized the figure in the doorway.
At first glance, Harmony thought that she might have made a mistake in stopping Clint. Panting, leaning against the doorframe, the quarterback looked like death warmed over. The once white sleeves of his varsity jacket were marred with filth and grass stains. He appeared to be bleeding badly from his neck and arm. Until then Harmony had never noticed that her school colors were the same shade as blood.
“Oh my God, Bobby! Are you alright?” she said, instinctively reaching for a revolver in the display case below her.
“Yeah,” he muttered breathlessly. “Just swell...”
He entered the shop, favoring his forearm. Clint and Harmony exchanged dubious looks as Bobby crossed the floor and brought his elbow down on top of the nearest display case. They winced collectively as the glass shattered.
“The cases are, uh...open,” Harmony offered weakly.
The quarterback ignored her, brushing glass off the pistol he was intent on with the cuff of his bloody sleeve.
“Listen, there friend,” Clint said, keeping a tense grip on the shotgun. “Maybe you should just sit down fer a moment and...”
Bobby hefted the hand cannon and popped the cylinder. He fumbled for a box of bullets and ripped it open. He fumbled the first two before managing to fill all six chambers as well as his pockets.
Harmony revolved in different circles than the star quarterback of her high school and could only claim to know him from reputation and an occasional sighting in the hall. His reputation for being intense and hot-tempered was fulfilling itself right before her very eyes.
The young man closed the cylinder of the pistol and pointed it towards the ceiling.
“Alright. I’m going back out there and I’m going to shoot every one of those bastards I come across. Who’s with...”
Bobby felt indignant that he’d failed to galvanize the attention of everyone in the room. In fact they weren’t even looking at him anymore; they were both focused on the door, raising their guns to ward off whatever was there.
Before he could figure out where “Daisy” got her gun from, Bobby whirled around to add his deterrence to the mix.
And all at once he wondered if a nurse was capable of treating herself for heart failure.