Tuesday, September 6, 2011
It's been a month since the wedding, and I'm back to writing!
It inevitable that as soon as it starts to feel like fall outside my imagination begins to prepare for Halloween. I say this because, for the last three years, I've written a zombie story in the first or second week of September. I can't help it; I LOVE Halloween. It's one of my favorite holidays. I also love being scared (horror movie scared, not plane-dropping-out-of-the-sky scared). You're probably better off reading the first part (new window) and the second part (new window) to fully understand what's going on, and look for more scary fun as Halloween approaches. Enjoy!
Aaron M. Smith- September 6th, 2011
“Clear,” Donny said, peeking through the shattered remains of the gas station door. Sam and I stepped carefully through the broken glass littering the linoleum floor, my flashlight playing over the scene of chaos inside. Sam had a submachine gun in his hands. I couldn’t think about using a gun since we took the Explorer back in New Bethlehem. I carried a crowbar instead.
That was nearly an hour ago, and I still couldn’t shake the image from my brain. The thing (it didn’t seem right to call it a person anymore) with the red eyes climbing out of the back seat, coming for me. I’d plugged nine rounds from a glock into it before I’d even thought about it.
I never thought I was capable of that.
“Mike? You with us?” Donny’s voice snapped me back into reality. I nodded. “You’ve hardly said a word, dude. You okay?”
“We got jerky.” Sam said, stuffing as much Jack Links as he could carry into a nylon duffel bag.
“Come on, we have to get supplies and get back on the road,” I said. Focus on the task at hand. Don’t think what happened, or what’s going to happen. Stay alive right now.
I started filling my bag with bottled water. Donny walked around behind the counter. I thought I saw him eyeing the liquor bottles.
“Donny, we don’t have time to go on a bender,” I said, loud enough for Sam to hear. I turned and saw Sam with a case of Bud Light under each arm. He pouted like a six year old before he sat the beer down on the floor.
“How far until we get into Pennsylvania downtown?” I asked.
“Not far, like nine miles,” Sam answered. “I just wanted to stock up now, in case everything is already gone when we get there.” I’d known Sam for a couple years, but never very well. He’d always walked around with a chip on his shoulder. What the three of us had seen in the last twenty-four hours had changed him. I wouldn’t say he was nicer, exactly. Just more serious, I guess.
A sudden scraping noise made all three of us jump. In the darkness at the back of the store, one of the display shelves had toppled over. Something was moving beneath it.
I prayed Sam and Donny couldn’t see my knees shaking as we fanned out, surrounding the overturned plywood shelf, bags of chips crunching under our feet. I trained my flashlight on the shelf. Donny gently laid his shotgun down and gripped the shelf, and Sam had a white-knuckle grip on his gun. Donny mouthed a silent three-count: Three, two one…
He hefted the shelf upright.
The creature beneath it hissed as the weight was lifted off of its mangled body. She was, or used to be, I guess, a middle-aged woman. Both her legs were shattered, bone protruding at horrible angles. She didn’t seem to notice, though, as she struggled to get to her feet, arms flailing in Sam’s direction.
And those horrible, totally red eyes, like all the blood vessels had ruptured at once.
She didn’t stand a chance. Sam’s little submachine gun barked a dozen times before I could count, the muzzle flash blinding in the darkened store. The monster fell back on the linoleum, still. Red-black blood, not enough to have come from anything still alive, dribbled lazily across the floor.
“Did anything hear that?” Donny asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, eager to look away from the grizzly scene. I walked to the window and looked out. And suddenly wished I hadn’t.
“What’s wrong?” Hissed Sam.
“They found the car.”
“Who did?” asked Donny.
I turned to him and rolled my eyes. “Who do you think?” I pointed into the parking lot, where we’d left our “borrowed” Explorer. There were six or seven zombies staggering around it, most of them pressing against or leaning on the hood.
“What’re they doing?” Donny asked.
“Looks like they’re drawn to the heat,” I said.
“Shit,” Sam grunted, cocking the SMG again. “I didn’t want to have to blow all my ammo on this run.”
“Don’t!” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down. “If you hit the car, we might have to walk downtown!” I glanced around the station, my eyes landing on the liquor behind the counter. “I might have an idea. Hang on.”
I don’t drink, but I played enough video games to know how a Molotov cocktail works. I fished around behind the counter to find the bottle with the highest proof and a little plastic lighter. I found a dry towel in the utility room and screwed off the cap, cramming the rag inside. Whatever I’d picked up, it smelled like paint thinner and pine needles. I sat the bag that I’d filled with bottled water and my flashlight near the side door of the station and looked out into the darkness.
“Get ready to head to the car,” I whispered over my shoulder. Donny and Sam started to argue, but I was out the door and didn’t hear them.
Around the side of the station, I found what I was looking for. A huge tank of kerosene sat at the back of the lot. There wasn’t a zombie in sight; I tiptoed over to it, suddenly wishing I hadn’t left the flashlight in the station. The liquor bottle in my back pocket, I took two steps back and swung the crowbar with all my might into the tank, where the hose met the metal body.
The clang! Was a lot louder than I expected, but the hose tore free from the tank. A sharp, pungent odor filled my nose as the fuel began to slosh out across the parking lot. I turned around to get clear before lighting it up.
And found myself face to face with a huge man wearing blood-smeared coveralls. He grunted and lunged at me in the darkness.
Fear like a living thing leapt in my stomach, and I cried out. My shoulders reacted before I could tell them to, swinging the crowbar like a baseball bat. The hit was clumsy, but it did the trick; there was a sick, wet thud as the tool shattered some of the zombie’s ribs. The blow was so fierce I lost my grip on the crowbar and it spun from my fingers, clanging to the concrete. The zombie didn’t seem to feel any pain, but the blow staggered it.
“Mike!” Donny cried from the station, no longer worried about keeping his voice down.
“Get to the car!” I screamed. I yanked the bottle from my back pocket as I ran. The monster I’d just clobbered was shuffling in the darkness to my left; I had only seconds. My thumb fumbled on the plastic lighter. A weak little flame flicked into life on the third try, and I lit the soaked rag hanging out of the little glass bottle. In the flickering orange flame, I saw the mechanic take a step toward me.
I chucked the bottle overhand at him.
The flaming bottle bounced heavily off of his skull but didn’t break. It tumbled down his belly, dribbling flaming liquor across the corpse in a blazing salvo. When it hit the concrete at the base of the kerosene tank, it shattered.
The kerosene ignited into brilliant blue flame, the heat searing the back of my neck even as I dove back into the abandoned station.
Donny and Sam didn’t say anything as we snatched up the items we’d packed away. Sure enough, the zombies that had gathered around our car were starting to shamble in the direction of the kerosene blaze. They totally ignored us as we slipped past them.
I heard the whistling sound just as I was closing the back door and Sam started the engine.
“Drive!” I screamed, and Sam stomped the gas.
Our tires squealed as we peeled out of the parking lot, leaving the zombies and the flames behind us.
And that was when the whole place exploded.
The whistling rose to a piercing shriek, and then a sound like a rushing waterfall and a wave of heat that could’ve fried eggs rushed over the whole car. I felt the force shove us across the road and Sam fight to maintain control of the Explorer. I turned around and looked out the back window; the plume of smoke and flames lit up the night sky like daylight.
We were two hundred yards away when the pumps went up. Columns of smoke, shifting eerily in the dancing orange flames beneath, began to engulf the whole station until I couldn’t see anything but black smoke and yellow light.
I turned back around and leaned on the seat, exhausted. The three of us drove in silence for several minutes before Donny said,
“Hey, look at the bright side. If anyone’s alive, they had to have seen that, right?”
“Yeah, Don,” Sam said, his voice tired, “We just sent up a big damn smoke signal.”
“Who got Ho-Hos?” I said, pulling the cellophane-wrapped cake from one of our duffel bags.
“Those are mine, hands off,” Sam said.
“I earned this,” I said, and I made a show of slowly tearing off the wrapper and cramming a whole cake into my mouth. Neither of them seemed willing to argue.