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 Post subject: Re: True Colors
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:30 am 
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This is really good stuff, Major. You've got some talent there. Impressive dialogue. Normally when I read that much dialogue it's easy to lose track of who is saying what, but you manage it well, and manage to further develop both character and plot in the process. I'm digging it.


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 Post subject: Re: True Colors
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:40 pm 
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Thank you ND. Although I think I'm dialoging everyone else to death.

But I had the utility closet scene in mind for some time now. It just came out longer than I expected (you should have seen the first draft!) And I think that drunken dinner exchange is just about the best thing I've ever written, even if no one else thinks so.

But I need to get these characters back out in the wild for some close encounters of the undead kind!

FWIW: I think one of the keys to writing readable 2-way dialog (without resorting to "and then he said xxxx" "To which she replied xxxx. So he said xxxxx, which made her cry out xxxxx!") is to have at least one of the characters use the other person's name. Not with every line, but a lot. Like Bill says "Zoey" in conversation way more than any real person ever would. But it doesn't seem to get in the way of the flow of the written dialog, and certainly helps me keep the two apart. :)

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 Post subject: Re: True Colors
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 10:54 am 
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Loving it, can't wait till you get time to post more. I'm sure you have more than a few people reading this.

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On a normal shotgun with Ghost Rings, the sight radius is significantly longer. I'd put a red dot on that thing before I ever considered those MBUS. It's like putting Pirellis on a Mail Jeep. Yeah they look cool, but the platform cannot utilize them to their potential.


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 Post subject: Lessons Learned
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:25 am 
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[EDIT: If you like this story, please post! If you have constructive feedback, I'd love to hear that as well. Let me know what works, what doesn't, what you'd like to see more of, less of, etc. Thx! - MH]

EDIT: External chapter links removed.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 1
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 11:35 am 
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We remained in the office building for only four more days. Mostly to recuperate from the injuries we had inflicted upon each other. I spent a good part of that time reflecting on how radically my relationship with this young woman had changed. It went from what I’d like to believe was the beginnings of a very sweet friendship to attempted murder. In less than 24 hours. That was fast, even by my standards.

After the debacle at the utility closet, Zoey was understandably reluctant to let me look at her right shoulder. When she finally consented, the whole area around the joint was swollen, the skin drawn taut and shiny, literally hot to the touch. I was certain that her humerus had sustained at least a spiral facture, just below the shoulder joint.

But within a day or so, it seemed to improve dramatically. So much so, I decided I had been mistaken and it wasn‘t broken after all. I was also surprised I recovered so quickly from my bruised jaw. I realized that I might not be able to take a punch like I used to, but damned if I don’t seem to bounce back a lot faster.

As for Zoey’s left shoulder, well, I’ve never seen anything like it. I remember what that wound had looked like that first night; the zed had practically torn a chunk out of her. But by the end of the second day, it was little more than two shallow avulsions, and by the third you really couldn‘t call it anything worse than an ugly bruise.

That got Zoey to thinking. She asked to see the laceration on my left hand. I hadn’t changed the bandage for several days because it had long since stopped soaking through.

But even I was shocked when we pulled the dressing off. I know a serious laceration when I see one. What that cut had really needed were sutures. A lot of them. I had expected to find an ugly line of jagged scar tissue across my palm. Instead, the only evidence of that grievous wound was a thin, raised stripe of fresh white skin. It was almost like it had stitched itself back together. My knee was the same story. It looked like it had never been anything worse than a bad scratch.

That’s when Zoey asked me for more detail about the chain of events leading to my desperate leap through the broken conference room window. Especially the arrangement of the four zombies when they fell out of the building. So I returned to that conference room for the second and final time, to show her exactly what happened.

Zoey made a pretty convincing case that those four zombies had to have levered out of the building along a specific three or four foot stretch of razor sharp broken glass. And that in all likelihood each of those zeds was cut up pretty badly going over the edge. I know for sure at least one was.

But that was still just conjecture. What was indisputable was the exact location of the ladder against the window, because it had left two very distinct marks on the outside edge of the window sill. They showed exactly where I had rolled into the building; where I cut myself badly. It was the same three or four foot stretch of broken glass.

Zoey’s point was that I could have, maybe even should have, been infected when I came into contact with that contaminated glass. And that somehow, I seem to share Zoey’s miraculous immunity to the zombie virus.

All that - I was at least willing to consider. But Zoey’s theory that a latent immunity, activated by actual exposure to the zombie virus, could somehow trigger a powerful physiological response in the human body? One that greatly accelerates the healing process? That seemed like a stretch.

But then, there is my palm, knee and now my jaw. And both of Zoey’s shoulders. Is it possible that I actually did fracture her arm?

And that it just healed itself?

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Dec 23, 2011 1:26 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 2
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:01 pm 
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It went unsaid that we were leaving. After what happened at the utility closet, we couldn’t stay. So we busied ourselves gathering supplies. I selected two small yet sturdy daypacks from among the dozens I found in cubicles scattered throughout the building. These we loaded with water bottles and food, flashlights and spare batteries, matches, lighters, pen knives, two first aid kits and a pair of rain coats.

And a portable radio.

I might well have elected to dispense with the radio. During my first few days alone in the building, I had tried unsuccessfully to find any sort of broadcast transmission, trying different frequencies several times a day. But ultimately I lost interest. I think even back then, I was starting to give up.

Zoey approached it very differently. She scanned all frequencies, but concentrated on round numbers, like 100 MHz FM and 1000 MHz AM, and at obvious times, like 12:00 AM and PM. When that didn’t work, she expanded the search to include 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Still nothing.

My contribution was to suggest zero hundred hours Zulu, or Greenwich Mean Time, That worked out to be 7:00 PM local time. We tuned in that evening and immediately found it at exactly 1000 MHz on the AM band; right where Zoey had predicted. Radio Free Humanity, or RFH. It broadcast a woman’s voice, identified only as Sheila, who told any and all listeners of a movement to re-organize the tattered remnants of the human race.

Each daily broadcast lasts exactly one hour; to conserve scarce battery resources for both transmission and reception, listeners are told. The transmissions dealt with a number of topics, but interwoven throughout was the same, underlying message for anyone still alive: You are not alone. There are others like you. There is hope yet for the human race.

Organizationally, all RFH broadcasts devote a 10 minute segment to the subject of the expanding network of fortified safe rooms, a sort of underground railroad for the zombie apocalypse. All survivors are encouraged to construct one wherever they are located, and utilize others when traveling to other locations.

Each RFH broadcast includes detailed guidelines on how to construct one. The essential features of a safe room include the requirement that it can only be secured from within. No open or glass windows, unless they are on a second story or higher, and then only if there is nothing beneath the outside of the window except sheer vertical wall. It must have a bare minimum of two exits. All doors must be structurally reinforced and the area around the door frame has to be built up and fitted with a cross bar.

Each safe room must contain a permanent map charting the local environs and the direction/location of any other known safe houses in the area. RFH strongly suggests drawing this map on an interior wall of the safe room with paint or a permanent marker, to ensure that it can not easily be defaced, destroyed or removed. Survivors using the safe room are expected to update the area map with any additional known details or new information.

Finally, the safe room is to be clearly marked with a cross surrounded by a five-sided house icon. Permanent signs and directional arrows are to set up all around the outside of the structure housing the safe room. It is encouraged, within the bounds of good judgment and personal safety, to set up additional signs and directional markings in the outlying areas all around the safe house structure, to help guide survivors to the exact safe room location.

Ideally, each safe room is to be equipped with a store of supplies available to other survivors who meet certain criteria. Food and especially water. Beyond that, anything that might be of value to survivors on the run from zombies. Medical supplies, radios, flashlights, batteries. Matches and lighters. Maps and compasses. Weapons and ammunition.

Use of the safe rooms entail following certain rules. First and foremost: anyone can stay in a safe room for the first night, no questions asked. But only those who have established that they personally have built or assisted in the construction of another safe room may spend additional nights or access stored supplies. If you cannot prove that you’ve personally added a safe room to the network, the resident safe room host will ask you to move on the following morning, and you cannot use, consume or remove supplies stored there.

RFH suggested taking pictures of your own safe room with a digital camera and showing the photographic “proof” to a safe room host. If a safe room lacks a resident host, survivors are expected to follow the honor system, taking only those supplies they absolutely need, and then only in exchange for whatever extra supplies the visitor can spare.

Zoey became fixated with the idea of the safe room network in general, and actually building one in particular. To “aid the movement“, as she put it. I came to understand that this was going to be a prerequisite to us leaving. Reluctantly, I agreed to help her build one here in the office building before we departed.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:42 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 3
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:19 pm 
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We settled on the central kitchen/dining area on the second floor. It makes up part of the central core structure of the building, which also houses stairwells, elevator banks and bathrooms. The kitchen/dining area is walled off with two doors opening onto opposite sides of the building floor plan.

For sleeping accommodations, Zoey and I dragged benches and chair cushions up from the lobby. Buckets, bleach, and industrial cleaners from utility closets provided the basic waste management facilities. With some tools we found in a maintenance area in the basement, we disassembled several folding banquet tables. The various brackets, support beams and table legs became the raw materials to reinforce the kitchen doors and door frames. As it was in the center of the building, our safe room had no windows to be concerned about.

We spent an entire day moving the contents of several of the departmental snack shops into the safe room, as well as gathering scores of matchbooks, lighters, flashlights, radios, batteries, pen knives and first aid supplies. We heaped more than two dozen gym bags and day packs in a corner of the dining area, all full of clean clothing and toiletries.

I used a permanent marker to draw a map of the surrounding area on the kitchen wall. I deemed it to be relatively accurate in general layout and scale, but extremely lacking in detail. Zoey pronounced it a good start after writing in the lower corner “Add’l map detail needed, pls”. Then Zoey and I signed and dated our handiwork. That left only two tasks before we could depart.

The first was to use some spay paint Zoey found in the basement to mark the outside of the building with directional arrows and safe room icons. With each passing day, more and more zombies were drifting back down the hill from the other office building above, scene of Zoey’s brilliant diversionary tactic with the car alarm.

Only with thorough scouting from the second floor windows, careful timing and the use of almost every available exterior door were we able to place markings on each side of the building, directing any survivors to the front entrance, which was now unlocked. My heart was in my mouth the whole time I was out there, nervously guarding over Zoey as she worked. In the front lobby, Zoey took particular relish using the spray can to write the final directions to the safe room in block letters directly on the marble floor. With a mischievous smile, she confessed she had always wanted to tag a building, although I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that.

Finally, of the dozens of digital cameras we found in cubicles throughout the building, we selected one that Zoey judged to be the highest quality model that accepted standard AA size batteries.

Zoey used the camera to document all aspects our handiwork. Then she did something that surprised me. After completing her photographic record of the safe room, Zoey insisted we use the camera’s self timer to take one last shot of the two of us standing next to our area map on the kitchen wall. Just before the camera snapped the picture, I felt her grasp my arm tightly and lean into my shoulder. I believe that was the exact moment she forgave me for trying to kill her.

Zoey probably never gave that final picture a second thought, but that night after she went to sleep, I dug out the camera and tabbed through the shots until I found that image. In it, I appeared stiff and unsmiling, like a slightly irritated old farmer MacDonald. But Zoey was absolutely beaming, crinkling her nose exactly the way I remember that very first day when I turned to greet her in the lobby.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Tue Jun 07, 2011 3:41 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 4
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:28 pm 
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Zoey suggested that we both spend our final night in the office building together in the new safe room. I was uncomfortable with the idea, mostly because I snore and fart in my sleep. Zoey said she wanted to get a feel for the results of our handiwork, and reminded me that we had better get used to spending a lot of time in close proximity to each other.

Before we settled in that last night, we had a long talk. We agreed that our best chance to find other survivors was to seek out the closest small town, which would be Drexel Hill, 12 miles up the highway. Our thinking was that the large cities were far too dangerous, being completely overrun. The small towns and villages were more likely to be places where the infection might have been at least been partially controlled, and offered a sufficient concentration of food and other supplies to attract other survivors.

We decided I would carry the crowbar and Zoey would get the baseball bat, the machete held in reserve in my pack. She practiced with all three earlier in the day. The crowbar was just too heavy; if she swung it hard enough to cause damage, she tended to lose control of it on the follow through. Watching her wildly swing the machete simply scared the shit out of me; she was at least as likely to injure herself as a zed if she tried to use that thing in combat. But with the bat, Zoey could swing it with decent power and velocity, choke up on the handle if she got tired, and it was light enough that she could control it on the follow through.

Zoey didn’t like it, but I insisted on a few rules of engagement. I cautioned Zoey that based on my experience, striking a killing blow against a moving zombie was a lot harder than one would guess. I advised the best way to engage a moving zed is to hit it low, do some damage to its legs and finish it off on the ground.

If we encountered a single zombie, she was to hang back and let me engage it, assisting only if I asked for help. Two zombies, we would take on in tandem, but only by standing together, five feet apart; close enough to offer help, far enough to minimize the chances of injuring each other with our own weapons.

Zoey became very upset when I told her what I expected her to do if we encountered three or more zombies at once, which was to drop her pack, run away and not look back. I tried to explain what I saw as the plain logic of it: three zeds were simply more than the two of us could handle, and Zoey’s most effective defense was clearly her speed and agility.

At first she wouldn’t hear of it, until I reminded her what she said to me while locked in that utility closet, about giving meaning to sacrifice. She got very quiet in response to that, and the only expression of acquiescence I could get out of her was a reluctant nod.

With that we went to bed, though I think neither of us got much sleep that final night.

We arose early the next morning and gathered our packs. After scouting from the windows, we discovered that the side of the building facing the grassy knoll and the highway was currently clear of zeds. Our initial objective would be a narrow strip of woods running along side the highway. Getting there would involve a 400 yard traverse across open terrain.

We descended to the basement, where we could gain access to either of the two green doors on that side, the ones with no knobs or handles on the outside. Once those doors closed behind us, there would be no easy retreat back into the building if we encountered trouble.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:52 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 5
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:47 pm 
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Using flashlights, we make final adjustments to our packs just inside the basement door closest to the rear of the building. We exchange glances.

“Ready for this, Zoey?“

“As ready as I’ll ever be.“

“It’s not too late if you --”

“ -- I don’t. If we don’t do this now, I don’t think we’ll ever leave this building.”

I nod. “Agreed. I check to make sure it’s clear first, right?”

“Right.”

I cautiously push against the door. It opens reluctantly; these side exits aren’t often used, and this door apparently hasn’t been opened for some time. It groans on its hinges as it swings open.

The door creaks opens to the right affording a clear view of the area in front of me and to the left, toward the front of the building.

It’s almost blindingly bright out. This side of the building faces east; I’m looking directly into the early morning sun. There was a time when I would have anticipated that, taken it into account with my planning. I need to somehow unearth all those old instincts, dust them off, put them back into use. They kept me alive in the jungles of Laos; we need them just as urgently now.

Still no zeds in sight, but I don’t give Zoey the all clear until I survey the area behind the blind side of the door. Peering around the door’s edge, I see nothing towards the back of the building.

Cautiously, I step out into the bright sunlight and wordlessly motion Zoey to follow. So accustomed have I become to the security of our fortress-like home, I now feel acutely vulnerable and exposed; like I’m stepping directly into a minefield; each footfall could be my last.

Are we doing the right thing, leaving the security of this building?

The question is closed to debate as Zoey releases the door and it swings shut, locking us out.

I orient myself, marking our course for the woods to the southeast, 400 yards distant. No sign of zeds in any direction, but I hardly find that reassuring. How am I going to function out here for days, maybe weeks, when I’m this keyed up after only 30 seconds?

I nod to Zoey and we quietly begin making our way towards the woods. Zoey initially breaks into a trot, but eases up when she sees I’ve elected to maintain a brisk walk. We should have discussed that before we stepped outside the building. I know she could easily jog all day long, but I know equally well that if I’m to do this, I have to pace myself. Even if you’re in top shape, when an objective involves covering long distances on foot, any advantage conferred by initial speed is almost always outweighed by the pitfalls of wearing yourself out.

I keep glancing back. The further we move away from the building, the more I can see of the areas directly in front of and behind it. Which means we’re beginning to expose ourselves from the rear, as well as in front and on both sides.

Zoey’s attention is entirely focused on the woods ahead, I notice. We’ve come less than 100 yards and she’s completely oblivious to anything that could be coming at us from the sides or the rear. Something else we should have gone over before leaving. I’m beginning to think this might have been a mistake.

I keep checking our six. On my third sweep, I spot what I have been dreading. Not one, but two zeds at the back of the building have marked our exit, and are now running towards us, 150 yards distant, and closing fast.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Sat Dec 24, 2011 3:55 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 6
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:59 pm 
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I drop my pack and tug out the crowbar, turning to face them.

“Zoey!” I whisper harshly over my shoulder. “We’ve got trouble! 5 o’clock!”

Zoey’s so far ahead, she doesn’t hear me, forcing me to raise my voice.

“Zoey! Dammit child, get back here!” She hears that with a start, like I’ve awoken her from some private reverie. She immediately rushes back to my side. I’m left to hope that nothing else was within earshot of my outburst.

Zoey quickly shrugs off her pack and draws out the baseball bat. The two zeds are closing in, running almost side by side. They’re going to come upon us at the same instant. This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen. Not on our first encounter.

“OK,” I say evenly, keeping my eyes on the rapidly approaching zombies. “Just like we talked about. Swing hard and low and don’t let up. And if you miss on your first swing, duck and roll. But stay close!”

The dull thud of the bat hitting the ground is the first indication that my carefully formulated plan is immediately going to hell. Zoey’s disarmed herself and lowers her stance, glaring at the two zeds.

“Zoey! Don‘t --” Those words have scarcely left my lips when the damn fool of a girl takes off, running straight at the two zombies. I’m fumbling to get the revolver out of my pocket when she changes course, running parallel to the building, towards the front. Both zeds increase speed and turn to follow. I grasp the revolver with both hands and draw a bead on the lead zombie. But they’re already 25 yards distant and pulling away. I can’t make this shot, not with the revolver. All I'll succeed in doing now is draw the attention of more zombies.

Come back! Damn you Zoey, swing back! I’m trying to will some sense to that girl; get her to alter her course and loop back to me. I’m trotting along in their direction, but I know I can’t possibly catch up. If something happens now, Zoey’s too far away for me to help.

She’s leading them back along the knoll. One of the zombies is faster than the other, perhaps a match for Zoey. She and that zed are beginning to pull away from the slower zombie. She’s sweeping right now, leading both zeds towards a dense thicket of trees. The same thicket, I realize, where I barely survived my third encounter with a zombie almost two weeks ago. The one with the two trunks diverging into that “V”.

Keep turning, Zoey! Keep turning back this way!

She doesn’t turn, instead continuing to head straight for the trees. My blood runs cold as I see her look back and deliberately slow up, letting the lead zed close the gap alarmingly. It’s almost on top of her as they reach the trees. At the last possible moment, she looks forward again, accelerates and launches herself into the dense thicket of trunks. She passes right through them, completely airborne, hitting the ground mid-stride a good 5 feet on the other side.

The lead zed also launches itself into the thicket, but it most certainly does not sail cleanly through like its quarry. The leaf canopy shudders as the zombie impacts one of the trunks and comes to a violent halt inside the thicket, a shower of dislodged leaves gently drifting down all around it.

She might have gotten the second zombie to do exactly the same thing if she just kept running in the same direction, but now Zoey belatedly turns in my direction and begins running back towards me. It draws the second zombie away from the trees. I see movement in the thicket, but the first zed hasn’t yet extricated itself from the tangle of tree trunks.

I understand now what Zoey is doing, but I’m wholly unprepared; the crowbar is back with the packs, a good 15 yards behind me. I begin back pedaling as she and her pursuer bear down on me. Zoey appears determined to run me down. As she draws near, she calls out.

“Ready for this one?“

“Do I have any choice?” I shout back over my shoulder; I‘ve turned and am running back to the pile of backpacks and the two melee weapons lying useless on the ground.

I sweep crowbar off the grass just as Zoey breezes past me, making for the baseball bat. I turn in time to see the zed practically on top of me. In the corner of my eye I note that the other zombie has finally cleared the thicket and is lumbering in this direction.

I barely have time to drop to a knee and swing the crowbar.

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 7
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:09 pm 
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My swing is rushed and somehow I get past its left knee, my intended target. Instead I catch it on the inside of the right knee. But it’s already planted that foot inside the sweep of my crowbar, so I only connect with it around mid shaft. It scissors the crowbar out of my grip as it becomes entangled with the weapon. It plows into my left shoulder, knocking me flat on my back. Momentum carries the creature past me, but not before planting a knee into my chest, driving the air out of my lungs.

Gasping, I roll onto my stomach. As I lift my head, I see Zoey bring the bat down hard on the thing’s head. It keeps driving forward however, and ensnares Zoey around the ankles with its arms. She springs straight up almost four feet, freeing her left foot, but not the right. The zed has latched on to her shoe and drags her violently to the ground. I’m scrambling towards the two of them as the creature crawls on top of her.

She’s got her forearm under its chin, desperately trying to keep its jaws away from her face. I hear it savagely snapping its mouth open and shut. I’m vaguely aware that the second zed is approaching from my rear, getting close, but I‘m unsure what, if any damage it sustained colliding with that tree.

I plow into the right side of the zombie atop of Zoey, driving it off her chest. I roll over the top of it, encircling its neck with my left arm. I land on my back and the zombie rolls on top of me, also on its back. It’s jaws are still snapping reflexively, trying to find purchase on human flesh. I reach my left hand further around the front of its neck and grab onto its right ear.

I’ve never been this close to a zed. We’re locked in a grotesque embrace. The stench of this thing is appalling. Within my grasp, I can actually feel its skeletal foundation shifting and sliding inside its fetid shell. The thing’s skin is damp and fleshy; making it hard to get a solid grip anywhere on its head. It’s like wrestling with a greased pig; except I feel this zombie might squirt out of its husk at any moment, leaving me hanging onto a limp sack of putrid flesh.

I snake my right hand around the back of its head, sliding my finger tips up over its greasy left temple, looking for purchase. I find it in the outside edge of its left eye socket. I jam one, then two of my fingers inside, the ocular tissue parting and giving way beneath my fingers like a cardboard box left out in a soaking rain.

I pull the left side of the head back with my right hand, while using my left hand to yank the head around by its right ear. The creature's head begins to rotate counter clockwise in my grip until the ear I’m pulling on shears loose. I discard it and begin probing again with the fingers of my left hand. I find the ear canal and drive two of my fingers into that. With both hands, I savagely jerk the head to the left. I hear and feel the cervical vertebrae shift and then fracture underneath my left forearm.

I roll the thing off my chest, but of course it's still moving. Zoey is on her elbows looking on, wide eyed, appalled. Outside of her preferred role as the fleeing rabbit, she‘s shutting down. “Give me the damn bat!” I roar. She lifts it up to me wordlessly and I snatch it from her grasp. I’m turning to finish off that thing on the ground, still writhing convulsively.

Out of the corner of my eye I register movement coming in from my left. It’s the other zombie, lurching past the crowbar on the ground, just 5 yards away. I turn to face it, the bat hanging loose at my side. To hell with swinging low, I think. I want that goddamn thing’s head. I swing savagely. My aim is close enough but I’ve swung just a little too soon. If its jaw were a baseball, I’d be shagging it left, into foul territory. The bat tears the jaw almost clean off its face, leaving it swinging below the right cheek by a single strand of ligament.

I’ve also stopped it dead in its tracks and spun its head more than 90 degrees to its right. Its body is facing me, yet its head is looking back at the office building. It just stands there for a moment, trying to work out why it’s suddenly lost track of me. Then slowly, the head begins rotating back to its left, like a gun turret trying to re-acquire an elusive target. I side step around to its left and this time I do swing low, catching it across the back of both knees. It drops straight down into a kneeling position, genuflecting, as though deep in prayer. On its knees like that, its head is level with my waist; right in the meat of my strike zone.

Batter up.

I begin my swing low and bring the bat upwards, catching it right underneath the occipital plate, driving the back of its skull a good two inches forward of the brain stem. I can’t say that I knock its block off, but I damn near come close. And I watch with a deep sense of satisfaction as its face and lower jaw finally part company, the latter cartwheeling through the air in a long, shallow arc before tumbling onto the ground.

The zombie is already lying face down in the grass when its jaw rolls to a stop.

I turn to Zoey, sitting up, speechless, on the ground.

“Grab your things, we’re leaving.”

I try to hand her the bat, but she refuses to take it; she seems glued to the ground. Only when I lower the bat and offer my other hand does she reach up and grasp my wrist, allowing me to haul her to her feet.

After she's standing, I yank my hand from Zoey's grasp, and then grab her hand again, roughly. I take the bat, slap it into her palm and fold her fingers around the grip. “This doesn’t leave your side, and you don‘t leave mine. Understand?”

Zoey nods, wordlessly.

I gather up my pack and walk over to the crowbar. I snatch it up and stride past Zoey and the other zed, still convulsing on the ground. Not worth the effort.

“What about that one?” I hear Zoey ask, hurrying to catch up.

“You deal with it. Maybe learn how to use that damn thing.”

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 Post subject: Lessons Learned Part 8
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:52 pm 
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Zoey catches up with me in the stand of woods. We’re safe for the moment. I’m looking out over the abandoned highway. In the distance, I see a low bank of dark clouds. Looks like rain.

I can’t get the image of that thing on top of Zoey out of my head.

“Bill? You OK? We made it, huh?”

I take a deep breath. I know I should handle this better, but I just can’t help myself. I turn to face her, stride over and grab her roughly by both arms, just below her shoulders.

“What the hell was that? What were you thinking?“

“Bill, I… they were both coming at once. I had to split them up.”

“Split them up.”

“Yes, split them up. I got one of them to run into that tree, right? Then we only had to worry about them one at a time.”

“You. You decided to split them up?”

“Yes!”

“When Zoey?”

“When? When I saw them coming together.”

“In other words, about two seconds before you went and did it! What the hell happened to our plan? What we talked about?”

“I, I. Well, maybe it wasn’t such a hot plan.”

“And you waited until we were under attack before you decided this?”

“I didn’t know what was going to happen until it happened. And don’t go all army man on me. I came up with a new plan. And it would have worked out fine except you weren't ready with the crowbar.”

“Wasn't ready?” I thunder. “Wasn't ready? I was chasing after you with the revolver, trying to pick off one of those things before it ran you down! And if I succeeded we would have had every damn zombie in the area after us! Did you have a plan for that too?”

“I didn’t ask you to shoot it. I just wanted you to be ready to --”

“-- you didn’t ask me a damn thing! That’s the problem! Zoey, we can’t defend ourselves if we each decide to do whatever we feel like; make things up as we go along.”

“OK, OK, I’m sorry. I should have said something. But I still think it was a good idea to --”

“ -- no. It was a shitty idea. You know why it was a shitty idea? "

Silence.

“Because. You. Broke. Ranks. You never, never do that. Ever. Understand?”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

I release Zoey’s arms. I realize I’ve probably been hurting her.

“Zoey, I don’t expect you to trust me again. I understand what happened between us. All I’m asking is that you accept that the people who trained me had the benefit of two hundred years of hard won experience. When you’re under attack, the only things you have are your training, your plan and the guy next to you. If that guy turns tail and runs, or decides to do something stupid, he’s broken ranks. He’s abandoned the plan and he’s abandoned everyone on the line. That’s how you get overrun. Can you understand that?”

“Yes Bill, I just thought --”

“No. You don’t think. You don‘t think about anything. You just follow the plan. When you run off like that, I can’t protec -- I can’t count on you to hold the line with me. That’s what we’re doing when those things come after us. We’re a line of two. And we have to hold that line. Together. Can you understand that?”

“Yes Bill, but there has to be some room to impro --”

“Can. You. Understand that?”

“Fine! Yes! I understand, Bill. Are you satisfied? But tell me, Mister Military Jackass, who the hell died and left you in charge? Huh?”

“Everybody!” I croak, almost choking on the word. I have to turn away from her. “Everybody died.”

* * * * *

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 Post subject: Re: Lessons Learned
PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2011 7:52 pm 
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Location: new AO! Big Horn Basin, WY. Damn need a new skill set
I like it a lot!

The story is moving along well, please continue.

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 Post subject: Re: Lessons Learned
PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:18 pm 
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MOAR!

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<thegunslinger> they just find newer and more inventive ways to be fucking retarded

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:30 am 
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[EDIT: If you like this story, please post! If you have constructive feedback, I'd love to hear that as well. Let me know what works, what doesn't, what you'd like to see more of, less of, etc. Thx! - MH]

EDIT: External chapter links removed.

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 1
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:39 am 
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We begin making our way along the highway, just inside the woods beyond the northbound breakdown lane. Initially, Zoey begs that we set out on the pavement itself, where we could easily walk twice as fast. But I can’t allow it; we’d also be twice as visible. And this highway, we soon discover, is not all together abandoned.

We soon spot them, standing in the distance like department store mannequins. Scattered about the travel lanes, north and south. Along the grass median and on the embankments sloping down to the wooded verge that we are walking in. We pause, hidden in the cover, watching. After a few seconds of study, we begin to see movement. Some are merely swaying ever so slightly, rocking on their pelvises, draped with filthy clothing and ill-fitting flesh. Others are wandering slowly, aimlessly amidst the abandoned vehicles.

I see one stagger right into the back of another that’s been leaning, inert, against a wrecked car. The affronted zed abruptly straightens up and viciously swings about, raking the face of the other zombie with both hands, pulling off strips of flesh. The other zombie counters, bear-hugging its tormentor, and then buries its rotting teeth into the other zed’s neck. The two stagger around for half a minute, locked together like two inept wrestlers, neither with the skill or even the inclination to bring the other down to the mat.

But these wrestlers are tearing at each other, a mounting pile of skin and tissue accumulating around their feet. And then, just like that, they release each other, turn and go back to their pointless wanderings, the past minutes of furious clawing and biting already forgotten.

It’s odd enough seeing those figures out in the freeway, alongside the mile markers and freeway speed limit signs. But that so many of them are nearly frozen there, almost loitering, unconcerned, is profoundly unsettling. Minute by minute, hour by hour, they go unchallenged for the right to occupy those lanes of asphalt. It somehow accentuates the fact that there is absolutely no traffic on these six lanes of freeway, and likely never will be again.

Except for the zeds, you could now walk out onto that pavement, spit, take a crap, read a book or lay down and go to sleep, without the slightest thought to a hazard any different from what you might encounter in a field, or in the middle of the woods. The sense of desolation, abandonment, is palpable.

I have never experienced a highway quite this intimately. In a car moving along at 70mph, a roadway like this is practically of no consequence, a mere after thought that exists only to allow you to speed along, hour after hour, eating up mile after mile. The only necessary exertion: the effort it takes to stay awake.

But unused and experienced while on foot, the sheer scale of this human contrivance is striking. Down here, on a more native level, with each hard-won mile through these woods a half-hour long endeavor, I see this highway for what it really is: a vast and magnificent ribbon of stone, asphalt and steel, un-spooling over the landscape in either direction, as far as the eye can see. Rising and falling and hugging the belly of the land, from horizon to horizon.

This world will never know anything like it again. As time and the elements slowly reclaim it, it will recede from all memory. How can it not? There will be no one left to recall it, marvel at its scale, stand in awe of its sheer audacity. If a tree falls in the wood and no living thing hears it, did it ever really make a sound? If a vast and magnificent structure is wholly reclaimed by the elements and time leaves no one to remember it, did it ever really exist?

And while motorized vehicles no longer endanger those who would chose to walk along its surface, those lone or clustered sentinels scattered along this abandoned monument to a fallen race do present a very real hazard. Dormant, silent, but not quite inert. They lie in wait for the careless or the desperate to draw too close, seeking an easier path, a faster pace. Close enough to spark awareness, trigger a primal response to the presence of prey. A chance to feast.

So Zoey and I hug the wooded path alongside the highway, always under the trees. We are furtive ghosts making our way slowly, cautiously forward, always watchful, always on guard, always seeking cover. We creep and slog along mile after mile in the wood and the mud and the brush, darting across open fields and stream beds, our hearts in our mouths until we reach the other side and the welcome relief of cover again. Or occasionally, when there is absolutely no other way, we endure a few moments of near terror, alighting the roadway itself, to run along a bridge or overpass.

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 2
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:48 am 
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Early afternoon. Clouds have been gathering all day. Low wisps of storm clouds scudding under a steel grey sky. We haven‘t seen a zed in nearly an hour, none are in sight ahead of us as far as we can see. So we clamor up the embankment and sit down on the dry pavement for a brief rest, a bit to eat.

I‘m munching on a snack bar. I don’t concern myself with its advertised flavor, what‘s the point? It's nourishment, nothing more. Zoey is doing much the same, absent-mindedly nibbling on a fruit rollup, eyeing the sky suspiciously. She also keeps scratching the corner of her mouth and looking at me.

“OK Bill, you sure don’t know how to take a hint. You’ve got a little something stuck to you beard, right here.” She scratches the corner of her mouth again.

“Oh,” I say, pawing at my beard. “This is getting so long, maybe I should just shave it all off the next chance I get.”

“Can’t imagine you without that white beard. It suits you. You still haven’t gotten it. Here let me pick it - Yech!”

She draws back her hand in disgust. "What is that, a dead bug?”

I feel around and pull it off. “Not a bug, it's, I think it’s a piece of zombie.”

"Oh that is so gross! You’re wearing zombie guts.”

"Tell you what, next time I see a zombie on top of you, I‘ll just ignore it, so I can maintain the appropriate level of personal grooming. That way at least I’ll know you won’t get creeped out by a little piece.. a little piece of…what part of that zed do you suppose this came from, anyway?”

I thought I was being funny, but Zoey looks shocked. She’s staring wide-eyed.

“Zoey, com'mon. I was just kidding.”

“Bill.”

“It was a joke. You’re always teasing me.”

“Bill?”

“What?”

“Can you please turn around and see if you can see what I’m seeing?”

I turn with a start, expecting to see a mob of zeds appearing over the rise back there. Just empty highway. I’m on edge though. Zoey sounds serious.

“What am I looking at?”

“OK. Other side of the highway; southbound lanes. Just off the road on the right. That tree, the one with the branch sticking way out. Can you see that?”

“There’s a lot of trees Zoey. Can you narrow it down?”

Zoey scootches over and points directly over my shoulder. “There. See that branch? It’s moving.”

“They’re all moving. The wind is picking up, and the rain isn’t far off.”

“There! There is again! Can’t you see that Bill? What the hell is that?”

I do see something, and it raises the hair on the back of my neck. There is something out there. Up in the trees. Something heavy. Moving along on that branch, about 500 yards back.

“What the hell?” I can’t actually see it, but I sense its weight, its mass from the way it‘s moving the branch. The tree is over a quarter of a mile away, but I can tell it’s a large branch. That’s no mere squirrel running along in the treetops.

The breeze picks up. Dried leaves skid past me on the pavement. The sky, I realize, has been darkening by the minute.

“It can’t be zombie, right?”

“Zombies don’t climb trees, Zoey.”

“So, could it be a person? A person in the trees?”

It doesn’t make sense to me, but Zoey’s question confirms an unsettling suspicion that’s just starting to form in my mind. Whatever that thing is, it's vaguely man-sized.

“Should we go back and see?“

A growing sense of unease is spreading through my body. I‘m aware we‘ve been out here on the highway too long. Too visible.

“I’m not getting a good feeling about this. Not a good feeling at all. I think we need to get off this roadway. Now. Don‘t get up, crawl.”

We quickly gather up our packs and begin moving low across the pavement towards the embankment. I look up again and glance back down the highway . I can see the tree branch moving much faster and my pulse quickens. Almost as quickly I realize the tree branch is swinging less and less, rapidly coming to a stop. A few leaves and small branches are falling to the ground beneath it. What ever was up there isn’t in the branches anymore. I only looked down for a moment. It was there, now it’s gone.

I feel we can’t get off this highway quick enough. Just as we pass onto the grass and begin sliding down the steep embankment, I think I spot movement in the trees again. This time on our side of the highway, directly across from where we first spotted it.

“OK, that’s it. Let’s get up and get moving. Com’mon Zoey, hop to it.”

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 3
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:55 am 
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We’ve been thrashing through the woods for five minutes now, moving faster that we have all day. I keep looking back nervously. The wind is picking up and I can smell rain in the air.

“Bill, what do you think that was? Up in the trees?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it was a really big raccoon or somebody’s house cat. Whatever it was, I don’t think it saw us and even if it did, I’m sure it’s not interested in us.”

“Then can we slow down?”

I don’t want my apprehension, my fear, to show; no sense in spooking the girl.

“Sure. A little. I think we’re about 2 miles away now. I’d like to not get caught in the rain.”

Drops begin pattering in the trees as I say this. The wind is blowing even harder now, whispering through the branches, causing them to sway.

Zoey looks up into the sky. "And I'd like to NOT find a million dollars!" She looks around and shrugs. "Worth a shot."

“Nice try," I say, as the rain begins to come down in earnest. "Let’s get the rain coats on and get moving along again, shall we?”

The sky has darkened appreciably and this is no gentle shower. Now it’s starting to rain even harder, coming down in sheets. Driven hard through the trees by a cold, gusting wind.

I shout above the growing storm. “Give me your hand! I don’t want to lose track of you!”

Abruptly, the darkness changes to flickering daylight as lightning cracks right over us. Followed immediately by the crash of thunder. Visibility is dropping by the minute and this rain hood on my jacket is making it almost impossible to see where I’m going. I keep plowing into low branches as I drag Zoey along, pushing them aside and letting them snap back behind me.

“Oww! Bill, I have to let go of your hand! You’re slapping me back here with every damn branch!”

Another crash of lightning, more booming thunder. I turn to Zoey. She looks miserable. The rain is streaming off her shoulders, her rain hood. She sputters as rainwater pours down the front of her face, her soaked hair plastered across her cheeks and forehead. We’re both getting drenched.

“OK, but let’s angle back to the highway again OK? If we find a car, I say we chance it and get out of this rain!”

“That’s the best idea you’ve had all day!”

Now that we’ve embraced the idea, we abandon any pretense of 'angling' towards the highway; we turn 90 degrees and plow through the branches and brush until we stumble out onto the steeply ascending highway embankment, rivulets of rain water streaming past our feet.

I grab Zoey’s hand and draw her close to my lips. “Let’s take it slow from here, OK? I don’t want to go blundering into any zombies if they’re right up there!” I spin her around, grab her baseball bat out of her pack, I hand it to her as the sky above cracks with another blinding streak of lightning, thunder reverberating up and down the highway. I turn my back towards her. “Grab mine!”

Once we’re armed, we begin clamoring up the embankment as the thunder and rain intensify. We reach the breakdown lane but it’s too dark to see more than a dozen yards in any direction. We only have to wait a few moments for the next lightning flash to illuminate the scene; a dark sedan is pulled over onto the breakdown lane 20 yards to our left, back in the direction we’ve come. We both scramble back towards it, chased along by pelting rain and howling wind. Zoey reaches the car first, opens the drivers door and dives in. I run around to the passenger side and slide in alongside her.

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 4
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:58 am 
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The dome light glows feebly until we pull the doors shut. The pitch of the sound immediately changes, the volume of the wind much diminished, replaced by the dull roar of rain drops pelting the roof.

It’s dark in here, but that’s fine by me. Inside this car, in the middle of a blinding rain storm, I feel as anonymous and invisible as if we were 100 yards off the highway, deep in the woods. This car has been sitting out here for weeks; hidden inside, we’re just part of the scenery.

We sit there in relative silence for a few minutes, the only sounds: our own breathing and the storm raging outside. The car rocks lightly on its suspension with the stronger gusts.

“Wow. That’s one hell of a storm!” Zoey mutters, looking out the windshield. It and the rest of the windows are already fogging up. “Wait a sec....” Zoey spins around and cranes her neck to look in the back seats and foot wells. “If this were a zombie movie, there’d so totally be a zed lurking back here. Ready to rip the necks out of the teenagers making out in the front seat.”

“You’re a real student of that shit, aren’t you?”

“It’s not shit, Bill. It’s what I studied. In some ways, horror cinema is society’s modern religion. It's what allows us to deal with mortality and the unexplainable in a way that isn’t too threatening. People need to be scared in the theaters every once in a while so we're not as terrified of what goes bump in the night.” “At least we used to.” Zoey’s looking out the fogged up windshield, out into space. “Everything’s so different now. Scary movies almost seem quaint these days.”

“I’m not putting down your studies. I just didn’t realize they gave degrees in that sort of thing.”

“I just can’t believe I wanted to make a living doing that. I wanted to be a cinemaphotographer, maybe try screenwriting. Direct someday.”

“Any ideas for a new career aspiration, Zoey?”

“Same as everyone else, Bill. Survive.”

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 5
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:09 am 
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"Bill! Wake up!"

Zoey awakens me from my slumber; I’ve fallen asleep sitting upright in the passenger seat.

“Bill!“ She’s whispering anxiously. “I think there’s something out there!“

I’m ascending through layers of consciousness, urged along by the palpable fear I detect in Zoey’s voice. I find the crowbar by my side; I tighten my grip around its cold shaft. It’s still raining just a hard as when I fell asleep.

“Wha? Where?”

“Outside. I think it’s behind us.”

I hitch myself higher in the car seat, craning my neck around. The rear window is completely fogged over, pebbled with rain drops splattering every square inch. Beyond it, all I can see is uniform grayness. “How can you see anything out there?”

“It was more like a shadow. It was standing still, then it moved off to the right. Bill, I could hear something too. Like something scratching on the pavement.”

“Just keep quiet. From the outside, I’m sure this car looks the same as it has -- "

The car rocks violently as something massive lands on the roof. The weight depresses the ceiling liner. Zoey screams. She’s looking directly at me, terrified, when I see something dark slide off the roof on her side.

“Zoey! Door locks!”

Instinctively, Zoey mashes down the driver’s door lock with the side of her elbow, just as something begins scratching violently at the door handle. I’m doing the same.

“Back door, Zoey!” I whisper urgently, locking the rear door on my side.

Zoey yelps in fear again, hammering the rear door lock with her hand just as the shadow shifts back and paws at the rear door. The roof creases again and I sense the thing vaulting over to my side, scratching first the front, then the rear door. It climbs back onto the roof and then abruptly, it’s gone.

Both Zoey and I have scootched together in the middle of the front seats, as far from the windows as we can. Zoey’s looking at me, terrified, panting in ragged breaths.

“B-Bill, I - “

The driver’s window behind her disintegrates in a shower of glass and her scream is cut short as something knocks her head aside and drives her violently into my shoulder. I’m grasping at her as a vaguely human-like appendage, more claw than hand, gropes once and latches onto one of the shoulder straps of her backpack. It begins hauling a semi-conscious Zoey back towards the broken window. I want to jab at that thing with the crowbar, but I need both hands to hang on to the front of her shoulder straps and slow Zoey’s retreat towards the open window. Whatever that thing is, it's incredibly powerful, and seems to have climbed back onto the roof. As it’s pulling on Zoey’s limp body, it’s wedging her up against the top of driver’s door frame, craning her neck alarmingly. I have both my legs braced against the driver’s door and a death grip around the front of her shoulder straps, straining against the brute power of that thing, trying to keep Zoey inside the car.

Abruptly, the shoulder strap tears apart and I fly back against the passenger door, dragging Zoey with me by the other shoulder strap. I sit again up instantly, sliding back towards the center of the vehicle and gather Zoey in my arms.

I’ve dropped the crowbar somewhere in the front of the car. I’m groping in the darkness for it when the passenger window shatters behind me. I just have time to raise my forearm across my face when something iron-like wraps around my face and shoulder, violently hauling me out of the car, into the raging storm outside.

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 6
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:18 am 
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Location: Maine
I’m half rolling, half somersaulting down the embankment, coming to a tumbling halt at the edge of the woods, face down in mud and water. I’m in a drainage ditch. I try rolling onto my back but my backpack is getting in the way. I’m trying to shrug off the pack when I’m violently rolled onto my back and something heavy lands on my hips and legs. Vaguely I can see it, a head and arms, connecting at a sinewy junction of shoulders, thick neck and torso. I can see the raw strength and power of this creature just in the way it's put together. Reflexively, I lock my fingers at the first and second knuckles and violently jab into its neck, smashing its larynx. I roll hard to my left and start to crawl out from underneath it.

My lower back erupts in pain as I've violently struck from behind. I feel ribs just to the left of my spine fracture from the force of the blow. I gasp for breath, fighting to stay conscious. It’s starting to roll me over onto my back again, every inch of movement intensifying the searing pain. I desperately fumble over my shoulder, groping around the top of my pack. My fingers find purchase on a handle protruding out of the top of it. Fighting through the appalling agony, I arch my back enough to unweigh the contents of my pack beneath me. I withdraw the machete and swing viciously for its neck. I miss, instead burying the blade two inches into the top of its shoulder.

Lighting flashes and I get my first look at its face. Vaguely humanoid, it’s hissing through blackened teeth that appear sharpened, fanglike. Its pale gray skin accentuates the blackness of its unblinking eyes. No pupils, no irises, just two uniformly black and glistening orbs, radiating venomous hatred.

It reaches up and clasps its right claw around the machete blade. In one fluid movement it pulls the machete out of its shoulder and effortlessly jerks it from my grasp. In the flickering light, I see it draw the machete close to its eyes, still clutching it around the blade. It shudders with effort, until its thumb and three of its four other fingers literally pop off its hand as it squeezes the blade right through its own digits. The creature contemplates this as casually as I might regard a speck of dirt under my fingernail. It casts the blade aside and directs its gaze towards me, expelling another long, sputtering hiss, bubbling saliva and rainwater through its wet fangs.

It rocks forward on me, pinning my arms and chest with its knees, pressing me down into the mud. My head sinks deeper into the soggy ground until I can feel the runoff streaming into my ears. If it doesn’t rip me apart, it’s going to drown me here. My visions blurs from the water, the mud, the searing pain from my ribs. I see it raising a claw high over its head.

Then another source of movement. Coming in from the periphery of my vision. Something hard, a foot, smashes into my shoulder from above. A high pitched female grunt, Zoey swinging the crowbar with every ounce of strength she possesses. The dull clang of cold steel on bone, like striking a blow against a mossy boulder.

The imprisoning weight abruptly leaves my hips and chest and I hear wet scrambling in the grass and leaves. I feebly lift my head in time to see a dark shape launch itself up into the trees, alight onto a branch, and then slip and tumble awkwardly back to the ground. The creature rights itself and crashes off into the darkness of the brush.

“Bill, get up! Bill, can you hear me? Please! You have to get up! We have to go!”

I stagger to my feet, reeling from the pain in my ribs. It hurts just to breathe.

“I-I don’t know how well I can move.” My vision blurs again as I sway unsteadily on my feet. I can feel Zoey drawing her body closer to mine, propping me up.

“Don’t pass out now. Bill, stay with me! We need to get out of here. Where do we go?”

“Into the woods Zoey. To the left.”

“Bill, that thing is in the woods!”

“We can’t stay out in the open! We’ll just have to try to lose it.”

Zoey lifts my left arm around her shoulders; I howl in pain. “Not that one! Please! Try my other arm!”

Zoey switches to my other side, supports me under my right arm. A little better.

“Com’mon, Bill, we have to get moving!”

The next several minutes are a blur of brush and tree branches, wind and rain, thunder and lightning. I fall to my knees repeatedly, clinging to consciousness by a thread. Each time I feel Zoey shouldering herself erect under my arm, driving me back to my feet, pushing me along. I hear her panting, groaning with effort. I’m practically dead weight.

“Zoey! Zoey! I don’t think this can work. We’re moving too slowly. You have to get out of here. This isn’t going to work!”

“Shut up, Bill. Just shut up.”

“Zoey, I mean it. You need to run. You need to run away now.”

“And break ranks?" She says, grunting out a strained laugh. "Fuck that. You’d never let me hear the end of it. Now less talking and more walking, soldier!”

I’m too weak to argue. We’ve plodded on for another few minutes when I become aware we’re alongside a large pipe running along the ground. A gas line or a water pipe of some sort. A few minutes later and something boxy, roofed appears out of the driving rain. A structure of some sort. Small; little more than a shed. Lightning flashes again and we see it’s made of cinder blocks, a steel roof and door, no windows. The pipe disappears into the wall of the structure and remerges on the other side. A pump house.

Zoey drags me around to the single door. A padlock and hasp hang off the door frame, just above the door knob. I see that Zoey still has the crowbar. Good girl.

“Bill, I need to let go of you.”

I lean up against the building, wincing in pain. I watch as Zoey tries bashing at the pad lock, with little effect.

“Try prying it off.”

Zoey jams the crowbar behind the hasp and the metal groans as she tugs at the top, trying to lever the lock away from the door. She grunts with effort as she lifts herself completely off the ground, hanging off the crowbar. I stagger over, grab onto it below her hands and together we pull away from the door. The hasp comes apart suddenly and we both fall into the mud. Pain again knifes through my side. I roll over onto my stomach and the last of the day’s sustenance comes up with a wretch. I vomit into the mud.

“Oh Bill.“

I pull myself onto my hands and knees, coughing and spitting. I feel Zoey crawling up along my right side, where she ducks her head under my right arm. Zoey staggers to her knees and wills me to my feet. We fall through the open doorway and into the dark interior of the pump house.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:00 pm, edited 19 times in total.

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 7
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:24 am 
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What little light there is inside the pump house is abruptly extinguished as I hear Zoey close the door. Thunder, wind and rain continue to rage outside. I’m sitting on the floor, leaning awkwardly, painfully against something cold and metallic. A pump. “Zoey, help me get this thing off.” Zoey helps me ease out of my backpack. Then she fishes my flashlight out of the pack, snaps it on and sets it down on the damp concrete floor.

“Which way did the door open, Zoey? In or out?”

“What?”

“I didn’t see. Does that door swing in or out?”

“Out. I pulled it open from the outside.”

“Damn. We can’t brace it from the inside then.”

My clothes are soaked, I fight through the pain as I jam my right hand into my soaking trouser pocket, and withdraw the dripping revolver.

“We lost your pack, didn’t we?”

“Sorry Bill. That and the baseball bat.”

“Huh.“ I consider grimly. “And the machete.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Wasn’t your fault. Everything happened at once. We’ve got the crowbar; thank you for that. And that’s yours now. I can’t swing it anymore.”

I’m wiping off the handle of the revolver.

“Zoey.”

“Bill?”

“Thank you.”

“How bad are you hurt?”

“Not sure. Definitely some cracked ribs. I might have --”

Above the rain and wind we hear it land on the roof. Sliding around on top of the building.

“Shit.” Zoey whispers.

I blink rapidly, trying to snap alert. I quickly bury the heel of my left palm into each eye, wiping away the rainwater that’s still obscuring my vision. I level the revolver at the door as Zoey moves to the side of it, clutching the crow bar.

“No, Zoey. Get behind me.”

“Bill, I can --”

“-- behind me Zoey! Please!”

Zoey creeps back into the darkness behind my right shoulder.

I blink again, trying to keep the revolver steady. Again I hastily wipe one eye, then the other, struggling to clear my vision. I hear it drop to the ground outside. Something hard and sharp raking along the cinder blocks, first on the right side, then around on the front of the building. The noise abruptly changes pitch as the scratching leaves cinder block and starts across the surface of the door. Zoey gasps.

“Shhh!”

I’m staring at the front door when it starts tilting. Not opening, but tilting to the right, and begins to grow blurry, indistinct.

“Zoey! I - I’m passing out. Y-you need to -- “

Darkness descends upon me as I feel hands close around the revolver, pulling it from my grasp. I slump over to the left, my cheek suddenly against damp concrete. It’s so damn comfortable. I could just stay down here on this cold concrete forever. Thunder, crashing outside the pump house. Abruptly the lightning seems to come inside as it suddenly grows brighter all around me. Metal crashing against concrete. Two more abrupt crashes of thunder, right next to my ear. Then I hear and see no more.

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:03 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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 Post subject: Highway To Hell Part 8
PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:26 am 
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I awaken to the sound of dripping, and the faint smell of cordite. I open my eyes and I’m looking at the world sideways, sunlight streaming through an open doorway laying on its side. I slowly roll my head to my right, looking upwards now. I adjust my focus and see a quivering arm, hand grasped white knuckled around a revolver, pointed out over my head towards the open door. I follow the arm back to Zoey, her face a mask of fatigue, shock, grim determination. In an instant, I know she’s been at this all night.

“Zoey.” I whisper, struggling through the pain in my side, sitting up.

“Zoey.” No response. Just haunted eyes, fixed upon the open door, unblinking.

I gently close my fingers over her trembling hand, pushing her arm, the gun, downwards.

“Its OK. Let go of the gun.” “It’s gone now.”

“How? How do you know Bill?” She whispers hoarsely, refusing to take her eyes off the open doorway.

“It’s gone.”

“How can you know that?”

“Because Zoey. If it were still there, we’d be dead.”

* * * * * *

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Last edited by majorhavoc on Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:04 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Highway To Hell
PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:23 pm 
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Wow.......Intense

I don't even want to know what that thing was, I just hope if they see it again its through the scope of a high powered rifle............or squashed under a tank

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