The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Hunt4lyf
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:39 am

Nature_Lover wrote:Thank you tinderbox! I am thrilled that you have started updating your story again. :)

I went back to refresh my memory about Lux and Lucas, and found the post where we first met Lucas on Fri May 24, 2013 3:12 pm.
If anyone knows when we met Lux, or parted ways with them, please share it?

*bracing myself to become a moar zombie again.

Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou
Lux showed up on June 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:40 am

Thanks TB! A great update!!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Thu Sep 29, 2016 7:18 pm

hizzah!!!! Thanks for the update! I'm so angry the notifications on this are so iffy. I wasn't able to read it until now! I've really been looking up to forward to the Lucas and Lux side of the story. Not that there is anything with Kat and Mundy. So THANKS for MOAR Story!!!!
JeeperCreeper wrote:I like huge dicks, Halfapint, so you are OK in my book.... hahaha
Spazzy wrote:Tell ya what... If Zombies attack and the world ends I'll hook tandem toddlers to a plow if it means I'll be able to eat...

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by bodyparts » Thu Sep 29, 2016 9:25 pm

THANKS FOR MOAR :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by guntech59 » Fri Sep 30, 2016 9:51 am

This is my first post since signing up quite some time ago.

I just wanted to give you some kudos for keeping this going. I thought it would end after Michael died, because it would have been a complete story then. I am glad you didn't stop there.

Thank you! :clap:


ADDED: OK, apparently I lied. :oops: I had two other posts I do not remember making. That does not change my sentiments. :wink:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by D_Man » Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:03 am

I missed a few weeks and was delighted to find an update. Thanks TB!
To strive,
To seek,
To find, But not to yield.
~Tennyson

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by naanders94gt » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:54 pm

Excellent a Lucas update!!! Thank you TB!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by absinthe beginner » Tue Oct 11, 2016 8:38 pm

Just got home after a long trip abroad; hadn't checked in for updates for quite awhile...but it's nice to see an update. Keep those creative juices flowing, TB, and don't lose the momentum of the story now that you've got a growing fan base eager for MOAR!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by astregon » Mon Oct 17, 2016 11:36 pm

I started reading this 3 days ago. And got to the 81 st page. This is one of the best stories I've read on line. Please continue it. Thanks.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:27 pm

Just now received an email notification :x

Still on board here . The epic continues . Of course Lucas is a survivor :!:

Thanks for entertaining us TB !!
"Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up. "

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by akraven » Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:50 pm

Just caught the "latest" update today. Yup I know I am behind somehow. Great catching up to Lucas and seeing what is going on with him. Opens up a whole nother front for the story. Thanks for all the great writing TB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by olaf_yahoo » Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:43 pm

I just found this thread last night (I've been away from the forum for several years) and started reading while I was in bed. I liked it so much I started copying and pasting a few forum pages at a time to a word document for later reading when not in WIFI. (let me know if you'd rather I not and I'll delete it, its only for personal reading and not for use in any other form). I really enjoy your story, I'm only on forum page 4 and have been reading it all day long instead of working. One of those times where being self employed is a big bonus. Your story blows my attempt at a zombie book away both in terms of character depth as well as length. I keep looking forward to adding new pages to the document and seeing what happens next. I try not to look at comments here as I go because where I am is quite out dated and I don't want to accidentally see any spoilers. I'm really looking forward to reading more (right now) and want to thank you for sharing this. I kind of feel guilty for being able to enjoy such a good book without having had purchased it. Also, I went to click the thank button and its absent so I thought I'd mention it here.
"I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum"

"Why bring more, when you can take Les"

E&E belt kit thread- viewtopic.php?f=6&t=77171

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by selen » Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:13 pm

Come on TB please continue :D

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:09 pm

olaf_yahoo wrote:I just found this thread last night (I've been away from the forum for several years) and started reading while I was in bed. I liked it so much I started copying and pasting a few forum pages at a time to a word document for later reading when not in WIFI. (let me know if you'd rather I not and I'll delete it, its only for personal reading and not for use in any other form). I really enjoy your story, I'm only on forum page 4 and have been reading it all day long instead of working. One of those times where being self employed is a big bonus. Your story blows my attempt at a zombie book away both in terms of character depth as well as length. I keep looking forward to adding new pages to the document and seeing what happens next. I try not to look at comments here as I go because where I am is quite out dated and I don't want to accidentally see any spoilers. I'm really looking forward to reading more (right now) and want to thank you for sharing this. I kind of feel guilty for being able to enjoy such a good book without having had purchased it. Also, I went to click the thank button and its absent so I thought I'd mention it here.
The thank you buttons were disabled on the story thread because they were getting thousands of likes and slowing the forum. I did the exact same thing, I came into this story about page 3. I had copied and pasted it to my notepad in my phone so I could read it while in the transit tunnels. This is by far one of the greatest books I've read of any genre.
JeeperCreeper wrote:I like huge dicks, Halfapint, so you are OK in my book.... hahaha
Spazzy wrote:Tell ya what... If Zombies attack and the world ends I'll hook tandem toddlers to a plow if it means I'll be able to eat...

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by olaf_yahoo » Sun Nov 13, 2016 12:33 am

That makes sense.
"I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum"

"Why bring more, when you can take Les"

E&E belt kit thread- viewtopic.php?f=6&t=77171

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Sun Nov 13, 2016 12:57 am

Halfapint wrote: ... This is by far one of the greatest books I've read of any genre.
Truth.
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by naanders94gt » Sat Nov 19, 2016 4:41 pm

Moar is demanded. I miss Mundy.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:29 am

Come on TB!!!! Throw us a bone or something!!!! Over 2 months since the last update, totally unforgivable.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by FlashDaddy » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:34 am

I love this story. It is not only the best zombie novel(s) ever, it is the best novel in the entire post-apocalyptic field. TB has created a new world in horrifyingly wonderful detail. We care about this story because we care about the characters. He has made them deep, real, troubled, battered yet hopeful, and incredibly believable. I actually love the fact that I could not finish this story in a weekend; that it has taken me years to get this far. In the wait between entries, I think about the latest installment and go back and read entries from years ago. This feature has not only made it part of my life for a long time, but it has had me walking with the sullen cowboy and cheering for the cheerleader, and loving all the good survivors, both those still living and those we have lost, for years. And it is always such a joy when a new piece of the story has been added! I'm praying for another installment. Soon would be fantastic! But we all have to wait until its ready. And until then, all I can say is a big THANK YOU! to TB and ... MOAR!
- Flash

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by D_Man » Fri Dec 09, 2016 8:55 am

MOAR please!
To strive,
To seek,
To find, But not to yield.
~Tennyson

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by teotwaki » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:04 pm

Hunt4lyf wrote:Come on TB!!!! Throw us a bone or something!!!! Over 2 months since the last update, totally unforgivable.
Tinderbox IS UNFORGIVEN!

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My adventures and pictures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:48 am

Really need a fix before going into work next week... even a small morsel!
Molon Latte...come & take our coffee order
Doctorr Fabulous wrote:... It's fun to play pretend, but this is the internet, and it's time to be serious.
zengunfighter wrote:... you don't want to blow a tranny in the middle of a pursuit...
woodsghost wrote:... A defensive gun without training is basically a talisman. It might ward off evil, but I wouldn't count on it.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by FlashDaddy » Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:18 am

Please sir, may we have some more?
- Flash

Browncoat, food & H2O storing Dad. "I don't care, I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me."
"Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other people or the majority, it's a right that belongs to all of us."

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Fri Dec 23, 2016 11:53 am

With the cold pressing in on him in his damp sleeping bag, Lucas’ slumber was fitful and shallow. Half formed dreams lapped at him like waves in a dark lake; pictures of Lux walking among the tombstones of a cemetery at dusk, Goodnight House burning, images of his mother, father and brothers sitting at the Thanksgiving table, their bodies gouged and rotted, their yellowed ribcages exposed. Outside the mine entrance, the storm eventually eased into a slow sleet that scattered against the rocks throughout the night. The sound entered his unconscious mind and became everything from cold gray bacon frying over a lifeless campfire to blue, icy bare feet approaching through frost covered grass. Joining his usual cast of nightmares was the dead family from the mine – that’s what they became in his dreams: mother, older daughter, younger daughter and father. They emerged from the black depths of the mine and clawed at him with cold, bony fingers. At one point, he dreamed of the time when the furnace had gone out in his house on a winter day when he was a boy. It had been a full four hours before the repair man came and fixed the problem, but in the meantime, it had been something of an adventure for a little boy forced to brave the chill inside his normally warm home. In his dream, he’d opened his bedroom closet for a sweater and the weeping man fell upon him, looking apologetic as his mouth closed on Lucas’ fingers. The inside of the dead man’s mouth was cold as he bit down and Lucas awoke with a start to find his fingers had started to go numb.

The weather made it hard to judge the time of day; maybe six or seven a.m., he thought. He stirred and the soreness in his muscles made him grunt softly. Between the clinging cold and the beating his body had suffered the day before, it was shaping up to be a miserable morning. His arm still hurt from when he had fallen on it under the weight of the dead man, but he was pretty sure the pain was coming from the meat of his arm, not the bone.

Shit, he thought. In his miserable state of mind, he couldn’t even summon the will to voice the word aloud. Just…just shit. His state of mind matched his surroundings: a cold, dark cave in the side of a hard, unfeeling mountain beneath crushing, icy skies.

Twisting and wriggling from his sleeping bag, he knew a fire was the first thing he needed. A fire would warm not just his body, but his spirits as well. More than ever before on his journey though the apocalypse, he felt that a fire on this morning would make the difference between surviving and not surviving.

Racked with painful, convulsive shivers, he moved stiffly to the mine entrance with his revolver in his uninjured left hand, he looked out over top of the three corpses that still lay in the opening. The clear blue sky of the day before had been replaced by a ceiling of gray that obscured the surrounding mountain peaks. The valley was coated with sleet and a thin, cold fog hovered above the ground. It didn’t take long for Lucas to decide to stay put for the day. The decision, though, was a worrisome one. What if tomorrow was the same? he wondered. And the day after that? What if the weather got even worse? Pulling his injured right arm tighter into his chest, he suffered another spate of painful shivers and tried not to entertain the worst.

“A fire,” he whispered aloud. First, however, he’d need something to burn. “No,” he corrected himself, looking down at the three KT’d corpses, “first I gotta get rid of you.” The first three didn’t turn out to be so difficult, even with his injured arm; the female corpses didn’t weigh much. The corpse of the weeping man, however, had to be pried from the icy ground. After going through their pockets and finding nothing of value, he dragged all four of them into the brush at the bottom of the ravine. He thought about all of the movies where the hero finds a stranger’s body and solemnly digs a grave for it, going so far as to cobble together a cross to mark the spot. But in the real-life apocalypse, he knew, putting so much time and energy into that sort of thing might land you in the next grave over.

“Good thing it’s not a movie,” he mumbled as he made his way back to the mine. Good thing you’re not a hero, added the voice from the back of his head.

He stopped at the sight of the seven sets of human bones on the path before the mine entrance. He prodded at one of the skulls with the toe of his boot, but saw no bullet hole. None of the remains seemed to have any clothing remnants scattered about them. Maybe, he thought, that’s what they’d been killed for, their clothes. He stared blankly down at the skull and thought about it. Since the world had ended, he’d seen people killed for less. He shook his head and walked back toward the mine. Whatever had happened, not only would he never know, but he would never care. It was over and done with. It was a story totally apart from his.

If there had ever been any wood inside the mine it had already been burned. Now there were only the rough hewn beams supporting the rock at the entrance. He could hardly make use of those, he thought as he read some of the initials and dates carved into them: “J.T. ’09,” "Troop Devil Dogs 1965," “Scott 1958,” and “K.L. + D.L.” inside a misshapen heart. Inside, the place offered nothing but a few rusty relics from the past: a few metal rings that had once held barrels together, a large, pitted axe head and a hook and pulley wheel from an old broken block and tackle.

He retrieved his flashlight and shuffled his way back into the mine to where he’d found the twisted collection of soiled clothing and sleeping bags. The material was damp and even if he could get it to catch fire, he figured it wouldn’t burn for long. He would still need wood. Before heading back to the mine entrance, he noticed something on the rock wall just above the tangled nest. No higher than the reach of a little girl’s arm was scratched the name Denny. Lucas crammed the sight and all the sickly thoughts that came with it into the overstuffed closet at the back of his mind and turned away.

He’d made many fires since the world had ended – in abandoned schools, in tipped over semi truck trailers, in the woods between suburban neighborhoods – but he’d always had been able to find dry wood or lumber to burn. Looking at the world outside the mine, Lucas saw a wet, ice covered landscape. It was going to be a challenge, he thought, to find dry wood on this morning. Most of the standing trees were on the slopes above the ravine where the mine was located and he didn’t have the energy to make the climb. The trail he’d followed the night before was lined with brush and boulders, but there were a few thin mountain hemlocks that might have twigs he could break off or fallen pine cones sheltered from the rain and sleet. He was going to need a lot of tinder to get a fire going and keep it going in the damp conditions. Setting out along the trail, careful to keep from slipping on the slick rocks, he eventually found what he needed. At some point in the past, back when the area was still being maintained, a tree had fallen across the trail and had been cleared with a chainsaw. Sections of the trunk rested amid the bushes and grass a short distance off the path. All but one of them lay flat along the ground, looking soaked and well on their way to being rotten. Only one rested on end and promised to be less water logged than the rest. He thought of the rusty old axe head inside the mine and wondered if he could make a handle for it. Trying to ignore the ache in his right arm, he tugged the log free from the icy ground and began rolling it back toward the mine entrance.

He found nothing he could use as an axe handle. The closest thing he had was the police night stick he’d fashioned into a handle for his makeshift spear, but it was too narrow to be of use and, anyway, he wasn’t willing to sacrifice it. After staring at the section of log for a few minutes, Lucas simply brought the rusty axe head down as hard as he could on the sawed end. It took five tries before he could make it stick in place. Then, hefting the largest rock he could manage to lift, he dropped it repeatedly onto the flat part opposite the blade. The axe head came loose a few times, but after fifteen minutes of trying, he saw a crack begin to spread across the width of the log.

It was something he’d seen a man make in one of the outdoor camps he’d stayed in on his way to Goodnight House. The man – in between bouts of sobbing and long draws from a bottle of Chivas Regal – had called it a Canadian candle, though he said it was also known by a few other names. He’d gotten hours of heat and light out of one two foot section of log. The next morning, Lucas recalled, the man’s corpse had clawed its way out of a small tent to attack the family camped nearby. Lucas had awoken to the screams, seen the spilling blood and watched dispassionately as the dead fire maker’s skull was split with the axe he’d used to make his Canadian candle. Then he’d calmly gathered his things and moved on.

It took Lucas another fifteen minutes before he’d split the log into quarters. Using the axe head along with his knife, he shaved away at the dry inside corners of the pieces until he’d made a three inch wide chimney. Then, fitting the pieces back together – loosely, so the air could get in – and filling the chimney with tinder, he used one of his five lighters – each wrapped in plastic to keep it dry – to start it burning. He fed it tinder until the inside of the log caught flame and began to spout fire out the top.

Lucas sat and stared at the fire, moving only when the smoke drifted his way and stung his eyes. The way the flames consumed the log from the inside made him think of the way Goodnight House had burned. Odd, he thought, that losing Lux and then Goodnight House seemed to mark the real apocalypse for him – not the collapse of his former life, not losing his family, not seeing so many die in so many bloody ways.

“You never had anything before,” he said to himself in a voice no louder than a breath. His previous life had been a strange kind of empty. He’d never gone hungry or lacked material possessions, but at the same time, he’d never cared about anything. Not really. Not deeply. He knew what others sometimes said about him, that he was unfeeling, that he was dead inside. “Lack of empathy, cold nature, shallow emotions:” his friend Lillian had once said to him at a party, “you’re well on your way to becoming a classic sociopath.” But that, he reminded himself, was coming from a girl who liked to be choked during sex. And that was before he’d met Lux. Lux had given him something to care about. He didn’t know why he had such strong feelings for her, but in light of what he’d begun to fear about himself – that Lillian’s appraisal of him had been right – they were all the more precious to him. He would do most anything for Lux. She made him feel something.

The fire snapped and sparked as he spent the next hour setting up a small camp outside the mine. With his cook pot atop the quartered log, resting on a few small stones so as not to smother the flames, Lucas heated half his water supply and made a hot breakfast. Tying his three bundled lengths of paracord to the wooden beams at the mine entrance, he used his tarp to make a lean-to that sheltered him somewhat from the intermittent sleet. He hung his wet clothes and his sleeping bag as near as he could to the fire, doing what he could to dry them.

With breakfast in his stomach and the painful chill driven from within, the fire he’d made became the focus of his world. He fed and nurtured it, feeling a kind of pride in its flickering life. It sat in a bed of dull red coals and promised to protect him from the cold and wet around him. He left it only long enough to find and return with more fuel for it to feed on. For most of the day, Lucas huddled close to it, listening to it talk. The wet wood sputtered, hissed and popped. He stared into its dancing depths and thought about things from before the world fell apart, back when heat was something that came out of a rectangular grate in the wall.

He thought about fast food restaurants and sleeping in soft beds until noon. He thought about texting and TV shows. He thought about all of the times he’d played around with the idea of the world ending and what he’d do when the asteroid hit or when the EMP fried every computer chip in the country. He and his friends had always been entertained by the idea of society collapsing, seeing it as a chance to live out their fondest role-playing video game fantasies, never realizing that having to walk around with a gun on your hip went hand in hand with being always in mortal danger, constantly encased in piercing, mind bending fear.

“That got tired fast,” he whispered to himself as he prodded the fire with the tip of his makeshift spear.

When the dark, wet afternoon began to change over into night, he fed the last of the wood onto the fire and ate another hot meal. Then, when the daylight was almost gone and the flames were no more than flickers he pulled one of the soiled sleeping bags from inside the mine and rolled the hot rocks that had surrounded the fire onto it. Making three trips, he dragged the rocks inside the mine and dumped them near his sleeping spot where they heated the air and took away the chill.

“Tomorrow,” he said aloud as he crawled into his sleeping bag, tomorrow he’d continue on down the valley. The thought of how much lay before him was something he pushed from his mind. He had to get up and keep going. “It’s all there is,” he said, sighing the words to the rock walls around him. “It’s all that’s left to do.”



*****



The weather on the following morning was hardly any better than the day before. The sleet and cold rain had stopped, but a thin fog still gripped the valley floor and the chilly air still raked at his skin. He broke camp, packed his things and left the mine, retracing his steps along the path until he returned to the main trail that followed the stream downhill, a stream now swollen into a milky white torrent that roared against the rocks. Where the trail crossed the water, Lucas was confronted by the remains of a bridge constructed from a single log with some posts nailed to it and a rope strung along it as a handhold. The log had been forced from its rock foundations by the previous spring’s snowmelt and no conservation crew had come along in the early summer to repair it. It sat jammed between two boulders, angled downstream with the far end elevated ten feet in the air. But it was the only way across the cold rushing water and Lucas spent half an hour gingerly making his way up it, using what remained of the railing posts as footholds, pushing his pack ahead of him until he could drop it to the rocks on the other side. Then with a short leap, he landed on the other side, but not before he cut the rope from the ruined bridge to take with him. Even worn and frayed by the elements, it was still too useful to leave behind.

Dusk came early and he made camp among the pines on a level plot of ground once frequented by hikers on the trail. There were stone fire rings already in place and a nearby deadfall tree made it easy to collect fuel for a small fire. It was almost too dark to see as he stood at the deadfall and snapped off twigs and small branches. Several times he stopped what he was doing, convinced that he’d heard faint noises coming from the brush in front of him. That night he woke repeatedly, gripped his revolver and stared into the dark from underneath his tarp shelter. The noises came again and again; a rustling sound accompanied by a wet kind of clicking. The sounds, however, never came any closer and always faded away after a minute or two.

The next morning he collected more twigs from the deadfall for a quick breakfast fire. There, in the gray light of dawn, he finally discovered the source of the sounds. Beneath the fallen tree, crushed and impaled by multiple branches, lay two corpses. Without air in their lungs and without use of their limbs, they’d been unable to do much more than roll their heads back and forth and scrape at the ground with their worn away fingers. He’d slept all night with them not ten yards away. The two reanimated bodies were too far inside the spiny branches of the deadfall for him to reach with his makeshift spear and he chose not to waste two bullets on them. But as he plodded along the trail that day, he kept thinking about them trapped beneath the fallen tree and regretted not putting them out of their misery.

Exhausted and sore, he made camp at the end of his third day on the trail and, with the exception of an animal that circled him in the dark and screamed like a woman being murdered, the night passed without incident.

Leaving behind the rock fields and switchbacks and the mountain peaks dusted with fresh snow, he reached Tall Bridge Campground early the next day. From there, the trail leveled out, becoming a dirt path that paralleled a widening river. He was cold, wet and sore, but he plodded steadily along despite the limp growing in his right leg. The tall trees on all sides carpeted the ground with wet, fallen leaves and pine needles which muffled his footsteps. Only the rushing sound of the nearby river broke the quiet. So when the misshapen lump ahead of him on the trail rolled over at the sight of him and croaked the stale air out of its slowly decaying lungs, the sound cut through the air like a chainsaw.

Lucas took a few steps back and brought up the short spear in his hand, but after an initial lunge, the corpse of the man seemed restrained by something. Lucas circled it as it reached out its hands at him and chomped its teeth. The thing’s leg was caught in the jaws of a large metal animal trap which was staked to the ground.

“Huh,” he breathed, adding, Bad luck for you. Someone, he thought, had set the trap hoping to catch dinner, but instead they’d caught an old, rotten dead man. It occurred to him how well it had worked, how the wandering corpse had been trapped here way out in the woods where it couldn’t attack any living people. Then it occurred to him to look at the ground along the trail he’d been walking.

Beneath the cushioning layer of pine needles and leaves he saw small, telltale mounds where other metal leg traps had been hidden. He’d actually walked through half a dozen or so, only avoiding stepping on them out of blind luck. The realization sent a cold spike into the center of his brain and he spent a second imaging what the bear trap would have felt like had it snapped shut on his leg. He doubted his boot would have done much to protect him.

Now that he knew what to look for, Lucas could see around thirty traps concealed on the trail and along its edges and he figured there were probably more of them farther on. He peered into the trees while his mind went to the revolver at his side. The traps, he thought, were all still hidden. The wind and rain and snow hadn’t uncovered them. There were no long dead animals caught in them. Someone was still tending to them. He stood there for a moment and considered his options.

If he left the trail not only would it take longer for him to get where he was going, but he might get lost. After thinking about it, he decided to keep moving on. It was a big wilderness, he reasoned, and whoever set the traps along the trail did it so they wouldn’t have to constantly guard the way. Whoever was there, he might very well never see them and be able to continue on his journey.

Looking again at the corpse before him with its tattered, mud caked clothes, Lucas stepped toward it. He thought about the two dead bodies he’d discovered trapped beneath the deadfall and how he regretted not putting an end to their misery. He drew back the makeshift spear he’d cobbled together from a police night stick and a pitchfork tine and stabbed it through its left eye socket.

“There,” he breathed aloud as he wiped the spearpoint on the remains of the dead man’s grimy clothes. That’s all the mercy you get, he thought, once more thinking about heroes in movies digging graves for poor departed souls.

He remained on the trail. Half an hour later, because he was on the lookout for more traps concealed on the ground ahead of him, he failed to see the horseback rider who rounded the bend before him. As he jumped behind the nearest clump of bushes, he could only wonder that something as big as a horse could make so little sound that its approach could surprise him. As he crouched down, though, he did hear the rider spurring the animal into a gallop that hammered the soft ground.

“I saw you!” a young, female voice called out as the horse’s hooves cluttered to a halt. “I saw you!” she yelled again and through a gap in the bushes, Lucas could see her bringing her weapon up. “I saw you!” she said a third time. Her horse, sensing her alarm, fidgeted a bit and the girl struggled to keep the lever action rifle aimed. “Get out from behind there!”

Lucas’ hand was on the grips of his holstered revolver, but he hesitated. Despite his determination to get to Lux at all costs, he found he didn’t want to shoot a girl on a horse. Peeking through the vine maple he saw that she’d dismounted and had taken cover behind a tree. The horse stood nearby, ears pinned back, nervously cocking one of its rear legs.

“I’ve got six rounds of .30-.30 that aren’t going to be stopped any by that brush,” she shouted in a voice that sounded much more annoyed than afraid.

Lucas was tempted to respond in kind, telling her that he, too, was armed, but decided that he had nothing to gain by trying to intimidate the girl. “I’m no threat to you,” he called out. “I’m just passing through. I just want to move on.”

“And I just want you to get out from behind those bushes,” the girl responded.

Lucas knew he had three choices: shoot and try to scare her away, turn and run, or do what she told him to do. He shot a glance behind him and saw what poor cover there was for an escape. The third option, he figured, held the least chance of him catching a .30-.30 Winchester slug and being unable to continue onward. She was just a girl on a horse, he thought, and probably not a cold blooded murderer.

“Point your rifle somewhere else. I’m coming out.” He held his spear in his left hand pointed at the ground and forced his hand away from the revolver.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” she demanded.

“I’m Lucas,” he replied, “uh, Lucas Locke. And I came over the pass and down the valley. And I just want to keep moving through.”

“You came down from the pass?” she said with guarded surprise. “We haven’t had anything but dead folks coming down from the pass for almost a year now.”

“Well,” he said, blinking, “now there’s me.”

“You came through that storm the other night?”

“Yeah.”

“Must’ve been fun.”

“It was…something.”

“Bet you’re hungry and tired and looking for a warm, dry place to rest.”

“I’m okay," he replied, thinking how hungry and tired he was and how much he'd love a warm, dry place to rest. "I just want to be on my way.”

“You try walking any more along this road, you’re likely to wind up in one of the traps. They’re for the dead, to help keep any more of them from wandering down the way you came.”

“There was one caught about half a mile on up,” he told her. “I KT’d it.” The girl tilted her head questioningly. “KT’d; it means killed twice.”

“We usually just say Put ‘em to rest. You reset the trap?”

Lucas shook his head and wiggled the digits on his right hand. “I’m a little too attached to my fingers.”

"Thanks a lot." The girl looked even more annoyed than she had before. “That means I’m going to have to go back and do it.”

“Sorry.” He gestured in the direction he’d travelled. “Like I said, it’s back about half a mile. I’ll just be moving on the other way.”

“You’ll be giving me your guns,” she replied, taking another half step towards him and moving the muzzle of her lever action rifle a little more in his direction, “and walking ahead of me back to the house.”

“Why?” he asked. “Why not just let me pass through?”

“Because who knows if you will?” she answered. “Who knows if you’ll just lurk around here waiting for…whatever?”

“Okay,” Lucas relented, unable to see any way around the muzzle of the girl’s .30-.30 rifle.

“The pointy thingy, too,” she ordered and Lucas dropped his spear to the ground. “Now drop your pack.” When he had done all she had told him to do, she gestured toward his holstered revolver with the tip of her rifle. “Now that. And do it slow.”

He took the Smith and Wesson from the holster at his side and reversed it, handing it to her butt first. When she stepped forward to take it with one hand, she turned aside the muzzle of her rifle and Lucas seized the opportunity. He lunged in close to her, his right hand tight around his revolver, his left hand grabbing her rifle barrel. He lifted his foot, placed the sole of his boot against her stomach and shoved hard. Her finger tightened on the trigger as she fell backward and the rifle discharged with a pounding report and a sudden heat around his fingers where he held the barrel. The combination of the recoil and Lucas twisting it from her grip made the girl let go of the .30-.30 and fall to the ground. She immediately began to get to her feet, but Lucas retreated from her, holstered his revolver and levered a fresh round into the rifle.

“Uh-uh-uh,” he said, barely able to hear himself over the ringing in his ears. He aimed the weapon at a point just to the side of her. “I told you, I just want to be on my way. I don’t have time for this.”

The girl raised herself the rest of the way to her feet with a murderous look on her face. “Give me my rifle,” she growled.

“The one you just had pointed at me?” he asked, his eyebrows raised. “You’ll get it back.” He worked the lever on the gun five more times, ejecting the remaining rounds. Then he picked up his pack from the ground before leaning the girl’s rifle against the nearest tree. “It’ll be right here when you get back from resetting that bear trap of yours. I’ll be gone by then and all you’ll have to worry about is if I see you following me. Got it?”

The girl’s expression fell and the fight seemed to leave her. “All right,” she said. “Fine.” She gestured back up the road. “How far back did you say it was?”

Lucas turned his head slightly, briefly taking his eyes off her. “About half a mile. Oh, and by the way, next time you meet up with some stranger, don’t start off by telling him how many rounds you have in your rifle.” He turned back just in time to see her pulling a small black revolver from the waistband at her back. The clicking sound when she cocked the hammer as well as the sight of the flat-nosed lead bullets visible in the cylinder – either .357 magnum or .38 special – made him freeze. It was a snub nose revolver, but there were only feet separating them. He stood motionless, thinking about the immense distance between his right hand and the butt of his own revolver.

“Good advice,” she said. “And you shouldn’t assume the next person you meet doesn’t have a backup gun.”

“Yeah,” he said, still staring at the weapon in her hand, counting the chambers; a five-shot revolver, he thought. “That was…pretty dumb.”
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."

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