The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by JeeperCreeper » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:16 pm

I have a hunch that TB is secretly like a world-class-famous author that writes in other genres, and can't publish this story for fear of being ostracized by the high-and-mighty guild of uptight authors...

...That is how we are getting this wonderful writing and highly skilled wordsmanship for free on a public forum.

TB, I thank you. You are my favorite author and I read alottttt of books.
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:20 pm

JeeperCreeper wrote:I have a hunch that TB is secretly like a world-class-famous author that writes in other genres, and can't publish this story for fear of being ostracized by the high-and-mighty guild of uptight authors...

...That is how we are getting this wonderful writing and highly skilled wordsmanship for free on a public forum.

TB, I thank you. You are my favorite author and I read alottttt of books.
I've had the same feeling and would not doubt that one bit, his writing is superb and this is one of those stories that draws you in so far that you feel like you are actually IN the story. This is a phenomenal story!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:34 pm

Thank you...and welcome back!

I tried to hold off reading these two (!) updates, but couldn’t help myself. As usual, fantastic writing...so drawn in to this vignette! How in the world are they gonna get out of this one?

Or will they?

One of the primary reasons I stopped watching TWD early in season two was that I couldn’t get past the notion that people that stupid wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) survive. Maybe they’ll get lucky, but then again maybe Liam was thoughtless enough to get them both killed. :ohdear:

Can’t wait for the next chapter or ten to find out.

And please take care of yourself...don’t know if we can take another drought without a TB fix!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by teotwaki » Thu Mar 22, 2018 12:20 am

yum yum yum

Thank you TB!
Most of my adventures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
My Introduction With Pictures: http://zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopi ... 10&t=79019" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by akraven » Fri Mar 23, 2018 11:53 pm

Thank you TB for another great update. I gotta agree with the idea you might be a reaal known author. Your writing draws you in and involves you like its real. Great work!!!!!!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Johan » Sat Mar 24, 2018 4:31 pm

Thank you TB for giving us Moooaar!!!

I can't wait for the next chapter..
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Zed Hunter » Wed Mar 28, 2018 10:01 am

Typical horror movie sprained ankle. Ouch. Thanks.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by jdavidboyd » Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:50 pm

Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!








Please....
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by D_Man » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:31 am

Happy Spring TB! Glad that you've recovered from the flu and adjusted to O/N work. Thank you for the update.
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To find, But not to yield.
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by JeeperCreeper » Thu Mar 29, 2018 8:16 pm

Zed Hunter wrote:Typical horror movie sprained ankle. Ouch. Thanks.
hahaha I have never known any sprain to ever be convenient...
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by jdavidboyd » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:14 pm

oh my god, the horror of waiting.....
What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:41 pm

Hey TB... today’s my bithday and I’m stuck in dustville, Texas cleaning and setting up a house (that needs a lot of work!) for our son, and could use a respite. Just sayin...

:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:59 pm

Hard to believe how long this story has been running . And the latest update is so well written it's like there has been no waiting at all between additions .......... well maybe not quite but you know . :wink:

Well done sir . This story is a million seller for sure .

Thank you .
"Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up. "

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:25 pm

Sheriff McClelland wrote:Hard to believe how long this story has been running . And the latest update is so well written it's like there has been no waiting at all between additions .......... well maybe not quite but you know . :wink:

Well done sir . This story is a million seller for sure .

Thank you .
“Like”
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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 curt48mauser » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:33 pm

Oh this is GOOD STUFF! Thank you TB, Been lurking on this one for awhile now.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Sat Jun 02, 2018 11:18 pm

Any chance for an update?

Pretty please?

About had a heart attack when the board was down the last couple of days when I realized I had no way of seeing this story continue (hopefully never finished!)...got by with a new story from Mother Hen (Kathy in FL) over on timebomb2K, but caught up way too quickly.

Think I’ll start from the beginning again...and maybe save the entries to a word document if you don’t mind. It truly felt like a punch in the gut when I considered this story “lost” to me.

You MUST get this published...

EDIT: Maybe I should have chosen my words more carefully... Turns out the “heart burn” I had all last week was a heart attack. Checked into the hospital early Wednesday morning and was released last night...home resting comfortably now after two cardiac cathertization procedures and four stents (two on each side). Gave me lots of time to think about things while starting over again on this wonderful story.

What is it about ZS’s fiction that comes to my rescue every time I find myself involuntarily sequestered? Managed to finish “book one” just before I drifted off to sleep last night and wanted to give a huge shout out to TB. Thank you...for sharing your story and for keeping my mind engrossed in your world. Not that I was feeling my mortality or anything morbid, but extended stays in the hospital are never fun.

This story really helped me get through it, and looking forward to continuing the journey...
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 Tinderbox » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:24 am

Holy crap, 91Eunozs, take care of yourself!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:40 am

The sound of the dead scuffing, scraping and banging against the outside reached a crescendo and stayed there. For twenty minutes, not a word passed between them. Liam remained where he sat, eyeing the barn door as the corpses jostled for position, their brain stems fixated on the spark of an idea that food had gone into the hulking structure and that if they could only claw, pound or pry their way through the old, weathered boards, that food could be theirs. Too frightened even to whisper, Liam’s gaze alternated between watching the shadows of the dead flicker through the gaps in the barn wall and staring at the dirt floor in front of him, trying to think of what to do next. He glanced at Miles a dozen times and each time he found him with his injured leg stretched out, his hand pressed against his forehead and his eyes closed, until he looked again and caught the young man glaring back at him. Liam could read the look behind the scratched lenses of Miles’ glasses and it was plain that he blamed Liam for everything.

It was nothing that he needed to be told. The moment he’d discovered that it was Miles lying in front of him in the tall weeds, he realized the chain of events that his disappearance from camp must have caused. He also realized that he’d known it all along, but had simply kept himself from thinking about it. All he had let himself think about was that glorious moment when Katrina Van Kooten would see him appear from out of the wasteland and know in her heart that nothing – not distance, not hardship, not the ravenous undead – nothing could keep him from her. It was still a stirring thought that tickled the base of his brain, but Miles’ appearance had forced him up against the hard, cold reality of things; his actions had brought others into harm’s way.

Didn’t ask anybody to do anything, the little voice inside muttered sullenly. Things were fine. You had food. You had shelter. And didn’t that idiot lead the dead here? But the voice sounded weak and distant, as though it had retreated far into the recesses of his mind.

To avoid looking at Miles’ face again, Liam forced himself to his feet and, stepping as quietly as possible, he picked his way through the shadows. Moving through the maze-like interior, careful not to look at Mrs. Nevers’ permanently dead corpse while giving it as wide of a berth as possible, he made his way around to the barn’s other entrances. Two were normal sized doors and were easily latched, but he piled things in front of them anyway: wooden pallets and boxes of porcelain tiles, a barrel of nails and part of an old marble fireplace mantel. He tried to be quiet, but even the little noise he made caused the dead outside to become more excited. The door on the shed where Mr. Nevers kept his Grumman Cheetah was an add-on that the man had fashioned to make room for the plane’s wings. They were a series of plywood sheets, thinner than the boards on the rest of the barn, which telescoped as they were opened and moved on overhead rollers. Because they were secured at the bottom only in a loose fitting wooden track, they bowed inward as the dead pressed themselves against them from outside. If they were going to break through, he told himself, it would probably be here. Liam gathered as many two-by-fours as he could find and braced the sliding door sections. Putting the last one in place he went to his knees, suddenly feeling as exhausted as he’d been on the road.

Tired, he thought. Can’t do it. Looking up at the shadows moving outside the walls, the rest of the unknown author’s lament echoed again in his head. Everywhere the dead. Everywhere the dead…

He looked up at the small four seat aircraft. “You’re still here,” he whispered under his breath. The Cheetah sat beneath its plastic tarps, just the way he’d always remembered it. And now, he told himself as the dead pawed at the exterior of the barn, there’s no way to get you out of here. “If we try,” he whispered to the plane, “they’ll tear us both apart.”

He tiptoed back through the shadows to where he’d left Miles, but the young man was gone. He found him in the most natural location given the circumstances – in the loft. Despite his hurt foot, Miles had hauled himself up the old wooden ladder and retreated to the place where the dead would have the most difficulty reaching. Sitting on a bale of straw, his revolver in his lap, Miles didn’t bother to look up as Liam stepped off the ladder. Liam noted for the first time how wet and disheveled Miles looked.

“I’ve got eighteen rounds left,” he reported in a hoarse voice. He hefted the revolver, flipping it over. “After that, this thing is just so much dead weight.”

“You still have that metal club thing,” Liam said, gesturing to the object beside him on the straw.

“My sixteenth-century flanged mace,” Miles said. “I left the Spanish parrying dagger in the eye of some big, dead guy – like football player big. I stuck it in too hard and it wouldn’t come out so I left it there. I dropped my backpack, too. It was either lose the weight or get eaten.”

“My backpack is in the house. All of my stuff is, except for this.” He patted his carbine. “My hammer’s there along with food and clothes and…lots of everything, but…”

“But we’re stuck here,” Miles finished for him.

“Is it just you,” he asked in a voice bordering on a whisper, “or did more people come out?”

“It’s just me,” Miles answered, “as far as I know.”

“Why…why did you come out after me? I made the decision. I can take care of myself. I didn’t ask anyone else to – ”

“Apparently,” Miles interrupted, “there’s this thing where if you’re a parent and your kid goes and does something stupid, you still feel an overwhelming urge to keep him from dying.”

“My dad didn’t…I mean, he…he didn’t – ”

“No, your dad didn’t come out looking for you,” Miles told him. “I came out looking for you so your dad wouldn’t. Someone convinced me it was important that he stay and keep being the man in charge. Of course, who knows what the hell happened after I left.”

“My dad’s not in the best shape anymore,” Liam said, worrying at the thought. “He’d never admit it, but he shouldn’t be outside in…” Liam listened to the sound of the corpses pounding at the barn walls “…in all of this.”

“That’s why I’m here, I guess,” Miles said bitterly. “I could be back at the camp, but no, here I am with you and a messed up ankle and my name on the menu for those dead pus bags outside.”

“I didn’t ask you or anyone else to – ”

“What the hell did you think was going to happen!?” Miles snapped. He glanced worriedly at the walls of the barn and lowered his voice. “Did you think your family was just going to say, ‘Oh, well, Liam’s gone. La-dee-da. Wonder what’s for lunch?’ Of course they were going to head out looking for you.”

Liam gaze was locked on the straw strewn across floor of the loft. “Sorry.”

Sorry?” Miles echoed. His hands sliced at the air in front of him making exasperated gestures. “You’re sorry?” His mouth hung open for a second or two as he fought to find the right words. “Everyone’s dead! My mom is dead. My dad – “ he shrugged “ – probably dead, I guess. Anyone I ever knew, everyone I went to school with – dead. The guy who gave me this revolver – dead, dead, dead, dead dead.” For a brief moment, he pictured Stan Zitser’s face in the window of the museum, waving a sad goodbye at him as he and the others fled. “But I’m still alive. Who knows why? I sure as hell don’t. But for some reason, I am. And I…I just get the feeling that everyone I knew who is dead now would look at me risking my life – that thing they lost and that they’ll never ever get back – and be pissed-the-hell-off at me, like I’m pissed at myself for coming out here after you.”

“I didn’t ask you to – ”

“No, you didn’t. But you should’ve known people would.”

“Sorry,” Liam said again.

“Sorry,” Miles repeated once more, letting the word drip out like something sour. He listened to the sound of the dead down below pawing at the barn walls and sighed. “Okay, so ‘sorry’ gets us nowhere.”

Liam weighed bringing up the fact that it had been Miles who had led the horde of dead people here and not him, but decided against it. “Um, the barn is…pretty secure,” he mumbled. “I mean, I blocked the small doors and…and put two-by-fours up against the…big ones.”

Miles shifted and let himself slide down against the sloping mound of straw, not caring if the sharp ends poked him through his clothes. Positioning his revolver and his mace so that they were within easy reach, he stretched out his legs and winced from the pain in his ankle. “I’m really, really tired. I almost died a hundred times today and I could use some rest.” Laying his head down and closing his eyes, he concluded with, “If they don’t break in before I wake up, maybe then we can think about a way to get out of here.”




******




It was late afternoon before he heard Miles slowly descending the ladder from the loft, whispering curses with each step at the pain in his ankle. Liam had spent the hours patrolling the ground floor, listening to the dead shuffle and scrape and keeping alert for the sound of breaking wood. The two small doors were secure enough, he’d decided. The hundreds of reanimated corpses outside were pretty evenly spread out. But if enough of them gathered in front of either of the two big doors, they could break through.

He’d taken a garden tool from a pile of shovels and hoes – a forked piece of metal at the end of a four foot wooden pole still bearing a label that read Daniels’ Dreaded Dandelion Digger – and carried it with him like a spear. It was no replacement for his hammer, but with limited ammunition for his carbine, it made him feel a little better as he inspected the barn for weak spots. He’d spent a minute or two tugging a mildewed striped canvas awning from a sagging cardboard box and covering the corpse of Mrs. Nevers; a small thanks, he thought grimly, for all of the Taco Tuesdays, pancake breakfasts and birthday cupcakes he’d enjoyed over the years.

He eventually worked his way back into the shed where the Grumman Cheetah sat beneath its plastic sheets, where he and Jordan used to sneak in and sit in the plane’s cockpit making airplane sounds as they pretended to touch the controls. Now the only sound was the dead pressing themselves against the shed’s sliding doors and scraping their bony fingers over the wood. He made his way slowly around the plane, inspecting the jumbled workbench where Mr. Nevers used to sit and tinker with the Cheetah’s engine parts. The workbench was piled with hand tools and old coffee cans full of nuts, bolts and screws. There was a stack of pilot’s logbooks and a well-worn owner’s manual for the Cheetah below a calendar with photos of different jet airplanes. There was a single work light clipped to the pegboard plugged into the barn’s only electrical outlet. Underneath the workbench, beside a scuffed plastic cooler just big enough for a six pack of beer was a hand-crank camping lantern. Liam spent a few minutes turning the small plastic handle while the internal parts gently whirred and pondered the horrid situation he was in.

He was trapped and the dead weren’t going to go away before both he and Miles starved to death or died of thirst. The only thing to do was to make a break for it. But even with all of the rest he’d gotten, Liam wasn’t sure how long he could run. Probably not long enough, he figured. Besides, Miles’ ankle was going to have to heal first. Liam thought about his chances of making it on his own, but the thought was fleeting. Miles was here because of him; he wasn’t going to leave him behind.

Walking once again around the plane, he rested his hand on a blue 55 gallon drum marked AVGAS 100LL. Mindful of the noise, he tapped it gently with his knuckles and got the impression that the drum was nearly full. If their bad situation became even worse, he thought morosely, the fuel would make the old wooden structure into a nice little crematorium.

He was still in the shed with the plane when Miles found him. Limping in, he lifted the plastic sheet from one wing and peered beneath it. “So this is it,” he said quietly. “This is what you came here for.” Liam didn’t answer. He could hear the bitterness beneath the words. He just joined Miles in looking at the Grumman Cheetah. “It looks smaller than the one I flew. Plus the wing is on the bottom, not on top. Still, I guess it looks like it’s in good condition. You figure out how to fly it yet?” Again, Liam remained silent. Eventually, Miles let the plastic sheets fall back over the wing and hobbled toward a wooden stool in front of the workbench. “We don’t have any food, do we?”

“It’s all in the house,” Liam replied with a shake of his head. He felt his stomach tighten at the thought of the contents of the pantry cupboard.

“No water, either.”

“Uh-uh.”

“Kind of a shitty situation, huh?” he said with more gloom than spite. “What do we have?”

“I have eighty-one rounds of ammunition,” Liam answered in a whisper. “You have – what did you say? – eighteen?”

Miles nodded. “And a flanged mace.”

“And a flanged mace,” Liam echoed. He looked around at the interior of the barn. “I think the walls will hold.” For a while, anyway, he added silently. “The big doors, though…” He nodded at the shed’s sliding doors. “If enough of them press against them…”

“What else?” Miles asked with a worn out sigh.

Liam shrugged and tapped the handle of the dandelion digger. “We’ve got lots of sharp things on wooden poles: hay forks and pruning saws, axes…”

“That would be okay if there were only ten of them,” Miles said.

“Yeah,” Liam agreed. “Stab a few through a gap in the door and the rest will get really worked up.” He paused to listen to the dead slapping and thudding against the walls. “Even more so.”

Miles pointed to the 55 gallon drum of aviation fuel. “Is that full?”

Liam nodded. “I think so, but if you’re thinking about filling up a bunch of old bottles and tossing Molotov cocktails at them – ”

“We’re trapped in a big, old pile of wood and straw,” Miles replied dismissively. “Besides, I’ve seen them set on fire. It really doesn’t do a good job of stopping them. I mean, the best you can hope for is that it blinds them, but even then, they still keep flailing around. Like torches with legs.”

“We could lure them to one side of the barn with a lot of noise and run out the other side,” Liam suggested. “If we do it when it’s dark, we might make it to the tree line.” What he really wanted to do was make it back to the house for his things along with all of the food and water there, but he was wary of trading one trap for another.

“I was in a deserted pizza place in a small town once with three other people,” Miles recollected in a reedy whisper. “It was surrounded by about fifty dead ones. One guy – his name was Rico – had that idea. He decided we would pound on the glass in front and when they all came around to the front, we would sneak out the back. But not all the ones around back could hear the noise we made up front. Rico and – I think her name was Heather – ran out the back and straight into fifteen of them. The other guy – Ned, I think? – went back in and shut the door, but the ones in front…well, I heard the glass breaking. I don’t think Ned lasted too long.”

“So how did you get away?”

“Same way I always did;” Miles answered, “luck. They stumbled one way, I stumbled the other. There’s nothing more to it than that. There’s never anything more to it.”

“So,” Liam went on, “you don’t think luring them to one side will work?”

Miles bowed his head and rubbed his forehead. “Even if we get ninety percent of them around the other side, that still means making our way through twenty or thirty. And with my foot the way it is, I’m not going to be moving so fast. You might make it.”

“No,” Liam stated firmly, “we’re staying together.”

“All right,” Miles said with a sideways glance. He returned his gaze to the Grumman Cheetah and sighed his most miserable sigh yet. “If only the guy who owned this place had a big old John Deere combine in here instead of a plane, we could start it up and ride right through them like we were mowing our way…through…a field of…”

“Hay,” Liam put in absently. “Mr. Nevers used to grow hay out in one of the fields. Not every year, I guess, but when he did, he had some guy from one of the neighboring farms come over and – ”

“Maybe,” Miles said, interrupting him with a raised hand, his eyes still fixed on the Cheetah, “maybe we don’t need a combine.”

“What?” Liam asked.

“You know…” Miles said slowly, his tone distant, “…you know what we’re going to do?” He looked at Liam and repeated himself in a louder, more excited voice. “You know what we’re going to do?” He pointed at the plane. “We’re going to get this thing started.” The dead outside the shed’s sliding doors responded to the increased volume of his voice, but Miles didn’t seem to notice.

“Okay,” Liam said, confused, “but we won’t get far, will we? There are a lot of dead people out there who will swarm in the second we open the door. They’ll grab on to the plane, especially the wings, and keep us from going anywhere. Then they’ll just tear it apart with us in it.”

“We’ll hack off the wings,” Miles said, looking through Liam, visualizing what he was saying. “That’ll give them less to grab on to.”

“Hack…hack the wings off the Cheetah?” Liam repeated incredulously. He shook his head in disbelief. “No. No, you can’t. That’s where the fuel tanks are.”

“Then we’ll hack off everything past the fuel tanks. We’ll weigh less without part of the wings, too. We’ll go faster, I bet.”

“Go faster where? How are we going to fly without – ”

“It’s not about flying,” Miles interrupted, a glimmer visible behind the scratched lenses of his glasses. “It’s about opening those doors and cutting a path through those dead people with a spinning propeller. Once we’re clear of them, maybe all the way to the woods, we jump out of the plane and run. Well, you run. I hobble.”

“That’s your plan?”

“You don’t like it?”

Liam didn’t like it at all. He had the impression that Miles wasn’t thinking it through, that he was just seizing upon a half-baked idea in order to stave off desperation. “I…I just…I just…” he sputtered. “I’m not sure about cutting the wings off a perfectly good plane and using it as a giant weed wacker.”

“You said it yourself,” Miles countered. “With the wings on, they’ll grab the plane and keep it from moving. With just the stubs of wings, I think we might make it.”

Liam thought about what Miles was suggesting, but he couldn’t get over the idea of destroying the Cheetah. After being in awe of the aircraft for half of his life, it seemed like a kind of sacrilege to contemplate mutilating it. Besides, it would mean forcing himself to once and for all forget the dream of flying his way to Katrina Van Kooten. “You don’t think it’s a little…” Liam said to him “…uh, a little, you know, risky?”

“Says the guy whose plan was to try and fly this plane without any training.” Miles countered.

“Yeah,” Liam conceded, still skeptical of the idea. But, he told himself, at least the plan – as foolhardy as it was – had lifted Miles’ spirits. “Okay,” he said after a moment, “just…let’s save cutting off the wings for last, all right? I mean, we don’t even know if it will run.”

Miles shrugged and began inspecting the things beneath the workbench. “Cut the wings off first or last;” he said, giving a bottle of motor oil a shake, “I suppose it doesn’t matter.” He opened the small plastic cooler that Liam had noticed earlier. “Hey, ginger ale,” he said, removing two of the three cans he’d discovered. He handed one to Liam who accepted it sheepishly. “It’s always nice when you find a stash of pop.” He snapped the top and sipped.

“Yeah,” Liam agreed, following suit. He still didn’t think much of Miles’ plan. It seemed more an act of desperation than a well thought out course of action. But if it meant not seeing that look again on Miles’ face, the look that blamed him for everything, then Liam was inclined to indulge him. “So, what do we do?”

“Let me take a look at the engine,” Miles replied between gulps of ginger ale. He drained the last few drops from the can and burped soundlessly. “If it’ll run, we might make it out of here. If it doesn’t…” He shrugged, leaving the rest unsaid.




******




Miles spent the rest of that day tending to the plane’s engine, pausing only to crank the handle on the wind-up lantern from the workbench. Glancing into the shed from time to time to see him bent over the plane’s engine compartment, Liam was reminded of all the time Miles had spent with his head beneath the hood of the military humvee back at the camp, the one he had never been able to fix. When the daylight began to fade and Miles feared the light from the lantern would attract too many corpses to the shed’s sliding doors, he quit for the night and reported his findings.

“Good news and bad news,” he said to Liam in a near whisper. “The good news is that whoever owned it sure took care of storing it right: preservative oil, desiccant bags, dehydrator plugs.” Liam nodded, thinking how nothing had been too good for Mr. Nevers’ baby. “I cleaned a wasp nest out of one of the exhaust ports,” Miles went on, “but that’s about it. The hand pump for the avgas worked just fine, by the way. I filled both tanks, even though we won’t need that much to get us across the fields. Better safe than sorry, I guess.”

“You said good news and bad news,” Liam prompted.

“Well, the battery’s dead. That’s no surprise.”

“And we have no way to recharge it.” Liam hadn’t forgotten about the things in the Nevers’ garage – a small generator and a trickle charger – but they were on the other side of a very large crowd of dead people, so he decided not to mention them. “So that’s it for the weed wacker plan.”

“Well…”

“Well, what? You said the battery’s dead.”

“There’s this one thing that might work called hand-propping. That’s me sitting in the cockpit working the switches and you spinning the propeller by hand like they used to do in the old movies.”

“Can you even do that with modern planes?”

“I think so. As long…you know, as long as the engine is just, like, four cylinders. Grant told me – Grant is the guy who taught me how to fly his plane – he said it was possible and that we might need to do it if the battery ever died. It has to do with magnetos and impulse couplings and stuff like that.”

“But…okay, so…so we do that,” Liam said, realizing that he was trying to put holes in Miles’ plan, “the sound…the sound is going to attract a bunch of them to the shed doors. How are we – ”

“We do what you said;” Miles replied, undeterred, “we lure as many as we can to the other side of the barn and then start the engine as fast as we can. We plow through whatever dead ones haven’t been lured to the other side of the barn.”

“If we lure most of them to the other side and the engine doesn’t start,” Liam pointed out, “that leaves them concentrated and all riled up. It probably won’t be long before they break in.”

“And we’ll have to deal with that,” Miles replied woodenly, “just like we’ll have to deal with dying of thirst inside this smelly old barn. This way, at least we’ll be trying.”

“I guess,” Liam conceded.

Miles’ eyes darted around at the shadows consuming the inside of the shed but avoided Liam’s face. “I think I’m going to climb that ladder into the hayloft before it gets too dark to see.” He gestured toward the workbench as he limped out of sight. “I left you half of that third can of ginger ale. Not much of a dinner, I guess, but it’s all there is.”

Just like Miles’ plan, Liam thought as he picked up the can; it wasn’t much of one, but it was all they had.
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
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Tinderbox
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:06 am

The hayloft was cold and uncomfortable. Liam and Miles took turns waking each other with muttered pleas and muted cries from what seemed like a constant stream of nightmares. Each time he woke, Liam spent the moments trying to get back to sleep thinking about the nice, soft couch in the Nevers’ family room; so near, he thought, but so far out of reach. Being hungry and thirsty didn’t help much, either. In one of his nightmares he was standing at the stove in the house, stirring a pot of delicious smelling soup while the dead milled outside the kitchen window. When he looked into the pot, a skeletal hand floated to the surface just as the dead began to break in through the ground floor windows. In the dream, he knew he should run but he found he was simply too tired to move. Tired, he’d thought as the corpses stormed into the kitchen and pressed in around him. Can’t do it. Everywhere the dead.

In the real life nightmare outside the barn walls, the dead had stopped much of their pounding and scraping with the fall of darkness, though they still thudded against the weathered boards from time to time and slid against each other as they went around the building. The movement raised up a faint slithering sound in the cold night air, a constant reminder that they were still there.

When the first glimmer of daylight began to shine through the gaps in the boards, Liam didn’t bother to move. They were trapped, he figured. There was nowhere to go. There was no breakfast to make. No water to splash on his face. Why bother getting up? He closed his eyes to the first hint of dawn and woke hours later just as Miles began to stir. Miles lifted himself halfway from the heap of straw he’d slept on, put on his glasses and looked around as though confused. “Crap,” he complained in a low, gravelly voice as he remembered where he was. The light seeping into the hayloft told them the heavy cloud cover had finally broken and the sun was shining through a thin layer of hazy white clouds. “Five more minutes, Mom,” Miles muttered as he lay his head back down and closed his eyes.

Liam found his thoughts fixed on the idea of finding something to eat. Though he’d been all around the barn and hadn’t seen any food or drink, he remembered Miles’ discovery the day before of three cans of ginger ale. Maybe, his clenched stomach insisted, maybe he’d missed something; a jar of preserves or an overlooked case of ginger ale stuck in some corner of the barn. Brushing the straw from his clothes, he made his way down the ladder toward the ground. Halfway down, he froze at a loud noise from somewhere below. It was a quick sound, like something that had hung from one of the nails in the wall had broken loose and fallen with a clunk and a short clang. He stayed still for a few moments, listening for anything more, but heard nothing – nothing but the dead outside. They’d heard the noise, too, and their pounding and scraping began again. It was no wonder things were falling off the walls, Liam thought as he continued his descent.

He wandered slowly through the barn’s twisting interior searching in the dim light for anything he might have overlooked the day before. Driven by visions of mason jars filled with preserved peaches, apples and pears, he tried to forget that Mrs. Nevers would have surely stored such things in the basement of the house and not in the barn. Eventually he came to the side of the barn where the dead slumped and clawed at the outside with an energy level noticeably higher than the corpses lining the other walls. In the slits of light slanting in from outside, Liam noticed an antique two-man crosscut saw resting at the base of the wall with its shark-like teeth embedded in the dirt floor. Two observations struck him at the same time. The first was that he was certain the six foot long saw had been mounted on the wall when he’d seen it the day before. The second was that the middle of the old rusty blade seemed to be stained a dark color. He bent toward it, squinting in the shadows, thinking that there was no reason any stain on it should look so fresh and wet. He lifted the saw by one of the wooden handles and found a small semicircular hole behind it in the base of the wall. It might have originally been chewed into the wood by some animal in the distant past, but the freshly splintered edges showed that something had just recently enlarged it. Because it was so small, Liam felt no immediate alarm at seeing it. And anyway, he thought, the hole seemed to be plugged by something. Peering closer, he saw that it was undoubtedly putrefied remains. Still not entirely sure what he was looking at, he put his eye to one of the gaps in the wall and could just make out through the crowd of jostling corpses a pair of legs stretched out from the hole in the wall. The legs were clad in filthy skin tight jeans and reminded him of a girl in his class named Heather who had the thinnest pipe cleaner-like legs he’d ever seen. At the end of the legs was a pair of feet – one foot wearing the shredded remains of a black and white Converse high-top sneaker and the other shoeless with blackened and mashed toes topped with green, splintered toenails. With a rush, everything finally came together in his head and he backed quickly away from the wall, looking all around the floor of the barn as though expecting to find it covered in snakes.

“Shit,” he dared to whisper. Straining to pick out every detail in the barn’s cluttered interior, Liam moved carefully and quietly back toward the ladder to the hayloft. His fingers flexed as he took each measured step, missing the feel of the 9mm carbine he’d left in the loft. Classic mistake, he thought; the one time the guy in the movie leaves his gun behind…

When he reached the area below the hayloft, he cupped his hands on either side of his mouth and called out in a raspy half whisper. “Miles!” He waited a second or two, scanning the floor around him. “Miles!” he called again. His companion’s head finally appeared over the edge of the loft.

“Shhhh,” he said in a harsh whisper of his own. “Quiet down! You want to get them all worked up?”

“There’s one in here with us!”

“Wh…what?” Miles replied, rubbing his eyes.

“There’s one of them in here with us. There’s a small hole. It must have wriggled in. It can’t be very big. Maybe it’s just a kid. I don’t know. I think it’s cut in two.”

“You think it’s…you think it’s what?”

Cut – in – two,” Liam emphasized. “A saw fell on it.”

“A saw fell on it,” Miles repeated dully, trying to fully rouse himself, “and it’s cut in two.”

Liam’s upturned head nodded impatiently. “At the waist.”

“Okay,” Miles said, still trying to collect his wits. “If it’s cut in two it’s…probably…not that big a deal. You want your gun?”

Liam arms, legs and face reacted in choreographed exasperation, but he kept it from his voice. “If it’s no trouble,” he managed to reply in a somewhat even tone. “My gun and that dandelion digger I left up there. The stick,” he clarified, “with the metal prong on the end.” If he could take care of the corpse – or the half of it that had gained entry – with the dandelion digger, the hundreds of dead people still outside the barn wouldn’t get worked up into a great frenzy and break through the doors.

“Gotcha,” Miles answered. “Give me a sec.” His head disappeared behind the edge of the loft and Liam returned his gaze to the barn floor, searching for any sign of movement in the shadows. He raised his head again when Miles held his Kel-Tec carbine over the top of the ladder. “With my foot,” he called down, “it’s going to be faster if you come up here to get – ” A small shower of straw cascaded through the beams of sunlight tilting through the air. “Shit! Behind you! There it is!” Miles shouted. “Behind you! Right there!”

Liam spun around. Coming toward him from the nearest dark doorway was the top half of a teenage girl with dirty, tangled platinum blonde hair. Propelling itself toward him with just two skinny arms and dragging its belly along the floor, it moved surprisingly fast. Liam’s thoughts froze upon the sight. Though the reanimated corpses he’d encountered on the road and the ones that had tramped through the field in front of the log fort had been flayed and mangled, the one in front of him now was grotesque on a whole different level. Its arms were like sticks. Its shoulders were two bony points on either side of a skull-like face that wobbled between them as it moved. Entrails slithered along behind it like a lizard’s tail. Its lipless mouth opened in anticipation, showing a full set of yellowed teeth. Liam backed toward the ladder and began to climb, but the seconds he’d spent trying to process the sight of the girl’s crawling remains had allowed the corpse to reach the bottom of the ladder. As he stepped up onto the third rung, the corpse’s arm swung up and latched on to the cuff of his pants.

“Off!” Liam told it. He took his other foot from the ladder and began stomping at the corpse’s hand. “Get – off!” But the dead girl would not release him. Instead she reached up with her other arm and with bony fingers tipped with splintered nails grabbed hold of his other leg. “Fuck!” Liam exclaimed. But the panic rising in his throat gave the curse a gurgling sound. “Get off!” His eyes grew wide as the torso of the girl raised itself toward his leg with its mouth open and ready to bite. Though she couldn’t have weighed much – even when she was whole – Liam felt his pants threatening to come off his hips. Ridiculously, absurdly, this was the worry that consumed his mind; not the threat of the corpse’s yellowed teeth closing on his leg, but the thought of finding himself standing there bare-assed with his pants down around his ankles. He took one hand from the ladder and tugged up on his jeans just as the dead girl hoisted her remains higher and closed her teeth on the back of his right calf. The sensation caused a yell to burst forth from Liam’s mouth and he thrashed his limbs almost involuntarily. He didn’t recall the moment when he lost his grip on the ladder, only the thought echoing in his head as he fell to the ground: You smashed in the brains of forty or fifty of them and this is the one that gets you; half of the corpse of a skinny, stick figure of a girl?

He landed hard on his back, seeing stars as the breath was knocked from him. The corpse at his feet, however, was unaffected. It continued to grip his legs and gnaw at his calf muscle. The pain brought Liam’s wits back to him. He kicked and rolled while a stream of garbled sounds issued from his mouth. The heel of his boot caught the dead girl squarely on the top of her skull, dislodging her teeth from his leg. But if the corpse didn’t care about being severed in two, it certainly didn’t care about being kicked. It raised its head and began to pull itself up Liam’s legs toward the more exposed parts of his body. In his peripheral vision, Liam became aware that Miles had descended the ladder halfway to the ground. “Shoot,” he attempted to say, but his throat was dry and constricted. “Shoot it!” he called out a second time.

“You’re in the way!” came Miles reply. To Liam it sounded as if the voice was coming from the far end of a concrete tunnel. “Get it off to the side! I can’t shoot without hitting you!”

I don’t care, Liam wanted to reply. Shoot anyway! But he attempted to kick the corpse away. When he had gotten it to one side, the sound of Miles’ revolver punched through the still air of the barn and a bullet struck the ground a foot behind the dead girl. Another shot exploded and another bullet missed its mark. He heard Miles swear and fire four more times in quick succession. Two of the rounds hit the dead girl’s chest, but none struck its head and it resumed its attack.

“Dammit!” Miles swore. “I’m out. Here.”

Though Liam’s attention was focused on the severed corpse crawling up his legs and onto his chest, it only took a second for him to find out what Miles meant by the word “Here.” The metal prong of the dandelion digger struck the dirt floor beside his head, burying itself firmly in the ground. Shit, he thought, briefly picturing what would have been the result had Miles’ throw landed six inches closer. But with more pressing matters at hand, Liam grabbed the wooden shaft of the garden tool, spun it and jammed it underneath the chin of the dead girl. The metal prong sunk into the corpse’s throat and he lifted with all of his remaining strength, prying it off of him. When its skinny arms finally tore loose from his clothing – like a tick, his shattered thoughts recalled, like that sickening time he’d pulled a huge tick from his arm – he heaved with all his might and skidded it away across the dirt floor. He heard a metallic snap as the cylinder of Miles’ reloaded revolver closed and then the air inside the barn rang again with the sound of gunfire. The dead girl had already righted herself and was once again moving toward Liam when Miles’ third shot struck it in the head. The severed corpse instantly fell face down on the dirt floor and was still. For ten whole seconds Liam’s entire universe was the ringing in his ears, the smell of burnt gunpowder and the sight of smoke filled sunbeams. Then he remembered the corpse’s teeth chomping down. Fighting panic, Liam pulled his leg up under him and did his best to inspect his calf. The denim of his jeans wasn’t torn. The dead girl’s teeth hadn’t gotten to his skin. He lifted his pants leg and saw the bite-shaped bruise beginning to form on the back of his calf. Relief flooded through him and he had to blink away at the tears in his eyes.

“You okay?” Miles asked, still only halfway down the ladder. “Did it…”

“It didn’t bite through my jeans,” Liam replied, the words catching in his throat. He took a second or two to breathe, but after he had thought things through for a moment, he began to get peeved. “You…are not…a good shot.”

“Never said I was,” Miles replied, descending slowly on his injured ankle.

“And…” Liam went on, trying not to let his irritation turn to anger, “…you do realize you almost speared me through the head with the frickin’ dandelion digger?”

“I was bringing you your gun,” Miles said, reaching the ground, “and your spear and holding on to my gun and the ladder. Sorry if I didn’t have four arms to do the job better.” Favoring his foot, he stepped to where Liam lay. “Let me see it.”

“It’s okay. It didn’t bite through. I’m okay.”

An awkward two seconds passed. “I gotta see,” Miles told him flatly. Realizing why his companion was insisting on it, Liam twisted his leg to show his him. “Yeah, that’s going to leave a mark. But just think of the chunk it would’ve taken if it had bitten through.” He limped over to where the severed corpse lay. “This little thing? You had that much trouble with this little thing?”

“That little thing,” Liam answered defensively, “was very…clingy.” His voice trailed away as they both noticed the sound coming from the far side of the barn: fists hammering, arms pounding, shoulders ramming and, most alarming of all, wood creaking, snapping and breaking.

“Shit,” Miles said in a sudden whisper. “The gunshots.”

“Got them all excited,” Liam put in.

“Can it hold? Can the doors…the walls…can they hold?”

“There are hundreds of them,” Liam said, getting to his feet and checking his carbine. “They’re going to – ” But the rest of his sentence was cut off by the sound of cascading boxes and falling two by fours; all of the things he’d piled in front of the doors to barricade them.
“They’re breaking in,” Miles finished for him. He glanced back up at the hayloft, but made no move toward the ladder. Liam’s thoughts were the same; if they climbed back into the loft that was where they would die. Instead, Miles began a slow, limping retreat away from the side of the barn where they could hear the sound of hinges pulling out of doorframes and nails being forced from wood planks. The two of them wound up in the shed with the Grumman Cheetah. There the dead there pounded at the flimsy plywood sliding doors, but they hadn’t yet broken through. On the other side of the barn the sound of creaking nails and splintering wood increased.

“What do we do?” Liam asked, hoping he didn’t look as terrified as he felt. In reply, Miles looked at him with a stunned expression and shook his head.

“They’re getting in,” he muttered dazedly. “There is nothing to do.” He looked at the revolver in his hand. “I’ve got nine rounds.”

“And a flanged mace,” Liam prompted. “Right?”

Miles shook his head again. “I left it up in the hayloft.”

“I still have eighty-one rounds,” Liam told him. But Miles just shook his head once more.

“Even if you make every one count,” he said, the words strangely slurred, “it’s not enough.”

“What if we…” Liam said, his eyes locked in the direction of the noise, “…what if we barricaded just this – ”

“Fuck it,” Miles told him, shaking his head and backing up against the workbench. “Just fuck it. We are dead.” He turned to gaze at Liam with a thoroughly defeated look in his eyes. “I didn’t want to come out here after you. Now we’re both dead.”

“We can’t…just…give up.”

“There’s nothing left to do, okay? Nothing!” Miles lashed out. “They’ll be in here in a minute and there’s nothing we can do. We’ve got nowhere left to go.” He grabbed a coffee can half filled with nails and threw it angrily at the Grumman Cheetah. The can bounced loudly off of the engine cowling, scattering galvanized nails over the dirt floor.

Liam cringed. “Hey!” he said. “Careful.”

Careful!?” Miles scoffed. “Why? What’s it matter now?” He laughed bitterly. “Are you still holding on to your idiotic plan to fly away in this stupid thing? It’s over. It’s all over. Just face it. Just – ”

“Hold on,” Liam broke in, his hand half raised. “Do you – ”

“What is that?” Miles asked, sounding irritated that his rant had been interrupted. The noise was coming from outside the barn. It was just loud enough to be heard over the cacophony of the dead. In fact, as it continued, the sound of the dead outside of the barn seemed to diminish. “What – ” Miles started to ask again, but he fell silent in order to listen to it.

“That’s…music,” Liam said.

“Music,” Miles echoed. He turned toward the direction the sound was coming from. “What the hell?” As the music played, the noise of the dead hammering and slamming against the barn continued to ebb. Both Miles and Liam edged their way to the wall next to the shed doors and found gaps in the boards to peek through. “That…that is coming from the house. Look, the upstairs window is open and there’s…there’s a stereo or something sitting in on the sill. See it?” He turned to look at Liam. “What – the – hell? Who’s in there?”

“I don’t know,” Liam told him as he squinted through the side of the barn. He switched to a different point along the wall where the gap between the boards provided a slightly better view. “I know that music. It’s the…the Ponies or something like that. I listened to it the other night. I fell asleep to it. It’s one of Jordan’s sister’s CDs. It was in the boom box on the family room coffee table. I found batteries for it.”

“Well, now someone’s put it in the upstairs window and it’s…it’s starting to do a pretty damn good job of drawing the dead away from us.”

“There was no one else in the house,” Liam repeated, totally perplexed. “Not when I was there.”

“Well, it didn’t just start playing itself. Who’s in there now?”

And why would they be helping us out? Liam asked himself. “There was food and water and…all of my things,” he said, picturing some unknown someone making off with all of it. “I don’t know who would bother helping us. Now they’re going to have the dead after them.”

A distant gunshot cracked through the air, sounding as though it came from the other side of the Nevers’ house. Four more shots followed the first. “That’s a pistol,” Miles determined. “Whoever pushed play must be getting the hell out of there before the dead totally surround the house.”

“But who,” Liam wondered, “would purposefully make all of the noise? I mean, knowing it would draw the dead toward them?”

“No idea,” Miles whispered, “but let’s not waste it.” The hopelessness had evaporated from his voice, replaced by a tense excitement. “Look at them, dammit, they are moving.” The frenzy of banging on the other side of the barn had stopped along with the sound of creaking and splintering wood. The music played on with heavily distorted electric guitars rippling and pinging through the fall air. “They’re moving away toward the house.” A smile flickered briefly across his mouth and he repeated his words from the previous day, saying, “Luck: There’s nothing more to it – never anything more to it – than that. As soon as they all leave,” he added, “we are out of here.”

Liam glanced back at the Grumman Cheetah. “This is our chance,” he said, the words sounding to him like they were coming from someone else. “Let’s get the plane going. Let’s get it going and fly it out of here.”

“What?” Miles said, momentarily taking his eye away from the gap in the barn wall. “Are you crazy?”

“I know that wasn’t your plan. You wanted to chop it up and drive it out to the tree line. But now, with all of the dead moving toward the house, we can open the doors and get it out of here. We can start it up and – ”

“Not all of the dead are – ”

“I know, I know. Some of them will still be kind of close – ”

“And as soon as the engine starts – if it starts – it’ll make them turn around and start heading back at us. What if the plane runs for ten seconds and then quits? We’ll be the center of attention again. And with my foot, I can’t outrun them for long.”

“But, it’s like, this is the chance we needed,” Liam struggled to explain, “and here it is. For whatever reason, things are lining up. Let’s…let’s go ahead and take advantage of it.”

’Things are lining up’?” Miles repeated mockingly. “Things aren’t lining up for us. We just caught a break – a little one. This isn’t some sort of divine intervention just so you can take your little plane ride.”

Liam shook his head. “It’s…it’s nothing like that. It’s just how things are working out. Look, you said it yourself. You said it’s just luck.” The look on Liam’s face had an intensity to it that burned away at Miles’ cynicism. “You prepped the plane. It’s all ready to go, right? Your ankle’s still sore. I’ve got a mouth-sized bruise starting on my leg that I think is going to wind up giving me my own limp.” He gestured at the plane. “Let’s at least try.”

“I don’t even know if I can fly it,” Miles said. “We don’t even know if it’ll start.”

“If it doesn’t start,” Liam told him, “I’ll give you a piggyback ride all the way to the tree line.”

For three whole seconds Miles teetered between rejecting Liam’s plea and giving in to the insanity of it. “Shit,” he finally said. “Fine, let’s give it a try.” With one last glance at the view through the wall, he turned and started limping toward the plane. “If we can get it out of here without being swarmed and if it starts and if we can make it out to the landing strip… Well, that’s where I’ll decide whether to try and take off or just taxi on out to the tree line. Got it?”

“Fair enough,” Liam answered. He felt dizzy and nauseous, either from the rapid turn of events or from having practically nothing to eat or drink in almost twenty-four hours – or both.

“Everything’s going to have to go just perfect or we are right back to being good as dead,” Miles said as he began tugging at the plastic tarps that still hung over the plane’s tail end. “If you do have some sort of divine intervention going on, you might want to ask for a little more room for error.”





******





The stereo in the upstairs window was playing the CD’s third track by the time the last of the dead had rounded the sides of the barn. “I can only see straight ahead,” Miles complained, watching through the wall as they headed for the house.

“All of the ones I can see have their backs to us,” Liam said from beside him, peering through another gap in the boards.

“Is that…do you think that’s most of them? There are bound to be stragglers. How long is this CD?”

“I don’t know,” Liam replied. “I fell asleep during the first song.”

Miles took his eye from the scene outside. “Okay, if we’re going to be stupid, let’s be stupid.” Liam nodded and moved to the shed’s sliding doors. “I don’t have to mention, do I,” Miles added, “that we need to keep it as quiet as possible?”

“No,” Liam answered, “no, you really don’t.” He drew a deep breath, released it and began removing the two by fours he’d used to brace the doors. When they were all put aside, he opened the first section a few inches and looked out. The mass of dead people lumbered toward the source of the music like undead concert goers; rotted, grime-encrusted, mangled and torn concert goers. Putting his shoulder to the edge of the door, he pushed until the first section telescoped in front of the second. Moving on an overhead track, the metal wheels squeaked and the plywood resonated with a low rolling sound as dust fell over him.

“Shhh,” Miles hissed.

Liam wanted to tell him that rolling aside a bunch of makeshift plywood doors that hadn’t been opened in over a year wasn’t likely to be a completely quiet operation, but he bit his tongue and concentrated on opening the rest of the plywood sections. When they had all been pushed aside and the shed was open, Liam brushed the dust from his hair and moved back to the plane.

“Don’t use the ends of the wings to push it,” Miles advised in a harsh whisper. “You might bend something. Push from next to the fuselage.” Together, they managed to roll the Grumman Cheetah forward and out into the open air. “Okay,” Miles began, “this is where it gets…oh, shit.”

Three corpses lagging behind the others had just rounded the corners of the barn, two on one side and one on the other. One had once been an obese man whose body was now a mass of purple, fleshy folds. Another was the corpse of a tall, thin man whose body jiggled and wobbled like some sort of gruesome life-size toy; the result, Miles had once learned, of a largely shattered skeletal structure. The third was a short man with a bristly beard plastered with dried, blackened gore.

“I got it,” Liam said, leaving his position at the side of the plane. “You just get things ready.”

“No guns,” Miles advised in a wheezy whisper.

“I know, I know,” Liam shot back, irritated at being told the obvious. He ducked back into the shed for a moment and returned with his dandelion digger in hand. Gripping it hard, he went for what appeared to be the most agile of the three corpses; the short, bearded man. The dead man stumbled forward, his arms outstretched. When Liam was close, he plunged the metal tip of the garden tool at the corpse’s eye socket. The first stab struck the bridge of the man’s nose. Liam’s second try poked out the man’s right eye, but didn’t penetrate far enough to reach the brain. Sorely missing his war hammer, Liam shoved at the corpse, knocking it off balance. He repeated the maneuver until, on his third try, the dead man fell to the ground. Liam positioned the dandelion digger above the dead man’s forehead and drove it downward with all of his strength. Finally penetrating far enough into the corpse’s skull, the man’s reanimated body twitched and was still. Breathing hard, Liam looked up at the other two corpses. “Who’s…who’s next?” he panted.

Inside the shed, Miles was gathering items from the workbench, including the plane’s owner’s manual and a laminated spiral-bound flight checklist. Moving back toward the plane, he turned to find a corpse emerging from the shadows of the barn. “Shit,” he breathed. How many, he wondered, had gotten into the barn before the music started? He dropped the things in his hands and reached for the revolver in his waistband. “Shit,” he said again, remembering the advice he’d given Liam about not using guns. Looking around, his gaze fell upon a tool leaning up against an inside wall. Miles grabbed the brush axe and got a firm grip on the wooden handle. Hobbling a few steps toward the corpse – a large man with large features; a prominent nose, a square jaw, a high forehead and a receding hairline – he recalled what it took to fight the dead and survive: Forget that it was ever a human being, he told himself. Don’t hold anything back. Swinging the brush axe like a baseball bat, the curved blade of the tool caught the dead man’s left temple and opened up the side of his frontal bone like it was a swinging door. The corpse staggered and fell to one knee. Miles brought the tool down squarely upon the top of its skull, cracking it like an egg and forever ending the dead man’s posthumous pursuits.

Miles and Liam met back at the plane. Liam had dispatched the other two corpses, but was thoroughly disappointed in the dandelion digger. Casting it aside, he bent down with his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath. Miles approached with the flight checklist in one hand and the brush axe in the other. “I’m keeping this,” he said, wiping the blade on the ground and tossing it into the plane.

“Okay,” Liam said between gulps of air, “what…do I do?”

“Get in front of the propeller,” Miles answered. “Get it to where it’s pointed at, like, ten o’clock. Put your hands loosely on top of it without, you know, curling your fingers around it and, when I say so, swing it down as hard as you can.” He climbed up onto the wing and stepped into the cockpit. “Oh, and just be sure to pull your body away as you swing. You don’t want to be near the propeller when the engine catches. If,” he corrected himself, “it catches.”

Liam positioned himself in front of the plane while Miles thumbed his way furiously through the owner’s manual. Unable to help himself, he glanced over his should at the hundreds of dead people pressing themselves up against the back of the Nevers house. The music still blared, but he was starting to worry about how much longer they had before the CD would end and they would once more become the main attraction.

“Fuel on,” he hard Miles say from inside the cockpit, “brakes on, throttle closed, switches off.”

“I don’t know what any of that means,” Liam replied, speaking as loud as he dared, but Miles’ attention was on the plane’s owner’s manual.

“It’s actually what you’re supposed to say to me, but that’s…never mind that. Now, don’t swing it yet. Just turn the propeller four or five times to…” Miles paused to read from the manual “…to prime the engine.” Once Liam had done what he’d been told, Miles – looking alarmingly uncertain – flipped a series of switches. “Throttle open,” he mumbled, his eyes darting between the controls and the manual, “impulse magneto…” He looked up at Liam, his eyes filled with worry. “Okay. Go.”

His heart beating in his throat, Liam swung the prop downward, but the engine did not start. “Again,” he heard Miles call out. Liam repeated what he had done, again with no success. “Again,” Miles said. “Just keep doing it.”

Just…” Liam complained as he swung the propeller again “…keep…” and again “…doing it.” Easy for you to say, he thought, feeling exhaustion weighing him down. On the fifth try, however, he heard the engine respond with a slight stutter. It didn’t catch, but there was something. The sixth time, he swung down with everything left in him. With a soft bang, the engine caught. As it chugged to life and the propeller whirred, something surged within Liam; not satisfaction, but surprise. Deep down, he realized that he hadn’t really expected it to work. But surprise turned to fright as the small plane lurched forward a few feet. The spinning propeller came to within inches of him and he fell backward to the ground and rolled to the side. Lying on his back, he stared up into the sky at the dark, heavy clouds beginning to slip in beneath the milky white haze and thought for a second about how thin the thread was that connected him to life. His mind still filled with images of himself being chopped to pieces, he got clumsily to his feet to see Miles mouthing something from the cockpit. As he approached the plane, he thought his companion might have been saying “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” but when he got close, Miles pointed through the Cheetah’s plexiglass at the hundreds of dead people gathered around the Nevers’ house – the ones slowly turning in their direction – and he realized what he was actually saying was “Hurry, hurry, hurry!




******




The noise coming from the small plane filled the air around him. In a world where going quietly was so often the key to survival, the storm of sound now alarmed him more than anything else. He’d known it was going to be loud, but now that he was engulfed in it, he found himself cringing at the thought of how much attention they were drawing. Buffeted by the wash from the propeller, he stepped up on the wing, placed his carbine in the rear seat and started to fit himself into the cramped cockpit. Consciously trying to not look over at the house where the mass of corpses was now coming their way, he glanced over the tail end of the plane and saw four dead bodies come shambling out of the shed behind them. He tapped Miles on the shoulder to draw his attention to the new threat, but his companion didn’t look up from the laminated check list in his hand. “Miles!” he shouted, his voice failing to rise above the noise of the engine. “Miles! They’re behind us!” But his companion, thoroughly immersed in the flight manual and the laminated checklist, ignored him. Liam dropped into his seat, reached up and pulled the plane’s canopy closed over their heads. “There are dead ones behind – ” he started to say, but one look through the windshield made him forget about the four corpses behind them. Ahead of them, the massive crowd of reanimated bodies was trudging back toward the barn. Miles tossed a set of headphones into Liam’s lap. Once he had placed them over his ears, he could hear Miles muttering instructions from the flight manual.

“Throttle set, eighteen hundred RPM,” he heard Miles say, his eyes flicking between the pages and the control panel. “Carb heat. Oil…oil pressure. Didn’t I…did I already check…” Miles glanced briefly at Liam and saw the wide-eyed look on his face. “I’m skipping a lot of steps,” he explained. He shrugged and tapped his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. “I mean, either we go or we don’t.” At that moment, the first of the four corpses that had been creeping up behind them appeared at the side window of the plane. It was the reanimated body of a man whose right eye had popped free of its socket and now hung by mere fleshy strings. The shriveled eyeball waggled in the wash of air from the propeller, batting against the dead man’s cheek like a tetherball.

“Go,” Liam said, feeling his empty stomach turn. “Just go.”

Still adjusting the knobs and settings with one hand, Miles gripped the yoke with the other hand and the plane bounced forward. The dead man fell backward as the Cheetah rolled away from the open shed and the plane was briefly rocked as his body struck the horizontal stabilizer. Turning sharply left to avoid the oncoming dead, Miles taxied the plane directly toward the orange windsock in the distance, taking them over rough ground. The small plane shook around them and the wingtips bounced up and down.

“Hey, hey, watch it,” Liam couldn’t help but say.

“This isn’t easy, you know!” Miles shouted in return. “The front wheel’s all wobbly. It doesn’t steer. It’s like a freaking shopping cart wheel. If you recall, this is my first time in a…in a…”

“A Grumman Cheetah,” Liam put in.

“Yeah,” Miles snapped, “whatever. I’m learning as I go.”

“Sorry,” Liam replied. “Just…just do whatever you have to do.” Knowing he could do no better, he realized it was useless to criticize what his companion was doing. He watched the mob of corpses coming toward them turn as they bounced and swerved in the direction of the landing strip. Gradually, he became aware of the seat belt underneath him. “Um, should I be buckled into this thing?”

Miles shrugged. “I can think of pros and cons for it,” he said without diverting his attention from the view through the plexiglass.

The dead fanned out across the field behind the house, following the plane. Liam had no idea if the stereo in the upstairs window was still playing music. If it was, he could see no sign that it was still attracting any attention. “They’re all coming this way,” he said, mostly to himself.

“No surprise,” Miles replied. Liam thought the tremor in his voice was only partially due to the plane’s rough ride over the uneven fields. “If the airstrip isn’t too overgrown, we’ll try taking off. Will that make you happy?”

“Sure,” Liam answered, not at all certain that he was telling the truth. They reached the smooth ground of the airstrip and Miles taxied to the far end of it. Along the way, he peppered Miles with a stream of nervously babbled questions. “Are we…are we going? How’s it look? Does it look okay? Is the plane…is it supposed to make that sound? Is it going to work? Are we going?”

Instead of answering, Miles read aloud from the flight manual – “Flaps. Trim. Mixture. Full Throttle.” – and accelerated the Grumman Cheetah toward the far end of the landing strip. “Raise nose;” he said, nearly shouting the words, “sixty to sixty-five miles per hour.”

The orange windsock flashed by. The plane continued to bounce along the ground. Liam’s eyes were glued to the trees at the far end of the strip, watching them grow ever closer. Maybe, he thought, maybe the seat belt wasn’t that bad of an idea, but he remained motionless, every muscle in his body tensed. Eventually the vibrations shaking the aircraft and its two passengers smoothed out and Liam realized they were airborne. The trees at the end of the airstrip, however, were still visible through the windshield. “Trees,” he said into his microphone. “Trees, trees, trees…” But he could see Miles pulling up on the yoke. With hardly any room to spare, the woods disappeared from view and were replaced by the gray, cloudy sky. Still, Liam was almost positive he felt the Cheetah’s landing gear brush one of the treetops.

“Like making love,” Miles said through clenched teeth.

“What?” With all of the noise, Liam was sure he’d misheard what his companion had said.

“Something Grant would say every time we took off. He said flying a plane was like making love. Something about doing just the right thing at just the right time.”

“Well,” Liam asked, looking out the side window at the receding ground, “is it?”

Miles shrugged. “If we live through this, maybe I’ll get a chance to find out someday.”

“Me too,” Liam replied, feeling too exhausted to bother with anything but the truth. It wasn’t long before the plane entered the low hanging clouds, causing the ground below and everything else to vanish in a world of white. It was, Liam thought, like being inside of a ping pong ball. “Hey,” he said to his companion, “there are mountains out there. Tall ones.”

“I know,” Miles replied. “I’m climbing as fast as this thing will go.”

The small plane began to shake with mounting violence as it rose through the clouds. With nothing but five thousand feet of air below them, the aircraft began a series of sudden lifts followed by stomach turning falls. Liam felt sick as he fumbled for his seatbelt. The Cheetah shuddered side to side and the engine struggled, sounding pitifully weak. Feeling certain that they would either fall from the sky or strike a mountainside at any moment, all thoughts of his glorious meeting with Katrina Van Kooten were gone from his mind. “This…” he managed to say between waves of nausea “…this might have been the worst idea ever.”

“A little late now,” Miles replied, fighting for control of the plane. “Just a little too late.”





******




After Voletta Nevers had placed the stereo in the upstairs bedroom window, pressed play and turned the volume up as high as it would go, she ran. She careened through the upstairs hallway as the music started to blare out over the back yard. She took the stairs two at a time, bounced against the entryway wall and flew through the front door, slowing only to yank it shut behind her. It was a good thing, she supposed, that the music would draw the giant crowd of dead people away from the barn and toward the house. Otherwise, she thought, she would have found it very hard to leave the place where she’d grown up.

She’d arrived late the day before to find hundreds of dead people surrounding the barn; an insane number of them, more than she’d ever seen before. With the dead focused on the barn she’d been able to slip in through the kitchen door without being noticed. It had only taken her a few moments to confirm her fear that it must be Liam who was trapped out in the barn. Except for his gun, all of his things were there in the house. In the fading light of day, Voletta felt crushed; having come so far, she had missed her chance to meet up with him. Using the binoculars from the kitchen, she had peered out at the mob of reanimated corpses and felt her heart thumping in horrified awe at the sight. She knew she had to do something to help him, but with night coming on she resigned to wait until morning.

Downhearted, she had wandered the rooms and hallways of the house until late in the evening, running her fingertips along the walls and taking in every detail of the place, everything she had once taken for granted. Despite her disappointment and worry over Liam, being back in her home had been intoxicating. Her room was just as she’d left it. So were the rooms that had once belonged to her sister and brother. Her parents’ room still carried the perfume of her mother. There was even food and water. She would have been content to stay there for days, weeks, months – or, she thought, at least until the food and water ran out. But the following morning had brought the sound of gunshots from out in the barn and she’d been forced to act.

In that final moment, her finger had hovered over the stereo’s play button. In the distance, she could see the massive crowd of dead people battering down the big barn door, but her finger remained poised. She hesitated for only a few seconds, but it felt like much longer. When she finally pressed the button, Voletta Nevers gave up the house she’d grown up in, the rooms and hallways that had echoed with the voices of her family, the bedroom closet where the night before she had embraced her mother’s empty clothes, the nicks and scuffs on the floors and walls. In her backpack were five family photos she’d salvaged from their frames on the dining room wall. But everything else she gave up. And she ran.

When she burst out through the front door, there were three corpses in the driveway. They lifted their heads when she came into view and belched the air out of their lungs, raising their arms to grab at her. Voletta raised her own arms and aimed the Glock 17 at the nearest corpse. She’d found the pistol and one extra magazine right where her Uncle Lenny had said he’d hidden it; in the old, heavily decorated pottery umbrella stand that had come from her grandmother’s house – or, as her uncle had written in his note, “…in that thing of Mom’s that you hate.” She gripped the Glock in both hands just like her father had once shown her and squeezed the trigger. It kicked hard and she wasn’t as sure with it as she was with the bolt action .22 rifle slung across her back, but the 9mm slugs plowed a bigger hole through the brains of the dead ones. Five shots later, she’d taken care of all three corpses. And making so much noise didn’t matter, she told herself as she ejected the pistol’s magazine, pocketed it and inserted the full one. She wanted the dead to move in her direction. She just needed to get out of sight before they came around the sides of the house.

At the end of the driveway she crossed the road and ran like a deer through the woods. She knew the area well, having played there so often by herself. She knew better than to travel the highway. It was smarter to follow alongside it, though it did take longer to pick her way through the woods than to walk the roadside. It was how she had made it to her house without being attacked and eaten. And it was how she was going to get back to her new home beside the Craving River.

She had wanted to catch up with Liam, to show him that she liked him – that she liked him a lot – enough to leave the safety of the camp and find him, to help him survive and do what he’d set out to do, even if it was all about finding that other girl, the pretty one with the blonde hair and the scars on her face. Maybe, she had thought, if he saw the lengths she was willing to go to, Liam might like her the way she liked him. But she had arrived too late to see him face to face. The best she could do was to make a lot of noise with the CD player from the kitchen and get the dead away from the barn for a few minutes. She heard the Cheetah’s engine as she made her way through the woods. Soon after, she heard it take off. And that was that, she told herself. He was gone. And having done all she could for him, she was heading back. Maybe, she thought, she would see him again. Maybe then she could tell him that she had come all this way just for him. She could tell him that it had been her who lured the dead away from the barn, allowing him to get away. Maybe then he would see her in a different light. Maybe then things would be different.
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And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by teotwaki » Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:15 am

“Posthumous pursuits” indeed!

Really great additions TB

Thank you!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:47 am

teotwaki wrote:“Posthumous pursuits” indeed!

I do likes me some alliteration. :mrgreen:
"...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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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by FlashDaddy » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:13 pm

AWESOME!!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Tue Jun 26, 2018 11:00 pm

FINALLY got to read this! I’ve been busy all day, after waking up and seeing an update it’s all I could think of! That’s for the double dose! It was with the wait!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jun 28, 2018 10:33 pm

That was awesome! Ironically, got to get started on it today in the waiting room at a follow up appointment for my unscheduled “vacation” a couple weeks ago...just finished. Very nice update!

I was hoping that something like that would happen...and surmised it would be Voletta. Maybe Liam’s dad or brother, but was hoping it’d be Voletta.

Funny thing is, as I was reading that bit at the end I had the opening lines to J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks” running in a loop over and over and over in my head! :lol:


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