The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Mon Mar 05, 2018 3:33 am

Sadly sent..... I don’t beg. I begged.

Please TB, please.
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by WendyPlains » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:45 pm

This story has been going for nearly five years now. Maybe the author just doesn’t know how to finish it? it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere - seems to just be ambling along. Thoughts anyone?

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:30 am

My thoughts?

I think TB needs to get here and post before I have a withdrawal-induced breakdown!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by JeeperCreeper » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:54 am

WendyPlains wrote:This story has been going for nearly five years now. Maybe the author just doesn’t know how to finish it? it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere - seems to just be ambling along. Thoughts anyone?
I hope it never finishes...

But still, life ambles on... and TDADM ambles on... therefore, The Dead At Destitute Mountain IS life...
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:36 pm

WendyPlains wrote:This story has been going for nearly five years now. Maybe the author just doesn’t know how to finish it? it just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere - seems to just be ambling along. Thoughts anyone?
I think having 4 seperate story lines he has to tie together, 5 if you count having to tell about the people at the fort has something to do with it. That's a lot of different dynamics to twist together into one story, especially when has his own life to live and there's no compensation for his time spent here.

Honestly, I hope he's ok, TB hasn't been on here since Oct 17 and normally when I would send him a pm about this story he would answer within a day or so.

I just wish he would get the heck back here and write some more story.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Zimmy » Sat Mar 10, 2018 12:27 am

Publishing parts of this masterpiece might energize him.
Boldly going nowhere

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Sat Mar 10, 2018 1:16 am

Zimmy wrote:Publishing parts of this masterpiece might energize him.
Since we can’t “like” in the fiction forum (my fault, sorry)...

“LIKE”
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 bodyparts » Sat Mar 10, 2018 8:23 am

91Eunozs wrote:
Zimmy wrote:Publishing parts of this masterpiece might energize him.
Since we can’t “like” in the fiction forum (my fault, sorry)...

“LIKE”
not entirely your fault , i am guilty in that as well i think . unless it was you told them to turn the like button off cuse i was pushing it way too much. :D

first and foremost i hope TB and family are ok . second i think publishing would be a good idea , i would be in line for a singed hardback copy of book one . zs would loose a treasure for sure but TB like so many other authors deserve a more tangible compensation for their efforts and talents .

as for the ambling thing it could keep on until mundy and whats her name have grand kids , and i buy the singed box set someday !!

oh almost forgot MOAR!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:43 am

bodyparts wrote:and whats her name
What’s her name? WHATS HER NAME?!? How dare you talk about my future ex wife like that! ::rocks back and forth with his homemade, life size, Kat doll:: “there there the mean man didn’t mean that honey”
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Spazzy » Tue Mar 13, 2018 7:09 am

ROFL :rofl:
Overheard at my USN retirement ceremony....
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by bodyparts » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:28 pm

Halfapint wrote:
bodyparts wrote:and whats her name
What’s her name? WHATS HER NAME?!? How dare you talk about my future ex wife like that! ::rocks back and forth with his homemade, life size, Kat doll:: “there there the mean man didn’t mean that honey”

:rofl: oh my god !! that's funny stuff right there !! i read this at work a day or two ago ,on lunch of course . i laughed so hard i think i might have peed a little . Halfapint thank you for the best ugly faced laugh in a long while . :rofl:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Fri Mar 16, 2018 11:33 pm

Good things are coming :clap:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by akraven » Mon Mar 19, 2018 12:26 am

Hunt4lyf wrote:Good things are coming :clap:
Hopefully you mean you have some knowledge of an update !

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Mon Mar 19, 2018 12:32 am

akraven wrote:
Hunt4lyf wrote:Good things are coming :clap:
Hopefully you mean you have some knowledge of an update !
Some of us may have gotten a response. Good things be coming soon :)
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 akraven » Mon Mar 19, 2018 12:34 am

Halfapint wrote:
akraven wrote:
Hunt4lyf wrote:Good things are coming :clap:
Hopefully you mean you have some knowledge of an update !
Some of us may have gotten a response. Good things be coming soon :)
Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:18 am

Sorry I've been out of action for so long. The flu really kicked my butt this year. But more than that, working nights makes it really hard to write anything. Half the day I'm asleep and the other half I'm walking around in a haze. I do intend to finish this thing. Anyway, for what it's worth, here's a bit more story. Thanks for reading.
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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 JeeperCreeper » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:19 am

Tinderbox wrote:Sorry I've been out of action for so long. The flu really kicked my butt this year. But more than that, working nights makes it really hard to write anything. Half the day I'm asleep and the other half I'm walking around in a haze. I do intend to finish this thing. Anyway, for what it's worth, here's a bit more story. Thanks for reading.

TB IS BACKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can live again!!!!!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:51 am

Midway through his second day on the road, Liam was nearing the area where he used to live. Gradually, he began to recognize some familiar sights. There was a roadside restaurant where his family had once eaten called Granny Kitka’s Kitchen, now completely gutted with a white Mercedes-Benz rammed into its main entrance and the area around it scattered with badly decayed human remains. There was a deserted alpaca farm with an empty store advertising handmade clothing and a sporting goods shop with “Don’t bother - All looted” spray painted across the sign above its doors. The glass had been broken out of the front windows leaving only the folding security gates in place. As he passed, five corpses pressed themselves against the gates, sticking their arms out through the diamond shaped openings and raking the empty air with claw-like fingers. He glanced warily at them and tightened his grip on the carbine in his hands as he shuffled past the storefront, grateful that they were contained. If they had been free to attack him he would have been too tired to do anything more than shoot them, drawing who knows how many more with the noise.

Being so close to where he used to live gave him a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He’d so often felt a sense of homesickness at the camp beside the Craving River and had regularly dreamed of returning home to familiar surroundings and comforts. But now that he was within a day’s walk to the house in which he’d grown up, he was afraid of what he might find there. Fortunately, he told himself, that wasn’t his destination. It was going to be bad enough, he knew, to see Jordan Nevers’ house and risk running into the reanimated corpse of his childhood friend.

It was growing late and the cloudy autumn sky was hastening dusk when he limped around a bend and saw a field laid out with dead bodies. Liam’s pace faltered as it dawned on him what he was seeing; row upon row of desiccated corpses, some with leathery skin pulled back from ragged wounds exposing blackened muscle and yellowed bone, some with no visible wounds, though still with dried and taut faces like arctic mummies. They lay side by side with hardly an inch between them. Some, maybe one in thirty, wore shrouds of faded and torn bed sheets or table cloths with the rest simply dressed in clothing smeared and stained with greasy decay. His burning, blistered feet froze in place on the blacktop and for a few seconds he feared that every single one of the dead bodies would rise at the sight of him, but the fear faded with the realization that these corpses were permanently dead. Liam looked closer at the first few rows nearest the road and spotted the one feature they all had in common: a hole located somewhere on their skulls. He estimated that the field held somewhere around three thousand bodies, probably a fifth of the population of the surrounding communities. For a moment, he wondered if the dumping ground held anyone he’d once known.

“Not that I’m gonna recognize any of you now,” he said in a voice below a whisper.

With tentative steps Liam left the road and crossed a small ditch at the side of the field. Some of the bodies had scraps of paper pinned to their clothing. The writing on a few was still legible, showing names and addresses or social security numbers – information quickly scribbled in hopes that the bodies wouldn’t go unidentified. He walked unsteadily along the first row of corpses, noticing without surprise how none seemed to have been touched by scavenging animals. He knew that once the chemical-like smell started coming off them, coyotes, raccoons or even crows wanted nothing to do with them.

He noticed how the bodies at one end of the field were laid out in neat and orderly rows. As he shuffled on, however, he saw how the rows became progressively jumbled and disordered. The earliest corpses to be deposited occupied their own little space with their legs stretched straight out and their arms at their sides. By the time he reached the middle of the field it was clear that the bodies had been thrown down in increasing haste as events grew more and more dire. Finally, an old dump truck sat the far end of the field, a pile of corpses behind it, their half decayed arms and legs tangled together. A glance told him that the truck’s fuel tanks had been punctured by scavengers eager for any amount of diesel they could find, but Liam guessed the truck had run out of fuel just after it had dumped its last load of bodies.

He and his family along with the Kerns had passed the field on their way to the survival camp next to the Craving River and it had been empty then. Liam was sure of it. Such a sight would have been hard to miss. He distinctly remembered seeing a car wreck involving a minivan, a water company truck and a sheriff’s SUV, a convoy of six National Guard trucks and a house on fire as they fled their home, but they would certainly have noticed a field covered in dead bodies.

Leaving the field, Liam crossed the ditch back to the road, wincing with every step. He was certain that if he were to remove his boots he’d find his socks bloodied in spots, but he thought it might be a bad idea to do so; once off, he might find it impossible to get his boots back on. Though there was still at least two hours of daylight left, he decided it was once again time to find someplace to spend the night. Hoping for better shelter than he’d found the night before – the cramped back seat of a Scion hatchback with broken out rear windows – and for more than the hour and a half of sleep he’d managed to get there, he knew he would gladly settle for any place dry and reasonably secure. He hadn’t gone fifty yards down the road, however, when he scuffed to a halt. Ahead of him, just visible through the bare trees was another cluster of dead people trudging in his direction.

“Why,” he breathed, his mouth suddenly very dry as he looked around for cover, “why, why, why are there so many of you?” He’d confronted the dead before on the highway; he used to sneak away from camp for that very purpose. He’d met them in groups of three or six and always made short work of them with his war hammer. But he never considered that the road would be so thick with them and that he’d find them in such large numbers. It was the cities, he figured. That was where the bulk of the population died. They’d been trickling out since things ended, mindlessly massing in groups as they moved, following the roads out into the countryside. He recalled the words he’d seen written on the roof of the minivan – Tired. Can’t do it. Everywhere the dead – and instantly knew how the author had felt.

He scuttled off the highway and tried to estimate how many were coming, realizing at the same time how little it mattered. He was in no shape to fight off three or four of them, let alone thirty or forty. Hell, he told himself, you’re in no shape to even run from them. That left hiding as his only option. He stared off into the woods, seeing how far he’d have to go into the trees to ensure he wouldn’t be seen. But the forest looked cold and damp and night was coming on.

He returned to the edge of the corpse covered field, making good time on his injured feet, clenching his teeth to avoid crying out from the pain. He exchanged his carbine for the war hammer he’d had slung over his back as he neared the dump truck and braced himself for the worst when he reached up to open the door to the rust streaked cab. The door, however, was locked. He hobbled around to the other side and found the other door locked, as well.

“Shit,” he breathed, giving the door a last ineffectual tug. “It was out of gas. Why lock it?” He considered using the war hammer, but he worried the dead coming up the road might hear him break the window. He shot a glance up the highway and could just see the lead corpse coming into view. Giving up on finding shelter in the cab for the night and realizing he was out of options, he climbed up the side of the truck and dropped into the dumping bed.

Given the tangled pile of dead people at the rear of the truck, Liam had assumed he’d find the back empty. Instead, he landed next to the splayed remains of a dead man in woodland camouflage coveralls. The dumping bed still held a dozen or so dead bodies, each with flesh that reminded Liam of the year that his mother had been sick with the flu and his father had sorely overcooked the Thanksgiving turkey. Their lips were blackened and drawn back, forming an oval frame around yellowed teeth and waxy gums. Some of them had half open eyes, as though just falling asleep – or just waking from it. Each one of them, he noted with relief, had an entry and exit wound located somewhere on their skull. For a bare second, he considered jumping back out and finding someplace else to hide, but he was out of time. He could hear the dragging, shuffling footsteps of the reanimated dead on the highway. Moving quietly, Liam found a spot among the permanently dead in the back of the truck and lowered himself to the cold, wet metal, wondering how long the parade of corpses would last.


******


Liam dreamed that the dead in the back of the dump truck were sitting up and staring at him with inquisitive looks on their discolored, disfigured faces. Each time he dropped off to sleep the same dream would swim up from the depths of his brain, forcing him to remember where he was and what surrounded him. Then he would wake with a start to find himself in the cold and the dark and strain to detect any hint of sound or movement. But the corpses with him in the back of the truck, along with the thousands dumped in the field next to the road made no sound and were as still as stones. He jolted awake one last time to find that dawn had finally begun to filter through the cloudy sky, allowing him to see the dead bodies around him as indistinct, immobile shapes. Despite the sleep he’d managed to get, he still felt tired and his limbs ached, protesting every movement.

It had been almost dark by the time Liam heard the last of the shuffling footsteps on the highway fade into the distance, too late to find another place to spend the night. He didn’t dare peek over the side of the dumping bed to count them, but he guessed they had numbered around a hundred or so. Because night had fallen so soon after they’d passed, he was cautious as he left the back of the dump truck. He knew that when it was dark and quiet, like that night had been, the reanimated dead, starved of stimulation, often slowed to a halt and merely lingered.

Almost automatically, he checked to see that there was a round chambered in his carbine and resumed his slow, limping trek down the road, wondering how he might look to someone observing him from a distance. A lot like one of them, he said to himself. A lot like one of the dead. His thoughts were so fogged by fatigue that he had to struggle to remember why he was out on the road, so far from the camp beside the Craving River. Eventually, though, he remembered the face of Katrina Van Kooten and felt a small spark. It wasn’t exactly the renewal of spirit he’d felt before, but given his exhaustion, he considered it better than nothing.

Another hour, he told himself, then he’d find somewhere to rest and maybe heat up something for breakfast. Then another hour of walking – and then another. He’d make it there by mid-afternoon, he figured. If, he thought, his feet didn’t fall apart first.



******


The closer he got to the Nevers’ house the more Liam realized how much he was dreading walking up the tree lined country lane and seeing the place where his childhood friend had lived. He half wanted to find it completely looted. That way, he wouldn’t have to deal with the corpses of Jordan Nevers, his sister and his parents. With the doors broken open and the windows smashed their reanimated bodies would have surely wandered away. At least he hoped so. If he hadn’t been so tired and sore, so completely drained by the journey from the camp, he would have been more interested in doing the right thing, in putting down the remains of Jordan and his family, in stopping whatever had reanimated them from further abusing their corpses. But he didn’t think he had the strength left to swing the war hammer on his back. He could still pull the trigger on his carbine and send a 115 grain 9mm slug to do the job, but a gunshot might carry for a mile through the trees, bringing trouble to the place where he intended to rest up for a while.

When he finally hobbled the last hundred yards from the main road to where a break in the hedges revealed his first glimpse of the house, what struck him most was how normal everything looked. Mrs. Nevers’ Ford Focus was nowhere to be seen, but Mr. Nevers’ Silverado was parked right where it was always parked, beneath the green metal carport, looking like it hadn’t moved since the state of emergency was declared and the gas stations had started running out of gas. The grass in the backyard was ratty looking, of course, and the fields that stretched out behind the house were wild and tall, but the white farm house itself appeared just as he remembered it. In the blink of an eye, however, he recalled what had become of the Nevers family and the welcoming red front door became a bleeding wound and the darkened windows became empty eye sockets.

“Shit,” he whispered, crestfallen at the sight of the closed doors and intact windows. For a moment he considered bypassing the house and heading directly for the barn out in the fields. That was where Mr. Nevers’ plane was: the Cheetah, Jordan used to call it. But the books that he hoped would teach him to fly a small single engine plane were in the house. He tightened his grip on the carbine and limped toward the back porch. If he could get inside and close the door behind him, the sound of a gunshot – or four of them – would surely be muffled enough so as not to travel too far.

The back door was locked, but he’d seen Jordan retrieve the spare key from its hiding place a hundred times. Attached by a magnet to the underside of the porch glider, Liam pried loose the small plastic box and slid open the cover to find the key. He spent a full minute with his hands cupped on either side of his eyes, peering through the kitchen window, looking for any movement, expecting at any second to see Jordan or his mom or his dad or his sister come staggering through the living room or dining room doorway, dead and discolored, vacant eyed. When they saw him they would drop open their mouths and belch the air out of their lungs. They would come at him and he would have to shoot them.

Inserting the key into the lock made small grinding sounds that caused Liam to cringe and stare through the window for another thirty seconds. The tiny clicks made by the turning key seemed like a hammer banging on metal. After being closed up for so long, the rubber weather stripping on the door frame made a sucking sound as he eased the door open. The air that wafted out smelled stale, but it didn’t carry that musky roadkill-like odor and the accompanying chemical smell that clung to the reanimated dead. Nor did it smell like plain old rotting things. It just smelled like a house that had been closed up for a long time. Stepping into the kitchen, he nudged the door shut behind him, feeling like he was shutting himself in a tomb, but also feeling a little more at liberty to use his carbine if he had to. On the bulletin board beside the refrigerator, however, was a sign telling him that he might not need the gun.

Someone had taken down every piece of paper pinned to the bulletin board – every school event notice, every grocery store flyer and every one of Voletta Nevers’ art class paintings – and had written a message directly on the cork surface with a black marker. The printing started out large, but became smaller and more and more cramped as the author ran out of space at the bottom. Liam edged closer and read the quickly scrawled words.

Christine, Where are you? Stopped by to get you guys. Hadn’t heard anything from you. Headed up to Dad’s old place. Thinking new owners might not be there. Took care of Jason, Monica and Jordan. Very, very sorry. Hated it, but they were dead. You know it. Was quick and merciful. Wrapped them up and put them in the garage. Bury later. No sign of Voletta. Hope she’s with you. Jason bit Ollie before we could get a handle on things. No biggie. Just a little nip. If you read this, meet us up at Dad’s old place and be careful. Things are bad. See you soon. Love, Len
P.S. – Borrowed some stuff -- cans of food, toilet paper, sleeping bags, etc. Jason’s 12 gauge too. Left you the Glock. Left it in that thing of Mom’s that you hate. Took the beer from fridge (it was getting warm and I know you don’t like beer).


Liam relaxed some and slid free of his war hammer and backpack, letting both fall to the floor near the door. The message from Jordan’s Uncle Lenny told him he didn’t have to worry about four corpses in the house, just one: Jordan’s mom. But before he commenced a room-to-room search of the house, Liam figured he’d try something else. Making sure that there was nothing between him and the back door, he took two pots from the stove top and repeatedly clanged them together. When he was done, he replaced the pots, put his back against the kitchen counter and waited with his carbine aimed at the living room doorway.

“Anybody home?” he said in a quiet voice. Only after two or three minutes had passed did he feel like he could lower his guard. He’d still have to search the house – Mrs. Nevers’ corpse might be behind a closed door, unable to get to him – but he heard no banging, no pounding of fists on doors or scraping of fingernails on drywall and that was encouraging.

The interior of the house bore very little sign of the tragedy and violence that had occurred there. An arrangement of silk flowers still sat in a carnival glass vase at the center of the dining room table. Throw pillows still sat at the ends of the sofa in the living room. Sheet music lay open on the big antique upright piano that no one ever played. Everything, though, seemed to wear a coating of sadness.

In the front hallway, the edges of the closet door were gouged and splintered and Liam recalled Mrs. Nevers’ telling his father how they’d had to force Jordan in there after he’d bitten both of his parents. The nails that had sealed the door shut lay bent and twisted on the hardwood floor next to the crusty brown remains of what had once been a pool of blood. He followed a thin trail of dried bodily fluids up the stairs where he found the wall outside one of the upstairs bedrooms punctured by six bullet holes and splashed with a dark stain. He couldn’t resist glancing into Jordan’s room, remembering all the hours they’d spent there playing video games, complaining about being bored, talking about girls and griping about teachers.

After checking every room and every closet on the first and second floors – even after rapping on the second floor ceiling to see if he could elicit a response from anything that might have been in the attic – Liam opened the basement door and saw where Jordan’s dead sister had clawed at the woodwork, trying to get out. But the basement, like the rest of the house, was empty of any threat. He approached the door to the garage and stopped, knowing the bodies of Jordan, Monica and their father were in there. Though they were dead – permanently dead, according to the note on the kitchen bulletin board – Liam didn’t think he wanted to open the door. Not just yet, he told himself. They would look like the bodies he’d seen in the field beside the road: desiccated, skin drawn taught, pulled back from their mouths, yellowed teeth exposed. Instead of opening it, he kicked at the door three times with the toe of his boot – forgetting that his feet were a mess and nearly crying out with the pain – and when nothing came clawing on the other side he was satisfied that the garage was free of danger.

Jordan’s mother, he realized, must have never made it back home. The woman had been feverish when she’d come to his house to plead for help. Her hair had been matted with blood around the bite wound on the side of her head. Glassy-eyed and disoriented, she’d stumbled from his family’s front porch when his father had sent her away. Somewhere on the way back home, Christine Nevers must have succumbed to the deadly infection. And then, Liam thought, the corpse of the woman who used to make tacos on Tuesday nights and blueberry pancakes on sleepover mornings had gotten up and wandered away, looking for warm, living food to munch on.

Standing in the kitchen, his thoughts dulled by fatigue, Liam searched for the proper amount of sorrow. It would be right, he thought, to mourn for his dead childhood friend and his family – all gone, all dead. But the only feelings Liam could find were buried deep beneath the buzzing in his head and the ache in his limbs. He turned the deadbolt on the kitchen door and trudged to the family room, dragging his backpack and war hammer behind him. The bookshelves were still full and he eyed the few that he hoped would give him some inkling of how to fly the plane out in the barn. But at the moment, Liam was only interested in the family room couch. He sat down on it and adjusted the coffee table so that his carbine would be within easy reach. He let himself fall sideways, not bothering to take off his boots. But in the moments before he dropped swiftly into sleep, he did offer a short, silent apology to Jordan’s mom for getting mud on the couch cushions.




******



His dreams were like a roller coaster; relatively mild stretches followed by wild turns, rocketing climbs and screaming descents. On three occasions they took him close enough to consciousness for him to remember where he was. Liam would lift his head from the couch and stare blankly out into the pitch black of the family room, wondering if he’d woken because his senses had registered something – a footstep on the front porch, a bony hand sliding across a window pane – but each time there was nothing but his own breathing. After a minute, he’d let his head fall back to the dusty smelling couch and rapidly return to dreams in which he was being chased by something just behind him on the road, something just out of sight around the bend.

The fourth time he woke he was surprised to see how late it was. In the gray daylight coming in through the window, he looked around at the room’s familiar furnishings and felt like a trespasser, though he’d been welcome there more times than he could remember. Rising from the couch, the soreness from his muscles and the pain from his feet caused a short groan to escape his lips. Carefully loosening his boots, he removed each one a fraction of an inch at a time until he was in his socks. Reluctant to see how shredded his feet were, he decided to leave those on for the time being. Crossing the room with baby steps, he peered out through the sheer white curtains covering the window, careful not to move them.

With the sky covered in clouds, it was hard to judge exactly what time it was, but he figured it must be close to noon. The front yard and the driveway were as empty as they had been the day before. A slow, painful walk to the kitchen window showed him the same was true of the back yard. The fields where Jordan’s father had once grown hay were weedy and brown and the apple and pear orchards at the back of the property were a tangle of bare, twisted branches. The old wooden barn with its raised center appeared intact. The enclosed sheds that stretched out from it on both sides always reminded Liam of someone with their arms held open before them, inviting him in. And he and Jordan had accepted that invitation whenever they thought they could do so without Mr. Nevers finding out. The shed on the right was where Jordan’s father kept his plane – the Grumman Cheetah – and the wide sliding doors on the side were where he pushed it in and out with only a foot of space to spare on either side. Out beyond the barn, Liam could see the orange and white striped windsock lifting languidly in the breeze beside the grass strip runway Mr. Nevers would use when he took to the air in the small red and white plane.

Liam felt the urge to skip the books on the family room shelf, head out to the barn and climb into the Cheetah’s cockpit. He was eager to get on with his plan, to trade the dangers of travelling the roads for the relative ease of flying above them. He wouldn’t have to follow the twists and turns of the landscape. He could travel over them, his course straight as an arrow, his speed – what? he wondered; two hundred, three hundred miles an hour? He wasn’t sure about the details, but he supposed he would have to read the books and learn the basics of how to pilot a plane. A little patience, he told himself. Do it right. And then, he’d catch up with Katrina. Once again, he imagined the look on her face when she saw him and suddenly the burning tenderness of his blistered feet didn’t seem quite so bad. Tearing his gaze away from the old barn, Liam turned his attention to the kitchen pantry cupboard. Opening the door he blinked in surprise.

“Only un-looted house within a hundred miles, I bet,” he muttered.

He counted six cans of kidney beans, two boxes of cornbread mix, three large cans of diced tomatoes, two bottles of ranch salad dressing, a can of pineapple rings, three boxes of snack crackers, a can of refried beans and two half empty boxes of breakfast cereal. There was also a box of flavored instant oatmeal packets, a bag of brown sugar, two cans of soup, a plastic canister of flour and four jars of spaghetti sauce. On the floor of the cupboard was a case of bottled water with six bottles missing. Staring at the overwhelming find, he imagined the acclaim he would earn if he were to return to camp with it – maybe enough to cool his father’s wrath a few degrees. But he quickly dismissed the notion. He hadn’t braved the dangers of the road to turn around and go back.

Liam shuffled to the refrigerator, opened the door a crack and immediately shut it. “Phew,” he sniffed, shaking his head. “Okay, let’s…not do that again.” The concentrated smell of rotted food, however, wasn’t enough to kill his appetite and he returned to the pantry. “Soup,” he whispered. Canned soup was heavy to carry and it would be better to eat it before he left the house. “And maybe…” he added, eyeing the canned tomatoes and kidney beans and wondering if he could find the right seasoning somewhere in the kitchen cupboards “…maybe chili – or something close to it – for dinner.”

No water came from the kitchen faucet but, to his relief, the burner on the stove sighed when he turned the knob. A minute later a small propane flame glowed beneath a pot of New England clam chowder. The snack crackers were stale, but he crumbled them into the chowder anyway and washed it all down with two bottles of water. With food in his stomach he finally felt brave enough to remove his socks and inspect his blistered feet. For a moment or two he toyed with the idea of heating a few bottles of water in a stock pot and soaking them, but something told him he’d regret using the water for anything but drinking. Instead, he settled on a trip to the upstairs bathroom where he placed gauze pads over the broken blisters and loosely wrapped both feet with elastic bandages. He sat perched on the edge of the tub and imagined how good a hot shower would feel. Back at the camp, each member of his family was expected to clean themselves once a day with a washcloth and half a gallon of warm water. There was a large galvanized metal tub about four feet in length, but only his father had ever gone to the trouble of hauling enough water and collecting enough extra firewood to fill it with warm water – and that was as a birthday gift for his mother.

For the first time in a while, Liam realized how dirty he was. Half a gallon of warm water and a washcloth was what passed in the apocalypse for good hygiene – exceptionally good hygiene, actually – but compared to the way things used to be… Looking around at the bathroom – at the sink, the tub, the toilet – Liam felt very dirty. His clothes were faded and worn and they smelled of stale sweat. Without letting himself think too much about it, he left the bathroom and winced his way to Jordan’s bedroom. Within five minutes he had traded his dirty, worn out clothing for underwear, socks, jeans and a shirt from his friend’s dresser. He took a thick green corduroy shirt from the closet and pulled on a nylon jacket that he’d never seen Jordan wear. A tiny voice from the depths of his brain meekly suggested that he should feel…something – maybe shame, maybe guilt – for taking his dead friend’s clothes. But the tiny voice faded away to nothing after a second or two.

Jordan was dead, he told himself firmly. “You’re dead,” he whispered aloud, as if to cement the concept. “You’re through needing clothes.” Jordan’s mother was dead. His father and sister were dead. It was a miracle that no one had discovered the house and looted everything in it long ago. The house and all that was in it was his to use. He was going to eat the food, drink the bottled water, sleep on the couch and read the books on the shelf until he was ready to head out to the barn. Then he was going to take the Cheetah – Mr. Nevers’ most prized toy of all – and fly it off to find Katrina Van Kooten.

“You should see Katrina,” he muttered to the bedroom, imagining his dead friend could hear him. “You’d understand.”

Liam realized he was also going to have to find the Glock mentioned by Jordan’s uncle in his bulletin board message. He hadn’t even known Mr. Nevers owned one and he wondered if it would be the same caliber as his carbine. He went to the master bedroom and began checking all the most likely places for the pistol: under the bed, in the nightstand drawer… On the closet shelf he found a full box of 9mm ammunition, the same caliber his Kel-Tec Sub-2000 was chambered for, but after fifteen minutes of searching he hadn’t found the pistol Jordan’s uncle had mentioned. Left it in that thing of Mom’s that you hate, the note had read.

“What thing?” Liam asked out loud. Something passed down from Jordan’s grandmother, he thought. But what? He sat down on the edge of the neatly made bed and looked around the room from under heavy eyelids. “Where’d you hide it?” He let himself fall backwards onto the bed and sighed at the ceiling. “Where would you be?” He closed his eyes – just for a moment, he told himself, just to think more clearly.
"...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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Tinderbox
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Tue Mar 20, 2018 2:52 am

Miles was exhausted and his clothes had never quite dried out from his plunge into the forest stream, but he couldn’t stop. He hadn’t seen the mob of corpses for a few hours, not since glimpsing them roughly a mile back after he’d rested longer than he should have behind a small highway maintenance equipment shack. A glance behind him on a particularly straight stretch of road showed him nothing, but he knew they were still there, mindlessly following. He had stubbornly refused to abandon the bike, riding it for an entire mile even after its front tire had totally deflated and then walking beside it for another mile. Eventually giving up on it, he removed everything from it that he could use and left it on the side of the road. He’d hoped the bike would let him catch up with Liam – “The little shit,” he muttered, thinking how the wayward youth was likely going to get him killed – but he hadn’t seen any sign of him. Could have turned off on any of the side roads he’d passed, Miles thought. There was no way for him to know. But he was following the course marked on Voletta Nevers’ map. If he was reading it right, he was still half a day’s walk from the house Voletta had called home, the place he figured Liam was headed to – “To try and fly a plane that probably wasn’t there anymore,” Miles huffed, breathing hard as he trudged along. “And even if it is, there are a million other things that are going to keep you from doing it, you idiot. Like…like there being no fuel. Like…engine parts seized up from neglect. Like a dead battery. Like crashing on takeoff.”

Miles was still imagining all of the things in the way of Liam Weeks realizing his goal when he noticed movement on the road ahead of him. Without waiting to identify it, he moved off the pavement and crouched down on the gravel shoulder. Whatever it was, he knew it was almost certainly dangerous. Everything was dangerous, he thought darkly as he pulled his binoculars from his backpack. Everything was trying to kill him, from the chill in the air to the giardia in the roadside creek. “Yeah,” he breathed after focusing on the distant highway and spying the mass of dead people ahead, “and you too.” There were lots of them. Maybe a hundred, he estimated, maybe more, but certainly headed right up the road at him.

Quickly, quietly, he made his way into the forest and found a spot where he could kneel behind some evergreens and still keep an eye on the highway. If he didn’t give them a reason to leave the road, the dead would stay glued to it. At least he hoped so. He was too tired to try to escape from them, especially up the rocky, forested slope that rose steeply on this side of the highway.

He watched them pass through a gap in the trees, not making an exact count of them, but keeping track enough to gauge the size of the mob. When he estimated that fifty or so had passed, he let himself wonder about what was going to happen when this group of dead people met the ones coming the opposite way. One of two things, he figured: Either the group now passing him would turn and join the ones on his trail or the ones who had been following him would turn and begin moving away with the others. When the dead gathered in numbers, he knew, they played a continuous game of follow the leader, but it was anyone’s guess how they determined which ones were the leaders.

It took nearly an hour for the loosely packed mob to pass and another half hour before he could muster the energy to move from his hiding spot. When he reached the highway, it was clear in both directions and he continued his slow, loping pace. Gradually a thought occurred: What if Liam Weeks had been part of the pack of dead people that had just passed him? If the stupid kid had gotten himself killed somewhere up ahead on the road, he thought, how would he know? There was no way to know, he realized, until he either caught up with him or reached the end point marked on Voletta Nevers’ map. He wondered how long he would have to wait before he could be reasonably sure Liam Weeks wasn’t going to show. Surprisingly, his feelings on the point weren’t as ambivalent as he thought they might be. The stupid kid was being a royal pain in the ass, he thought, but he didn’t want him to be dead. “Even though you’re being a total and complete shit for brains,” Miles whispered as he hiked along the edge of the highway, his eyes continually glancing ahead in search of more danger.

Hours later when he rounded a bend in the road and saw the field filled with dead bodies, he wasn’t as shocked as Liam had been. On his trek across the country, he’d seen more than a few such dumping grounds: city parks and football stadiums, hospital parking lots and the fenced in yards beside municipal buildings. So he immediately knew what he was looking at when he saw the row after row of permanently dead corpses. Given the time of day, though, and the feeling he had that he was close to collapsing, it was the dump truck at the far end of the field that really interested him. The intact windows and the fact that the cab was raised a few feet above the highway made him set his hopes on using it as a shelter for the night.

He knocked on the driver side window and waited for anything inside to react. When nothing did, he tried the doors and found them locked. But Miles had more experience than Liam had in using abandoned vehicles for shelter. The dump truck was an older model with mechanical door locks and a small triangular side vent window. Miles pulled the multi-tool from his coat and used the pliers to twist the black plastic knob on the outside. It took a few tries and good amount of force, but eventually the small latch on the inside rotated enough so that the vent window could be opened. After that, it was just a question of reaching in and unlocking the door from the inside.

The cab of the dump truck was empty of everything but the smell of sun-baked vinyl and musty seat padding. He climbed in and placed his pack in the gap between the seats. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed he’d had since the world ended, but it was far from being the worst. He lay down, trying to make himself invisible to the world outside and thought about the speech he was going to give to Liam when he finally caught up with him. He wasn’t quite sure exactly how it would go, but he figured the words stupid and foolish and inconsiderate would be mentioned in it at least once.



********



When he woke hours later, it was almost too dark to see. Liam lowered his feet to the carpet and shook off the fleeting feeling that he had done something wrong by sleeping in Mr. and Mrs. Nevers’ bed. Retrieving his carbine and the box of ammunition, he toddled his way downstairs. He peered out through every first floor window at the dark gray twilight before relighting the stove and heating the second can of soup for dinner.

While the soup heated he idly turned his attention to the radio sitting on the kitchen counter next to a lidless cookie jar holding cooking utensils. Mrs. Nevers always had it on and tuned to a local news and oldies music station when she cooked. When they had summer cookouts, she would even switch it to batteries and take it out to the backyard. Liam unplugged it from the wall socket and found the switch on the back that made it run on batteries. Not surprisingly, the radio remained lifeless. But rooting through the cabinet drawers, Liam found one treasure – a small LED keychain flashlight that still worked – and then another: an unopened pack of batteries. Mildly interested in what he might hear, knowing that both the AM and the FM frequencies had been quiet for some time, he loaded the batteries into the back of the radio and began slowly turning the dial. The background noise would sometimes rise a bit as he explored the AM frequencies. Once or twice, leaning against the counter, his ear inches away from the speaker, he imagined he heard a faint, garbled voice being transmitted from who knows where, but the smell of the soup soon distracted him from what he was sure was a hopeless search. As he switched it off, he thought about the radio’s CD player. He knew Jordan’s older sister had a few CDs in her room. To listen to some music – something other than the Gordon Lightfoot songs Mr. Gladston strummed on that old guitar of his – that would be a treat.

He ate as the last feeble light of day disappeared and felt his way back to the family room couch in the dark. He sat there for a while, listening to the thick, gnawing silence that worked its way inside him and filled him with anxiety. The house had never been quiet when he used to visit. There was always the sound of the television, the radio in the kitchen or music thumping through the walls from Monica’s room. On summer evenings Mr. Nevers could usually be heard working outside in the driveway under the floodlights, his hammer pinging on various pieces of old equipment he’d buy at auction and Mrs. Nevers always seemed to be baking or cooking something. Now they were all gone and the silence was all encompassing. There was only him and the sound of his breathing.

Tired, he thought, the words leaking out from the back of his mind. Can’t do it. Everywhere the dead. Seized by the same overwhelming sense of defeat that had gripped the author of the words, Liam remembered how easily he’d made the decision to leave the camp and wondered how he could have been so naïve. But naïve or not, he was in it this far. It would be at least as dangerous to go back, he figured.

Using the small LED keychain flashlight to light his way, he brought the kitchen radio to the family room coffee table and then went upstairs to find a CD in Monica’s room. The only one he could find must have been made for her by a friend. Inside the scuffed and cracked plastic case, the CD was hand labeled Autumn Tunes and listed twelve tracks. “’Coming Right Along’,” Liam read aloud, “by The Posies. Never heard of you.” He inserted the disc and as a heavily distorted electric guitar began playing he slid sideways on the couch.

Tomorrow, he thought. Tomorrow he’d start reading the books. Tomorrow he’d find the Glock. Tomorrow, just for the hell of it, he’d try to start Mr. Nevers’ truck. Tomorrow he’d check on the plane out in the barn. And tomorrow, he told himself, he might even summon the courage to go out to the garage where Jordan’s uncle said he’d left the bodies of his friend, his friend’s sister and his dad. How hard, Liam wondered, was the ground out back under the bare, whip-like branches of the big weeping willow where they’d played as kids? How stupid, he asked himself, would it be to waste the time and energy burying them when the entire world was one vast graveyard? He was still wondering these things when he slipped into unconsciousness and, while the music played quietly on, toward the first nightmare of the evening.



******



When something – probably an owl, he thought – called out shrilly in the night from a perch somewhere on top of the truck, Miles woke for a minute before letting himself sink back into sleep. He woke again when the rain started and began to lash hard against the windshield. Once more, he drifted swiftly back into unconsciousness. It wasn’t until dawn stained the world outside the truck a deep blue-gray that he figured it was time to get moving. The aches and pains that bloomed in every part of his body as he stirred were totally expected, but that didn’t stop him from groaning as he sat up in the driver’s seat.

The rain had let up some time before, leaving the highway outside the truck looking wet and cold. Leaning his head back and closing his eyes, he thought about the day ahead. “Half a day’s walk,” he whispered. If you’re lucky, he added. “Then…” What? he wondered. The house where he was going would surely be just like all the rest; just a hollowed out shell. Voletta Nevers had spoken of a barn where her father had kept his plane. Miles hoped the barn would still be there and that it would be dry inside. He hoped he would find Liam Weeks sitting there, maybe staring at the empty place where the plane once was. He hoped for a nice bale of straw he could spread out and perhaps a horse blanket or something he could lay over it. (Straw, he’d learned, could poke you through your clothes if you didn’t have something between you and the sharp cut ends.) He hoped they could get an early start the next morning back to the survivor’s camp beside the Craving River and he hoped their arrival would coincide with meal time.

Miles pried his backpack out from between the seats and tried to remember which pocket he’d stashed the peanut butter crackers that Rory had sent with him. Looking out of the passenger side window his eyes played over the field of corpses. Depressing, he thought. Really, a depressing sight first thing in the morning. Turning his head back to the windshield, a sudden movement in his peripheral vision made him freeze. Moving only his eyes, he watched the body of a woman with ashen skin and long, black, seaweed-like hair shuffle its way along the shoulder of the road. The woman’s mouth gaped in an unnaturally wide rictus of horror, like her jaw had been pried open past the breaking point and had stuck there, leaving a perpetual silent scream plastered upon her face.

One dead body, Miles considered. He sat up higher in the seat and sucked air in through his teeth as his muscles complained with knife-like stabs. He could handle one dead body, he thought, watching the dead woman stagger along the road outside the truck, but it was going to hurt. As his eyes followed the dead woman they found the truck’s side view mirror and slowly focused on it. Still groggy from sleep, he blinked at the image, trying to process what he was seeing.

It wasn’t just one dead body, it was hundreds of them, taking up both lanes of the highway. The dead woman who had just dragged her way past the truck was only the lead corpse of a very large mob of sodden corpses numbering so many that the side view mirror couldn’t handle the breadth and depth of them. It was each and every walking corpse that had been following him and each and every one he’d watched pass by the previous day.

In a flash he imagined what would happen if just one of them was to notice him. They would surround the truck in a swarm fifty bodies deep and he would be trapped. It was already too late to exit the truck without being seen by them, no way to sneak away. He was just going to have to outrun them. Without a second to lose he grabbed his backpack, pushed open the driver’s side door and jumped to the ground. And in classic horror movie form, a jolt of pain exploded from his left ankle.



******



Liam woke from a nightmare set around the Nevers’ dining room table. He found himself seated there along with Jordan, Monica and their parents. They were all dead, white-faced, empty eyed and expressionless, languidly picking bloody bits of shredded human flesh from their plates. In the dream, Liam looked down at his hands and arms and found that it was his flesh that had been peeled away.
He opened his eyes as little as possible, letting the dim light filtering through the sheer white curtains tell him that the time of day was mid-morning. Back at the camp he would have been woken hours ago to start his daily routine, but here he woke when he wanted. He stretched and rolled a bit on the soft couch cushions; so much more comfortable than the bed he slept on at the camp.

As he’d done the night before, he checked the view out of every first floor window. It had rained during the night, but there were no dead people in sight. No desperate bands of survivors looking to raid the place, ready to kill for a can of beans. He slipped his boots over his bandaged feet and made his way to the first floor bathroom where he took the roll of toilet paper from the wall beside the dried up commode. Checking to see if there was still a round chambered in his carbine, he stood at the kitchen door, inspecting the back yard through the window, wondering what spot would make the best toilet. Jordan’s mother, he recalled, grew vegetables on one side of the yard and the weed entwined wooden trellises that remained there provided a little bit of cover. “A little fertilizer,” he muttered, “couldn’t hurt.”

Stepping out onto the back porch, Liam stopped and listened. Only the conk-la-ree! call of a few red-winged blackbirds floated on the chilly air. He made his way to Mrs. Nevers’ vegetable patch, scanning all around him, feeling ridiculously self-conscious for pooping in his friend’s back yard in full view of the house. Even though they were all dead, his eyes kept returning to the windows as he squatted over the muddy ground, as if expecting to see Mrs. Nevers appear there at any moment. Imagining the look on her face, he huffed out a laugh, his breath visible in the air before him.

Back in the kitchen, he thought greedily of the instant oatmeal packets in the pantry cupboard. They were his, he thought with a certain excitement. He’d found them and he didn’t have to share them with anyone. Placing the toilet paper roll on the kitchen counter, he thought about meal time back at the camp. There was always just enough food – just barely enough. And no matter who they were, a person’s eyes always secretly strayed to the bowls and cups of the people around them, making sure no one got more than they did. “But now, it’s mine, all mine,” he whispered, indulging his giddy mood by adding a “mwa-ha-ha-ha” maniacal laugh.

He ate until he was comfortably full, relishing the freedom of determining his own portions. He returned to the family room and went straight to the bookshelf. He reached for the books there, but paused and instead merely ran his fingers across their spines. He was going to have to be in just the right frame of mind, he decided, to soak up the information. “And I’m sleepy,” he told the empty room. “Too much breakfast,” he added, though he felt no regret.

You made a hard trek to this house, a little voice at the back of his head told him. You survived things that would have killed others. You’re in the only house around that hasn’t been burned or looted or filled with dead people. And the couch, he added as he crawled on to it, was very comfortable.

When he woke again he stretched lazily and listened to the silence. He visited every first floor window and found once again that everything outside was just as it had been before. Feeling very pleased with himself for lucking into the safe, secure shelter of the Nevers house, he returned to the family room, tugged four books free from the bookshelf and set them on the coffee table. Propping up his feet, he opened the first of the books – Taking to the Air: The Pilot’s Handbook – and began reading the first paragraph. Halfway through, however, he began leafing through the pages, looking at the illustrations and photos of instrument panels. A moment later, he was on his feet, glancing out the kitchen window at the barn. “Never even checked to see if you were out there,” he said, thinking of the plane he hoped to fly. “S’pose I should.” There’d be no sense in reading a book on flying, he reasoned, if the plane wasn’t even there. Plus, he thought, he was going to have to haul a few loads of things out to the barn: the food and water from the pantry cupboard, his pack, a bag of clothes from Jordan’s room… In the back of his mind he knew he should just sit and read the books, but the voice in the back of his head argued otherwise.

You made it here, it said to him. You’re just getting your strength back. There’s food and water and propane and a comfortable place to sleep and you don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s yours. You found it. Who knows when you’ll get another chance to relax all on your own? The books, the voice concluded, can wait.



******



Four hours later Liam had done just about everything in the house he could think to do – everything except reading the books he needed to read. He’d also failed to locate the pistol Jordan’s uncle had mentioned in his note. In going through the house, however, he’d accumulated a pile of things he deemed useful: duct tape and lighters and aspirin and bandages, flashlights and knives and numerous toiletries. Between the stuff he set out on the kitchen counter and the stuff he piled on the upstairs beds, he knew he couldn’t take it all, but it seemed like a good idea to lay it all out. When he was done scavenging, he knew it was time to sit down and read the books he’d left on the family room coffee table. But the voice at the back of his head spoke out once again.

You’re crazy, it said, to be in such a hurry to leave this place. It’s safe and dry and relatively warm and you can sleep without having to listen to Ryan snore from the next room. Go out and check on the Cheetah. See if it’s there and in one piece. The books, the voice advised, will still be there later today - or maybe tomorrow.

He turned his attention to the barn out back. Taking a pair of binoculars from a hook on the kitchen wall and focusing them out the window he saw that the overgrown fields were as empty as ever and the barn, some two hundred yards behind the house, looked like nobody had entered it since the world had ended. Weeds grew in front of the side doors and the wind had driven heaps of dead leaves up against the big sliding doors. Adding the binoculars to the stuff on the counter, he plucked a key ring bearing a Chevrolet logo from one of the wall hooks.

“We gonna walk all that way,” he asked the empty kitchen, “or drive?”

Taking his carbine and a military surplus waist pack he’d decided to use as an ammo bag, he looked carefully around before leaving the house. As expected though, the truck made no sound when he turned them in the ignition. Eyeing the garage door, he knew there was a small gasoline powered generator in there somewhere and he was willing to bet Mr. Nevers had at least one battery charger somewhere on his cluttered work bench. But the garage was the one place in the house he’d avoided.

He slung his carbine over his shoulder and walked out into the field behind the house, trying not to think about the garage and what lay in it. The big weeping willow where he and Jordan had played as kids sat near a dip in the landscape that sometimes filled with water when the weather was particularly wet. Its bare branches were still as he passed it, but he remembered them green and moving back and forth with a liquid motion when the summer wind blew strong.

“You wanna be buried there?” he asked his dead friend. “I mean, the garage is…just as good. Like a mausoleum or…or something.”
Some survivor he was, he scolded himself, unable to face the dead body – the permanently dead body – of someone he’d known. He’d put down dozens of reanimated corpses. He’d even put down Mr. Carstens and kept Mr. Kern from coming back, though he didn’t know Carstens and never much liked Mr. Kern. But a real survivor, he rationalized, wouldn’t bother burying them at all.

“So, Jordan…dude,” he said to the autumn air and the empty fields, “the garage it is. Sorry, but…you don’t want me messing around with…you know…what’s…what’s left of you.” And that, he told himself, is that. But in the back of his mind, he knew he was simply chickening out.

The big wooden barn with its sloping sheds on either side seemed more imposing than ever. As long as Liam had known Jordan, the barn had been the place where they dared to go when they thought they could get away with it. Though Jordan’s father didn’t like them messing around his prized plane and his mother had told them countless times how she’d had a cousin who died after a freak accident in a barn, they had always been drawn to the place.

The side door was the only part of the barn that was painted. Like the front door to the house, it was red, but a washed out weathered red. He undid the hasp lock and the door squeaked inward, tearing free of the dried brown weeds that gripped its base. A wall of musty air struck his nostrils as he stepped into the dim interior and a flood of memories burst forth. “We always said we were so bored,” he whispered to his dead friend. “Bored, bored, let’s go out to the barn.” What he wouldn’t give now, he thought, for a return to those days, boredom and all.

Unlike other barns with spacious interiors, Mr. Nevers had used plywood and scrap lumber to turn the old stalls, aisles and feed bins on the ground floor of his barn into a maze of small workshops, storage spaces and junk rooms. The exception was the loft where the old floorboards creaked underfoot and the straw bales, their edges rounded with age, had melted together over the years to form one big stepped mound. He walked carefully, wishing he had brought the small LED keychain flashlight. Though familiar with the barn’s layout, there was always a lot of old junk laying around, some of it rusty and sharp.

He made his way slowly toward the far side of the barn to the shed where Mr. Nevers kept the Cheetah. To make room for it, the man had removed more than a few of the original support beams, replacing them with two-by-fours slanting this way and that, nailed in haphazard fashion to make just enough space for his precious toy. Each time he glimpsed the interior, Liam was always surprised that the shed was still standing. His boots shuffling along the hard packed dirt floor, he was just making his way through the center of the barn where the daylight leaking in through gaps in the wall boards was weakest when something to his left moved.

Liam’s mind grasped wildly at the hope that it was just a fox, a possum, or some other animal. Even when it stood, causing a clatter of junk to fall from the perch where it had been sitting, and lurched in his direction, he still clung to the hope that it was some other survivor that had taken refuge there.

“Who is it?” he asked in a tightly constricted voice. His question was answered with the belch of stale air from slowly decaying lungs. He turned and immediately ran into a line of galvanized metal trash cans which toppled in several different directions and made a head-splitting din. Backing farther into the shadows, he struck the plywood wall of one of Mr. Nevers’ enclosures, causing bunches of old wiring, lengths of copper pipes, rakes and shovels to come crashing down around him. Remembering the carbine on his back, he brought it around with some difficulty and, making sure to disengage the safety, fired three widely spaced shots in the direction of the advancing corpse. The bullets hit nothing but the barn walls, but the muzzle flashes revealed what was stalking him.

Mrs. Nevers had made it home after all.

The woman was still dressed in the sweatshirt and khakis that she’d been wearing when she had come to his house with her youngest daughter in tow. Her hair was still matted on one side where she’d been bitten. But now her face, drawn and discolored, had lost all trace of humanity. Now her dead eyes bore a single soulless desire. The three quick yellow-white flashes from his gun had shown him her open mouth and her gnashing teeth. Horrified, Liam stood frozen long enough for the dead woman’s fingers to rake the front of his jacket.

Liam ran to his right, trying to find some open space where the light leaking into the barn from outside was bright enough for him to take aim at the corpse. He collided with an aluminum extension ladder laid across boxes of miscellaneous junk that Jordan’s father had brought home from area auctions. Three coiled garden hoses fell at his feet and blossomed into a tangle that threatened to trip him. Again, he fired his Kel-Tec blindly in the direction of the dead woman. The first shot was another miss, but the second appeared to strike the corpse’s neck. It was not enough, however, to stop its advance.

Liam stumbled backward into a space Mr. Nevers had devoted to old, outdated farm equipment. There, he passed in front of a single band of daylight slicing through the shadows from a gap in the wall. He retreated a few more feet and then turned with his carbine raised. When the corpse of Christine Nevers entered the pale band of light, Liam aimed at her head and squeezed the trigger. The weapon, however, failed to fire. Turning it slightly, he saw in the gloom the unmistakable sight of a shell casing that had failed to fully eject from the chamber. He stared at the ejection port, his hands tightening on the Kel-Tec, his mind a total blank on how to clear the stovepipe casing.

The dead woman, a gurgling sound coming from somewhere deep inside her throat, reached out and grabbed the muzzle of the carbine. Panicked, Liam reacted instinctively, tearing the weapon from her hand and turning it into a club. He bashed at her head once and then again, but the carbine was too lightweight to have any real effect. The dead woman clutched at his arms, trying to draw him toward her mouth. His mind going blank, Liam uttered a yell overflowing with both fear and anger and pushed at the corpse with all of his strength, plowing forward into the shadows until the dead woman fell backward over something. Her bony grip on his arm took Liam forward and he fell on top of her. With the image in his mind of her bared teeth closing on his face, Liam wrenched himself to the side and got to his feet. Though it continued to make guttural sounds and thrash its limbs, the corpse stayed where it had fallen allowing Liam to retreat to the nearest wall. His jammed carbine was lost in somewhere on the cluttered floor, but behind him was one of the barn’s big doors. His heart pounding, his breath coming in gasps, he unlatched the door and shoved it open. The gray daylight that flooded in showed the corpse of Christine Nevers impaled on an ancient, upturned, rusty piece of farm equipment that looked like the teeth of a comb, but widely spaced and curved inward. A hay rake, something from deep within his racing mind told him – and old, horse-drawn hay rake. The teeth of the rake had pierced the dead woman’s back, keeping her from getting up, but doing nothing to curb her desire to take a bite out of him. Ignoring the curved metal spines sticking into her back, she kicked her legs and reached toward him, her fingers claws, her teeth clacking together.

Liam walked to where his carbine lay. He brushed the dirt from it, popped the magazine and worked the charging handle to free the spent casing from the bolt. Then he reinserted the magazine, chambered a round and took careful aim at the dead woman’s forehead. His first shot passed through the corpse’s brain, ending the ability of whatever had infected it to reanimate her body. He fired again and again and again, sending spent brass ricocheting off the wooden walls, striking her skull with each shot, destroying it, splashing the dirt floor with greenish-black gore. He fired nine times in all, only stopping when the magazine was empty.

With a tightly clenched knot of nausea in the pit of his stomach, he turned in a daze and walked outside. He stood there for some time – minutes, he supposed, but he wasn’t really sure – breathing the fresh rain-scented air until his mind cleared.

Back to the house, said the little voice at the back of his head. Back to the house where it’s safe, where it’s dry, where there’s food. Lock the door and never leave.

At that moment, Liam Weeks was not inclined to argue with the little voice. He began walking back toward the house through the overgrown field, but lifting his eyes to the edge of the back yard, he saw something. It was visible for just a second, then whatever it was dropped out of sight into the tall weeds and out of view.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Liam muttered, going to one knee and fumbling for a fresh magazine with numb fingertips. He’d fired how many shots? he asked himself. And the sound had traveled how far? Attracting how many more dead people? Staying low, he crept forward on his hands and knees, keeping himself hidden in the same tall weeds that concealed whatever it was he had seen.

The dead don’t hide, he considered as he moved. That meant that whatever he had seen might be a person – a live person. Instead of relief, the thought made him go from his knees to his belly. Slowly, trying not to reveal his location, he crawled through the damp field. A live person, he realized, was going to want what he had: the house and everything in it. To get it, that person was going to want him dead. And to keep it for himself, he might have to shoot that living person. With the events of the past few minutes still pushing into his brain like a spike, Liam believed he could probably do just that.

He crawled closer and closer to where he’d seen the thing fall into the weeds. He could hear something just ahead of him, something crawling toward him. “If you’re alive and you want to stay that way,” he said, trying to sound strong and in control, despite being on his belly, “stop and stand up or I will shoot you.”

“Shoot me?” came a voice from a few yards ahead. “Why not, you little shit? You’ve pretty much killed me already.”

“Who is that?” Liam demanded. The voice seemed familiar, but the single thought in his head was whether or not to pull the trigger and he couldn’t connect the voice with a face.

“It’s Miles, dumbass,” the voice answered, “from the camp; the idiot from the camp who agreed to come out after you. Don’t you shoot, if you have any bullets left, that is. I could hear you shooting up the whole world from all the way down on the road.”

“Miles,” Liam said, still on his belly. “What…what the hell are you doing here?”

“Get over here and help me,” Miles groaned. “My foot’s hurt. I had to run on it all morning. I think it’s…about to fall off.”

“Run?” Liam asked, getting to his feet. “What are you running from?”

“I’ll give you three guesses,” Miles replied, annoyed. He was wet and muddy and looked too exhausted to stand.

Ice flooded Liam’s blood at Miles’ words as he helped him up. “How many are there?”

“Every single one in the whole freakin’ world, I think.” He sucked air in through his teeth as he tried and failed to put weight on his injured foot. “Damn. I am…not gonna be running on that for a while.”

“Yeah,” Liam said, hooking Miles’ arm around the back of his neck, “okay. Let’s get inside.” But as they turned, they saw the first few corpses emerge from around both side of the Nevers house. Liam was about to suggest that Miles sit while he used his carbine to take care of them, but they kept coming. As Liam watched, there were ten, then twenty, then forty…

“The house,” Miles observed, “is not an option, I’m afraid.”

“How many are there?” Liam asked again, unwilling to believe his eyes. Fifty or sixty of them had already rounded both sides of the house and their numbers kept increasing. They were hideously torn and mangled, gray with dirt and grime, soaked from the night’s rain and moving steadily forward with a sickening fluidity.

“More than we can shoot,” Miles answered, his tone miserable and defeated. “More than we can fight.”

“Come on,” Liam said, supporting as much of Miles’ weight as possible. Together they hobbled back out into the field toward the old barn. While Miles cried out with every step, Liam made the mistake of looking behind them. There were two hundred now, at least, he figured, and every one could see the two of them as they fled.

“Just…get me inside and close the door,” Miles said as they came up on the barn. “You…take off out across the fields. If you keep low, maybe…maybe they won’t see you go.”

“Inside,” Liam said, ignoring him. They stumbled into the barn and Liam swung the big door shut and latched it. “Stay here,” he told Miles. “There’s another door on the other side that I have to close.”

“Good,” Miles gasped, falling to the barn’s dirt floor and calling after him. “Close it behind you and…and keep going.” But Liam returned within a few seconds. “Oh, come on,” Miles said from the shadows, sounding exasperated. “You are almost out of time. If you don’t go now – ”

“I think the doors will hold,” Liam said, putting his eye to a gap in the boards and catching sight of the advancing mob. He backed away from the door and leaned against one of Mr. Nevers’ boxes of junk. “Shit, there’s a lot of them.”

“Get out of here, you idiot!” Miles barked.

“I’m not going,” Liam said, dismissing the idea. “There’s plenty of lumber in here. Nails and hammers and – ”

“Go!” Miles told him again. “Get back to the camp. If you don’t go now – ”

I’m not going!” Liam shouted. It was at that moment that the first corpse reached the side of the barn. They could see its shape blocking the daylight leaking in through the gaps between the boards. Within a second or two it was joined by another and another until the mass of them blocked much of the daylight and the walls made alarming popping sounds. The big door bulged inward a few inches under the onslaught, but held. All along the outside of the barn they could hear the sound of fingers clawing at the weathered wood and dead limbs smacking against it.

“Not now, you’re not,” Miles said from where he was hunched against the wall. “Neither one of us are.”
"...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 bodyparts » Tue Mar 20, 2018 1:35 pm

wow that was really good ! thanks for the update . :clap: :clap:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Tue Mar 20, 2018 4:57 pm

Excellent!!! :clap:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by gunsandrockets » Wed Mar 21, 2018 5:56 am

I've been checking in almost daily for the story update. I'm happy to see the long drought is over.

Nasty flu out there. Best be wary of any sudden compulsion to vomit all over the nearest person! :wink:
I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by FlashDaddy » Wed Mar 21, 2018 12:55 pm

Great update! Your descriptions really create great scenes. The story line is so incredibly captivating. I've been reading other post-apocalyptic fiction since your last post and nothing comes close to the quality of your writing.

Thanks TB!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Wed Mar 21, 2018 4:29 pm

Thank you TB, that was FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!
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