Friday, April 18, 2014

Remembering BAD FRIDAY: The Dark Resurrection


In Bleeding Kansas, Derek Grace witnessed the events of Bad Friday on a lounge bar television in a locked and secure Kansas City hotel. Here, in Grace Among the Dead, our hero hears the story from someone who was at one of the many Z-Day Ground Zeros in Derek Grace’s hometown of Colorado Springs.

I’m relating Pastor Isaac Bryce’s story through Derek Grace’s voice, but that may end up being changed to a straight-up first person recounting by Pastor Bryce. Derek Grace’s narrative voice comes easily to me, and that easiness alone is a red flag. On the other hand, I also have the advantage of Grace filling in the details and coloring them in a way the pastor would (or could) not, because he’s a truly good-hearted guy, while Grace is, well, Grace. No one does color commentary in the zombie apocalypse like Derek Grace:

Like everyone else, Abundant Life’s people had cases in which the early mortalities came back, so they knew it could happen. Like everyone, else, though, they weren’t prepared for the mass die-off—or what happened on what the people now call Bad Friday.

That was the Friday afternoon Pastor Wilkinson stood before the assembled multitude on a portable stage erected along the large, flat, undeveloped lot adjacent Abundant Life’s chapel. Abundant Life had hoped to build a Christian school on the land. Now it was a necropolis, the final resting place of 3,000 and more victims of the Final Flu. With a wireless mic in his suit jacket, and all the strength he could muster after watching his own wife struggle and die hours before, Pastor Wilkinson conducted the ecumenical service over the mass interment (no one wanted to call it a “burial”) for this corner of northeastern Colorado Springs.

The 3,000 lay wrapped in sheets before five long trenches gouged deep into the rocky, sandy soil overlooking the Interstate. Over half of these were already in the trenches when they began the service. The city wanted to time the final collection of remains to halfway through the service. The police, working with volunteers in bright yellow vests, would start herding the mourners towards the parking area immediately upon the completion of the service as the ‘dozers began filling in the trenches.

Everyone from the church leadership was there. They either worked the edges of the crowd, offering counseling, prayer, and cold bottled water—or else they were laid out with Pastor Wilkinson’s wife, Zack’s mother and girlfriend, among the thousands awaiting interment.

The main thing Zack Bryce remembered from those calm-before-the-storm moments was how everyone was so tired. That flash of sickness, the quick sting of death over the course one very bad week had left everyone feeling numb and hollowed out.

Yet in that hollow created by the shock and loss stood a flicker of anxious hope, the (almost) guiltless pleasure that comes from looking forward to the Next Thing. Whatever this Next Thing was, it stood to reason it wouldn’t have anything to do with the sickness, misery, and loss of the world before. This large-scale burial was strange and sad, just like the week that brought it on. And like the week that brought it on, it would soon be over.
“We were all ready to move on. Bury our dead, go back to our empty homes, pick up the pieces and get on with it,” says Bryce.

He sighs. “We had no idea what a blessed luxury that notion was.”

No one left alive knows who was first to kick his way out of his winding sheet. Bryce remembers him as sporting a nice, albeit rumpled suit, and rising inconveniently towards the middle of the long line of bodies waiting to be lowered in.

“They were just shooting, not even hitting him!” says Bryce. “Some poor woman a row back got hit and fell and that only stopped the shooting for a second before it started up again. The guy kept stumbling forward.”

The man’s foot slammed into another body. She jolted upright, her head jerking about her shoulders, her arms flailing, as if abruptly awakened. A low hum came from his lips. It built into a louder moaning as the other bodies about him matched his frequency, squirming and thrashing out of their sheets. Reveille for the dead. Like an army arising from its tents.

Zack remembers the slugs finally exploding into the man’s main body mass, the way he roared with inhuman rage as he staggered backwards against their impact. Hollow-point rounds caused great sections of his back to burst away, to the horror of all who watched, yet he still would not fall.

He was staggering backwards against the impacts, though, as as he did hands began reaching over the lip of the trench behind him. One more shot sent him tumbling backwards into the wriggling forest of undead fingers.

Others who had begun standing with the man fell after him into the trench as the rifle fire concentrated on their general location. All who fell suffered the indignity of their fellows planting their bare feet into their faces and bodies for a better reach over the edge. The heads of these more aggressive ones would emerge over the top, and maybe (but not always) a shooter could drop it. But their fall made it easier for the ones behind them.

Remains of the living and undead carpeted the field like torn, bleeding sandbags, providing cover for those last waves climbing from the trenches. “You saw little puffs of red-brown mist where the slugs ripped through the fallen bodies,” says Bryce. “It was just one blood-slicked mass of bleeding body mass in places. You couldn’t see where one individual…person…began or ended.”

He’s quiet for a moment. Then: “One of those things was my own mother. I thank God I have no memory of seeing her that day. I recognized some people, the way their faces looked told you it wasn’t them. It was more than a disease. It was something evil. If someone was to suggest demonic possession, I’d have a hard time arguing against it.”

This gets even bloodier and more horrifically violent as it goes along. I’m such a sucker for a good Z-Day story I’ll have to have a tale in the third book, too. 

In case you missed the embedded link above, Bleeding Kansas, the first installment in my trilogy, is available in Kindle and paperback. Kindle apps for PCs and Macs and smartphones are free, so you don’t need the tablet.
Grace Among the Dead: Book 2 of The Saga of the Dead Silencer 
Copyright © 2014, 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. All rights reserved.