Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Chapter 3 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Enemies, Foreign and Domestic”

From the ALL-NEW, Yet-To-Be Proofed and Published FINAL BOOK of the SAGA of the DEAD SILENCER


PREVIOUS EPISODE: Chapter 2: “Uphill”

“Sergeant McIntire-Grace, I presume,” I hear the colonel say, amusement in his voice.

“Fuck you! What have you done to him, you brass ape?”

Someone must have grabbed Agnes before she could tear the good colonel’s throat out. Col. Dietzen attempts an illusion of composure, but his voice gives him away. “Your husband just talked to his son and daughter for the first time since before this brave new world began. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also learned the only reason you and your family stand a chance to live after today is because you have a sponsor in the provisional government.”

I look up from my seat in the grass. The image on the screen is from above the turnoff, where the road winds up the mountain to our settlement. In high-definition, and in full color, I see stragglers from the larger group limping towards the wall of flame blocking the road, then backing off. Then they step forward again…they know something is up here, even as the larger mob surges towards the sounds of children playing and dogs barking, which I realize are coming from the quadcopter streaming video of the scene.

The view pulls back and I realize just how dangerously narrow my view of our situation has been until now. I’ve always looked to the plains south of the city for movement, as if everything was migrating in from the south. What I hadn’t considered was that the formerly living, now migrating for their meat, might also come in from the east. Across all those overgrown fields, up all those dusty country roads. Piling in from across the vast, seemingly empty plains of western Kansas, gathering towards the nearest population center. If Denver is too far, Colorado Springs is right here. I should have realized this during the stampedes. I assumed the animals were merely heading for the hills, not chased up these hills from across hundreds of miles from east to west. 

 I’m aware of the colonel looking at me. “You understand now, don’t you?” he says. 

“Too little, too late,” I say, pushing myself to my feet. “Or else I would have noticed the horde coming straight at these mountains.”

“To be fair, you don’t have satellite or UAV surveillance working for you. But now you know you cannot stay.”

“I understood as much one-half hour ago.”

“The incident with the bears. We saw that, too.”

Of course you did, I think. I glance behind me to see Brother Christopher and Lance Smiley holding Agnes by her arms. “How much time do we have, Colonel?”

“We’re actually a little ahead of schedule,” he says. “The plan was to let my people get set up and cook one last good meal while you conferred with your people. Then we all have a nice, big, celebratory lunch while you pack everything you can carry. We’ll kill time until our support gets back here. We’ll evacuate this area no later than mid-afternoon.”

“Us, too?” I say.

“It’s why we’re here. Just be ready to leave when we are.”

“How did you know we were even here?”

The colonel laughs. “We’ve known you were here from the beginning. You might as well have kept your phones. If the UAVs we have everywhere didn’t find you, satellite infrared imaging would.”

“Your UAVs have all kinds of functions, it seems,” I say, nodding towards the screen in the comm truck.

 “That’s the Pied Piper unit,” says Col. Dietzen. “We tried recorded gunshots, but they somehow knew those were fake. They really go for the children and puppies though.”

“Derek,” says Agnes. “Are you actually entertaining the idea of leaving with these people?”

“Agnes, A.J. and I just got back from watching a mob of dead people climbing a steep wall of rock to get at a family of bears. It won’t be long before they figure the easy way up. We’re taking our lives into our hands if we stay one more night. At this point, we might just have hours.”

Agnes narrows her eyes at me. “I’ll meet you inside.” She shrugs out of Christopher’s and Lance’s grip and turns back to the house. Christopher and Lance follow after.

The colonel claps me on the arm. “I know people in Wyoming think you live like a king here, with your two wives and all. I tell them they don’t know what it’s like to be married to one—let alone one you share field command with!”

“Yeah. Thanks.” My two wives. Good Lord, how long have they been watching us?

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Dietzen says casually. “We’ll be landing a couple of choppers here.”

“Choppers?”

“We’re getting a load of frozen seafood and some prime steak cuts in exchange for your furniture.”

“My furniture?”

“Well, not yours, exactly. Someone else does own this house. They want their heirloom pieces before we leave.”

“Oh. Well. Sure.” It never occurred to me that the former owner of this compound might be alive and well.

“Yeah, freaky, isn’t it?” laughs Colonel Dietzen, as if he’d read my mind. “Like I said, we’re getting some quality chow out of this. Just make sure your stuff isn’t in any of the armoires or cedar chests or whatever. You weren’t planning on taking any of that, were you?”

“No. Of course not.”

“All right, then. Go huddle with your team. We’ll see you in an hour.”

“Right.” I turn and walk towards the house. I unbuckle the harness holding the crossbow and quiver to my back and lay it alongside the pile of bows on the picnic table. I feel like a fool carrying it around. It took me a minute to see that my boys did get to keep their sidearms.

Brother Christopher, Lance, and Agnes are already inside. Brother Christopher sees me coming and stands by the glass screen door. He holds it open and I step inside. The loud and spirited conversation in the room ceases. Good.

Everyone is gathered in the large living area with the big window overlooking the city and the plains. Everyone except Teresa, of course, who gets twitchy when we’re all bunched together like this, even in this sprawling single level estate. 
I smile at A.J., who could stand being around Teresa for only so long. “Did you tell everyone the story of the bears?”

A.J. shakes her head. I look around at the tribe of young men and women who drafted me for their patriarch eleven long months ago. “Even if it wasn’t for the colonel and his people here,” I say, “we’d have to be packing right now. It’s not a matter of if the dead are coming up, but when. So far, the colonel’s people have them distracted, but we need to get out of here.”

“When?” says Agnes.

“Dietzen was no more specific than mid-afternoon. I suspect he’d prefer it sooner than later.”

“What about fuel for the trucks? We don’t even know if some of them will even start. The gasoline’s going bad.”

“Well, I suppose that’s part of what we should be talking about here. If we can’t solve the problem in a couple of hours we’re going to have to work around it.” I look around at everyone, make a point of meeting their eyes: “This is not some late April Fool’s joke. We have to leave. Today. With luck, those people out there can help us get out of here.” 

“So,” says Agnes. “We’re going to Wyoming.”

“My first thought had been to get as far up the mountain as we could, but I don’t think that will work for us now.”

“Yes, yes, I know. The dead are climbing mountains and eating bears. What I’m asking is, you’re just going to go where these people with their uniforms and their equipment tell you to go?”

“Full disclosure, everyone,” I say loudly, holding Agnes’ stare in mine. “I’ve just learned my son and daughter are alive. Ms. McIntire is quite rightfully concerned I’m risking the freedom of everyone in this camp because these people have my children. So get together with Ms. McIntire and talk about how you’re getting out of here. Or not. I’m going to Wyoming. Everyone else, do what you want to do.”

I’m maybe two steps outside of the door when a small hand seizes my arm. “I’m going with you,” says A.J.

“Your mother will have an opinion on that,” I say.

“Mama Elyssa wants to talk to you,” she says.

“Look, I don’t have—”

“You have time,” Elyssa says, her hand clamped on my wrist. “You and me and Miss Agnes are taking all of five minutes to get this worked out.”

I pull at my arm. “Elyssa….”

“Derek.” She looks around at the young men and women from the house gathering behind us. The worry in their faces takes me aback. Elyssa turns to me. “Let’s not make this any more difficult than it already is,” she says under her breath. 

Elyssa has Agnes in the same death grip, and she’s looking over at me with her now look what you’ve done face. I turn away and focus on getting out of Elyssa’s grasp, which she maintains effortlessly, as she tells A.J., “I left your little brother with Tiffany. Make sure she doesn’t drop him on his head.”

“Tiffany!” Agnes says, as A.J. disappears among the crowd outside the door.

“She needs experience holding babies.” Elyssa turns back to our people. “Everybody, get your stuff packed and ready to go. Miss Agnes and Mr. Grace and I have things to talk about.”

When Elyssa looks back at me, I see the icy seriousness in what are normally spacey-smiley blue eyes. It’s a look I’ve seen maybe all of three times, including this one, and I’m as speechless as I was the first couple. 

We’re still in view of everyone, but well out of earshot as Elyssa leads us to the overlook on the southeast corner of the estate. We watch as Brother Christopher’s boys gather around the monitor screen, while Col. Dietzen’s people begin firing up our grills for the last time. The women go back into the house, presumably to check on the babies before going down to their own houses to sort out what they can take with them.


I’d be surprised if the babies are still asleep. The air is thrumming with the sound of helicopters, their rotors thumping like the tribal drums of the methamphetamine gods. After a year of nothing but clouds, birds, and the occasional plume of smoke in the air, these dual-rotored Chinooks are something straight out of science fiction. Where have you people been all this time? I can’t help wondering. 

I’m snapped out of my fascination by a hard slap on my hand. I look to see Elyssa’s eyes bulging with fury at me. I’m backing away when she grabs my hand and pulls me towards her until she’s breathing right up my nose.

“Agnes nearly got shot because she saw you fall to the ground and thought you’d been hurt. She didn’t even care about Damon or A.J. or anybody else, she ran out to kill or be killed for you. And you treat her like this?”

“I told her to do what she wants to do. I’m doing what I want. You can do what you want. What’s wrong with that?”

Elyssa steps closer, puts her hands to either side of my face. Her fingers dig into my flesh. “You know how many of us followed you out? All of us. Every one of those boys will follow you to the ends of the earth—never mind little old baby-mama me, and that precious little girl back there who calls you ‘Daddy.’”

Elyssa’s fingers constrict as she twists the skin back over my cheeks. “You know this, too. I know you know it. Did you enjoy your moment, sweetie?”

“Elyssa,” I hear Agnes say.

Elyssa lets go of my face. I’m rubbing at my cheeks as she confronts Agnes. “Our husband is too much of a man to admit this to himself, but he’d really like a squeeze of the hand, a peck on the cheek, anything to let him know Wife Number One still cares. You used to do all that before you pushed him away the first time.”

“So I take it you’re okay with all of us packing up and leaving with these strangers?” says Agnes. 

“A.J. told me about the bears. The first thing out of her mouth was, ‘We have to go.’ If Derek says we have to go, too, then that’s it. We’re going.”

Agnes jaw drops. “A.J. told you? She didn’t think to come to her own mother?”

“She didn’t want you yelling at her Daddy for letting her go out scouting the area with him.”

“Oh.”

Elyssa grabs Agnes by the arms, turns her around, and shoves her roughly into me. “Now,” says Elyssa, “you two need to hug each other like you mean it. Everyone’s scared enough without mommy and daddy fighting.”

“She’s got a point,” I whisper down at Agnes.

“I should kick her ass for pushing me like that.”

“I heard that,” says Elyssa. 

It’s a miracle anyone can hear anything with all these choppers over the city. I look down at Agnes. Her blue-green eyes are watery as she frowns back at me. “Dammit, Derek.”

“Yeah, I know,” I say. I drop my arms, but Agnes lunges and kisses me. She squeezes my hands before letting go, like she did before it got cold last year.

“There,” says Elyssa. “You both feel better now, right?”
Agnes and I nod. 

“Good. I need to see about moving the little ones and their things.” Elyssa kisses us each on the cheek. “Now you two be nice to each other and make sure no monsters get our babies.” She turns and walks back to the house.

Agnes watches her go. “I couldn’t move like that when I was that big. I swear, I had to pee every two minutes.”

“Agnes, I’m—”

“Don’t say it. As far as we’re concerned the last 15 minutes didn’t happen.”

“Deal,” I say. I begin walking towards Col. Dietzen’s SUV. 

Agnes reaches for my hand and we walk across the yard towards Col. Dietzen, where his boys and our boys gather about the big screen in the comm truck. To think I’ve been judging poor Teresa. We’ve all got to get over ourselves. Ready or not.


NEXT EPISODE: “Freak Shows”

For the price of a happy hour drink you can enjoy many delirious hours slashing and shooting your way through the delightful hellscapes of my first two SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER books, available in Kindle and paperback from Severed Press. We commence the crash of civilization in Bleeding Kansas, wherein our intrepid hero, Derek Grace, must survive a plane crash, combat with the undead at the local Wal-Mart, an exploding fire truck, a female hardbody assassin, and lots of walking dead people-things.

Book 1 has ONE exploding head
on its cover.


I’m told it reads even better in German. This edition from Luzifer Verlag also sports a hellacious one-of-a-kind cover courtesy of ace artist Michael Schubert:
You can buy this German version stateside here.
You know you wanna.

Book 2, Grace Among the Dead, steps up the game with a tale of love and redemption, the living dead, and a flame-throwing monster truck. We’ve got an arc going from decadence to...respectability?...for our hero. As close as it gets, anyway. You should savor this big book o’ hell while it lasts, because things are about to go completely to shit.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?


They’re also available in Canada and the UK.

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