Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Chapter 5 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Oyster Crackers” Part 3: “When Elyssa Met Agnes”

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE: Chapter 5.2: “Sleeping Arrangements of the Damned”

She drove by the school where her younger brother was, only to realize school had already been closed for a couple of days. Elyssa tried his number on her cell but the call went straight to voice mail.

It was still Thursday afternoon, 24 hours away from the mass resurrection, but Elyssa understood. “I saw things,” she said. “Behind windows. In backyards. While I was riding around looking for places that were open. I’d thought I was just imagining things, but after going home, I knew.”

Elyssa drove the deserted streets to her best friend’s house, but she already knew that wasn’t going to work out.

“Marlene wanted to stay with some boys she knew, because she figured they wouldn’t be scared like us. We might have to…do stuff with them, but at least we’d be safe. She wanted me to drive her over. I did, and I left her there. I couldn’t go in. I knew some of these kids from school. Five years after graduation, and they were still hanging out, smoking, drinking, sitting in front of the TV. All they had going for them was being too stupid to be afraid, and mean enough to kill. They were just boys.”

Although the streets were empty, it occurred to Elyssa that she was going to see a lot more people like her father around. “I had a feeling,” said Elyssa. “If everyone was sick like Daddy….”

“You left your house, just like that. Do you even know what happened to your brother? Look, I’m not judging. I left my—”

“You left your wife sick at home with your children while you left town to interview for a job. Everyone knows.”

“I was just wondering how you did it.”

“I’d known Marlene since pre-school. Don’t forget her.”

“Right, okay.”

“It was over,” Elyssa said, almost as a shout. “I saw it in my father’s face. That wasn’t him, he was gone. Some monster, that stupid Flu had him. Now Mom was dead, too, and the same thing’s happening to her, she’s coming back like…I didn’t need to see that. Her arm....”

Elyssa looked into the gathering dark outside the window. “My brother, Lyle, he didn’t care when the cancer laid Mom out for the last year of her life, he didn’t care when Dad got sick. He was out running with his little wolf pack. I’d be surprised if he or Marlene or anyone I knew made it past the first weekend.”

“I’m sorry you had to lose so many people,” I say. Aside from a couple of college-era friends back east and three step-cousins, I’ve had no one to mourn but Claire, Sybil, and Jack, and our cats, Dexter, Midnight, and Jelly Bean. On one hand, that’s pretty fucking sad. On the other, so what? It’s more than enough.

“I thought I should feel guilty that my family’s part in this was over,” said Elyssa. “That I already knew what happened to everybody. That all I had to do was dig in and wait for the worst to pass. Except I didn’t have anywhere to go. All I knew is I couldn’t go back to where I’d been. All this time taking care of other people, and I had no idea how to take care of myself. I needed somebody to do this with, and I was alone.”

Elyssa took a breath. “You want to know how I kept on,” she said. “Both of my parents dead, and my brother, and even my best friend gone away with mean and worthless people who didn’t even love them like I did? It was walking into the gas station to pay the man with the last of my cash and finding Agnes looting the store.”

“You’ve been with her that long?” I said. “I didn’t know that.”

“She was crying. Can you imagine? The first time I saw her, Agnes was hysterical. There was no one at the counter. Stuff was all over the floor. All the medications were gone. She’d left her eight-year-old girl to watch her five-year-old son. He was deathly ill. She needed something to break the fever.

“All I could think of was my father on his knees by my mother’s bedside, so I told her she needed to get home right away. She said she had to get him something; she’d just go down the street. I remembered the Tylenol and Motrin I’d had in the pharmacy bag. She offered me all the cash she had for it and I said, no, I’d follow her back to her place, but we had to leave now.

“Luckily, nothing had happened by the time we got back. Poor Dylan was in his last coma, though. He wasn’t taking anything. I told Agnes what happened to my father, and what he did to my mother. She didn’t want to believe it, but she’d seen some of the same things. The people with their arms up, chasing people out of their houses, taking others down behind the windows.”

“Elyssa,” I said. “Agnes has never told me the details of how her son died. Only that he had died the same night they were going to see a monster truck show at the World Arena. She took care of it. That’s all I need to know. All right?”

“You just don’t want to hear it,” she said. 

“I’ll bet Agnes would rather you didn’t make me hear it, either.”

“This is all part of a larger point. You have to know.”

“Right.” I glanced back out the window. Too cold, wet, and dark to excuse myself into the woods. I thought of going back into the main house on the pretext of thanking Agnes for the chowder sitting heavy in my gut. 

I felt her hand squeezing mine. “Please don’t be angry with me,” she pleaded in her normal, Sweet Elyssa voice. “There’s a happy ending to this. I promise.”

“Let go of my hand,” I said.

I flexed my hand, rubbed my fingers. I was reminded of when that dead woman in the Walgreens had grabbed my arm and left a mark to last all summer long. This had been bad enough. Here I was snowbound in a cabin with a yet another PTSD-afflicted young woman insisting on telling me depressing stories about my even more PTSD-afflicted wife—a woman I wasn’t even sure was my wife anymore, because why else would I be stuck in this cabin with this strange woman I’ve never really gotten to know until (God help me) now? 

“All right,” I told her. “I’m listening. Get it over with already.”

NEXT EPISODE: “Oyster Crackers” Part 4: “Dark Agnes Emergent”

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 collapse 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.