Thursday, February 04, 2016

Chapter 7 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Lunch, Love, and Reckoning”

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE: Chapter 6: “Pajama Girl and the Black Chinook Moving Company”

“What’s on your mind, Agnes?” I say, halfway through my grilled shrimp.

“What do you mean?”

“You ran Brother Christopher off. You want to talk about something.”

“I wanted you to eat your dinner before it gets cold.”

“Oh.” I look at my little medallion of filet mignon, which I’m somehow expected to cut with a plastic knife.

“I’m not going to have you falling out because your blood sugar is low. It’s bad enough you haven’t done any close-up fighting in months.”

So I eat, or try to, feeling more than a little self-conscious with two women watching me do it. Of all the absurd scenes as this world descends further into madness, I’m eating a filet mignon medallion with two hands off of thick paper plate.

Elyssa takes my plate as I finish and follow with a few chugs from the water bottle. 

“Better,” says Agnes. 

“What now?”

“Am I irritating you?”

“A little, yes.”

“Good. That’s the man I hope to stay married to.”

“Cut the crap, Agnes. Get your nag on and get it over with.” Elyssa smacks my hand lightly for that one.

“Is it so wrong I don’t want you getting killed?”

“No, but I’m past giving a fuck by this point.”

“That’s what I want to hear, Derek Grace.”

Agnes’ face is flush, but her voice is steady. “I saw you in the bedroom looking around, mooning over whatever used to be. I wanted to smack you. I thought we both agreed we weren’t going to be here forever. So then….”

Agnes pauses to get her breath. “So then we go outside and one of those…things is right there in the yard. There goes everyone’s hero, pulling out a blade he hasn’t used in months and hasn’t sharpened once. Then those jackboots come running out of the house with the furniture and you’re standing there grinning at them like a little kid and…I swear, Derek, what was going through my mind, I didn’t know if we were going to have to shoot you right then and there after he bit your ear off, or wait until you turned. I’d already given up when Christopher pulled his gun!”

“I fucked up, I get it. What do you want from me?”

“Derek, if you’re wandering around in the past in your head or whatever, I’d like you to go back to whatever you were doing that got you through Kansas. You’ve never talked to me about it. Which is fine; I respect it’s the kind of thing you don’t ask about. I know.”

I shrug. “Nothing to tell.”

“All I’m asking,” she says, “is you go back to that place in your head. Whatever made you cold and mean enough to get across 600 miles. Whatever got the attention of those people in Wyoming.”

“What’s wrong with how I was when I met you?”

“Derek, I love you, but please understand when I tell you, you got lucky.”

“It never occurred to you I was lucky to escape Kansas?”

“Derek, I’ve seen this with my own eyes. You’ve mellowed. Despite everything we’ve been through, you’ve lost your anger. I need you pissed-off, hating the world, mad as hell again. Be mad at me if that helps. I don’t care. I can’t have you getting soft.”

Elyssa makes a noise. “That’s never been a problem with me.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” says Agnes.

“Okay, you two,” I say. I push myself up. I walk out to the low wall before the drop and look out over the city. More helicopters are heading back north than they are coming in. I see one hovering low a little to our south. 

A plume of smoke leaves its side. I see the fireball before I hear the boom. I almost miss that from the loud cheering of the boys at the comm truck. I presume the destruction of the apartment building and the swarm around it was even more spectacular from the point of view of the drone camera.

Agnes climbs down from the rock. Elyssa is oblivious to the carnage below; she’s disappointed she didn’t get anything else to eat. As soon as her bare feet touch earth again, however, she comes up behind Agnes and hugs her.

“Agnes,” I say, “I know you’re upset that I don’t hate you for your Grand Plan not working last fall. You didn’t find Sybil and Jack for me. You want us all toughening up so we don’t have to depend on technology, and here we barely made it through the winter with solar power running during the day.”

I step up to Agnes. Elyssa grins mischievously over her shoulder while still holding Agnes about the waist. “I say we should all be grateful we made it this far. We lost two people this winter, but it could have been a damn sight worse.” 
Elyssa’s smile fades. She releases Agnes and steps around to stand beside her.

“As it is,” I tell Agnes, “your plan is back on track. We’ve found Sybil and Jack. We’re finally getting out of here. We’re still going somewhere with a six to seven month-long winter, but we’ll work on that once we collect Sybil and Jack.”

“If they’ll let us get that far,” says Agnes. 

“As I see it, whether we make it or not is not up to them. We’ll take Dietzen’s food, fuel, and assistance. What we’re not taking is orders. That edgy enough for you?”

“How long do you expect us to be on the trail?” says Elyssa.

“I don’t even know where in Wyoming we’re going yet,” I say. “I’m still working out how we’re going to bypass Denver. There’s no way we can just jam straight through on the Interstate.”

“Actually, that might be our best bet,” says Agnes. “If I’ve got enough fuel—”

“What about the babies?” says Elyssa. 

Agnes looks at Elyssa, then at me.

I look at both of them. “Listen carefully. We need to prepare ourselves to take casualties. As in ‘fatalities.’”

Elyssa gasps, puts one hand to her belly, another out to Agnes. Agnes, for her part, stands stock still. 

“You want to know what’s been preoccupying me,” I say, “it’s that I know we’ve been lucky. We need to come to terms with the fact we’re going to lose people on this trip. Maybe one or more of the children. Maybe especially one or more of the children. 

“When this happens, we need to keep a steep upper lip and keep going. It’s bad enough there’s total strangers out there who want to see us cry because it entertains them. We can’t let ourselves get killed for our own grief.” 

I look at Agnes. “I know. I need to take my own advice. This is just my way of telling you that you’re right.”

Elyssa sniffs, but otherwise maintains her composure. Agnes lifts her chin slightly. “We will stay together as a family tonight,” she says. “All of us. Wherever we make camp. If we have to take off in the middle of the night I don’t want us separated.”

Elyssa leans over to kiss Agnes on the cheek. “I need to go see about the little ones,” she says. Wiping her eyes and nose with a napkin she’s had stashed in the pocket of her shift, Elyssa looks at me with a smile that she seems to have a hard time maintaining both sides of. “We’re all going to live,” she says. “We’re not letting anything happen to anyone.”

“We’re going to give this everything we’ve got, Elyssa. That’s all I can promise you.”

“I love you both so very much.” She hugs Agnes, who reciprocates this time. Then Elyssa walks over to me. I’m expecting a simple embrace but she kisses me full on the mouth. I look over at Agnes. She’s already turned her back. Thank God, because Elyssa is very insistent. 

She breaks off, then matter-of-factly gathers the paper plates and trash from the rock. Elyssa turns, and—God help us all—skips away towards the big black plastic bag Dietzen’s people have out for waste. I watch as she skips away from there to where the women are gathered about their trucks. Jenny and Melinda are already supervising the loading of the baby gear, including one truck packed with nothing but bales of disposable diapers.

“How the hell does her fat pregnant ass do that?” Agnes whispers under her breath. 

“Being a force of nature has its perks.”

“Stop pretending nothing just happened,” Agnes says.

“Oh, goddamn it,” I say. I’m walking away when Agnes grabs my hand. I turn to face her and she takes me in her arms.

“I mean,” she says, “stop being so nervous about it. I’m the one who sicced her on you, remember?”

Because I still want you around, even if we’re not sleeping together. “It’s awkward, all right? Especially when I want a kiss from the woman I married.”

“You’re married to both of us,” she says. “You and Elyssa didn’t get a ceremony, but it’s ‘til death do you part, all the same.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Does that mean you’re coming home to me tonight?”

“I dunno. I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t overthink it.” She reaches up and kisses me. Like she did in the truck almost a year ago, a quick taste of tongue and done. I’m leaning in for more when she puts her hand on my chest. “Oh, no. Take it out on the bad people, living and dead. Your queen commands you.”

“My queen? Like hell!”

“Exactly.” Agnes squeezes my arm, and we begin walking together towards the comm truck. She holds my arm like a blind person might. It would be funny, but this is Agnes, and she is showing as much public display of affection as she can handle.

I admit to being a bit nervous myself as we approach Col. Dietzen. He’s flanked by two cameramen and a guy with a microphone boom, and everyone seems to be waiting on us.

“Your timing couldn’t be better,” says Dietzen. “Let’s get as many of your people behind you as we can. Ethan? Justin?Yes, come on over. Let’s see if we can get this in one shot.”

NEXT EPISODE: Chapter 8, “Insults Large and Insidious”

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.