Saturday, February 06, 2016

Chapter 8 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Insults, Large and Insidious”

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE: Chapter 7: “Lunch, Love, and Reckoning”

“Okay, there’s you, Miss Agnes, Brother Christopher—where’s the Godwin girl?”

“Who?” someone says. 

“The extremely pregnant one running around with no shoes on.”

“Mrs. Grace,” Agnes says sharply, “is supervising the transport of the children.”

“Oh,” the colonel says, smiling a little too rudely for my tastes, “I forget there are two of you.”

“Your audience hasn’t,” I say. 

The colonel opens his mouth to say something but I step forward into his space. “Her name is Elyssa Grace. She’s a grown woman, the mother of my child, and she is at no one’s beck and call. Are we clear on that?”

My colonel’s eyes narrow at me. “I feed you, my colleagues provide you ammunition and air cover, and this is how you talk to me?”

It hadn’t occurred to me there still might be people out there who feel they can talk down and insult anyone their lordships please, but when you snap back at them it’s all about your language and attitude. Well, all right, then. I straighten, grin, and slap the colonel on his arm. “You’re right,” I say. “We’re done.”

I turn my back on Col. Dietzen and address Brother Christopher. “How’s our fleet, Brother?”

“Fueled, loaded, ready when you are, sir. Mama Elyssa’s getting the women and children settled in, but she’ll have that done by the time we saddle up.” Christopher looks suspiciously at Col. Dietzen. “Honestly, I don’t know why we’re delaying. We only have so much daylight left if we’re going to Wyoming.”

“Well, Brother,” I say, smiling brightly for whatever cameras on me, “I don’t know where we’re going, but we can’t stay here. We’ll talk about it on the way.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Grace, I apologize,” says the colonel as Agnes takes my arm again. “I spoke inappropriately. I meant no disrespect.”

Like hell you didn’t, but I turn around anyway. 

“What I wanted from all of you before we left was a word on today’s anniversary. You know what today is, don’t you?”

“Saturday,” says Ethan. The venom he puts into that one simple word startles me. Looking around, I realize what made Col. Dietzen, this proud son of America’s gated communities, apologize to his lessers. The faces of Ethan, Justin, and all of Brother Christopher’s crew are dark with the rage that boils up when someone you thought was a good man shows his true colors. To be fair, the colonel couldn’t know that Elyssa Marie Godwin Grace, aside from cutting their hair and keeping them photogenic, looks after the wives and children of these young men. Agnes may have given birth first but it’s Elyssa who owns the title “Mama.” 

“That’s all?” says Col. Dietzen. “Saturday?”

“Saturday, May ninth,” I say. “What’s the big deal requiring a group photo op?”

Col. Dietzen is incredulous. Even the people behind him step up to hear. “You mean you don’t know what happened on this date one year ago?”

“You mean Bad Friday? Of course we remember.”

Col. Dietzen trades astonished glances with his chief master sergeant. “We call it the Fall,” says the colonel. “You’re telling me you don’t observe this in any way?”

“We honor the memory of our dead by going on with our lives the best we know how. You want to do a little boo-hoo ceremony for the cameras for everyone crying along at home, knock yourself out. We’re out of here.”

“Huh. Really?” says the colonel. I see a small smile playing about his face. “Do you even know where you’re going?” 

“We’re going to rendezvous with our people at Abundant Life. If it seems safe enough, and there’s room, we might stay the night before pushing on at first light.”

The colonel pales slightly, even as he asserts a sterner tone. “While it is true we’re not going all the way to the Redoubt tonight, we can’t stay at the church. Everyone needs to be on Monument Hill by sunset tonight.”

“You have a designated camp site set up?”

“Full perimeter protection with air support. If you can make the rendezvous.”

“We’re leaving in ten minutes. Looks to me like you’re the ones keeping up.”

“This is a major move, Mr. Grace. We do have one last thing to attend to. He nods at a technical sergeant just inside the door of the comm truck. The sergeant brings out a box full of—white touchscreen phones?

Another sergeant begins handing them out among us. I take mine while raising an eyebrow at Col. Dietzen.

There’s a sweet little smirk on the colonel’s face as he addresses us all. “This is more than a simple 4G, unlimited talk, text, and data phone provided at the expense of the Provisional Government. It’s your electronic pass to enter the Redoubt and use the services there. Most of all, and for our purposes today, it enables communication. If we have to make a change in plans, we need to get that out to everyone immediately.”

Some of our people turn these on immediately, and are surprised to see their names come on the screen. “Facial recognition technology,” says Col. Dietzen. “The Provisional Government knows who everyone is. As soon as you turn on your phone it identifies and downloads all data for the ultimate electronic ID. Of course, if you see any discrepancies in your profile, just press star-6, and we’ll update your info.”

 Brother Christopher scowls at his phone as if he’s debating throwing it away, or discreetly dropping it in his pocket without turning it on. I catch his eye as I tuck my phone into the back of my jeans. We don’t have time for dramatic gestures.

 “You’re going to have to turn it on sometime,” says Dietzen. “It’s your golden ticket to the good life, because you’re not getting in otherwise. How many of you aren’t here right now?”

We take the extra phones for them. They had exactly enough for all of us, which I don’t think is coincidental. At least the babies don’t need them. Not until they’re six years old, which means A.J. gets one. 

“They’re fully charged,” says Col. Dietzen, “so go ahead and turn them on. They’ve got top-of-the-line batteries in them, but I don’t think we’re in any danger of someone’s phone dying from playing games over the Internet. Which, by the way, you can do. We’ll pass out the chargers for these when we get to where we’re going tonight.”

“Good to know,” I say. “Try not to take too long catching up with us.”

“You’ll be fully covered once you reach the bottom of the hill. I’ll meet you at the clubhouse at 1400.”

“Right. See you there.”

I look among Brother Christopher, Ethan, and Justin. I nod my head towards the trucks as we walk away. Nothing will be said until we’re sure we’re out of earshot. 

Which, come to think of it, might not be possible with these phones, whether we turn them on or not. These Provisional Government assholes have thought of everything else. 

I walk over to the nearest truck, the one with the topper filled with all the disposable diapers, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene products. I take my phone out of my pocket and put it on the wide back bumper. I motion for everyone to quietly do the same. 

“Sir?” says Ethan. He hands me my panga. The carbon coating is gone along the edge where he sharpened it. I’m about to test it when Ethan says, quickly, “I wouldn’t do that, sir.”

I set the panga on my belt. The Dead Silencer re-taking possession of his signature weapon would have made a nice set piece for the colonel, but the boys are determined to deny him that. Dietzen fucked up when he disrespected Mama Elyssa.

Once all the phones are laid out, with some overflow on the next truck’s rear bumper, I lead everyone around to where Elyssa and the other women of our camp are standing, babes in arms, chatting somberly among each other. 

Elyssa is quite shamelessly breast-feeding Damon. Her face lights up when she sees Agnes and me. It’s at this moment I realize Agnes has been hanging onto my arm since we walked away from Dietzen. She loosens her grip, but doesn’t let go as I stop to stand alongside Elyssa, and turn to face our family.

They know their lives have changed. They have no idea how severely. It’s an uncomfortable stretch of dead air before I can think of where to begin.

NEXT EPISODE: Chapter 9, “All Downhill from Here”

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.