Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chapter 15.2 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Monument Hill”

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

PREVIOUS EPISODE: “Ride to Live, Kill to Ride”


“What’s going on?” I say.

“Almost there,” says Agnes.

“There’s these weird-looking planes in the sky,” says A.J. “Lots and lots of them.”

“Oh, great.” I could try climbing into the cockpit, but it would be dicey getting through the hatch. To pull myself up I need both hands on the platform, and I don’t trust my elbows.

The air darkens again. There’s another boom, this one much closer. Either from where we just left, or close enough. Agnes drives faster.

“You okay down there?” she says.

“You’re asking now?”

“Not much further. We can see Monument from here.”

Scuzz’s shotguns are quiet. I don’t see any more stragglers. Our engines roar louder as the road slopes upward into the Monument/ Tri-Lakes area. It’s not a steep climb. It was easy enough for commuting cannibal corpses, even in the days when they took the paths of least resistance to their meat.

With that, and all the open country, no one we knew tried to settle here. Enough people used to live along the long, seemingly empty roads out here to create enough undead that would surely encircle one’s hideout from across the open, rolling fields. Now this is suddenly safe, and the concealing woods of Black Forest are infested. It’s an upside-down world.

We’re coming into the commercial area around the main exit. Where we want to be is a little beyond that. Agnes doesn’t start slowing down until we come to a slight bend in the road. After this, it straightens out again, and there’s the sign announcing the highest point along the I-25 corridor in Colorado, along with a line of military vehicles lined up across the north and southbound lanes, all facing south towards Colorado Springs.

The motorcycles slow down faster than we do, but that’s fast enough where I am, as the ladder now pulls the other way beneath my feet. At last, Agnes brings Mom’s Taxi to a halt, and I drop to the asphalt. I walk out from under the front of the truck, shaking the ache and sting from my hands.

“Well, that’s one hell of an entrance, Mr. Grace,” says a familiar voice.

“Col. Grinnell,” I say, squinting in the sunlight. “Good to see you, too.”

“You missed the air show.”

“My daughter filled me in.” I look up and around. The sky is empty overhead, but the southern horizon is smudged with the swarm of UAVs over Colorado Springs. Toadstools of orange and black sprout throughout Black Forest and points south. The area we were in minutes ago is a fat column of smoke and flame.

“Walk with me?” says Col. Grinnell. “Everyone might as well stretch their legs while we get them loaded up.” He nods towards Mom’s Taxi. “Bring the family.”

I wave at Agnes and A.J. Both are slow to get going but I can tell they’re ready to get out of the cockpit after having spent what seems the better part of the day up there. Elyssa is already out of the SUV and running towards me. She throws her arms around me, squeezes—and just when I brace myself for the big wet kiss to follow, she slaps me hard on the face. “How dare you put yourself in harm’s way like that. Don’t you ever do that again!”

“Had to give ‘em a show,” I say, rubbing my cheek. I look at the colonel. “How much of our road trip did you get on camera?”

“They got their show,” says Col. Grinnell. “You’ve earned your ride. If you still want to take it, that is.”

“Of course.”

The colonel turns to the first lieutenant standing next to him. “Go supervise the load-out.”

“Sir.”

“We may yet pull our survival from the jaws of inevitability,” Col. Grinnell says as the young man walks away. He nods towards Elyssa’s SUV. “I believe your own lieutenant has something he needs to report.”

I turn to see Melinda’s tear-streaked face from between Teresa and Tiffany and the other women who comfort her. Next to them, Christopher stands with Ethan and the rest of the moon roof shooters. A few glance back, but can’t seem to hold eye contact. 

“It’s all right,” says the colonel. “I’ll wait.”

“Thanks.” I turn and walk towards Brother Christopher. A loud sniff to my side reminds me that Elyssa is holding onto my arm. I look down at her. Whatever anger she was carrying has dissolved into pure grief. I have an idea her outburst at me has a lot to do with what I’m about to hear next.

“All right,” I say as I approach. “Who did we lose, and why am I just now finding out about it?”

“Sir,” says Brother Christopher, “it was Justin and Rene. We lost their truck, too. There was nothing anyone could do.”

“That’s part one of my question,” I say. Elyssa’s hands tighten about my arm.

“Sir, for what’s it worth, I did notify you about the…situation. If you didn’t hear about it….” 

“You didn’t hear about it,” says Agnes behind me, “because there was nothing you could do. We had to clear the way out front so everyone could move. Justin and Rene sacrificed themselves to keep the families in the convoy from being eaten alive while we did that. Scuzz’s people were already engaged, along with the shooters in the two trucks closest to the action. You going out and getting mixed up in that wasn’t going to save them.”

“Anything else I need to know that someone might not be telling me about, Christopher?” I reach across with my free hand to pat Elyssa’s hands on my other arm before she squeezes off the circulation. She releases her grip, and steps over towards Melinda, Teresa, and Tiffany.

“Honestly, sir, there’s not much to tell. Rene took Melinda’s keys and pushed her out of the truck before the dead from the side and the rear began swarming. I think they knew they were making a last stand.” Christopher looks away towards the southern horizon, towards the pillars of smoke and flame rising from where we once were. “At least they didn’t die for nothing,” he says. “If it wasn’t for them and Scuzz’s people, we could have been in real trouble.”

“Scuzz lose anyone?”

“They lost three people, two bikes.”

“Shit.”

“Along with Melinda and Rene’s truck, we lost a crate of that NATO ammo. We’d divided up the first one, but left the other with Melinda and Rene because….” Christopher pauses. “We figured if anyone needed it, they did. I like to think it was quick.”

Wouldn’t we all, I think. We both know it wasn’t. 

We share an awkward moment of silence before Christopher says, “I wish I could have been there fighting for them, too, sir. You saw yourself, though, we had hands full where we were.”

“Right,” I say. I turn to approach Melinda, her head on Teresa’s shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I tell her. She sniffs in acknowledgment. 

I clap Agnes on the arm. “I’m going out, honey. Don’t wait up.” I smile for whatever cameras are watching and turn away.

“What? Derek, wait.”

I meet Col. Grinnell where he stands with his phone. He looks up as I approach and we resume walking south back towards the commercial area, along the shoulder of the northbound lanes. 


NEXT EPISODE: “The Third Stage Is Called ‘Bargaining’”



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.

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