Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Chapter 18.2 of The WRONG KIND of DEAD: “Fear the Reapers” Part 2

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

Multiple streaks of white race into the tall ridges over the town where the residents once lived. As the flames from gas mains and the thermite bombs bloom and burst, more rocks comes tumbling down to smother them. Fire still manages to erupt from the rubble, one yellow-orange finger at a time.

“We had teams competing here,” says Col. Grinnell. “One to set the fires, the others to try and put them out. In the end, we buried 30,000 rotters and blocked the road up to Pikes Peak. The most delicious irony of all is that this will be all-natural, gluten-free land in a decade or two. You’ll never know there was a town here. Oh, you better believe I’m proud to have headed this project.”

“What would your wife think?” says Agnes.

“I’d wondered why you were so quiet. You didn’t strike me as the traditional type who lets her husband do all the talking.”
“I’m not. I just really hate talking to you people.”

Col. Grinnell laughs. “I can’t say I blame you, Mrs. Grace. As it is, my lovely wife, Dot, will never know what happened here. Like your current husband, I, too, have lost my wife to the Final Flu.”

“I’m sorry to hear that—right?”

“Dot’s abhorrent taste in weekend shopping destinations aside, she was the mother of my children, the keeper of hearth and home while I skipped about the planet incinerating people for fun and profit. In 34 years of marriage, all she ever asked of me when I was stateside was to work the outdoor grill and take out the trash.” The colonel’s smile is tight, joyless. “Damn near every man I’ve met in the service, commissioned and otherwise, had some kind of gold-digging, cheating-whore drama going on with their women. Dot was the real deal. One in a million.”

“I take it you were deployed when she passed,” I say.

“It was just a cold, right? Some crud going around. Everyone else had it, how bad could it be? The next thing I know, I’ve got an unscheduled top priority landing. The people in my unit who were sick were gathered up and shipped out quick in one flight. The rest of us got thoroughly checked out by a crew in hazmat suits before they disappeared into the night. Mr. Grace, I’m commander of one of the more elite intelligence support units and I don’t know what the howling fuck is going on. That’s one big mushroom cloud of a red flag, you think?”

“How many days was it between the onset of the Flu and when your people were airlifted out?”

“Let’s cut right to it. The powers that be knew what was up with this so-called Mayday Malaise. My people weren’t sick two days before they cleared them out. It was earlier in some places, later in others. One universal across all the services was that the sick were collected and taken away.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. They were never seen again.”

“Shit.”

“No sooner do their wheels leave the ground, when we get orders. By ‘we,’ I mean us fortunate few. We would report to flights going to destinations listed only as ‘classified.’”

“What happened to the others?”

“Left behind to fight or fall when the mobs of eaters went on the move. The ones who survived that first weekend got the privilege of doing some more surviving in an outpost somewhere else. A lot more made it than I thought would.”

“Shit.”

“I realize now I had as much freedom as they did. Anyway, it’s a tale as old as humanity, isn’t it? The story of the man caught miles behind enemy lines when the shit hits the fan, who battles all manner of bad craziness only to find his family gone. Or worse.”

“You say not everyone got the orders. Didn’t you lose a third of your people, along with the rest of the population? It seems to me the people in charge need all the manpower they could get.”

“They didn’t need everyone, Mr. Grace. Just people of a certain...pedigree.” Col. Grinnell lifts an eyebrow. “Thank you, by the way, for showing such focus of inquiry in the face of me telling you how my wife died while I was far away and couldn’t help her. I reach out to you with that, and you’re not having it.”

“Colonel, I mean no disrespect—”

“I know you don’t,” he says. “Hell, I admire your focus. Still, they know you love your family as much as mine, and you have a lot more of them to lose than I do. They’ve only got the one with me. My daughter ran out of the house when she came upon her mother eating her grown brother on the floor of the kitchen. I almost lost her, too, but they very sensibly found her and picked her up. Good for them.”

“Jesus!”

“Oh, let’s not bring Him into it. Besides, we’re coming upon the whole point of you two being up here. You need to understand the impact of the decision you made to come with us. By the way, do you see Woodland Park over there?”

I push myself up from the deck to stand and look out the portside windows. Another mass of flame writhes and pulses in perfect color coordination with the sun behind the Front Range. “I guess the scavengers in this area are just going to have to do without for the next 100 miles or so.”

“More than that,” says Col. Grinnell. “If there’s so much as a 7-Eleven by the side of the road, we’re taking it out. All the way to Cripple Creek, as far as this operation goes.”

“Why so hard on the scavengers? Even we weren’t quite at the point where we were making our own toilet paper.”

“The official answer is, ‘We do not leave bait for a food source that the dead will be attracted to.’” Grinnell clicks a button. “Mr. and Mrs. Grace, I now bring you the Main Event. Let there be no question regarding the nature of whom you’re dealing with here.”

It’s a night-vision view of a camp with a large bonfire in the middle. Motorcycles are parked in a radiant about the fire, along with a few trucks.

“Scuzz?” I say. 

“Oh, no,” says Agnes. “For God’s sake, you’re not—”

The missile flies right into the heart of the bonfire and detonates in a bright creamed spinach-colored blaze. As the camera lens recovers from the flash, only dark spots among other flaming dark spots remain in view.

“While I get to do whatever I want regarding the obliteration of infrastructure targets, there’s a separate group concerned only with anti-personnel. These drone operators have people standing over them enforcing one general order—if they’re not one of us, they’re a target. No one living or dead walks away from this. Now, Mr. Grace, imagine you sitting up here by yourself watching your family, your whole camp getting blown up.”

“But why?” I say. “How are free-range humans interfering with anything the Redoubt is doing?”

“Mr. Grace, the meetings where these things are decided are above my pay grade. Suffice it to say the powers that be don’t like anyone on the outside that they don’t control.” A beeping comes from his laptop. “Oh, one more thing,” the colonel says. “Look at this. You know what that is, right?”

It’s the Summit House on top of Pikes Peak. Claire and I used to stand on our back patio and watch the fireworks show they did every New Year’s Eve. We’d talked about riding the cog rail train up and renewing our vows there on our next milestone anniversary.

Three missiles slam into the building, with a bunker-buster shot just under the rim of the summit to make the whole mess jump into the air. You’d think Pikes Peak was a volcano, and it erupted.

“I like to imagine some dumbass climbing all the way up the Barr Trail, or following the cog railway or whatever, thinking he’s going to find a roof to put over his head and maybe an old bag of potato chips at 14,000 feet.” Col. Grinnell chuckles. “You know at least one starving, desperate fool is going to get this surprise.”

“Hooray for the Air Force,” says Agnes. “To think you sick fucks have the nerve to call me ‘dark.’”

“Don’t pin this one on the Air Force,” says Col. Grinnell, sharply. “As of Bad Friday, the Fall, whatever the hell they’re calling it, there was no more Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard. Just another bunch of survivors. The difference is these poor fools are still hanging onto uniforms and command structure under a civilian leadership that doesn’t even remotely resemble our old more-or-less constitutional government.”

Col. Grinnell extends his hand. “This is where I send you back to your seats. I won’t see you after this. I’ve got briefings, debriefings, and all sorts of happy horseshit, just like my old job.”

“Thanks for everything,” I say, shaking the colonel’s hand. “I mean it.”

The colonel smiles. “I know we understand one another.” He glances over at Agnes. “Mrs. Grace does, too, which is precisely why she’s fit to paint the instrument panels in my blood. 

“Which reminds me—I didn’t allow any of those media shits on board, but they’re going to want their pound of flesh when we land. Try to make a good, regal entrance on the way down the ramp. Give them one minute and no more, because you’re going to want to get to your hotel, wash up, and get to sleep. You’ve got orientation and processing and God knows what else tomorrow.”

Grinnell nods to the sergeant standing inside the hatch. “Wait,” I say. “Will Sybil and Jack be there when we land?”

“Do they know you’re coming?”

“Well, yes. I don’t think they know what time we’re flying in, though.”

“I can’t help you with that. You’ll have to talk to Dr. Hearn when you see him.”

“All right, then. Thanks.” The sergeant leads us out. 

We thread our way through the maze of compartments until we come by the personnel area. I stop us outside the hatch. “Mrs. Grace and I need a moment before going back to our people.”

“Understood, sir,” says the sergeant. “I was wondering if you could pass something on to Brother Christopher for me.”

“I was wondering when I’d meet his fans. So what is it?”

“That Sgt. Morris and his wife Christa think he should be in charge of your group.”

“He is in charge, Sergeant,” I say. “I just make faces for the camera. I’ll pass it on, though.”

“Thank you, sir.” He turns and disappears through the opposite hatch.

Agnes looks very small with her back to the bulkhead. “Good Lord, Derek, what have we gotten ourselves into?”

I take her into my arms. “Well, just remember, I tried to keep you out of it. Sweet how that worked out, huh?”

“That’s not the least bit funny, asshole.”

I squeeze Agnes to me, kiss the top of her head. “I told you I was lucky in Kansas. We got lucky here. We’re not piles of ash or gnawed-over bones. We’re all right.”

“But what—?”

“All we have to do is meet our luck halfway. Like we’ve always done. Nothing complicated.” I look up to the overhead bulkhead for a camera. I think we’re all right, but you never know. “Except for that goddamned poker face thing.”

Agnes snorts into my shirt. I can’t tell if she’s laughing or sobbing when she says, “You and I are so dead.”

“Like hell we are. Not by a long shot.”

Agnes wipes at her eyes. “Okay, then. So what do we tell everybody out there?”

“That we witnessed the sterilization of the Pikes Peak region. We’ve completed a 360-degree tour of the area and are headed to Wyoming. We’ll land anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on exactly where we’re going. Media will be waiting. We need to get straight to the hotel, though, because we have a busy day tomorrow.”

“Good God,” says Agnes. “I have to repeat the question, don’t I? What have we gotten ourselves into?”

“Let’s go sit down. You want me to tell everybody, or can you handle this?”

Agnes straightens. “I’ve got this. You stand there and look handsome and resolute.”

“Poker face and all.”

“Yes. Poker face.”

We duck through the hatch. Elyssa, Brother Christopher, Ethan—everyone looks up at us expectantly. Even the babies, severely distressed by Lt. Hansen’s rib-crushing turn, go quiet as we enter the compartment.

Agnes releases my arm to take Damon from Elyssa. Standing close beside me, our son fidgeting into her shoulder, she briefs our family. Brother Christopher and Ethan bow their heads as Agnes describes the fiery obliteration of the place where they all grew up and went to school.

Then she tells them what to expect when we land, and in what order we should step down the ramp for maximum effect for the cameras. She explains how we will decline questions, and proceed immediately to the hotel. We’ll wash up, go to bed, and rest up for whatever’s next.

Everybody perks up at the idea of washing up and sleeping at a hotel. Hell, me, too. After a day like today, losing our homes and damn near losing our lives, a long, hot shower would be a dream come true.


AND THAT’S IT until I finish what’s left of the book. Enter the word “zombies” in the search engine block in the upper left hand part of the blog page for more lurid mayhem among the living dead.


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.

###