Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Back to the Drawing Board

An update to this blog seems like a visit from a ghost, but anyway...boo.

In recent days I received some encouragement from different people to finish what they told me was a decently written first couple of chapters to Contagion.

This word came from separate and unconnected quarters and I took it as a sort of muse signal because I had been thinking about doing just that for a few months.

So, I am going to attempt to craft a novella or short novel from the basis of these meager beginnings.

In doing so, I have understood there is some  re-writing in order.

I began the story after just arriving back in Oklahoma some six years ago and wrote off the cuff with no regard to the layout of the infrastructure in my tale--directions are wrong in a few places I have characters supposedly fleeing from Tinker AFB right back in the direction of the base, as a glaring example.

I also show a very real and genuine lack of knowledge of fire-arms which I'm sure is apparent to gun hobbyists.

There are some actual writing issues...the voice has changed from chapter to chapter because of the vast periods of time between posts, there are some plot and character incongruities.

And it needs something more elemental to good story writing as well--I'm not bothered by the fact that I borrow from a dozen tropes so much since most post apoc/zombie books/movies/games seem quite cross pollinated to the complete delight of people who like that genre and expect certain things from it, but it does need something of it's own, and I'm going to search that out.

I know what I'm writing is not literature but I don't believe the joy of storytelling is the exclusive property of a Hemingway or a Poe or a Maugham, so if someone enjoys this story--and a few people have told me they were enjoying it, then to me it is worth writing, not least of all because I was enjoying it myself!

I have decide that my re-write will begin after a personal recon of the areas in my story, street by street, train track by train track, building by building. And as the tale spreads if I cannot psychically walk or drive to these scenes, I will carefully study maps.

So, for my cousin R.B., my friend M.O. and my lovely wife, as well as for yours truly, I will begin this work immediately!

Stay tuned for the coming novel!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Part Three: Desperate Prey

Cold and numbed by wind and rain, I begin squeezing off shots at the ascending figures.

Not enough ammo to fire wild-- every second required to aim seems  to take too long.

But my aim is good after three years of killing.

I aim between their burning eyes...one by one, my marks scream and release the ladder, tumbling into the seething throng below.

They will be devoured instantly...the Night People, I learned long ago, prefer the uninfected, but any wounded or dying among them are sure prey as well.

The bark of the AR-15 has my ears ringing by the time I am at the end of my clip--  the shadows keep coming, hissing, growling.

Through the slashing rain I see some of them are scrambling over the shoulders of others, leaping from their backs upon the ladder like cats up a tree.

Sometimes they figure things out.

 And I realize that my rifle is spent.

Shaking, repeating the word "calm" in my mind over and over like I always do,   I  fumble for the next magazine...it is only seconds, but all the time one of the demons needs. 

A grisly, ashen gray arm with a long raking claw flies over the top of the ladder,  seizing my calf in an iron grip, jerking me towards the edge...the magazine slips from my wet fingers, clatters upon the catwalk inches from space.

A deformed and disease ravaged skull with sunken eyes of fire and yellow teeth suddenly confronts me, mouth wide open and reeking of carrion. The skin has shrunken over it's malformed bones until it is little more than a death mask with cat's eyes, thirsting for murder.

He is trying to bite me.

I scream curses at the creature, at Janson, and the old man opens fire.

 Two explosions... I feel the burn of flying lead and I am suddenly thrust into a realm of silence, my head reeling from the pistol's discharge next to my left ear.

But the skull face is suddenly gone, tumbling through the air with the rest of him.

Instinctively, I brush my cheeks with my shirt sleeve, frantically trying to wipe away any of its blood that might have landed on my skin, hoping the rain will keep us clean of Infection.

In the same action my other hand snatches up the wayward clip and I shove it  home.

I jerk the rifle bolt back and resume the deadly business.

One more clip for the rifle, I say to myself...none for the pistol. 

This is probably the end, but we aren't going out until the guns are out...can always jump after that.

I pick off another climber--watch him fall--then suddenly realize there is a commotion below.

Shadows lashing out at shadows on the ground.

I realize that the Night People are suddenly at war among themselves.

I am deaf to their screams, but I know what is happening.

They are fighting over the corpses.

Fighting to see who will feed.

In their sudden stampede, no more jumpers and climbers can get close enough to gain the rungs.

Janson and I are given a brief moment of respite.

You take what you can get.

I yell to him.

“Stay ready! Shoot anything that makes it halfway up!”

He cries out a reply I cannot hear.

I search the catwalk for a way to disengage the ladder. It is attached to the catwalk and the tower supports--not going to happen.

A glance at the catwalk's moorings to the tower brings a sudden rush of adrenaline and hope, however...the walkway is not completely secure.

Here and there, the bolts that hold the catwalk support legs to the tower's outer plates have been pulled halfway out; a couple are even free.

It might have been from long neglect, or it could have have been mig damage from the End

Either way, I realize, the section of the catwalk attached to the ladder is rusty, weakened—it feels secure underfoot but with Janson and I putting our feet on the railing and our backs against the tower, there is a chance that we might be able to pry it free.

A glance at the rest of the catwalk and I realize it is composed of separate segments joined together with bolts—if we can push the loose section outward, it might separate completely and drag a section of the ladder down under it's weight as it falls, isolating us upon the tower.

Or it might start a chain of disintegration that causes the entire scaffold to shred it's moorings and become an elevator to death.

Given a quick fall or confronting Night People on the catwalk, I make up my mind quickly.

Glancing back over the rail, I can see jumpers reappearing, trying to climb up over their fellows now that their dead have been dragged away from the tower base.

 The ringing in my ears is subsiding just slightly and the cries of the Night People are rising to me again.

“This segment is loose!” I yell to Janson, stamping my foot on it. “If we can shove it free with our legs, it might take the ladder down!”

Janson looks at me as if I am a Night Person.

“What!?” he cries. “We'll never jump free in time!”

“Do it!” I bellow, resisting the urge to slug him.

I can see the terror in his eyes as he reluctantly complies.

Putting one foot upon the railing and using it to balance himself, he pushes his back against the tower plates and then sets his other leg in place as I do the same.

Janson is shaking uncontrollably.

Our feet thus planted against the rail, we both begin to strain our every muscle in an effort to send the platform down.

Janson is and old man, out of shape, but adrenaline has seized him—with the two of us shoving, there comes a sound of metal creaking, and the catwalk moves slightly.

A hideous scream drifts up to us, followed by another.

Night People are scaling the ladder again.

I read Janson's mind in his panicked eyes.

“Keep pushing!” I yell over the rain. “The guns aren't going to save us now! This is is it!”

The catwalk is moving further out now, rocking back and forth as we pump our legs against the railing.

I  hear the rending of metal and the popping of moorings—beneath us, the catwalk is stretching away from the tower plates, leaving nothing but air below us.

Two glittering eyes of hatred are fixed on me from the ladder. The beast will be upon us in seconds.

“Push damn you!” I yell, and we give it the last we have.

Miracles happen.

The catwalk lurches slowly away from the tower, pieces of it falling into spaceas I push myself away from the outer plates, pulling Janson with me. 

For brief seconds, the segment hovers, temporarily suspended by the crumpling ladder.

It hangs in space just long enough for us to jump to the closest secure section; a second later, it pitches over and falls away, dragging the service ladder and the Night People clinging to it down with it.

It lands with a deafening crash and an eruption of wails from the pathetic things caught beneath it.

At the same instant, the segment of catwalk Janson and I are perched on shudders. 

Moorings pop.

The section sags outward from the tower for a second as we cling to it helplessly, not daring to move, our hands white knuckled upon the slick rails.

And then it is still again.

We scramble away from the precipice, making our way around the tower to surer footing.

Exhausted and numb, we both collapse, our lungs heaving.

 We lie in the cold rain, listening to raging of the Night People.

“Dear God,” Janson huffs. “If I hadn't met up with you, I would have been out there with...with them."

I do not reply. I only lie exhausted, completely amazed that we are alive.

"You've saved us," Janson says. "But how will we get down?” 

"With rope," I say. "I have one in my pack. When the sun is up...if we don't get hit by lightening."

After letting the strength return to my limbs, I retrieve my pack and fish out my tarp, spreading it over us and wrapping sections of it around the railing in a makeshift shelter.

And under the spattering of the Oklahoma rain, Janson and I lie awake, stiff and cold, listening to the angry calls of the inhuman savages who rage below, incensed at having been cheated of our blood. 

Once or twice I think I hear them trying to climb up the tower supports, but I am not worried about them being able to climb the smooth round columns, slick with rain.

Let them die trying, I pray, and hours later, I somehow fall into a half sleep.

                                                               *     *     *

I awaken to daylight, my limbs stiff, aching, bruised all over.

There is nothing but the sound of silence punctuated by an occasional crow call.

Janson is in even worse shape than me.

He looks pale and spent, and I can see that the ordeal has taken a toll upon him.

I nudge him to waking, and he moans in pain, stirring slowly.

I look down at the earth and see bloody remains lying crushed under the fallen catwalk.

Some of the remains have been gnawed at and devoured in the night.

There is no trace of the Night People other than this.

Once again, dawn has come to deny that they even exist.

I have nothing but two old pieces of jerky and the water in my canteen, but this will have to work for breakfast.

We consume the small meal, and  I set about rigging up the rope.

It isn't going to be easy; balanced on the loosened segment of catwalk, I double the rope up in knots and secure it on the railing in a manner that will allow us to climb down it and swing ourselves over to what is now the top of the service ladder.

We are both weak, Janson especially; the irony of dying trying to get down is suddenly almost funny to me. 

But it's now or never.

I gather up my belongings and secure them, giving Janson instructions on how to negotiate the rope.

Whatever I may think of him, he has proved he is no coward.

"You first," I say. "'ll hold onto you as long as I can while you swing over and try to catch hold of the ladder. From there you're on your own."

Janson nods, and sweating profusely, he begins his descent.

Sliding down from the catwalk, he lets go of it, trading its security for the uncertainty of the rope.

He is suddenly hanging a hundred feet above the earth, his eyes bulging in terror. 

My grip on his collar is nothing more than to steady him...if he gets weak and lets go, I will not be able to save him.

He begins to rock back and forth, slowly at first, his foot in the loop of the doubled rope and one trying to use the tower to push himself towards his goal.

Soon he is swaying to and fro, and in seconds he has swung near the ladder.

He tries to grab it with a hand and nearly falls.

The rope vibrates, taut with his weight as he looks up at me, stricken.

"Try again," I say.

This time, with what is probably the last bit of strength he has, Janson manages to swing over to the ladder and clutches at it wildly, grabbing it as if it were life itself. 

For a second, I think he will die when he tries to disengage from the rope, but somehow, he does so safely.

 Relieved and shaken he begins his descent. 

I follow him with almost no difficulties at all, leaving the rope to hang there forever as I shinny down the ladder.

At last I am on the ground again. It never felt so good.

We have interrupted the meal of the crows.

They perch in trees, cawing at us angrily, wanting to resume their carrion feast, to cleanse the earth of Night People until only innocent white bones remain.

Janson is sitting down, his back against a tree, red faced, panting, looking thin and haggard.

"Get up," I say, checking my rifle to make sure it is ready for action when the time comes. "We can't rest yet. They'll be back out tonite looking for us."

It takes everything he has but Janson is on his feet again, rubbing his bruised arms.

"We've got to find those kids," he says to me.

"Yeah, we do" I reply, "cause you've got one more day. If we don't find them by tonight, we head back to Tinker.  That was the deal."

"I...I understand," he says, grim faced.

"Now c'mon," I say. "They can't be too far ahead of us."

With our weapons ready, we start heading east again, two souls at the gates of the Underworld with the cries of hungry crows at our backs.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Story Update

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my story. I've gotten positive feedback on it and appreciate all comments. There will be a new installment up sometime tomorrow night... a full day of working and other projects has forced me to write tomorrow but the tale will continue.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Part Two:Night People

Less than a month in the  Oklahoma City ruins and I have already obligated myself to another human being…three of them,  in fact.
I have promised this Peter Janson I will help him search the city for his two foster children who snuck off Tinker military base to set out for a religious commune in the Pacific Northwest.
I think it impossible that two children could survive overnight out here with the Night People.
What's more, I don't even know whether or not my promised reward of admittance to the base will even pan out, but I have counted the slim possibility that it will as sufficiently worth the risk of aiding Janson.
We have been walking  north for nearly three hours since I met the old man.
Turns out the kids had an aunt who had lived in some loft apartments near here before The End. She died in the wars, but the kids had been very attached to her and Janson thinks they may return to her home for sentimental reasons. Several times in the past, Robert has mentioned that she had a lot of old family photo albums and that when he got older he wanted to see if they were still there.
Janson knows the kid better than I do and it’s the only lead so I follow.
 I notice right away that the old man tires easily and it slows us down far more than I would like. My usual modus operandi is to find a fortified position an hour or so before dusk and start digging in for the night, so we've got to cover as much ground as possible…
My rifle is at the ready now as I eye the doorways and windows of the ghostly tenements and malls. A familiar claustrophobic feeling settles on me as we walk, stretching my nerves taut.
I permit the old man the quiet small talk he tries to make with me as we walk. In spite of my worry of being overheard, the sound of another human voice after so long on my own has a strangely soothing effect, and although I reply sparingly, I listen to him ramble.
He is a medical doctor…worked at the base before the End, and now he helps out in the militia-ville's infirmary, which is why he is somewhat connected to Commander Villeneuve. Janson's wife died in the wars…he doesn't say how. He never had any kids.
"What about you," he asks. "Where's home, originally?"
"Washington State," I reply. "Yakima area."
"Beautiful place," he says. "Do you still have any family alive?"
The question evokes a sudden image…my mother, lying on a filthy mattress in our fortified basement, dying of a fever,  unattended by any physician.

 Suddenly, for a brief second, I am there again, holding her hand as she passes, hearing her tell me that she loves even me as she dies, my own words of love lost in the gulf that separates the dead from the living. 

And outside the barred window, the sound of claws scrabbling and inhuman growls…my terror mixed with despair because I know whose hands those are, seeking entrance frantically, seeking to rend the life from my body.

Those hands had once been human.

They were the very hands that had built the very shelter in which we cowered.

They were the hands that had held my own when I was a little boy and I was afraid of the dark...
Why am I even still sane?
 I push the memory from my thoughts.
"No," I reply. "They're all dead."
"I'm sorry," Janson says. Then, after a pause: "Where you ever married?"
Another memory is prompted by his question, but this one is not buried and locked inside like the other one.

This one I try to take out and look at every day, usually when I am sitting by a fire in a remote mountain campsite or watching the sun come up.
A pretty face, smiling at me. Soft brown hair and intelligent green eyes, washed in sunlight.
I can see us again, together.
We're at the university library. It's before the End, before the virus and the Night People were even a rumor.
The sun is shining through a nearby window and we are half heartedly searching through books of old poetry,  supposedly studying for Jan's literature class. Really we are just enjoying being around each other, laughing at little nothing  things and pretending we don't notice the disapproving glares of the old librarian woman.
We'd talked politics that day…Jan liked to do that.

 I just liked to listen to her talk.

 I'd teased her that day about being a liberal because she'd voted for Obama, and she'd chastised me for not voting at all, and for being incurably cynical about all politics.
"How's everything going to change if you don't use the system?" she'd asked. "In spite of everything, I believe it's going to get better someday."
Usually, Jan was always right and I was always wrong.
Not this time, Janice.
Emotions rush within me…I remember everything about her face and personality in the most intricate detail.
The book of Emily Dickinson poems she gave me, inscribed with the last note she wrote to me, is still in my pack, worn with use but still intact.


I can remember the day that she died as though it was yesterday.
"No," I answer Janson at last. "No, I was never married.  We'd better stop talking now. They're out there."
We reach the apartments at last…and discover that they no longer exist.
A fire has gutted them, maybe in the wars.
"I'm at a loss, then" Janson says. "Perhaps they took refuge in a nearby building."
"I don't think so," I reply, pointing.  His eyes follow mine.
Tall grass, trampled down at the edges of a vacant lot at the edge of the burned out tenements.
The city cleanup crews have been a little behind schedule since the End.  The resultant four years of unchecked urban vegetation springing up everywhere often provides the tracker a record of when and where people have passed by. Thanks to a  battered Boy Scout Field Handbook I fished from a corner book dumpster two years ago, and lots of patience, I have learned to notice and interpret signs in the growth  and the dirt  from travelers human and animal…and the in-between.
We carefully inspect the growth.

The impressions are recent, since the rainfall two days ago.

The direction in which the grass is bent indicates an eastward direction, and the marks reveal that more than one person but not more than three made them.

And they were not heavy.
Now it is Janson's turn to follow me.
The trail leads us to a train track running east and west.  Around us are the backs of a bunch of old warehouses built in the sixties and seventies. Eastward, a few feet away, my eye catches a gleam.  I go to it, stooping to retrieve it...a piece of trash.
A foil wrapper from a military ration, the stain of relatively fresh chocolate on the inside.
Janson becomes excited.
"MRE mint cookie," he says.

 MRE--Meal Ready to Eat.

Army jargon.

"Jessica took a stack of them from our flat the day they ran away!  You've found the trail, alright. But it looks like they're headed to Midwest City, if they're following the tracks--why would they go there?"
I don't know, and at the moment I don't really care.

For the last thirty minutes, the skies have been clouding, hinting at the chance of a sudden spring storm.

They're common in the the Midwest.

 The Night People sometimes come out during storms when the sun is hidden.
"Let's get moving," I say, uneasy.

We begin to walk down the tracks, watching the light of day quickly fade to the gray hue of approaching rain.
Suddenly the city's silence is shattered.
A blood curdling scream, echoing out of one of the abandoned warehouses.
The scream has the sound in it of an animal, perhaps that of a great wild cat.

And yet, within its depths is something remotely human, something lonely, at once full of both despair and rage
A second later, an answering cry rises from somewhere, also muffled by the confines of a building.

A chorus of howls and screams go up, coming from what seems like every building around us and lasting for several seconds that feel like an eternity.
Then all is silent again, except for the pounding of my blood in my ears.
"My God!" Janson says, his face etched with fear. "They can't be more than a hundred yards away!"
"They know we're here," I say, fighting down my own panic. "And it's getting darker...they'll be coming out soon. Go!"
We begin to run, or jog, actually, since Janson can't keep pace with me.

We have not gone far as I realize that the sudden onset of a storm has indeed begun.

The landscape begins to darken..the sun is creeping behind the clouds, and a peal of thunder booms.
I am suddenly and acutely aware that we have no safe shelter.

 I am not about to look for one in the old warehouses.

I begin to scour the area with my eyes, searching desperately for an out.

Only one thing catches my eye…an old metal water tower, rising high above a line of trees, a quarter mile away perhaps.
"The tower," I say.
Janson follows and we are soon running through empty lots and side streets. 

Lightning flashes to the east, and  thunder rumbles again. The sun is hiding now, and we are in bi chromatic shadows of silver and gray.

The water tower will not be the ideal place to make a stand, but it is the only place that offers even a ray of hope.

It's a vantage point they won't easily take, and I'll be able to pick my shots, saving on ammunition.

I just want to get up there before they emerge...but, I realize quickly...that's not going to happen.
As we are about cross a side street directly adjacent to the tower, a manhole cover in the street suddenly pops off, and clawed hands appear, followed by a head that resembles nothing so much as that of the infamous Orlock from F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu film. The virus that took away the creature's mind also has a deforming effect upon the features over time, creating a truly hideous aspect.
A hiss erupts form the thing as it bounds out of the hole, then a howl of rage as it sees us, its arms waving wildly.
A second later it sees nothing more.
The AR-15 spits fire into the gloom.

Three shots, and all connect.

I know the Night People enough by now to know that one shot alone will not bring them down.

Nosferatu howls, then pitches forward in his own black blood, dead.

I run to the manhole and peer down. Screams, hisses, growling echoing  from some tunnel, getting closer.
"What are you doing!?" Janson asks.
"Keep going," I say, swinging my rucksack down from my back and fishing from it a sealed leather bag.
Janson continues to run as I unzip the bag and remove the contents…a bundled petrol bomb made from gas, oil and an old wine bottle.

The smell of the gas soaked white rag reaches my nostrils as the first drops of rain begin to fall.  I fish my Zippo from my pants pocket and light it..the screams are getting closer now.
Below me I see shapes in the black pit...shadows moving up the iron rungs in the manhole, coming for me.
I drop  the petrol bomb.
I see it fall past the first figure on the rungs….his eyes are like two glittering rubies beaming hate at me from the darkness, briefly illumined in the light of the burning rag.
Suddenly, there is the sound of breaking glass and a soft whooosh noise.
The manhole shaft has become a blazing pit--agonized animal howls erupt from the depths of the city. Figures wreathed in yellow flames writhe in torment as they fall back into the tunnels, their death wails turning my blood to ice.
Now I begin to run after Janson, knowing that any who were not killed in the blast will turn back…the Night People hate and fear fire as much as the fiery orb of the sun itself.

I glance over my shoulder and see one lone figure emerge from the pit, engulfed in flames and running wildly in no particular direction at all.

Even in the midst of panic, the thought is clear: I have done him a favor.
In minutes, I am the base of the tower. Janson is stuck…the ladder begins some eight feet above us, meant only to be accessed by city service crews.

We have no foot ladder to span the difference.

More howling.
From the direction we just came, an army of shadows has materialized, running towards us.
Wildly, I look about for some means of egress to the ladder rungs above us…and see it in the form of the dead and fallen trunk of a smaller tree.
"Help me with this!" I shout at Janson. He obeys and within a few minutes the beam is in place.
The Night People are getting closer--glancing back, I can see their eyes now, red and malevolent in the gathering shade.

"Up! Now!" I yell.
I hold the beam in place as Janson begins to scramble up.
 His weight almost dislodges it--the iron legs of the water tower are now slick with rain, and he is an awkward climber... but by some miracle, my strength keeps it in place.

I spare another look back towards the tracks.

Death, flying towards me.
The ghouls will be upon me in minutes.

"C'mon, c'mon," I yell. "Step on it, Janson!"

Janson has stepped off of the timber and is now moving up the rungs of the service ladder.

Please don't let him slip, I pray.

I wedge the beam as tightly against the tower leg as I can and step back.
I hear the sound of animal screams behind me, yards away perhaps.
I put my rifle back on my back, move backward a space, and with a few steps running start  I leap for all I am worth.

I land on the beam, feel it giving, and leap again.

The timber falls away from beneath my feet and I am in midair, my hands grasping for the bottom rung.
They close on it...one slips off again again from the rain on the steel, and I twist wildly for a moment, straining to hang on with my remaining grip.
I feel a hand brush my left combat boot, and I pluck it up--I coil my legs upwards and blindly smash them down again.
I feel a head go down underneath, followed by a howl.
Using every bit of strength I have within me, I regain the run with both hands and do the biggest pull up I have ever done in my life, heaving myself upward, reaching for another rung as for life itself, bending my knees upward to get them out of reach.

Slowly, I begin to ascend.
A glance below me shows a swarm of Night People spilling around the tower leg, leaping, howling, screaming.

Within minutes, the base of the tower is engulfed in a tide of them, and they are after our blood.

I know that the Night People are not intelligent enough to repeat my action with the timber.
The contagion that changed them into the monsters they have become took away all semblance of human reason and replaced it with only animal like cunning.

They do not think.

But they do possess  an inhuman strength  that is in accordance with their bestial nature.

Something in the virus gives them that.
It will be only minutes before one of them makes a lucky bound and grasps the bottom run of the tower ladder.
We've got to reach the top.
"Move it, old man!" I bellow, coming up underneath him and fighting down the urge to climb around him, even knock him aside.

My survival instinct is that strong.
Janson is panting, groaning, in a state of abject terror.

"I-I'm trying," he wheezes.
Rain and wind pelt us as we ascend the rungs, our ears blasted with the cacophony of growling and screaming.

Within fifteen minutes we have reached the catwalk that circles the tower.

Janson is almost unable to pull himself up, but I use my remaining strength to give him a push, and when is up and over, I fairly fly up after him, spinning around to protect our rear.

We have gained the high ground.

I scramble backwards on my rear end and thrust the barrel of the rifle downwards, ready to blast the first ghoul that mounts the tower.

Rain is now pouring down on us, and lightening flashes overhead, bringing home the added threat of electrocution.

I look below and see the army of Night People surging in upon itself, swirling around the base our fortress.

There must be a couple hundred of them, I think to myself, my breath coming out in ragged gasps from fear and the shock of the rain.

As I gaze upon the mass of twisted humanity, a shadow springs up from the ranks and catches onto the service ladder, pulling itself up.

Cat like, it begins to climb, moving faster and with far more agility than Janson and I possess between the two of us combined.

It has not even climbed ten feet before another figure vaults upward from the masses, catching hold and following its kin.

I reach into my holster and yank the .45 out, handing it to the old man.

"You know how to use it?" I yell above the rain.

He nods, pulling the slide back.

"Don't shoot until I tell you to, got it?"

He nods again, the water streaming down his pinched up face.

I glance down and see two more ruby eyes burning holes in mine.

A bruised and swollen face.

Bluish skin, matted hair, and glistening fangs.

Yellow nails filled with plague.

It hisses triumphantly at me...within minutes it will be where we are.

I knew I was going to regret this.