Read Ashton Memorial Online

Authors: Robert R. Best,Laura Best,Deedee Davies,Kody Boye

Tags: #Undead, #robert r best, #Horror, #zoo, #corpses, #ashton memorial, #Zombies, #Lang:en, #Memorial

Ashton Memorial (46 page)

BOOK: Ashton Memorial
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Angie and her group approached it from the
bottom, plodding through the rain toward the lion exhibit. Angie
was relieved to find it empty, but realized it only meant the lions
could be anywhere. She held up her arms for everyone to stop. They
did. Park stopped next to her and looked up. Angie followed his
gaze.

The top of the hill was lined with Keepers.
They stood inside all the different exhibits, separated by the
fences. They stood on the rocks and ledges, all with rifles. Rain
pelted down, running into Angie's eyes as she scanned the hill. Her
gaze reached the center and stopped.

At the center of the Keepers, standing atop
the highest point of the hill, was Gregory.

 

* * *

 

Maylee sat on a stone inside an exhibit
meant for a puma. She was gagged and her hands were tied behind her
back with a strip of cloth. She pulled and tugged, making little
progress. Dalton was a few feet to her left. He was also gagged,
tied and struggling. Maylee's bat was a few feet to her right. She
desperately wanted to free her hands, grab it and smack the hell
out of the Keepers lined up all around her. She knew she'd get shot
full of darts within seconds of starting, but she didn't care.

Gregory stood in front of her, his back to
her. He looked down at something Maylee couldn't see. The one
called Lee had been right. Gregory was very interested in meeting
the daughter and son of the woman causing him so much trouble. He
ordered them tied and kept close to him. Maylee was certain he
intended to use them as a bargaining tool. She was determined not
to let him.

Lori sat across the way from Maylee. She was
also gagged and had her hands tied behind her back. Maylee stopped
struggling, staring at her. She looked exactly like Ella. The hair
was different, the clothes were different, but otherwise exactly
the same. She felt like she knew her and didn't all at the same
time. They hadn’t had time to speak when Maylee and Dalton were
brought to Gregory.

Lori caught Maylee's eyes and gave her a
questioning look. Maylee knew what she was asking. Lori wondered if
she was the one who had texted days ago. The one who had found
Ella's phone. The one who had later found Ella.

Maylee nodded.

Lori nodded back and
looked to Maylee's bat. Specifically, she looked at the word
Ella
written across it.
She looked back at Maylee, with a questioning look so desperate it
made Maylee want to cry.

Maylee paused, not wanting to do it, then
shook her head.

Lori's eyes went wet and bloodshot. She
blinked and looked down. Rain fell all around them but Maylee could
see tears.

She heard footsteps coming and looked their
way. Gregory was walking toward them. He smiled down at the three
of them. Maylee saw the murderous look Lori gave him and
concurred.

“Well, well,” said Gregory,
smiling through the rain. Maylee pulled at the strip of cloth
holding her wrists so hard she felt her circulation being cut
off.

Then she felt the cloth tear. A tiny bit,
but it sent a thrill of hope through her.

“It looks like your mother
has arrived,” said Gregory to Maylee. She pulled at the cloth
furiously, again feeling it tear a tiny bit.

“Let's all go say hello,”
said Gregory.

 

* * *

 

The crowd behind Angie muttered and looked
around. Angie and Park kept their focus on the top of the hill.
Where Gregory had been. A few moments ago, he had stepped out of
view. The crowd behind Angie grew louder when he returned, looking
down at them. Angie held up her hand for the group to be quiet.
They were. Rain pounded down around them.

“Ms. Land,” shouted
Gregory, loud enough to be heard over the rain. “So nice to finally
meet you.”

“Give us the girl,” yelled
Angie, spitting out rain as she tilted her head back to aim her
voice at Gregory. “Then feed these people and let them
go!”

The crowd behind her murmured their
assent.

“They were being fed!”
yelled Gregory. “At designated times and in designated
amounts!”

“You can't treat these
people like animals! You can't keep them locked in here against
their will!” yelled Angie.

“I can if I know what's
best for them!” yelled Gregory. “You think you would be a better
leader than I am?”

“I am not their leader!”
yelled Angie. “We are just scared hungry people who want food and
freedom!”

Gregory laughed. “You
organize a mob against me, bring them to this place and say you are
not their leader? Have you seen what's going on outside? People
need to be kept in line! They need control! Otherwise you have
chaos! Those people behind you would storm this hill like animals
and kill me if you weren't holding them back! Now explain to me
again how you are not their leader!”

Angie stared at him through
the rain. The people behind her muttered, sounding very angry.
“He's just trying to confuse the issue,” she said to them. Then she
raised her voice and yelled back at Gregory. “Just give us the girl
and some food!”

“Step down and I will feed
you!”

“Step down? What the hell
are you talking about?”

“Step down and accept my
rule!” yelled Gregory.

“Your rule? This is a
fucking zoo! You have lost your mind!”

Park, who was silent and
glaring this whole time, finally spoke up. He yelled up the hill at
Gregory. “Give me my fucking daughter!”

“Your daughter?” yelled
Gregory. “You mean the one I've been raising all these years? The
one I've been providing for? Just like I've provided for all my
citizens here? You think you can just show up now and act like you
have any say in what I do with my child? With my
people?”

“They are not your people!”
yelled Angie.

 

* * *

 

Maylee stood a few feet behind Gregory,
struggling with her bonds. Two Keepers stood to either side of her,
hands on her shoulders and gripping tight. Dalton stood just in
front of her, also struggling with his bonds. Two Keepers held him
in place. She heard Mom's voice coming from the bottom of the hill.
She heard Gregory shouting down at her. She desperately wanted to
break free and run to Mom. She felt the cloth binding her wrists
ripping, but not enough. She bit into her gag and pulled.

Next to her, Lori struggled with her bonds
as well. She looked so much like Ella, Maylee couldn't look at her
very long. It was disorienting. Maylee thought she heard groans
somewhere behind her but there was too much other noise to be
sure.

Gregory turned back to the Keepers holding
her and Dalton and nodded. The Keepers walked them forward, toward
Gregory and the edge of the hill. As she passed close to Lori,
Maylee heard Lori's bonds rip.

 

* * *

 

The crowd behind Angie was angry. Park was
angry. Angie didn't know how much longer she could control them.
She hated thinking about it in those terms.

Gregory had his back to the crowd, motioning
to the Keepers behind him. He turned back.

“Listen!” yelled Angie up
at him.

“No, you listen!” said
Gregory, and pulled a bound and gagged Maylee into view.

“Maylee!” yelled Angie,
shock jolting through her. Gregory reached back and pulled Dalton,
also bound and gagged, into view.

“How in the hell,” said
Park.

Angie pushed down her shock
and rage, nearly shaking in the pounding rain. “If you hurt them
when you were kidnapping them, I swear to god I'll...”

“Kidnapping?” said Gregory,
laughing. “They came to me! Lee found them not a hundred feet from
where I'm standing! Do you see, everyone down there? Do you see
what a good job Ms. Land does of controlling her own?”

“You son of a whore-sucking
bitch!” screamed Angie. “Let them go!” Through her rage, Angie
thought she heard moans coming from somewhere. She couldn't be
sure, and she was too angry to focus.

“Oh I will,” said Gregory.
“Just as soon as...”

He fell silent as another young girl ran out
onto the ledge. She looked just like Ella. Angie knew immediately
who it was. The girl was pulling torn cloth from her wrists. She
wrenched a gag free from her mouth.

“Lori!” yelled
Park.

“Dad!” yelled Lori,
screaming down through the rain. “Gregory shot Mom! He killed
her!”

“I had to!” yelled Gregory,
looking furious that Lori had gotten free. “She was bitten! She was
sick!”

“She wasn't! She was fine!”
yelled Lori.

 

* * *

 

Mom looks like something is wrong. She
stares blankly at the road as she steers the car.

“Are you okay, Mom?” says
Lori.

“No,” says Mom.

She is silent for a
moment, driving. “It's your stepfather, Lori. He scares
me.”

Lori says nothing. She just watches Mom
drive and listens.

“He's getting paranoid.
Paranoid and jealous. He thinks I'm having affairs on him. He
threatens to stop letting me leave the house. He's threatened to
hurt me, Lori. To hurt you and your sister.”

 

* * *

 

“She told me he was scaring
her!” Lori yelled down the hill. “She said he would hurt her and
then he did! He killed her!”

The crowd was silent. Gregory was silent.
Rain pounded down. Angie was sure she heard groans, coming from all
sides.

Gregory spoke at a normal
level, but his voice carried down the hill. “You ungrateful little
bitch.”

Then he pulled a revolver from his coat
pocket and shot her. Lori jerked as the bullet rammed into her back
and burst out her chest, just below her collar bone. She coughed,
blood spraying out into the rain, and crumpled to the rocks.

“No!” yelled
Park.

The crowd around Angie erupted and stormed
the hill.

 

* * *

 

The gunshot startled Maylee so much she
jerked her hands free of the cloth without noticing it rip. It took
her several seconds to realize she was free. She saw Lori jerk and
crumple. She heard Park yell and the crowd roar. All around her the
Keepers snapped into position, kneeling with rifles aimed at the
crowd below.

She shook herself from her stupor and ran to
Dalton. She wrenched the cloth from his wrists and pulled the gag
from his mouth.

“Hurry!” she yelled,
pulling Dalton with her as she ran back to where her bat was
propped against a rock. Her plan was to get the bat, then run along
one of the two walkways that led down the hill. To get to Mom. Her
brain screamed at her to save Lori, but a sick heaviness in her
heart told her Lori was gone. Both sisters were lost.

She ran to her bat, bent down to grab it,
and stood, ready to run. She stopped, staring.

A massive group of corpses stumbled toward
them. Too many to get past. They groaned and jerked through the
rain. Keepers, their backs to Maylee and Dalton, were firing
frantically. The corpses closed on them, biting and tearing.
Keepers screamed. An old man with long gouges down his face bit
into a young female Keeper's face. She screamed and bucked as
bright red blood shot out into the rain. Another Keeper was down on
his knees, fighting weakly as two fat men bit into the top of his
head.

Maylee turned back the way they had come.
The Keepers on the hill, still oblivious to the corpses coming up
behind, were firing down the hill. Maylee knew she and Dalton would
be pelted with darts almost instantly.

She turned back, gripping
her bat and staring grimly through the rain. “Get behind me,
Dalton,” she said.

 

* * *

 

Angie climbed over one of the glass fences
and dropped into an exhibit. Darts flew all around her, thudding
into people as they raced past her. She looked around for Park. He
was off to her right, climbing over a different fence, heading in
the best straight line he could manage to where Lori had fallen.
Angie looked up to the top of the hill. She saw Maylee and Dalton
were free. She saw Maylee backing up, brandishing her bat at an
approaching mob of corpses.

“Maylee! Dalton!” she
yelled, barely noticing as a dart whipped past her cheek and
thudded into the torso of a man climbing over the fence behind her.
The man slumped forward onto the glass. Angie turned to help but
Maylee was screaming above. She turned back and raced across the
exhibit, dodging darts as best she could.

She was heading for the far fence when a
shape leapt into view, landing in front of her. She stopped,
staring. A snow leopard crouched in front of her, snarling and
scraping its claws in the dirt. She heard screeching birds overhead
and a hundred different growls and roars all around. First the
commotion had attracted the corpses, now it was attracting the
animals.

“Shit shit shit,” said
Angie, slipping her almost-forgotten rifle from her shoulder. The
leopard crept forward, snarling.

It leapt just as she brought the rifle up.
The leopard was headed straight for her face. She dropped to her
knees, moving the barrel up to keep it leveled at the leopard's
chest. She fired and the dart thudded into the leopard's chest as
it passed, snarling, over her head. She turned and watched the
leopard fall onto a woman running up from behind. The woman
screamed and fell to the ground as the leopard tore and bit into
her. Red blood shot out across the roaring cat's coat. The cat
pulled a hunk off the woman and chewed, moving more sluggishly as
the dart took effect. Angie stood, backed away slowly, then turned
and ran.

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