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Authors: Scott T. Goudsward

Fountain of the Dead

BOOK: Fountain of the Dead
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FOUNTAIN

OF THE DEAD

Scott T. Goudsward

 

 

Post Mortem Press

Copyright © 2016 Scott T. Goudsward

Cover © 2016 Philip Rogers  www.philiprrogers.com

 

All rights reserved.

 

Post Mortem Press - Cincinnati, OH

www.postmortem-press.com

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

FIRST eBook EDITION

 

 

This book is dedicated first and foremost to the father of the zombie craze who really made this genre such a cultural icon - George Romero.  Second - in the first few weeks of 2016 we suffered tragic losses in entertainment and art.  To the ones that passed, Lemmy, Ziggy, and Snape - you’ll be missed.…

 

 

Chapter 1

 

The meteor shower left gossamer trails
through the sky, fading faster then they began. Micah wrenched his hand free from his mother’s grip and pointed at the streaks of light that blazed in the night. Julie Kimball, Micah’s mother, lifted her four-year-old high on her shoulders as he reached for the shooting stars. Julie was still dressed in the pant suit she’d worn to work. She had to meet Paul and Micah in the theater lobby. She pulled her blazer tight around her; she wasn’t dressed for the chill. Paul Kimball, Micah’s father, wearing jeans, a sweater, and coat, pressed the “walk” button on the corner streetlight and waited for the signal to change. He smiled watching his son pointing his small hands at the stars and trying to grab at them. Paul had read the weather reports.

“I think you need to be a little taller to get them, buddy.” Paul put his hand on Micah’s back keeping him steady.

“Paul, I think he weighs more than yesterday, you can take him.” Julie said lifting him up to Paul’s shoulders. Micah grabbed Paul’s coat collar for balance and craned his neck skyward. Paul loosened his shirt collar and grabbed Micah’s legs to keep him on his shoulders.

“Will they hit the ground?”

“No, Micah.” Paul answered. “They’ll never come close.” The walk signal chimed out and the cross walk filled with other pedestrians. Julie took Paul’s arm and started across the busy street.  Impatient taxi drivers laid on their horns despite the walk signal.

“Cause the horns really help with a walk signal,” she muttered.

“Do you think they’re getting closer, Daddy?” They got to the other side of the street and Paul leaned against the door frame of the busy subway station and looked up at his son’s fascination. Behind them the escalator
clunked
noisily as more people piled onto the moving stairs.

“They still look the same to me, buddy.”

“You need glasses, Daddy.” Micah squirmed around on his father’s shoulders, trying for a new vantage point and grabbed a handful of brown hair.

“Easy, Micah. It’s falling out fast enough without you helping.”

“I can see the Common,” Micah said.

“We have one more street to cross,” Julie said. A chilly breeze blew at them, and for a moment the entire city of Boston seemed to shiver, “You cold, Micah? Paul, we should have brought a heavier coat for him.” The March weather was unseasonably cool; spring had arrived but the season failed to warm up.

“He’s fine, Julie, we’ll get him a hot chocolate in the park.” Paul raised his arms up and hoisted Micah off his shoulders. He took Micah’s hand tight in his own. “We survived The Wiggles, we’ll get through Boston Common okay.” He leaned in and kissed her cheek red from the chill in the air. They raced across the street with the crowd and went through the gates of the park. Paul draped his coat around Micah and left his wife and son on a bench.

“Back in five,” he smiled. Julie draped her arm across Micah’s shoulders. “Count them for me, Micah.” Paul hurried off, feeling the cold seep in through his shirt. Julie was right; it was a little too cold for the clothes they chose to wear. He jogged over to the food truck and ordered two coffees and a hot chocolate. Paul dropped an ice cube into the chocolate so Micah wouldn’t burn his mouth.

“What happens if the stars fell and hit us?” Micah asked his mother. She sighed, thinking of an answer. The boy’s questions were getting harder to answer every day. Too much TV, she thought.

“They’re just called shooting stars, Honey. They’re not really stars. You can ask your father about that one. But, what you see, those streaks of light are space rocks burning up, lots of miles over us.”

“Higher than airplanes?”

“Yes, Micah. Higher than airplanes.” Paul came back over and handed Julie her coffee. She smiled and sipped from it. “Hazelnut? You know me too well.” Paul grinned and handed Micah the cup of hot chocolate.

“How many did you count?”

“I think we got to seven, before someone had a lot of questions, which you’ll be answering later.”

Micah choked a little and dropped his cup on the ground. The dark contents streamed and steamed across the walkway. His eyes were wide with fear.

“You ok, buddy? You get burned?” Micah pointed a trembling hand upwards. His small fingers pointed past the trees with white lights interlaced through the branches, past the street carts selling hot and cold beverages, popcorn, and giant pretzels.

“Mommy, Daddy, the sky is exploding.” Paul and Julie turned their eyes skyward. The night sky was filled with an amazing light show. The shooting stars exploded in the dark and created a massive dust cloud. Reds, oranges and purples swirled in a faux Borealis. Crowds gathered around them; the flash of cell phone cameras strobed through the park. Traffic stopped in the streets. Where there should have been horns and swearing, there were gasps and cheers. The show ended, the Borealis faded like dying fireflies. The crowd dispersed.

“So were you expecting the extra show tonight, Micah?” Julie ruffled her son’s brown hair. His smile still spread across his face his big brown eyes opened wider.

“Do it again!” he squealed.

“I think that was a once in a lifetime show, Micah.” Julie reached down for his spilled hot chocolate cup and dropped it into a trashcan. “You want another drink?” Micah shook his head at Paul, still looking up at the sky. “How cool is it going to be, telling all your friends in school Monday about what you saw?”

“So cool, you should have taken some pictures, Daddy.”

“Daddy has a bad phone.” Julie said covering a smile on her lips.

“We should get back to the hotel,” Paul said. They each took one of Micah’s hands and lifted him up off the park bench. Couples walked past, holding hands, snuggling to ward off the March chill. They crossed the walkways, headed for the outbound station. Micah yawned.

“I think someone is getting tired.” Paul said.

“It’s been a big day for him, for all of us.” Julie replied.

“It could also be a big night for some of us too,” Paul said grinning and winked at his wife.

“You guys are weird,” Micah said. “And see, I told you, they are getting closer.” Paul stopped and looked up.  The sky was ablaze again with meteorites, many more than before; the stars seemed blotted out. A red haze covered the half moon and clouds of dust coated the sky in gauzy blurs. The streets were filled with a roar louder than the subway speeding under the street. Paul covered Micah’s ears and pulled him close.

Then one hit the street, the sidewalk shook. People in the park screamed as another impacted. Huge clouds of dirt and stone exploded upwards and rained down. Micah’s parents tried to shield him from falling debris and rushed to the “T” entrance. People scattered through the streets, covering their heads with whatever they had, to avoid the debris. Dust clouds bloomed and settled on cars, fleeing pedestrians, and everything.

“What do we do?” Julie was trying to hide her mounting hysteria. She tried to stop some of the fallout with her purse over her head. A foul wind gusted as the sewer lines were breached.

“We can’t go underground,” Paul yelled over the noise. Another slammed into the Dunkin Donuts across the street, shattering the windows; glass and destroyed tables blew out into the street covering people and cars. People panicked, ran into the streets, cars collided, flames spread through ruptured gas lines, the road exploded in fiery death. “And we’ll never get a cab.” Paul turned as his back was peppered with broken glass.

“I’m scared, Daddy.” Paul picked up Micah and took off at a run.

“As long as you’re with us, Micah, you’re safe.” Paul darted into the street; he glanced back at Julie who was having problems running in heels. When he turned his head, it was too late, the cab plowed into him. Micah flew from his hands; Paul was airborne and flipped over the hood of the car. His head smashed into the windshield cracking it. Paul flew off the side and dropped hard. Julie screamed as Micah landed hard on the sidewalk and started to cry. Paul wasn’t moving on the street, blood pooled around his head, his eyes stared lifeless at the car’s rear tires. Julie screamed as an SUV pinned her between it and the cab’s bumper. She reached for her son as her torso separated from her legs and slid off the SUV. Micah screamed as a stranger lifted him and ran off.

As Micah was plucked off the street, the stranger ran past an old graveyard, The Central Burying Ground. The dirt churned but not from the falling meteorites; the stranger dodged craters in the road and piles of rubble lying on the sidewalks. Bony hands reached out from the ground, pulling skeletal frames in colonial uniforms and decaying clothes from the Earth. Empty eye sockets “looked” around, old bones grated and groaned forced into activity after being long dead. Micah’s rescuer fell, sending Micah sprawling across the sidewalk. He stood, wiped at his nose and cringed at the scrape on his palm. A skeleton, clad only in strips of parchment like skin, turned and stared at him, its bony mouth opening and closing. Bone scraped against bone in the movement, sounding like rocks scraped against the street. Micah stopped crying and screamed.

 

Chapter 2

 

Micah Journal Entry

Date? Mid-autumn?

 

The day’s been easy. The roads in front of the main gate are pretty thin. Not many of them out today. Mom keeps saying how she’s going to run out of ammo, but I know she’s joking. Every time they go into the city with the trailer they come back with more. The routine has been the same, sleep, wake up, village stuff, watch Mom kill zombies, and eat dinner. I’m hoping we get a little excitement. Frank and the others have to go hunting soon, we’re running out of food. Mom just dropped one from way across the street. She blew its head right off.

The leaves on the trees around the village are changing colors. The fruit trees are done for the season. So no more fresh fruit till Spring. Beverly and Meredith picked the last of the apples two days ago. Whatever isn’t eaten gets made into very bland apple sauce. A few more weeks and the snow will fall. The dead don’t move as fast or as much in the snow; but it’s harder for us to get out for salvage missions. It’s not like there’re plows clearing the streets and we can’t go to Wal-Mart for new shovels. I remember jumping into piles of leaves, I don’t do it anymore. We don’t have enough trees left inside the fence to rake up after. Not that we have rakes.

I hope they find a book store or a library. Feeding the village is more important though.

 

* * * * *

“Would you look at him out there?” Meredith pulled up a chair in front of the window and sighed. “He never leaves, just sits out there all the time, staring through the fence and writing.” She watched Micah sitting on a folding beach chair near the gates. His mother, Sharon, was up in the tower, trying to keep the street clean and not take too many shots doing it.

“And here you are, sitting and staring through the window at Micah, staring through the fence,” Beverly joked.

“It’s not the same thing, Mom,” Meredith turned away, a bit of a blush coming to her cheeks.

“Sure it is,” Beverly Dandridge answered and draped a blanket over her daughter’s shoulders and smoothed it out. If things were normal in the world she’d be in school, learning, and getting ready for prom or driving lessons. Instead she lived behind a double fence topped with razor wire and survived with everyone else in the cul-de-sac. Beverly knelt next to the chair and pulled her pony tail tighter. Her long auburn hair was streaked with grey. She dropped the tail over her shoulder and sighed at the length and color.

“You need a trim, Mom,” Meredith said. Beverly tucked a strand of her daughter’s hair behind her ear. Meredith Dandridge wore her dark hair short, never past her neck. Her blue eyes took in every movement Micah made in and out of the chair.

“You should grow your hair out, Sweetie. Short hair makes you look older.” Meredith answered by sticking her tongue out. “When the time is right, we’ll cut it down to my shoulders and burn the tail.”

“Call my service and make an appointment, I’ll try to squeeze you in,” Meredith said.

Beyond the glass Micah moved the old folding chair, the once colorful nylon strings now dirty and faded. Some of the stains he knew were blood, but it didn’t matter to him. He picked up the chair and rust dropped from the folding hinges. Micah moved closer to the fence, the inside one was eight feet high and topped with razor wire. The outside fence was taller, stronger, with a one meter gap between the two that served as a walkway for the village guards, the perimeter that very few walked. Almost everything could be seen from the towers.

Micah reached into the leather satchel that hung from one shoulder. He pulled out a worn book with a plain brown leather cover; the word
journal
was scrawled across it. He thumbed through the pages for a blank one and then reached back into the bag for a pencil. His fingers brushed against the worn bindings of the other journals kept within. It was his safety blanket.

Through the fences Micah watched the soulless shuffle along mechanically, without meaning, without purpose, except for the unconscious need to feast on human flesh. When they groaned, he’d look up from writing. When a shot rang out, he’d look up for a moment to see the body fall to the pavement and then go back to writing or sketching. Micah turned in the chair and waved to Meredith; she blushed and ducked away from the window, practically throwing herself off the chair. He knew she watched him, part of him even liked it a little. Beverly returned his wave from her front room while he turned back to the fence.

Micah glanced at his sketch in the book, a rough map of their cul-de-sac, the street, the “turn around” at the end, the houses and of course, the sniper towers. There were twelve cookie cutter houses from the construction boom in the 1990’s. Some of the houses had sheds between them. What little space there was for “lawns” was overgrown. Every few weeks someone would go through with the manual push mower and grind everything down.  Four sniper towers were spaced out at each “corner” of the village. Two built into stands of trees near the back, the ones in front were assembled from scrap and materials scrounged from deserted buildings.

He flipped the page, to the drawing of a rusted pock-marked sign, green background, white letters that read “
Welcome to Medford.
” The next pages were drawings of the houses, bonfires and very rough sketches of the others in town, including several of Meredith, none of which she’d seen. The only persons to ever see those special portraits were Sharon and Catherine. He flipped past the drawings of the gardens and the apple, and pear trees.

The last sketch in the book was of his mother high up in the sniper tower, rifle stock on her shoulder, eye pressed to the scope. Micah slid the sketch book away and walked to the end of the cul-de-sac, carrying the lawn chair under his arm. He set it up in front of the fire pit and waited for the fire.

 

* * * * *

 

Sharon ejected the round from the rifle and searched through the scope for Micah. Lowering the rifle for a moment, she massaged her shoulder. Micah took a small whiteboard from the satchel and wrote “Hi Mom” on it in purple marker. Sharon waved and turned her attention back to the street.

Beyond the fence was the state highway, littered with broken and burnt out cars, old ravaged bodies and debris fallen from the vehicles. The dead wandered through them, oblivious to the husks of metal until they bumped into them. If they weren’t near the gate, she didn’t need to shoot them. Too much noise equaled too many walking corpses. She looked over her shoulder again at Micah and then returned to looking through the scope.

 

* * * * *

 

Micah turned from the fence and watched Gerry and Tony scurry around the fire pit. They stacked and adjusted stones, built up the walls so the flames wouldn’t be noticed from too far outside of the village. Gerry was a tall man in his early forties with thinning hair, Tony, stocky with full dark hair. Micah had heard people referring to Tony as a “Gumba” but he never asked about it. The others who lived in the compound dropped off bundles of wood from their own supplies. Some had been in the camp when Micah and Sharon arrived. Others had been wandering or escaping from Boston when Catherine let them in.

“We’re running out of trees, Micah. Might have to go outside soon. Or start burning bits of the houses.” Gerry smirked and the dog tags chained around his neck dangled from his shirt. Even though he was wearing a sweatshirt, Micah had seen the Navy tattoos up and down his arms many times. Micah took out a dirty rag and rubbed the surface of the whiteboard; the letters smudged and disappeared. He wrote.

“Let me know when you’re ready.” He wiped the board clean. “I’m ready to go now.” Micah stuffed the board away and took off his RedSox cap. His brown, wavy hair was matted with sweat and he ran his fingers through it. Tony handed logs and branches to Gerry who built up the fire. A shot rang out from the southern tower. Gerry whipped the pistol out from the side holster and dropped to a knee. A corpse hit the outer fence and slid down, its fingers locked into a claw in the links. It clung on for a second and dropped to the ground.

“Ok, everyone, back to work.” Gerry said and put his gun away.

Catherine came out from her house. She stood on the small side porch and looked out over “her town,” surveying everything enclosed within the fences. All the usual players were right where expected. Micah smiled and waved. Catherine returned the wave with a smile. Off near the rear of the camp Sam walked his dog near the few remaining trees that didn’t have a sniper platform built into it. Beverly and Meredith were coming out of their house greeted by the re-assuring drone of the generators.

Catherine descended the stairs and walked to the fire pit. “Anything exciting happen today, Micah?” Micah shook his head and handed the latest journal to Catherine. She scanned the pages, a slight smile played at her lips.

He took out the whiteboard and scribbled “Same old” on it. From a driveway in front of a blue house a string of curses erupted followed by a metallic slam. Frank Burke stormed out wiping his hands with an oily rag. He stopped suddenly seeing all eyes on him.

“You all heard that huh?” He asked.

Micah nodded and scribbled on his white board. “I think I learned some new words,” he wrote. Catherine laughed. Frank watched the little wrinkles at the corners of her mouth and eyes. He stuffed the cloth in his pocket and walked over.

“Sorry about that, kid.” Frank stood behind Catherine.

“I’m sure he’s heard worse coming out of your filthy mouth,” Catherine said.

“What can I say? I’m just a potty mouth at heart.” Frank ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair, what was left of it. He looked at his oil stained hands and rolled his eyes.

“What’s wrong with the Jeep?” Catherine asked.

“Nothing,
my
Jeep is fine. It’s that fucking, sorry Micah, Monte Carlo. I got it running and it seems ok, but I know I can make it run better. I need to take it for a test, but the fuel stores are pretty low.”

“Maybe you need to stop fiddling with that car for a few hours,” Beverly said. She pulled up two ragged lawn chairs for her and Meredith. “Boys and their toys.”

Micah turned hearing the soft steps approaching. He stood and hugged Sharon; the rifle strap rubbed against his cheek.

“Excuse me a moment.” Catherine said and walked around the fire pit. The lawns in back of the pit were lined with gardens. The gardens had a ring of stones around them, scavenged from neighboring yards. The corn stalks were dried and piled to the side. Catherine absently crumpled a long brown leaf in her hand. The cabbage was still growing as were the potatoes and carrots. The next round of harvest would be radishes and green beans. What they didn’t keep would be traded in Boston for fuel and ammunition.

“Shift over, Sharon?” Catherine asked returning to the fire pit. Sharon nodded and un-slung the rifle. She rested the stock on the ground while holding the barrel. “What’s on the menu?”

“Everything is low, Catherine. I think we need a ‘shopping’ trip in the near future,” Sharon said.

“Do we need to tighten our belts tonight?” Catherine asked. “I’m sure we’ll all survive if we miss a village meal and nibble on what’s in our houses.” Even though the “village” consisted of a dozen houses, almost everything was communal. Generators kept freezers and refrigerators running and the water flowing from the wells. There wasn’t much else in creature comforts. People adapted and learned to live without over the past several years.

“I think that’d be best. Either that or the dry rations we found in that house bunker.” Sharon said. Catherine rolled her eyes and gagged. Dry rations meant biscuits from a box or dehydrated meals from the bag. Frank wandered back towards the car pulling the rag from his pocket, ready for round two with the Monte.

“I think I’d rather eat peanut butter out of the jar then have dried rations,” Catherine said with a grimace.

“That can be arranged,” Gerry tossed her a small jar of peanut butter. “Don’t have any bread, or jelly, but there’s enough left in there if you want. You’ll have to fight Sam’s hound off for that.” Beverly looked up sky and watched the big autumn moon. The sun was covered by clouds, staining them in reds and gold. It could have been a perfect autumn night, anywhere but there and then.

“I have some left over jerky I’ll donate to the cause,” Frank said.

“What flavor?” Micah scribbled on his board.

“Squirrel, rabbit and deer.”

“Just bring the deer!” Micah wrote.

Tony stepped into the fire pit and covered the pavement beneath the logs with leaves and pine cones. He took a box of wooden matches out of his pocket, shook it to make sure something was still in there and then lit the leaves. The leaves crackled and turned brown; the bits of kindling started to smoke and soon flames danced across the logs.

Catherine fished her finger around the inside of the jar, scooped out a gob of extra-crunchy peanut butter and passed the jar along. A basket of apples and pears appeared and made its way around the fire. More and more people came out as the flames got higher.

“So what shall we chat about tonight?” Catherine asked reaching for an apple.

 

* * * * *

 


Why did you have me stop here?

Frank asked. He looked through the passenger

s side window at the small road. A sign tacked to a tree read

dead end.

He sat back in the driver

s seat and revved the car

s engine. Catherine sat next to him, fingers tapping on the dash board. She looked through the windshield, several undead staggered down the road towards the car.

BOOK: Fountain of the Dead
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