Read The Hunger (Book 3): Ravaged Online

Authors: Jason Brant

Tags: #vampires, #End of the World, #Dracula, #post apocalyptic, #Zombies, #apocalypse

The Hunger (Book 3): Ravaged (9 page)

BOOK: The Hunger (Book 3): Ravaged
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“Christ,” Lance muttered. “How many of them are there?”

They were surrounded on all sides as the infected slowly pressed closer.

At that moment, Lance realized their folly.

They’d assumed that the compound would keep them safe, that the lights would hold back the ravenous devils.

But what could a few lamps and flashlights do against a nation of vampires? How long would it be before the monsters stormed the field in a Normandy-like blitz? If they were becoming organized, who was running the show?

How long before their leader decided that losing a few dozen of his troops was worth it? A few hundred? A thousand?

Lance had allowed the hope of safety to cloud his judgment. He’d been deluded by the dream of a secure place for his unborn child.

There was no safe place.

They would struggle until the day they finally succumbed to starvation or disease or being torn asunder by one of the infected.

He closed his eyes.

Took a deep breath.

The tendrils of panic worming their way through his mind receded. No matter how dire things seemed, he had to keep himself under control. If the others looked at him for advice, for courage, then he couldn’t let them see any cracks in the veneer.

Lance backpedaled from the line until he bumped against one of the tall lampposts. He leaned against it, letting the cool metal soothe his aching back. His eyes roamed the field, ensuring that no one had broken ranks.

Everyone stayed put, though they flinched at each maddening wail.

Cass spotted Lance and cocked her head questioningly.

He gave her a thumbs up. She nodded and turned back to the forest.

Something thudded by his feet.

Lance searched the trampled grass for the source of the sound, but didn’t see anything.

Another thump came behind him.

He spun around, bringing his rifle up.

“What the hell was that?” he whispered to himself.

A sharp stab of pain twisted into his forearm.

He jerked his arm up, twisting around to see what had attacked him.

A rock thudded in the grass by his feet. He picked it up, rolling it in his fingers, squinting in confusion. “Did someone hit me with a rock?”

The sharp ting of struck metal came from above him.

Another rock dropped by his face, leaving an indent in the lawn.

And another.

Lance peered up at the bright lamp and watched as dozens of rocks flew past the bulb. Some hit the pole holding it. Others went wide. Two more struck him.

“Oh my god.” Lance’s stomach twisted as he realized what was happening.

Then one of the rocks hit the bulb, and it shattered.

Darkness washed over him.

Chapter 11

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T
he panicked screams of the guards were barely audible over the Vladdies’ shrieks.

Cass ran over, the beam of flashlight waving in wild arcs. “What happened?”

Lance gaped up at the broken bulb, dumbstruck. “They broke it with rocks?”

“What?”

“They broke it with rocks!”

Cass looked up. “How? They don’t have any fucking eyes!”

Gunfire erupted from directly in front of them.

Two of the guards spun around and fled for the RVs.

“Hold the line!” Lance ran at the two men and grabbed the arm of the closest. “Hold the goddamn line!”

“They’re pushing up! We need to get out of here, man!”

Lance jerked on the man’s elbow and dragged him back to his place. “There won’t be anywhere to go if we don’t make a stand.”

The cones of the brightest spotlights pierced the black beyond the tree line. Pale, vascular flesh disappeared behind thick trunks and bushes.

The man Lance had been holding yanked his arm free. “Look at them! They’re everywhere!”

Lance stared, awestruck, at the immensity of the horde before them. Even as his dread had grown through the past few days, he hadn’t fathomed an army of this size descending upon them.

What hope did mankind have in the face of such unspeakable terror?

People fired blindly into the woods. They emptied their magazines without hitting anything. Brown shouted for them to conserve ammunition, but their hysterical shooting continued.

Another bulb shattered by the right edge of the field.

Those standing guard backed away from the edge of the forest, moving toward the center of the field. They shot at any movement, hitting nothing of value.

Lance tried to keep the line from breaking, but no one would listen. They backpedaled until they were under the broken light. They pleaded for Lance to do something.

Eifort crouched to one knee. She’d taped a small, bright flashlight to the underside of her rifle. Her finger rhythmically worked the trigger as she spotted Vladdies pushing their way into the darkening field. She dropped a handful before popping in a fresh magazine.

A few men joined her, though their aim lacked her pinpoint efficiency.

Another lamp fell under a hail of rocks.

Brown stepped in front of Lance, his face ashen, eyes wild. “We’re losing it! We’re losing the compound!”

The panic settled in the pit of Lance’s stomach grew heavier. Seeing the stoic doctor’s will erode was almost more than he could bear.

“Get everyone to fall back,” Cass shouted. “Stand shoulder to shoulder and aim your lights straight ahead!”

Lance nodded and slapped Brown on the shoulder. “You get the people to the east, I’ll go west.” He took off toward the far side of the field, ordering everyone to fall back.

Most didn’t wait for him to repeat his command. They lowered their flashlights and ran.

“Don’t take your lights off the trees!” Lance cupped his hands around his mouth, shouting over the roaring guns. “Back up slowly. Don’t give the bastards an inch!”

A few listened.

The majority didn’t have the nerve to retreat in a coordinated manner.

Lance waved his flashlight to his left and recoiled at the sight of a dozen Vladdies stepping from the forest. They were crouched low, knuckles dragging in the dirt.

Their elongated teeth glinted under the waving beams of light.

They advanced.

A group of five men remained by one of the broken lamps to the east, still firing at anything that moved.

“Reloading,” one of them shouted. He reached for a small pile of magazines resting between his feet.

A flash of teeth and claws and rage exploded from the shadows. It pounced on him, swiping at his face and chest, cutting wide furrows in his flesh. His cries melded to gurgles in less than a second.

The men beside him opened fire at point-blank range.

Holes punched in the beast’s torso as it was blown backward.

Two more emerged from the darkness.

One of them was cut down in a hail of gunfire.

The other lunged forward as the men emptied their rifles at the same time. It batted at their arms, rending bone and tearing muscle, sending their guns careening away.

Lance fired his pistol in the direction of the dying men as he fled. He heard screaming and only realized it was his when he had to take a breath.

He backed away as he reloaded until he bumped into someone behind him.

Spun around.

Saw Cass.

She held a .45 in one hand, her axe in the other. The pistol had a small light taped to it.

Her eyes locked on Lance’s, and an unspoken understanding passed between them.

This was it.

Seeing her stand before him, facing down their impending doom with a snarl, gave him the courage he needed to go out fighting. The inevitability of the outcome didn’t matter to Cass—she would never surrender. It wasn’t in her DNA.

Lance moved beside her, putting his shoulder against hers.

They pointed their flashlights in the same direction. A handful of vampires fled the beams with cries of anger and pain. Wave after wave of the infected slipped from the forest, descending upon the compound.

The sea of distorted flesh and bone before them turned Lance’s legs to rubber.

Eifort joined Brown and stood before him, her protective instincts taking over. The doc stood in the middle of the group, watching as all they’d built crumbled around them. Even then, as one of the last vestiges of men fell, Brown didn’t hold a gun.

A woman standing at the edge of the group fell over, dragged away by the ankle. Her fingers dug into the dirt as she was pulled into the darkness. Ravenous shrieks drowned out her cries.

More of the lamps fell under a plethora of rocks.

Two remained, sitting thirty yards apart in the middle of the field.

“Get under those,” Lance shouted, pointing at the lights.

The group was too large, and too petrified, to move with speed or grace. They faced all directions, screaming at the things encircling them. Most had shot their guns empty and had nothing but their lights left.

They slowly staggered over to the safe glow of the lamps, hiding underneath them. The group moved in fits, their bodies slamming into one another. Those on the edges of the group tried to shove their way into the center.

Lance watched as the first volley of a new wave of rocks came. He lowered his gun when two of them struck the metal pole leading to the bulb, missing it by inches.

He looked at Cass. “I’m sorry.”

Her nostrils flared as she glared back at him. “Be sorry tomorrow when we’re standing on a pile of their stinking bodies.”

The bulb above them shattered.

A second later, the last light blew and the field fell into darkness.

People screamed and shot, cried and fled.

Flashlights waved around in wild arcs, their beams falling across decrepit flesh and eyeless faces. The field flashed before them as if lit by a strobe light.

Those on the edges were taken first, dragged away as they cried for mercy, for someone to shoot them before they were wrenched apart.

Lance’s flashlight settled upon the engorged chest of a Vladdie as it charged straight for him. He raised the pistol and fired a shot off, the bullet going wide.

Held his breath.

Steadied his shot.

Put a round through its chest.

Another took its place a moment later as the mass of creatures pressed in on them.

Cass looked to the sky above Lance. “What is that?”

Lance heard something above the din of the slaughter. A whooping, thumping sound drawing near.

A light, blinding and concentrated, appeared above the forest to the south. It crossed a hundred yards in a flash before leveling off. The thumping grew to a roar, blotting out everything else.

The light illuminated a dozen Vladdies, sending them in every direction as their skin seared under the harsh rays.

Wind ruffled Lance’s hair and dried his eyes. He squinted against the dust stinging his face and raised a hand to cut the glare.

Flashes of flame pulsated beside the light, and the field echoed with the thunder of war.

Vampires were cut in half under a hail of bullets. Dirt kicked up as the line of rounds swam across the ground, devastating entire rows of the infected. Bodies dropped in heaps, ichor seeping from a thousand wounds.

Blood and gore misted the air.

Lance watched as the helicopter rotated around. Another gun was stationed on the opposite side, spraying bullets in wide arcs. The pilot angled to the left and began circling the group of survivors.

People cheered.

Cass used the brief reprieve to jam a new magazine home. “Reload,” she screamed, her words barely audible over the helicopter.

Lance followed her lead. He aimed his pistol at the circle of light swerving along the ground from the helicopter. As the beam fell across one of the infected, he squeezed off a shot.

Others joined them, their vigor restored.

Someone lit a torch by the front of the group. Lance tried to look between the people in front of him to see who it was, but his view was obstructed.

The flame danced ahead of them as the person ran from the group.

It was Adam. He sprinted for the pyre that had been built in anticipation of their next loss. Lance pushed his way through the group and followed, hoping he wouldn’t catch an errant bullet.

Adam tossed the torch onto the stacked, gasoline-soaked wood. It went up in a whoosh of flame and heat that Lance felt from fifteen yards away. Light spilled across the field from the fire.

A Vladdie sprinted toward Adam, running on all fours.

Lance dropped to a knee, letting his flashlight fall to the ground. He grabbed his pistol with both hands to minimize the fearful shaking in his arms. The first shot was low and hit the ground in front of the beast.

Adam turned and saw it coming at him. He shouted something unintelligible and backed closer to the building fire.

Lance caught the infected in the leg with his third shot. It went sprawling in the dirt, sliding on its chest. It shrieked as Lance put two more rounds in its side, but it didn’t stop.

Its clawed fingers dug into the dirt, dragging it toward Adam in short, powerful movements.

Lance ran up to the ravaged body and put another bullet in its head.

“Thanks,” Adam gasped. “My gun is empty.”

With a quick nod, Lance turned back and faced the group, watching as they worked their way toward the fire. The helicopter continued to circle them, cutting swathes in the retreating horde.

The Vladdies backed into the trees again, slamming their hands against the forest floor in frustration. A few braved the field still, but their numbers dwindled under the fire from the helicopter.

“Get some torches handed out to people,” Lance said to Adam. He ran to the group and grabbed Brown. “We need to get new bulbs in the lights. Where are they?”

“In the shed behind the cabin. I’ll take you.”

“Is there more of that chicken wire we were using for the gardens?”

Cass stepped toward them. “Yeah, there is. Why?” Her eyes roamed across the lines of Vladdies roaring at them from just beyond the edge of their lights.

“We need to wrap the lights in the chicken wire so they can’t hit them with rocks.”

“Got it.” Cass started across the field. “I’ll get the wire—you grab some bulbs.”

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