Authors: M.D. Massey
Tags: #dystopian, #werewolf, #shapeshifter, #horror, #vampire, #vampire hunter, #post apocalyptic, #zombie, #werewolves, #werewolf hunter, #zombie hunter, #apocalypse, #post apocalyptic books, #Zombie Apocalypse
Her hands were curled like little claws, and when she spotted me she snarled like a rabid dog, bounding toward me on her hands and feet in similar fashion. The horses panicked and I lost the reins, only to see them dance nervously back, further into the barn, as far away from the little terror in front of me as possible.
Whether it was physical fatigue from the last few days on the run, or emotional fatigue from losing Kara and then seeing this poor precious child turned into a hellish predator, I have no idea... but for the first time since I was fresh off the plane back in the ’Stan, I brain farted and froze.
Within half a heartbeat, she hit me full force in the chest and the shock drove me into action. I pushed her back with one hand at her throat, preventing those teeth from reaching me. Simultaneously, I reared back and hit her square in the chest with a
that hit so hard I heard her little ribs crack as my knuckles sunk into her chest. I followed it up with a front thrust kick that sent her flying across the barn. My old Shotokan karate instructor would’ve been proud, but I was anything but as I drew my battle hawk from my waist and waded across the room after her.
She recovered immediately, and then hit all fours like a cat. As I approached cautiously she skittered across the floor, and then she leapt backwards in a reverse somersault, landing with her feet hooked in the rafters above us. Like a gymnast, she flipped back and up, catching a beam and retreating into the dark corners of the loft.
I knew she’d be back momentarily, and was torn about finishing her before I took off after Gabby. A clap of thunder decided it for me, and I turned to grab the horses so I could take advantage of the coming storm to cover the sounds of my retreat. In three steps I was halfway across the barn, cooing to the horses to calm them down. Then, I noticed the Appaloosa’s eye go wide, and heard a scrape above me.
I spun and swung, catching the rev with a vicious forehand stroke and cleaving her head almost in two in midair. I retracted the axe as she fell, and it made a sick sucking noise as I pulled it free. She landed on her side, brain matter and blood leaking from the large hole I’d just made in her cranium, still twitching and letting out a low moan that I knew would bring more of the undead with it. I took a step forward and swung the hatchet high overhead, landing the blade squarely on her neck. One more swing, and then another; I barely registered the butcher-shop noises as her head rolled a few feet away to land by the wall.
Suppressing any emotions I may have been feeling, I compartmentalized and wiped my axe on her dress before sheathing it, and then I grabbed the Appaloosa’s reins and mounted up. The horses were still skittish, forcing me to spur it hard to make it leap past the headless corpse on our way out. By this time it was pouring rain outside; I headed to the road at a gallop, taking little regard for what undead might still remain outside.
Just before I hit the road, I noticed the outline of a large form crouched on the hood of an old Toyota, about twenty-five feet to my right. I turned to look and saw it was Donnie Sims; I was sure of it. I pulled the horses up short and yelled into the storm.
“Donnie! Donnie Sims.”
No answer. I attempted to get the horses to move closer so I could see more clearly, but they seemed intent on staying as far away as possible. The rain was obscuring my line of sight, and I couldn’t even tell if he was breathing. His head hung low, and I could see his chubby jowls bulging out from beneath. Then, it spoke.
“Scratch—they did something to me, Scratch. Something god-awful. I feel like I’m not all here, but like there’s something else inside with me.” He tilted his head up at me slightly, and his eyes told me that this wasn’t Donnie Sims, at least, not any longer. Despite the rain, his words seemed to echo across the gravel lot. “It’s like there’s less of me, but more. You gotta kill me, Scratch—please.”
The horses became even more skittish at the sound of his voice. It was like two voices speaking from the same mouth, one Donnie’s normal, everyday voice, and another one, low and menacing overlaid on top of the first. That second voice reminded me of the roar of a kiln, insistent and manifold in tone and volume.
“Donnie, I need to know what happened at the settlement. Is Kara okay?”
He chuckled, or rather, two voices did. It was like an echo of Donnie’s voice hit a half second after his own voice, every syllable hitting in a double rhythm. “Kara? Kara’s fine. But look at me, Scratch. I’m dead, but I’m still alive. This thing they put inside me—it keeps telling me to do things. I don’t want to do those things, Scratch. I tried to put a bullet in my head, but it won’t let me end it. You gotta help me—please kill me, I’m begging you.”
“Donnie, how many are left?”
Donnie’s head rolled around bonelessly for a moment, and then it popped up a hair off center and went stock-still. I caught the barest glimpse of his eyes locked on mine through the pounding rain.
Suddenly I heard a splash to my left, and swiveled my head around to see a zombie limping up on my flank. But before it could reach me, out of the corner of my eye I saw Donnie’s mouth open up, so wide—wider than a snake eating a rat, wider than the gates of hell. And he screamed, screeching like nothing I’ve ever heard before or since. At that, the zombie cringed, literally cringed away, crawling off as if it were a dog that had been badly scolded by its master.
I turned back to Donnie, drew my pistol, and fired. He tilted his head, almost too fast for the eye to see, and a red crease opened up across his temple. “Ah, ah, ah.” Donnie’s fat finger wagged at me, and now it was just the second voice taunting me, alone and separate from Donnie’s own. At once, Donnie’s body rolled off the hood of the vehicle, vanishing from sight.
I waited for him to reappear from behind the car, but could see little in the driving rain. I waited a minute maybe, and finally heard that second voice off in the distance. “No damaging the merchandise, Sullivan. I was provided this wretched man’s body in payment for a task not yet done, and I’ll not give it up so soon.” It cackled then, a sick, high carrion call of a laugh that sent a chill down my back. A moment later, I heard the voice one last time fading off into the rain. “One last word of advice, Scratch—don’t forget to look up!”
After that strange bit of advice, nothing remained but the sound of pouring rain and thunder in the distance. I took one last look around the place, then spurred the horse and headed after Gabby.
- - -
followed the road to where I’d told Gabby to wait for me, but she was nowhere to be found. The rain had obscured any chance of spotting her trail, so I decided to head for the rendezvous point at the airstrip, trusting to chance and the kid’s plucky attitude that she’d make it okay. Well, that and a few million dollars’ worth of government research. I wondered if the she’d even needed me to rescue her from that trailer roof, or if in fact it was the other way around. That was something I’d need to talk with her about, once we had time to sit and chat.
I kept to the road until it intersected with another road that ran east-west, just north of the old military base’s boundaries. Then, I headed east for another four miles until I was certain I was parallel to the airstrip, and turned south through what had once been an upper-middle-class neighborhood of sprawling country estates. As I rode down the cracked and pitted blacktop, I spotted a few abandoned Beemers and Benzes, along with the odd swimming pool or two. Houses like this out in the middle of nowhere were usually a scavenging goldmine, and I made a mental note to return after reaching the Facility to look for supplies, especially for clean water and ammo.
Of course, I had no idea what Captain Perez had stockpiled at this mysterious facility of hers. Heck, I didn’t even know if her story was real or not, but it was all I had to go on, and all the hope I could muster for saving Kara depended on it being true. Firepower or no, I had little chance of surviving up against that pack as a stock human. I’d still try no matter what, but after seeing firsthand what sort of damage a ’thrope could take and still keep on swinging, I knew that I’d need every advantage I could get.
But the doc’s whole plan about creating a team of super soldiers, well... that was almost more science fiction than I was willing to believe, even after seeing the world succumb to a zombie and monster apocalypse.
Sure, everything that’d happened since the bombs dropped flew in the face of logic and scientific fact, and I’d only come to believe in zombies, vampires, and werewolves because I’d seen it with my own eyes. But all this mutant avenger shit—it was more than a little hard to swallow.
Maybe it was because I didn’t want to get my hopes up, and maybe it was because I didn’t want it to be true. Maybe the alternative, a long, slow retreat into human extinction, was the more acceptable option. And maybe I just didn’t want to have anything to do with whatever crazy shit the military had cooked up at the expense of other, better men and women who’d likely gone before me. Maybe I didn’t want or need that on my conscience.
But if the doc could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that she could give me an edge, one that wouldn’t jeopardize the rest of humanity in the process, I’d take it without any hesitation. And if it turned out that the new and improved me posed a threat to the human race, or that Captain Perez’s research was a threat, I wanted to be close to it so I could stop it. I’d have no qualms about doing the deed when and if the time came to make that call; at least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
- - -
abby was waiting for me at the airfield, just as we’d planned. There were a few small buildings and some ConEx containers nearby, so she’d wisely hidden the animals and waited inside and out of the rain for me to show. There was a covered area outside the building, so I hitched the horses there so they could get some respite from the rain. The building itself looked like much of the mid-century military construction I was familiar with: green asphalt roof, nondescript white vinyl siding, and not much in the way of decoration or embellishment besides some WW II–era light fixtures decorating the exterior. Made me feel right at home.
Gabby walked out on the stoop of the building to greet me with narrowed eyes and pursed lips. “Bobby hasn’t made it yet.”
I shrugged. “Don’t worry too much about Bobby, he can take care of himself. We’ll wait a few more hours, and then head to this facility once the rain lets up a bit.” I followed her inside the building, and unsurprisingly the interior matched the exterior in exactly the manner I’d imagined. Dark wood-laminate paneling lined the walls, not the expensive kind you might see in an executive’s office, but the cheap stuff you’d see in a mobile home. There were military insignia painted on the walls and floor, emblems of old military units that were long dead and gone.
Gabby was staring out the window with a worried look on her face, so I decided to give us both something to do. “As long as we’re here, we may as well see if there’s anything useful around. I’ll take the south hall, and you take the north. Holler if you run into anything unexpected.” Gabby rubbed her arms before taking one last look out the window, and then she walked off to do as I asked.
I searched my end of the building, room by room. Nothing much but file cabinets and assorted office supplies throughout much of the place, but I did find a roll of duct tape in one that was still serviceable. Finally, at the end of the hall I came across an officer’s office. I spied a foreign unit patch displaying the crossed kukri knives of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles hanging on the wall inside a glass display frame, along with a large curved knife in a leather sheath. I broke the glass with the butt of my HK and pulled the knife out, carefully removing it from the sheath with a tug. None the worse for wear and rust, the knife I’d found was a very serviceable kukri, likely a gift from the unit to the officer who occupied this office before the War. I sheathed it, and noting the dry rot on the leather, I also wrapped the sheath in the duct tape I’d just found in order to hold it in one piece. Once I’d stashed it in my pack, I started rifling the drawers for more goodies.
The drawers revealed nothing but a lot of paperwork and junk. There were pictures of what I assumed were the guy’s wife and kids on the desk, as well as a coffee cup that said
72 virgins, delivered courtesy of the Nightstalkers
. I also noted a sizable stack of papers in the officer’s inbox on the desk; apparently, this guy hated being an office jockey. I speculated that he’d probably served in Afghanistan, was wounded, and then was relegated to REMF status after his recovery. Most soldiers choose civilian life after that, but I knew a few who just couldn’t give it up and who stayed on to serve in any capacity they could. As an afterthought, I reached down and retrieved the Gurkha insignia from the shattered glass of the display case. I carefully positioned it on the desk and silently thanked the soldier for loaning me the kukri before leaving the office.
Once back in the hallway, I heard the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching from the far end. I looked up to see Gabby running up to me with a smile on her face and a flush on her cheeks. “I think I found something—come check it out!” I smiled back and marched down the hall after her.
Halfway down the other hall, she turned into a room that had formerly been secured with a metal Dutch door.
Must be a supply room of some sort
, I thought. Whether the kid had picked the lock on the door or found the key, I had no idea, but if she could pick locks, it wouldn’t surprise me. As I walked into the room, she was rifling through an old box that said
MEAL, READY-TO-EAT, IND.
on the side, bubbling with excitement like a little kid, which I reminded me once again that she was.
She looked over her shoulder at me. “So, did I hit the jackpot, or what? This one says chili and macaroni, this one says chicken something or other, and this one says ‘veeg-eh-tar-ee-ahn,’ but I don’t know what that means.”