Married by Mistake Chapter 35. Familiar Face

MbM
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Chapter 35. Familiar Face

Tom and Kaylee left the office and as soon as the door closed behind them, Kaylee spoke first.

“I don’t think that person was happy with you. She was quite upset about just filing the plan then she had cancel it.”

“She’ll recover.” Tom nodded. “Right now I have to call the exchange. Did you like the crew on the last flight?”

“Yes, what was her name.” Kaylee grumbled at her senior moment.”

“Watson?” Tom asked helpfully.

“YEAH! That’s her. Captain R. M. Watson.” Kaylee nodded her head.

“Good woman. She flew in Iraq and other places that I can’t recall. Multiple ratings. I request her a lot, the company knows my account number and gives me a list on who is available. She is the only woman on their staff that is multi-engine jet rated.” Tom described his history with the company.

“They only have one woman on staff?” Kaylee blinked, for a moment she felt that old urge to boycott.

“No, they have others,” Tom smiled as they walked, holding hand. “She is the only one rated for multi-engine jet.”

“Oh.” Kaylee laughed. “I was going to use another company if they didn’t hire women.”

“Oh no. Lettie, my NorCal Limo owner is a major investor. I would doubt that they’d make a glass ceiling. Could happen,” Tom pondered “But if Lettie found out? I’d run if I were them.”

“OH! I know Lettie! She picked me up from when we hit the birds.”

“Oh yes. That was a special favor, normally they don’t take limos off the pavement.” Tom smiled. “She is a rare one.”

“She said you helped them get a start?” Kaylee leaned her head on Tom’s shoulder for a moment while they walked.

“Not precisely. I just keep them on retainer and speed dial.” Tom said. “I direct business their way. They only have a few cars and I think only four drivers. Lettie and her cousins.”

“They have a post-grad psych major working for them. A guy named Kaikane.”

“Sounds Hawaiian.”

“He is. You get points for paying attention.”

“I don’t know Kaikane.”

“He knows you.”

“I get that a lot.”

“You are likeable.”

“Am not.” He argued.

“I’m going to slap you.” She growled at the lack of his self-confidence.

“Promise? We won’t have the chance for a mile-high fun time.”

“Seriously. You need to relax on yourself, you need someone to keep you…” She paused, looking for the words. “Well, not on your best you always seem at your best, but keep you from being so dark.”

“Your books will show that and if you are writing children’s stories, you need to keep them light.” Kaylee looked at him evenly with the soul of a woman who would protect the one she cared for, even from himself. “You write beautiful words like no one I know. Probably as good as any of the great writers. Even like Joyce and Steinbeck or Hemingway. But you don’t have to go all Edgar Allan Poe to do it.”

She paused and took a breath before pushing on with the thought.

“Tom,” She kissed his hand and looked into his eyes. “Don’t go back into that hole you locked yourself up into for a while.”

“What makes you think I am going back into anything?” Tom smiled. “You have given me light and passion. We are ending a contract in a way that protects you. I am not emotionally broken, I could have invested in it emotionally if I thought that you were sober and we spent some time together.”

He kissed her hand and smiled before he continued.

“Not baked, drunk and horny as you were. I can say I am fond of you, and that extends into friendship. And yes. I want you to stay, but not at the cost of a future.” His voice was soft, covering up a hidden emotion.

Kaylee thought a minute as they waited for Lettie to arrive with a limo. Tom’s speed dial rang her phone directly and he had told her of the situation.

“You are the best man I know, next to my dad.”

“I would like to meet him, someday.”

“Are you kidding? He would die to meet you. Steamland, if there is anything written by you on that series, he has it.”

“Heh, I bet he is almost my age.”

“I think you are older.”

“Oh. Um. Yikes!” Tom laughed. “He might greet me with a shotgun.”

“No, I think he’d be happy to have you in the family.” A twinkle in her eye showed her humor. “Even if you did corrupt his daughter.”

“TMI sweety.” Tom closed his eyes as if to block out the scene.

“Kidding.” Kaylee laughed.

A dark limo wheeled in. It was Lettie.

“Tom! Kaylee !” She seemed happy to see them. “It seems like we just left you both in the Sea Dragon.” She her smile was wide and bright.

“We need a ride to the Executive Airport to the private entrance.”

“Let’s go. Traffic is good, I can get you there in thirty minutes.”

“I will pay you for two hours. The plane won’t be ready until then, take us to The City to drive through the park and down the beach.”

“Hm. Tom, if I may suggest, from here? Let me take you to Half Moon Bay and then up along the coastal highway. We can pull in, then you and Kaylee can walk on the sand.”

“We…” Tom stopped for a moment as if something caught in his throat. “We are heading to Vegas to get an annulment.”

“WHAT? No…” Lettie caught herself and the professional woman came back to grips. “Sorry, Tom. But my opinion, she makes you smile. Kaylee , for a girl who was so mad at him a few days ago, you have a glorious soul that’s been touched by this gentle man.”

Motioning the couple into her limo, Lettie’s strained smile stayed frozen to her lips.

“That is all I will say on the subject. I apologize. Not my place and I’d fire anyone who did what I just did.” Lettie said. “One trip through Golden Gate Park, back to Executive. Do you have your transport taken care of?”

“Yes, thank you.” Tom smiled.

The Lettie close the door and got in the front of the stretched limousine.

“What was that all about?” Kaylee asked Tom.

“Lettie is kind of protective. But she has a point. I can switch companies if it would make you feel better.”

“No, actually, it makes me smile. Tom. Only someone special can evoke that kind of emotion in people, someone who people would stand up for. If I can come back and marry you?” Kaylee ’s eyes shined with tears. “I want to invite all your friends. From pilots, to writers, to limo drivers and everyone I can find that calls you by your first name.”

“Um. That is everyone I meet. I insist to dispense with formality. I am no better than anyone.”

“You are a great writer. Not many people can do that. PLUS!” Kaylee raised her index finger and touched the tip of his nose with it. “You do more for the fire fighters than just with your fleet of water bombers.”

“Water bombers? What… OH! Air tankers. How did you know about the tankers?” Tom blinked.

“I…” She bit her lip. “Well, I looked on your history in your computer back at the Pacific Wizard.”

“You’re kidding?”

“Ah. No.” A guilty laugh. “I was mad and curious and alone. You have internet on your computer at the Wizard and I logged into the guest accounts. Your name is all over the net.” Kaylee said.

“Ah. Yes.” Tom mimicked her.

“No problem. So you know about my aerial firefighting air-force that some states won’t use.” Tom smiled. “It works in most states, California is a bit more… Picky.”

“You have changed the subject. We need to talk and have this understood.”

“Well, technically, you changed the subject.” The quick mind of the writer did mental gymnastics around their conversation.

“Don’t change the changed subject.” Kaylee laughed. “The point is, you deserve more happiness than you have. And we can do it together if you and I start on a proper friendship and wedding.”

“Okay, I think we can do that. But you go take good and well care of Glenn. I’ll be your little secret.”

“Little? Little would be if you were an undergrad student of art, but you are a successful writer.” Kaylee shook her head, laughing. “AND, mister, you have two private flying yachts and your own personal air force and I don’t how many non-profit organizations that you have listed as getting support from you. So I would not call you little in any description.”

Tom chuckled.

“Well, tell you what. We split the sheets on this and you decide that this accident was a good thing to happen. We’ll have that wedding for you.”

“Not for me. For you. You should be honored. My family and friends combined couldn’t fill four rows in a church. I tend towards the shy side.”

“Shy? You? Shy like a hurricane. Let me see,” Tom smiled. “You have skills in karate…”

“Eskrima.”

“Yeah, that.” Tom smiled. “You like to lay naked on a beach, you are a bartender and you would not surrender in any meek way to a large man with a knife. And. If I recall he had at least a hundred pounds and a foot taller than you are and you still kicked the living poop out of him.”

“Heh!” Kaylee laughed. “Yeah, I did. It felt good, too. He wanted to hurt me, and I was in the proper mood to return the favor.”

“That is all too true, you are good.” Tom gave a quiet laugh at the memory. “I would have not ever missed that show for anything. It was fun to watch, shocking, but fun to watch.”

“You know, I might write about it someday.” He said more to himself than her.

“I would like to read that. Make me as an avenging angel.” Kaylee smiled.

“You can be sure.” Tom nodded. “I would make you that and more.”

The limousine pulled into the Golden Gate Park and drove around the green strip. Tom pointed out an archery range and a giant windmill as they drove by.

Talking happily with each other, two people enjoying their hearts and souls. Knowing that it would come to an all too soon end. They learned more about each other while Tom poured wine in glasses for the both of them and fed Kaylee dark chocolates from a crystal jar he purchased from a tiny, exclusive shop he made Lettie stop at in the Height-Ashbury district. Little more than a hole-in-the-wall near a Whole Foods store on Stanyon, he ran in and out in a minute, Tom’s wounded, but healing arm flapping painfully as he stepped hard off the curb.

It was an unplanned celebration.

Two people celebrating friendship and the strange path that brought them together.

After their second circuit of famous park, Tom leaned over to Kaylee and kissed her slowly with chocolate flavored lips from a San Francisco hidden candy-store.

“Let’s go get unmarried.” Tom whispered without conviction. “The time is now.”

“Okay.” She said, looking down into the glass of her wine, the sadness of the moment setting into her heart.

“This has been very enjoyable, Tom. You make it more difficult by being so nice.”

“You want to stay?”

“Yes. And no. I want my chance with Glenn.”

Tom stopped the conversation and toned Lettie to drive them to the airport with the phone from the back of the limousine.

“Time to go, thank you very much Lettie.”

They rode in awkward silence to the airport, the atmosphere in the limo becoming darker and increasingly tense.

“It will be okay.” Tom said, holding Kaylee ’s hand.

“Thank you.” She made a sad smile.

Together, two lovers and friends rode to the airport to fly to Las Vegas, to get “un-married”.

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Getting back on the keyboard with the imagination

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Okay, kidney stone passed. Pain receding, so I take my longbow and launch a few pointy sticks out of the house (I remembered to open the glass door, even) at the dangling bottle cap 30 paces away.

Sooooo… Frustration, anger, disappointment in myself at being taken to my knees by a grain of sand, I gave myself a little accomplishment and put the arrow into the suspended cap from a milk jug.

You all may have seen something similar on this page before, so it if it is a bit of a re-run, sorry.

But this shot is new. Mrs. D calls it a lucky shot.

Perhaps. Ponder. So I ask you, how many times do I hit it before it is no longer lucky? I am averaging about a hit on a cap once ever 8-12 arrows. Most times it bounces and flips away- but held by a string, I get another go at it. Which I like. The swing of three dimensions adds a challenge, too.

And with that bit of texture. The latest fun shot. I really should keep shooting. But I worry about hitting the other arrow. Small target, a good chance of destroying an expensive piece of equipment, strip off the fletching at a minimum. So I will go out and free the target from being pinned.

Pinned by arrow

Free swinging cap on string. Pinned by arrow.

Short (okay more medium), Sweet (okay, maybe not so sweet) and a Grumble.

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TWO-hundred mile drive, a promise made to Dads are as important as a promise by a dad to a child.

I said I would be there for the meeting with Mama Dash and her new oncologist.

When I arrived, about 3:30 pm local time, Papa Dash and I were talking and he said that about 2:00 local time, the Drs office called him and wanted to move the meeting up an hour.

He said no. 1. People (me) were coming from out-of-town and were currently out of contact. (All that line-of-sight stuff with phones and mountains)

2. Just no. Transport has been arranged, again, people from out-of-town and chemo is on the schedule for tomorrow. (Thursday) and they require her isolation for two days afterwards.

Yes, forty-eight hours after treatment, she is forbidden to have physical contact with anyone or leave her room. People cannot touch her, if they do, they must wash, surgeon style before they move anywhere out of the facility.

As I sit there and check on things, get updated by Papa Dash and help Mama out of the bed into a wheelchair (needing to use the lady’s room) I paged for the nursing assistant to do the other end of the job, I can move her, but the lady’s room has a line I won’t cross.

3:55 rolls around, we are getting all our plans planned. Questions written down, and I said that the transport unit had arrived.

Then it left.

“Um… Dad, it’s not out there anymore.”

4:00 PM. Meeting is at 4.15. Drive time is 10 minutes.

That is not a lot of time for loading, driving, offloading and such.

Rehabilitation center calls the transport company, transport company says they never got the call from the Dr’s office. A call to the Doctors office?

They moved the meeting up to 3:00.

No one was notified.

What?

Long story short… well…medium…

Doctor’s meeting now is on Thursday at noon.

“noon? When the office is closed normally?” A-yuh.  So it seems.

We’ll find out. So now I am sleeping on my sisters sofa, and not drive 200 miles home, then 200 miles back in the morning.

I am being entertained by the 11-year-old, sitting and talking. But now she has gone to bed. Leaving me with two cages of hamsters. One with a dozen BRAND new baby hamsters. (anyone want a couple?)

They don’t squeak loud, but they do squeak.

Papa Hamster is on the wheel trying to run away.

This is going to be a long night.

Meeting in the morning, record all the doctor has to say, ask questions and then we do a family “Round Table” discussion afterwards to weigh our options.

My only thought now.

If YOU as a patient call THAT MORNING to your doctor and request to change the appointment. They will, but they will charge you for the missed visit.

Or if you DON’T call and unilaterally change it. You get charged.

This is wrong on many levels for the thought that the office in turn can just dismiss the appointment and, in this case move it UP by over an hour without people knowing.

Will the office now charge for a missed appointment?

I realize that sometimes MD’s get emergency calls.  But a specialty like oncology, emergency response from the MD is not a common issue.  Not like a trauma surgeon, or an active cardiologist that might be in surgery longer than expected or has an emergency call.

So why move it up by an hour? or… Why move it up and NOT tell ANYONE? Rehab center, transport company, …patient?

Maybe we should charge that office for our time wasted. Fortune has it, of course I did budget for the fuel for this trip. But not for the time lost for tomorrow.

Ah well. Tomorrow is another day.

Update on Mama Dash:

She is getting stronger, quickly, but it still looks like at least another week of weakness to overcome before she can come home to a house that she would have trouble navigating around in.

Upside:

I have practiced some archery “magic” for the 11 and 16-year-old to watch.

I can shoot a smiley face into a target using about 10 arrows.

But I do it upside umop and then turn it over so it appears familiar.

“Have a nice day.”

I do enjoy being the “cool” uncle. Just as I do being the “Cool” dad. (Drives Princess #2 crazy, a lot of HER friends have broken homes, parents hate each other and fight in courts. Then the kids come over to our house and tell her she has cool parents. She has nothing to complain about.)

So that is my blog for the night. Not long, but not short. I am still annoyed with the Dr’s office for unilaterally changing the meeting without confirmation by ->anyone<- that they are even aware.

But I am pleased to be a part of this family, we are awesome- (Well, they are awesome, I am just “okay”, working on fine, good, great and then awesome). We might take it in the shorts and we still pull it together.

Fiction is delayed for a few days, but I will keep you updated on the RL adventures of the prince of unpublished, undiscovered, unknown un-novels!

Dash

 

 

 

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 8. Fools Rush In

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Chapter 8. Fools Rush In

Fae noticed his hair was a definite shade of crimson.

“I think we might have to check you for chromosome damage.” She looked at him as he read the display. “The picture of you that shows that you have dark hair.”

“Nope, the color is as it is now. I have red hair. I hate the color, so I had it dyed black. I like a blue-black hair.”

“Why is it shaved off?”

“When I went under, they said to cut it. So I did, then I found they only meant shorter, not shaved.”

“Oh.” Fae laughed. “I can see that happening.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t like the color anymore. Maybe I will let it grow out in the normal color.”

“Could be nice looking.”

“Naw, I look like the Garnet Star with legs.”

Fae laughed out loud. The comments he made in his self-deprecation she saw in his moments where he tinkered at the display, running diagnostics.

“This is frustrating, there is no reason for some of the circuits to overheat. There is a voltage drop somewhere, the cooling system goes into low power mode. I can adjust it manually, but it resets to lower capacity in a few moments.” Archer the Tech pulled at his ear. “I need a bow, some arrows and a place with clearance of fifty of my paces long and half that wide.”

He looked at their escort, a male mini-bot of the name Beekan Luc.

“Can I make a bow out of any of the trees out there?”

The small bot had little to say to the large humans. Often just stood and watched with sapphire blue eyes, saying nothing. His position as the Captain of the Guard made him disdain his assignment. But no one was available to watch over the human pair.

“No. It’s forbidden to destroy the plant and animal life here. You can print anything you need – including any of your food.”

“I would like a corn-dog. But, I’m interested in a simple bow. A longbow or recurve bow with arrows.”

“What is a corndog? I know all the species of felis catus, canis lupus familiaris. But there is no corndog specie I have in my database.”

Both humans laughed.

“It’s a type of food.”

“That seems destructive to a life form.”

“It is.” Archer said. “It is very unhealthy to eat it. But some people have weaknesses for smoke or drink. I have desires for that kind of food.”

“With mustard!” Fae added.

“Oh yeah. Mustard, the brown kind.”

“No, it has to be yellow mustard.”

“I still don’t understand.” The bot looked back and forth.

“It is a hot dog on a stick, dipped in batter and deep-fried.”

“Seems cruel.”

“No, do you know what a hot-dog is?”

“One that stays in the light of day too long in summer.”

The humans laughed again.

“A cylinder of meat, ground and seasoned about the size of, well, your size from foot to head. And a stick poked in one end, dipped in a batter and dipped in a hot vegetable oil until it is hot in the center and crunchy on the outside.”

“Revolting.” Was the comment the Captain of the Guard made. “It sounds like a huge amount of lipids and excessive proteins that would denature into an unhealthy meal.”

“Leave it to a robot to take the fun out of a corn dog.” Archer grumbled.

After submitting a request for a bow, they picked it up with arrows on his specifications.

“Archer, I need to go back to the medical lab while you do your thing with the bow and arrows.”

Fae laughed as she walked away to work while this nerd kind of person suddenly takes on a hobby that seemed steeped in testosterone.

Less than an hour later, an alert sounded in the medical department and a macrobot rolled a gurney with bloodied visage of the computer hardware tech laying on it.

“Alert the neurosurgeon. They say he was on the ground for a few minutes before anyone found him.”

“Oh my.” Fae said, stepping clear while she followed the tones for alerts of cooling of the air circulation.

Later, she stopped in to see Archer, the goose-egg on his forehead was the size of her fist.

“What happened?”

“Mmm…” Reluctant to tell her. “The bow hit me in the face.”

“What?” She shook her head trying to imagine the event. “How?”

“It slipped out of my hand when I was drawing it back to shoot. Then, well, I guess I let go with the wrong hand, and, well, it slapped me in the face.”

Fae started to laugh.

“Well, it’s a hundred-pound bow.”

“Is that a lot?”

“Yes, a lot.” He rubbed his forehead and winced. “I guess I am not in as good of shape as I thought. We still have lost some strength, I suppose.”

Fae shook her head, the thought of him being knocked out by his own bow was one she would have to keep in her logs.

Archer remained in the medical bay for another hour before the med-team imaged his head and found nothing.

This made her laugh even harder.

Handsome, pretty eyes, Irish and proud.

And a person that would need to be taken care of, or he would be in the hospital daily.

Or perhaps he would be a frequent flyer and she would see him often.

A walking disaster, she worried with an inward chuckle.

*Beaten half to death by his own bow and arrow.* She shook her head.*I hope he survives long enough to repair the systems tha are overheating.*

Still, the quirky named hardware tech was a good addition to the engineering team before all the other humans reanimated and walked around.

She would have to speak to Amsi about having Mr. Bowman in the close-knit team to take on the problems that cropped up in ancient circuits that had not seen power for three-hundred centuries, even if the nanobots did repairs over the years.

She smiled at the thought. *He is kind of dork, but he’s smart and funny. He can also help me find…*

She paused for a moment. *Oh god! I can’t remember my own boyfriend’s name!*

A pause.

Laughing, Fae MacLir worked her way back to the medical center to assign the new reanimated humans to new departments.

The hummingbirds, the cat-tastrophy and the crazy author with a bow

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Somewhere in this world sits-hovers-flits a hummingbird that thinks my backyard is not the safest place in the world.

And the tiny feathered friend is correct. For a bird his size, investigating the orange, yellow, white and black feathers with bright yellow nocks that seems like a weird flower but they are not the best place to be.

Now before you get up in arms that I am shooting at a hummingbird. I am not, I love to watch them little buggers. BUT, I don’t want them to come in when I launch an arrow at the worst possible time. Once I let go, I am not fast enough to chase it down and grab it out of the air. (Wish I was!)

I waited. The little thing came in while I was shooting, investigating the twenty odd arrows in the target, the bright yellow must look like the center of a flower, the feathers are petals. .

And I waited.

One at a time, it looked them over.

So I waited for it to get bored.

It’s 104 (40c), I have the door open so I can shoot. I’m stuck on a story, I have no cooler going, but I have 3 fans. (two are ceiling).

So, I am impatient.

It got to the far right of the target butt. But would not leave, acting as if one of the bright-colored feather and yellow-plastic was of particular interest.

I did not wait. I put an arrow away from all targets but still hitting the butt some four-feet from the tiny bird.

Exiting stage right at about the speed of sound, the little thing did not come back.

Pretty as flowers!  But them sticks are skeery and move fast.

I like hummingbirds, but not as targets.

Once it took off like someone shot it from …well … a bow, I continued the rest of my set and recovered the arrows. I made a jar of clear water and sugar,  and according to a web-page recipe, using red food coloring is a bad idea. (Besides I don’t have any that I can find)  And the yellow? Well, looks too much like urine. I won’t do that to the birds. So they get clear.

But one bit of dark humor, I hung the feeder via suction cup outside the big window of the formal dining room that we only use for Thanksgiving and is a place where the house cats hang out. (Inside.)  This became the Hummingbird Air Force refuling station right after that.

Now all three cats are congregated by the window, trying to chase the hummingbirds across the table that is against the window. After watching, I think the birds are wise to the fact the cats cannot get to them.

The cats? Not so smart. There has been at least one massive thud I heard and a scramble to get back up to the table by the time I walked back in.

But it has now been six hours since I filled the bird feeder the first time. It is now needs a refill for the second time for the day.  I am putting a half-liter of the sweetened water in it at a time, the birds have consumed one full and another half liter so far. They do have my number now it seems.  I just hope they stay in the front yard.

The cats? They are needing a trip to the therapist and some anti-stress pills ‘cuz them speedy, twitchy , feathery things are driving Skittles, Spike and Sweet Pea to drink.

No hummingbirds were harmed in the writing of this document.

Cats… Well the feline face-print in the glass might testify against me on that one.  But otherwise, they are no longer eating plants, or clawing furniture. Their tails are doing a choreography of movement of course.

.

And on a personal note: Three hundred miles.

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Long hours of driving, to the biggest little city in the world to visit Mama Dash.

Mom is doing better, a needle slid into the fractures of her back and injected a plastic glue has stabilized the back of the lady whom I  am proud that she will call son.

Her strength and muscle mass has greatly suffered from her last ten-days in a hospital bed.  So now, she tries to use a walker while taking steps.  The first effort was agonizingly slow.

Her greatest effort is to just sit up.  So she will be going to a rehab facility, we have hopes it will be a short stay.   The room she stays in is in Sister Sledgehammer’s home.  There is very little space for her to use a walker in her room.  Overall the house is okay, but the bed-wall clearance is quite small.

Now, after working on that round of ideas and thoughts, Sister Sledge has brought the eleven-year-old uncle-napper and we sat together for some minutes.

With a few nods and winks with Princess #1.  We invited Sister (I am going to have to come up with more names.  I have 4 sisters! One brother who I have not nearly as much contact with as I would like)  who is 11 year old’s mom, to come out to my car.

I made a gift of the lightweight recurve bow, a fingertab I sat up last night and designed for her hand. She walked around the hospital room rattling the fingertabs whilst tied to her finger. LOL

So the day was successful. Got to see mom, got to see dad. Saw two sisters.

And made a pre-teen dance with joy. She promised me she would shoot every day. (I have no doubts) and she also admitted to not started the little story I asked for. (Get her brain exercised during the summer break.) one to two pages of a story about anything she would like.

I would also put it here, with her pen name. (Only eleven, I won’t put her real name out. )  So she seemed excited.  BUt I think it was short-lived. She is far more interested to make the tiny, pointy sticks fly than write. ;o lol.

So let’s send good thoughts to Mama Dash, to the Zombie Snowman in the back yard. And one happy preteen that will shoot her heart out.

For now, I am tired.  I have an achy back, too many hours standing and driving. I cannot sit still.  So I am going to lay down.

Arrival Home, Dogs go Ape.

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A week in Reno and surrounding area while I stayed at the sister’s house while she has about a pound of hardware that held her ribs together from her event of a (Near) Total Body Crunch.

Papa Dash had a surgery. Officially “Outpatient.” but it took 4 days from Friday to Monday before I took the old warrior home. (To my sister’s house where he was staying for the time being with Mama Dash who has her own issues. More on her later.)

So, we have one family member in the hospital for surgery, lasting until Monday, to which sister goes in for surgery, the SAME day. 0.o Okay… We can handle this. I stay at her house, sleeping on the sofa- and I am pounced by a lonely 11-year-old girl who falls in love with Archery– and we shoot until my arms fall off.

Meanwhile Mama Dash who has ongoing back pain -pain that no one can seem to track down- hurts her back again after twisting while sitting on the foot of the bed.  A sudden swelling on the vertebra below the line of the shoulder blades was palpable. *sigh* Mark it with a felt tip pen and let’s go to the ER and get it evaluated. Probably a torn muscle related to the previous pain. Possibly related?  A disk rupture? I don’t know, only an x-ray to find out. I don’t have such installed in my fingertips.

At the ER, things go from bad to worse and the Emergency Doctor transfers Mama Dash to a medical center for comprehensive testing and followup – possibly with an oncologist.

So now, papa Dash is not eating (“Everything Tastes BITTER. I have to force myself to eat.”  … Um, okay.  But overdosing on fruit is unwise. And it came to pass… that yup.  Too many banana’s, etc etc.  Do make things run faster. And RUN is what he does, get the heck out-of-the-way!)

Sister came home on Friday, 11-year-old did the archery with me on the last day and then Xbox to 1:45 in the freakin’ morning when she learned mom was well enough that it was time for me to go home.

But I could not tell her “no” or go to bed. We have had a good time this week and she is lonely with a 15-year-old sister with a social life and friends with cars. Dad is working overtime to cover costs of deductible and copay. Mom is in the hospital, so is gramma, grampa is with gramma.

That leaves the weird uncle with the pointy sticks and bows.  We built the Zombie Snowman (our name for it.) and shot uncountable times. Even got the 15-year-old sister to spend time with us.  She is also hooked. Lol. they have a JOAD team in the school, so I will have some competition next time I go there. lol.

Then time to go home.  A three-hour tour of the beautiful mountains with big clouds and occasional showers. Cool temps, taking deep inhales of cedar, redwood, pine scented high mountain air with a touch of lightning to scent it all.

Then I dive down into the Big Valley. (Look up the TV series of the same name with Barbara Stanwyck, Lee Majors, Richard Long, Linda Evans and Peter Breck) and into the heat. Blech.. I’ll go back to Nevada where the temps are cooler.

BUT!

The dogs start bouncing.  Honey the honey colored dog sits on me, Hershey the Chocolate labrador just pushes her way in. there is no such thing as a still hand. You can put it on her head, scritching does not get it, must MUST be a pat and rub.

Honey, she has her tongue out. Palm wide, two palms long.

“Human, you have been missing, I have to coat you in my saliva to make it better.”

Hah. She sits on me for awhile then goes to lay down in the coolest part of the house- a hardwood floor with a breeze.

Later, I walk outside to water the corn, sunflowers, and pumpkins.  She is watching me so I stomp my foot at her in the universal play language of dogs. “Gonna get you!”

She is “Game ON! Human-who-has-been-missing! Attack!”

Suddenly my arms, hands, feet, legs, are her personal chew toys, she hits me in the chest time and again while I put her into a head lock.

This goes on for a few minutes, then it is off to grab a toy and dance out of my reach every time I try to take it from her to throw.

I assume she wants me to throw it.  But then she keeps it away, until I ignore her then she jumps close and barks at me with a muffled “Woof”.

It is fun to have been missed. So now she sleeps with her head on my foot. her body half in-half out the sliding glass door.

That really looks uncomfortable over the threshold.

Anyway.  waiting for reports on the scans on Mama Dash, Papa Dash has agreed to eat more lean protein and get some complex carbs in.  I suggested Archery (I think I covered that before) but it won’t come to pass, so long as mom is in the hospital.  Food yes.  Archery? Yeah…not so much.

On well.  Honey dog just decided to drop a ball on me and is wagging her tail.  I have to throw it before she starts barking.

Then back to writing that I have been circumvented by an eleven year old who is lonely during the summer. (all her friends went out-of-state and the one that’s left is “always busy”)

I’ll post something soon.

Not counting my High Mountain Adventures.

your fave Up and Coming Author

Dash

Archery, zombie snowmen in the desert and chocolate bars.

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Help! I have been kidnapped by a 60 pound, eleven year old girl who has fallen in love with archery!

I spent a few hours with her talking about parts of the recurve bow, the string. How to shoot and stand.

Her first shot did not make it to the target. (10 paces away) so we moved closer- 5 paces. Next shot. Bullseye!

She was addicted!

Ut-oh! She IS addicted.  I have obtained a new longbow a few weeks ago and I am still working on drawing it after a 24 shot series without trembling.

Yesterday? I thought my arms were going to fall off.  I could not type, my shoulders ached, my fingers of my right hand are SORE. I think we loosed over, well over, 100 arrows yesterday. The only time we stopped, here in the high desert of Nevada. When it got too warm.

So we went inside where she made me some hot chocolate with the multi-use coffeeish maker. (They come in pods.) So..that was okay, I did some coffee in the chocolate, to which she went “eww!”.

So we came in to play xbox until the sun moved- and back out we went!

She got her sister’s compound bow, but after two shots, she went back to the recurve. Sister will be shooting with us today, so maybe not so much shooting?

Hah.  yeah. right.

So, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cold packs and maybe I can talk them into a Lord of the Rings marathon. (Don’t think that will happen, not when the bows are sitting out.)  So I will attempt to write this AM and get you folks entertained.  I am already working on my third cup of coffee, it is quiet, someone is up, but I don’t know who just yet. But I will take advantage of the quiet of the morning.

If someone can shush that rooster outside that would be great! I’d threaten to shoot it, but I don’t think I can draw the bow right now! Ugh!

Moment of release

Moment of release. Note arrow in flight just in front of the bow.

We still need to work on her form, but we are having lots of fun for now.

Well, SHE is. *I* am in pain…

*Insert emotional music here*

Sister Sledge is doing well, due for release from the hospital tomorrow.  Papa Dash is nearly back on his feet after the surgery. He has been driving around in his truck. Has his leather cowboy hat on. (Seems a lot of his hair has migrated from his head to his back. I wonder… can they transplant back-hair to the head? Would that work? Hmm… AND it still has color. Although a bit darker than his original hair.)

Mama Dash is trying to be stubborn and not go to the Doctor, but the Great King has brought down the hammer. She is going. End of discussion. His eyes got a bit sparkly in that moment where you know that someone is about to be grounded (or worse) as a kid.

Anyway.  I have to keep him from doing too much. I might introduce them both to the world of archery.  It has muliptle benefits.

1. After the initial expense, it is relatively cheap. you reuse the arrows, not counting broken ones. (that’s the main cost)

2. Shooting is good for the core strength. Keeps your mind focused.

3. AFTER you shoot and do the isometric exercise of resistance pulling, you have to go get those pointy sticks! So there is a walk to the target, pulling and walk back. A second benefit!

4. Recurve bows are lightweight. Not like the machines of compounds which I find can be heavy(not always, there are the more expensive ones that are quite light). Plus with a take-down recurve, you can change limbs and draw weights. So if Mama Dash can’t pull, or has gained strength, more limbs and not an entire bow needs be purchased.

So that is the end of my rave for archery. shotgun, Rifle and Pistol shooters? Worry not, I am not dissin’ you. My aim (hah!  Not intended but I like the pun, so it stays) is for quiet and reusability. Difficult to recover your bullet and shot for reuse time after time.

Anyway.  Wish us luck, I hear that Honey the Honey colored dog is moping around, missing me. (I don’t know why, I am not her human. Princess #1 is.)  She is sleeping on the laundry I did but did not put away before I left, just sat it in the basket in front of my dresser. Now the basket has become a bed for a 90 pound yellow dog.

really? Most of my clothes are dark. Guess I get to do laundry again.

Okay, sending this away so i can do fiction before I’m kidnapped again.

Wish me luck!

Dash

PS. Nearly forgot Zombie Snowmen. We piled targets up on each other. A large white “body” with a dark, weather-beaten head.  You can see the body and head in the image, we put it up top after the image was taken. It is a zombie because we are in the desert which is deadly to snowmen. So this one is ‘undead’. lol. part of the story.

Discharged! Hospital in the Rear View mirror.

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At 5:45 in the morning, I woke alone in the room. Light was subdued by heavy drapes in the room. The Inn at the hospital was comfortable and quiet. But excitement was the ruler of the morning, Three days, count’em! THREE!

An “In and out” surgical procedure. Problems arose, along with bleeding. But the patient, a tough old bird that has had a bumpy year, health-wise has survived the tribulation and both his attitude and strength is returning.

Somewhat tired, but so motivated to get the hell out of the hospital, when the morning came, he was nearly as excited as I was.

So we laughed, talked and waited. harassed nurses (In good humor)   7:00 hour rolled by.. 8:00… 9 AM… Breakfast arrives, chocolate milk. We share the milk in our coffee, father and son drinking side by each. The Great King and the Imitation of the man. one who sits on his own throne.

No doctor.  The Nurse practitioner kept promising the discharge was in the bag.

Yeah, 3 days burned on that note.  So When does the doctor come in?

TEN O’clock…

Papa Dash and I looked at each other.

“I need to go check out of the Inn. I can always check back in and checkout time is 11:00.” And off I went.

10:30 rolls around.  I return, no doctor.

ELEVEN. A.M.  Nurses are starting to hide from me.  If I have to check back in at the Inn, I’m going to start making a spectacle of myself.

Noon.  No doctor.  Papa Dash is now dressed in his street clothes and pawing at the ground like a bull ready to charge. Lunch arrives, pudding, chocolate milk. Carrot soup.

Quarter past noon, I head over to the nurses station.

“Is the doctor in surgery?”

“He has surgery on the schedule for 1:00.” She looks at me. “I will call the Nurse Practitioner.”

Okay.  So I return to the room where an impatient and tired Papa Dash sits.

Brother-In-Law appears, sister is in same hospital and is having a scheduled surgery for trauma from three years ago. She is in the hospital at the same time as Papa Dash.

But Sister Sledge-hammer is as hard and strong as they come. More on her later.

Finally!  At half-past the hour, the doctor comes in. Nods, shakes hands, “make an appointment with me next week.” and walks out.

We are FREE!

Two signatures later, we aer SO outta there. Shake hands with Brother In Law, hugs all around.

Papa Dash does not even want to wait for me to bring the car around. He is all like “#$%@ that! Let’s go!” walks out without the wheelchair.

So a hike of a half-mile to the car, after 4 days of enforced bed rest, bleeding, post surgery, dehydration, no real food (Pudding, coffee, chocolate milk) and he made it. Although, he was glad to sit down.

The old guy rolled the window down and stuck his head out the window for the first two blocks just to feel the wind in his face.

“Damn, I missed that.” With laughter. “Drive young’un!”

Now for sister:

She is in the hospital for at least TWO days. If the math works out like Papa Dash’s, we are looking at least a week, but Brother in Law says it went pretty well.

The steel plate they put on her ribs to hold her together showed signs of infection and the surgical team took a biopsy to send to the CDC to identify the source.  If it comes back with bad news, an alternative plan that includes more surgery is in the works.

If good news?  She comes home. At which point I evaluate my position here.

Maybe a day longer to see if she can function and have her control of the children and family, if so? I go home. If she needs me to be the legs she needs, I’ll hang out for a few days, do archery with my nieces, tell stories on Grampa.  The younger niece has all but kidnapped me. We had tea with dolls, watched Cloudy with Meatballs 2, How to Train your Dragon and several games on Xbox.

I do not own an Xbox nor do I know how to play it. Maybe I can distract the kids as the favorite weird uncle that does things outside besides writing stories.

Maybe roast a few S’mores…

Tell a few fireside stories I make up as I go along.

More on that later. 😉

For now,

Dash McCallen, your fave up and coming author signing off.

Good night.

The survival of fireworks

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We survived.

Rather: Hershey the dog did.  Of all her stress did not come to pass, the neighbor had it correct that the distance to the beach (two, almost three miles away.  maybe 4 km) alleviated a lot of agony and anxiety, Hershey the dog walked around and checked on people, but conversations kept going, TV was on, no one reacted, so checking in with humans, poking her nose into the face of Princess #2 and being petted by Princess #1. All was good in the world.

A long walk on the beach, ocean, thousands of people and dogs to sniff, see and taste (She licked one dog in the face, one baby had his (or her?) face cleaned.) Hershey was tired. So in all, distant fireworks did not draw undue anxiety out of her heart.

The only anxiety reaction we suffered all weekend was the Princess #2’s boyfriend. (More on him later).  Hershey walked around, getting pets and a home-made version of doggy ice-cream.  (Gelato, really I suppose.)

If you need a recipe on that, it is easy. a cup of peanut butter, 32 ounces of plain Greek yogurt (slightly less than 1-liter, or litre if you prefer.) tablespoon of local honey and a large banana. Blend for a minute (You may have to take a scraper to the inside of the blender to get the peanut butter to mix properly. I do. but I don’t have the best blender in the world by any stretch of the imagination and peanut butter (or peanut paste, if you prefer, I like mine chunky) then pour into small containers with a lid, freeze and then when you like, pop the top, hand the whole container to the dog and it will be a wonderful frozen treat for a few minutes.

Mind you, if you have any children wandering about and they discover this concoction? Dogs will be out of luck! This stuff is tasty! It is healthy, quick, and it is human quality food. Good for everyone and a great treat. No chemicals, no artificial this or that.  Good stuff.  I’ll consider that a rave, heh.

So now we have had a good weekend, but like all good — or bad– things. It comes to an end in about 2 hours. Back to the heat, misery and daily dust of life.

To idiots that shoot off large bottle rockets over the house (and terrify the chocolab who tries to be anywhere but there, top of my head is one spot that seems to be a favored place). I am tempted to go out with a blunt arrow and stand in the dark. Wait until the said idiots to  the fuse to the bottle rocket and then I shoot the rocket and tip it over.  No one will see the black arrow and life would get REAL exciting for a moment. or three.  But as Princess #1 did say, there is no telling where it might go, including into someone’s open window of their house – or car. And a live firework bursting inside a car as it drives down the road is ALL bad.  So I won’t.

Nice to dream of though.

Princess #2’s boyfriend.

Nice fellow, tries constantly to impress me, but it’s not working all the time. I do give him points for trying.  I put him on BBQ duty the other night and he did a good job.

His only malfunction on this trip – He is a desert cat.  From Oklahoma, his idea of a body of water is he can see all sides to it. The Pacific ocean is unnerving.  He is desert, we are beach and ocean oriented family.

Waves bother him. We went to lunch on a wharf, the waves hitting the pilings underneath were bad.  The cars driving over the wood of the wharf was bad, Seafood everywhere – well he likes shrimp, but is allergic to the food.

So he asked to go home. Princess #2 is not an overly warm-blooded person, but loves the beach, rolled her eyes some. But, he is her boyfriend and she took him on the 300 mile journey back.  She thinks the Great Barrier Reef is cold water diving and did not swim much. She hung out on the boat. But..she was only ten years old at the time. (Princess #1? Pfft.. she would swim in the ocean if there was ice in close proximity, she goes in, never comes out.)

So now, we sit on the sofa, the clock ticking down to the end of this cool morning. Slightly overcast with the marine layer in (Another unnerving thing the boyfriend experienced. I likened it to the tides of the ocean, which was a mistake. :/  another reason he headed back to the dry and heat)

Ah well.

The home journey awaits. Back to a noisy, dusty, miserable place where sirens sound hourly – or more often – and is generally just a stressful place to be living.  I have two plants I need to replace, I forgot to bring them in out of the heat and they have been sitting without water for the last 96 hours. Rosemary is hardy, but not sure it can tolerate that. Basil? Well, dried basil is useful. As is rosemary.

And I promise, no black arrows into bottle rockets doing the final countdown.

ArcheryTalk of the Night

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Now, over the months, I’m shooting at ever smaller targets-  bottle caps (The Cheap Archer here.)  With depression that sneaks in, on a few really low days, the arrows and focusing on the targets 30 paces away help.

For you folks with the telescopic optical sights, stabilizers, balance beams, pulleys and such, I appreciate your ability to shoot. But I keep it to the difficult, organic side.

10,000 years if archery history, I shoot with a longbow- my newest friend.  It sits next to me along with the vintage recurve I purchased for US$7.50 (Sans string, I had to buy that separately for US$3.50).

Now, that said: The targets.

A 30 mm cap from a milk jug, made of low density polyethylene. Very light, and more durable than the previous, larger bottle caps I used.

To make matters more difficult. I punched a small hole in two of the said LDPE caps. Hung them by a kite string on a small stick of bamboo that swings and rotates slowly (sometimes fastly) in the wind. I have hit it all week in oblique hits as it spins and swings in the air. The slightest breeze moves the cap. it is a challenge.

Tonight, however, was something different.  That was a an impressive (to me) shot. It was breezy, and you have to track the target and anticipate where it might be when the arrow gets there.  But I still buried the bottle cap into the target backstop.

That made my night.  Depressed? yeah, still. But I feel a little accomplished. Plus I have gotten the writing more focused today.

Come shoot with me. 😀 I’ll supply the bow and the arrows.  We can scour the area for targets. Leaves, bottles, caps, even an odd shoe I see on the side of the road now and again… and recycle them at the same time.

Stuck Target into the backstop

Small target buried into target backstop. Note string. 

The Dark Place of Writing.

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In the last 72 hours, I have found how the clouds can move over once again. Noticed it when editing a story that a good gent critiqued.  Good honest crit.

As I write this the honey colored dog, Honey, is head-butting my arm.  She’s not the strongest dog in the world, but she has a forklift for a head. She does pretty well on tipping me over.

Back to the here and now, I have not been writing which annoys me. Instead I’m overheated  (that time of year anyway) during the day and stripping paint of the door that Hershey the dog from abject panic of firecrackers in the area and no humans home to calm her.  Now I am on a mission to strip this door of at least six layers of paint, perhaps as much as fifty-years worth of paint. So care must be made to lock the paint in a plastic bag and reduce dust to zero.

This means no electric sanding, and hand-sanding with fluid surfactants to entrap the dust- and all done outside.

But, it also means I am not writing. Not like I need. I like to have stories mapped out (if not written, I’m ahead in my head.)  days ahead of the cycle, and I know I am late in the day.  Most of the studies I read say I should post in the morning of the United States.

Blech, I don’t do that. Midnight? Yeah. Often.

Tonight at midnight? Hardly.  You get a journal entry only, no fiction.  I don’t have a muse to write with. The muses are in the showers cleaning off paint-crud and paint stripper.

I would paint it all again, but Mrs Dash wants it stained, and it appears to be nice wood underneath. At least one filler, it seems that someone moved the door knob from one side to the other.

And yet, I feel lost.  Is it the drug of writing?

I prowl the kitchen without reason, aimless wandering and looking to poach something.  Peanut butter and chocolate? Ugh..then I sit down to the keyboard… then jump up and run outside again to scrape paint off the door. Again.

I daydream out there. Need to launch an arrow or two

The imagination calls, to watch the hero save the day?

Does the heroine save him, only to find out he is gay and married to a wonderful man?

Does the hero watch his hearts love walk away? Superman watching Lois Lane marry someone who is better for her than he ever could be?

Heh, I missed all those in the last few days. The glory of creating. Or editing? That is fear.

I fear to make it worse. From exploding phones in the hands of bad guys to a steampunk journey to a romance that is as chaotic as they come.

But as Hemingway said, first drafts are all crap. (Well, paraphrased there.)

I will dig up another chapter, edit it a little, clean up some things and post it here, but is it truly writing?  It doesn’t feel like it.

Sometimes, I hear the laughter in my soul that is not there. The doubts. I am no writer, I am just… someone who thinks he is.

Who am I?

Odd question.

I am a writer, an author. I will make you cry or laugh.

I am Dash. Bradach Ard Ri.

Archery and the challenge

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Okay, raise your hand if you find archery relaxing.  Anyone? Any… Okay, just me.

Yes, I write, and I have been told I write in a chaotic way (The story began with the word “Chaos” so I was jumping around with different points of view to begin with, in an attempt to give the impression of fear and chaos.) and in the times where my mind has to take a breath, the need to do something to focus is real.

So, I pick up my longbow and shoot. My targets are generally on the cheap, my income does not yet match that of Stephen King or William Patterson or JK Rowling, bottle caps are my preferred targets, and lately I have improved. I am destroying bottle caps faster than the family can drink their drinks.

So I need to make the challenge more, well, challenging.

I have taken a bit of scrap wood, sharpened one end and stuck it into the target back, hung bottle caps and one 2 liter bottle by kite string so they swing in the wind.

this has increased the difficulty by orders of magnitude. Once you loose the arrow, all you can do is watch it head to the point you (hopefully) selected. Well, the bottle moves, caps move.  Now it is all about predicting where it will be.

Some luck is inherent to this effort, so you can call it a lucky shot, if you like, but when do they stop being lucky? After the third hit out of five arrows loosed?  Four of five? Four of six?

Ah but I digress.  Onto the frustration of the day.

I missed shooting on Monday, I headed out when I got uncomfortable with a computer on my lap, even when balanced on a lap-desk. The insulation of the three fingers thick plastic body of the surface still gets warm.  And we are hitting the highs of our summer now.

I stood up and stepped outside to shoot and let the lap have a break, the mind refocus.

Well, until I hit outside on Monday.  First thing is the scalp on my head yelled for a hat.

Second thing: My feet in the sandals started yelling to get out of the sun, this was a bit too intense to be shooting under.

So Monday was skipped.

Tuesday, early, lawn cut, area picked up, slight cloud cover. Wind is blowing strong enough to move things around.  Swinging gloriously, the bottle caps and the foam filled 2 liter bottle was a tempting target.

First shot, I hit the bottle, the urethane foam keeps the arrow from going all the way through and pin the bottle to the target back.  It keeps swinging.

Well, but now, it is off-balance and swinging oddly in the freshening wind, and like a cat, I can’t give up on that challenge.

I go for the black bottle cap, it is swinging behind the bottle, making it a challenge to hit and not hit the bottle.

Heh, no sight window other than my fingers touching my cheek with the #55 pound bow, I launch another arrow at the swinging targets, trying to sneak the arrow past the bottle into the bottle cap.

I missed, not by much!  but I missed…and the arrow that was stuck in the bottle? fell to the ground.

I stood there for a minute, trying to decide to continue to shoot two dozen set of arrows or go figure out what happened.

Well, I chose to go investigate, why did the arrow not even stuck in the target backstop, fell to the ground when the other arrow stuck into the backstop, not even hit the bottle, missed the cap, too. I was close in all measurements, but still a miss as everything was swinging.

I walk up, the black arrow lay on the grass, the tip still protruding from the bottle.

What happened?  I stood there and puzzled it, a broken arrow, but how?

Then pulling out the part that was stuck in the bottle, I had to pull it out forward, as it was broken off flush to the bottle.

Well, I hit the arrow with the second arrow- transverse hit! I hit it right where it went into the bottle.

The arrowhead fits perfectly in the torn-through dimple the field point made on its way through to the so-close bottle cap.

Snapped that booger right off. *sigh* not just broke it, amputated it, if you were to take your arrow (assuming you have one.) put the tip on the tip of your middle finger and then the break maybe to the second fold in your wrist, that is how much arrow I lost.

The diameter is quite small, if you think about it.  They are Easton GameMaster 500’s at the longest cut I can get. About half the diameter of my pinky fingers (I have fat fingers) from 30 paces away. Second shot, in a random swing pattern.

Sheesh, it was a perfect arrow, too.  I have a number of them that are bent, twisted and one I affectionately call “Corkscrew”  for how it looks and how it flies. But now it is a third shorter, I’ll donate the aluminum arrow to the children’s coach that took over from my daughter the archer last year after I repair it to take a field tip again.

In the last ten days I have damaged or destroyed three arrows by hitting them with followup shots. But at least my rate if hitting the bottle caps has fallen back down to ten-percent.

 

Two arrows, separate bottlecaps

Arrows above the scarecrow

The scarecrow was removed from target status, it became the thing to shoot around, but after it retired as a target and became the obstacle to avoid, the dogs chose that it was the perfect tug-0-war toy and destroyed it.

Ray B. Scarecrow will be missed.

 

The words.

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A stick and string of high school sports

A boyhood fantasy.

Robin Hood?

Or William Tell?

The girl beside him asks for help.

“Draw full, touch your cheek.”

She releases to a bulls-eye.

Sparkling blue eyes

He’s her hero.

Football boyfriend threatens

A stuffing into a locker in his future.

“my girl”

Thirty years on the archer wonders

“Where is “My girl”?”

The arrow flies alone to the bottle cap.

Flee

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Flee

Fracking.

That’s what they called it, but whatever the title it might have, it was a disturbance in places long hidden from the light.

Humans dug deeply into the earth, disturbing the ancient bedrock. Minor quakes rattled places that humans had yet to explore.

Perhaps they should not. For there are places in the earth that were buried so deep as to be forgotten.

They should remain forgotten.

But not this day.

All that remained for those still standing, with all their maps and explorations, was

Flee 2nd cover

1. Brisbane

The red haired Yank drew his bow and sighted over the arrow at the horror that approached him from forty-paces away.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly.

Thirty paces and closing, its breath wheezed audibly in decaying lungs. This was a fresh-dead human that could walk faster than the other undead.

Twenty paces.

His focus was a laser point as he aimed, he pushed fear of approaching death down into a small compartment in his soul.

He waited, measuring.

Fifteen paces.

The eyes of this once-human had not yet become milky. Its vision was nearly equal to the living. The Archer took a deep breath and let it out slowly, at one time this was a handsome youth.

Five paces.

Archer shot the arrow into the left eye of the walking nightmare, it stiffened and fell over backwards.

“Why do you shoot them in the eye like that?” Alexander Frobisher asked.

RCMP when he was working, he was a Sergeant and a leader of the Emergency Response Team in his section, now he was not so sure since the fall of society.

“Bone is thinner there, with luck it’ll punch through hole that the optic nerve passes. It’s less stress on my arrows and I hate trying to build new ones. I have tried build wood arrows, but I failed. Wood arrows are a challenge, even starting as dowels.” Archer said. “But, I’m learning. Each time I work one, I’m better. We need to figure out how to build these in case we cannot find any high tech arrows in stores someday.” The Archer pulled out a straight dowel of a wood that Frobisher could not recognize. It was fletched and had a tip made from a silver spoon he had pounded into shape with a discovered hammer, but was no arrow that Archer was willing to shoot. “Ah well, let’s take the food to the group. ” Archer said, as he pulled his arrow out of the head of the nightmare that had been walking at him— it was an odd moment of black-humor that struck his mind as Frobisher watched.

A dead-dead person.

“Stay close to the flat of the buildings, away from the bushes.” The Sergeant said as they headed out. His own weapon at the ready, made of a cricket bat and the front chain-wheel of a bicycle. An effective battle-ax with a spiked edge.

The Archer carried a bow that he had found in a house. A simple recurve bow, he shot with an instinctive skill. Always in the eye of his target with devastating effect, they always went down in a mundane, quiet fall.

You could say that they were longtime friends if you met them on the street. But they had only met three weeks prior when the world fell into ruin.

Funny how such bonds are forged in the crucible of chaos.

Chaos.

It began in the land of Oz.

In Darwin, the first news of it hit the television. A virus the newscasters said.

A jetliner had declared an emergency, crash-landed, breaking into two large sections. The walking cadavers emerged from the debris, quickly overwhelming the emergency crews and security forces.

The Archer figured out the secret with head shots. Gunfire attracted attention and mobbed those that used such weapons. The silent arrows made a path without attention.

The shuffling dead did not know or communicate when an arrow had stilled one of their own.

The pair made their way to the bank that the group had held up in. Hiding behind a blast-resistant wall, the group was a mix of people who followed the Archer after he walked down the boulevard, creating a hail of death that cleared a path through the Edgar Allan Poe nightmares pounding on the walls of their tourist coach.

Andrea St. George the tour guide and her driver Jameson Curtis were the first to join the Yank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight, an attorney from the United States that worked for the ACLU, Zac Wood from Scotland, a student ambassador, joined the group on another of the Yankee’s forays at a bus depot. Now they stood behind the cage where they could pull the safe door shut if they needed to, while Andrea held a single-shot rifle ready.

The Archer and Sergeant Frobisher tapped on the doors to be let into the bank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight of the ACLU opened the door, holding a shotgun she had discovered in the bank. The men stepped in while the sharp eye of the lawyer watched the street.

Behind Stormy stood, with a pump shotgun taken from an abandoned police cruiser, Gallisa “Gail” Blachere, Ph.D, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ed.D had a barely controlled rage in her eye, welcomed the two explorers back

“Mighty hunters bring food!” The Archer laughed and opened his bag of canned goods. “Sorry there are no fresh foods.”

Stale biscuits and beer were common in the second bag that the Canadian carried. Two jars of Vegemite he set on the counter.

“You have taste for a Yank!” Andrea laughed and picked it up. “A bit of heaven on earth you have here.”

“Maybe. I bet Al has done better with the beer and biscuits.” The Archer said. “Eat up, we need to move out as soon as we finish. There is a police station down the road with a gated fence. “

“Why do we need to move?” Zac asked.

“The bank is too soft of a target.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “A police station is more easily protected I’d say, it’s safer.”

Praise the lord and pass a biscuit.” Archer said. 

#

Chapter 2. Eating Well


“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” The archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

Aw, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

The archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” The archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns equal attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by running, it was FUBAR.”

FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What’s FUBAR?”

Fucked up beyond all repair.” The archer said.

Or reason.” Al injected.

Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. But… Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene, looking at a bit of plastic on his finger.

It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew anything, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on the archer’s shoulder.

Let’s walk, no tripping.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”

#

3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidenced of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with these dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until this entire building is cleared.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandolier with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.

#

4. Revelation

 

The door was ajar to the training room, only tables and chairs.

Vampire Skull Northern Ondode/Nosferatu

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

But they were not alone.

Movement…

Weapons turned the same time and Andrea hissed at the Archer.

Stop walking.”

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something hissed at Andrea, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It went under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger and drove the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment, an arrow buried its tip into the head of the shadow causing a shriek of anger, a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earpeice buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot an arrow at the wrong shadow and it stuck out in a stupid angle that made him shake his head while nocking another shaft to the string, tracking the correct shadow – the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell. An arrow intercepted the creature, penetrating it in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, knocking over a video projector that shattered on the floor. The creature landed on all fours and its face unbelieveably rebuilt as it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, but suddenly bi-pedal. Still, its features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However it was immensely strong and changing shapes, wriggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it.

Point-blank range, she fired another load into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her head.

The angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked, clawing at a wooden arrow stuck in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

You shouldn’t talk, that thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes in the sheetrock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had too many fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.”

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means,” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creature, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skul

#

 

 

 

5. Debriefing


The group walked into the cafeteria , Zac was carrying the skull, carefully turning it over in his hand as they all sat down..

Archer poured himself a coffee in a styrene cup from a stack he had found in a cabinet, handing one to Andrea and to Al.

So what happened down there?” Al asked.

Archer took a tentative sip of the steaming black water while Andrea spoke.

“We entered the classroom and I would hazard a guess that it was asleep and we surprised it. It wasn’t even aware we were in the building.” Andrea said to Al as she sat with the others in what was once a cafeteria.

“If Andrea had not seen it and fired first, I’m not sure we would have survived. It came straight at her and my aim was not on. I shot the wrong shadow.”

Stormy found some herbal tea in a cabinet, saying it would be better for Archer, she took away his coffee.

You sure I can’t have the coffee?”

Stormy gave Archer an icy look and shook her head. “I’m worried about your caffeine intake.”

“I was lucky, it happened to come over the table where I was pointing the riotgun, I pulled the trigger when it startled me.” Andrea said.

Al chuckled and turned to the Archer.

“How did you decide to shoot it with that arrow you made from a dowel? I know you carry that one you keep fooling around with. What made you think of that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure, but if I was wrong, we were in for a hell of a fight. But, one way to destroy a vampire is to run it through the heart with a stake.”

“Okay,” Al pulled at his ear. “What you are getting at?”

“Okay, wooden stake in the chest. Can it be thrown? Could it be larger? A spear? Wooden shafted and driven through the chest?”

“Um, yes, it follows.”

“Okay then what is the difference between an arrow and a spear? A javelin and an arrow? Size? So, I used that wooden arrow that I have been working on.”

“You thought that during the fight?”

“Well,” Archer chuckled, “A significant deal more than that, but I’m being succinct about it.”

“Heh, my friend, if you think that fast after you drink your coffee, don’t you ever quit.”

Everyone except Stormy chuckled, who failed to appreciate the humor in Archer living on caffeine.

#

6. A Good Night


“Okay, we are cleared, top to bottom. Windows are secured, we have a room for us to sleep in. Who will take the first watch?” Al asked.

The Archer raised his hand.

“I’ll take the night half.”

“No.” Stormy, Gale and Andrea made a harmony of the word.

“Sorry, you need some sleep.” Gale said.

“Besides, you reek.” Andrea pointed out. “If I wake up and you are standing there, I will shoot your Yankee arse for one of those walking dead.”

“Okay, shower. Then I will do the watch.”

“No,” Stormy Knight argued. “Is it true that you have not slept at all? Then you need to sleep.”

Archer shook his head.

“Okay, just lay down for awhile. Rest.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll relax and recuperate for a bit. Al could you do first watch?”

“Naw, right now I need some shut-eye for a couple hours. I’m beat. I’ll volunteer Jameson. He’s slept quite well the last few nights.”

Jameson cleared his throat.

“Archer never woke anyone for the next watch, he did the whole shift!”

“No matter.” Andrea said. “You have first watch. Archer has a night off.”

The Archer shook his head slightly and winked at Jameson.

“YOU!” Stormy pointed a finger at the Yank. “Gingersnap, off to the showers with you. The men’s side has a shower system. I looked it over when checking out for any nasties that might be lurking there. You wash up and then lay down.”

“Your clothes, too, deposit them outside the door of the showers. There is a laundry . We’ll need to wash all our clothes.”

Heh.” The Archer said without trying to hide the humor. “Lawyers will always take the shirt off your back.”

The look from the attorney of the United States was enough to for the fearless Archer to move quickly at her command.

Archer spoke loudly as he walked down the stairs, “Clean mind, clean body; pick one.”

Anyone else want to cross swords? I will send them to the showers, too.”

Gail raised her hand. “With him?”

Andrea laughed and raised her hand. “Community shower?”

Oh hush. I’m first in that case.” Stormy laughed. “I like the redhead.”

We all do.” Andrea and Gail said in chorus.

#

7. Morning’s Early Light


Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.

“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.

Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.

“Wh’.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“The Archer is gone. Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter

“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”

“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”

In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.

“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.

“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”

“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping.” Rachel said.

“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”

Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.

“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.

Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.

“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.

“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”

“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.

The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.

“I have not heard that in over a month. Birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”

“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy sighed at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”

“Are they gone?”

“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”

“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”

“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”

After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.

Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”

Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”

“Yes, I would venture a guess that that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”

“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”

“That is what I’m supposing.”

“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.

“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the scantest of information.”

“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”

“In the way it appears as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, a sort of control that is passed on by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or even if the leg is amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something to be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”

“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it is spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”

“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”

“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.

“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”

The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”

“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but has been connected to the mainland by bridges. Like your Manhattan island, for example.”

“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base, it will be defended, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”

“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.

Archer agreed.

Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you were finished. The mum’s would not let me stay up.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.

Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.

I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.

Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”

A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”

This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It is called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the boyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”

Name?” Zac asked.

A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”

She?” Andrea laughed lightly.

Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”

Oh! You could use your nickname with it and call it Midnight Thunder!” Zac was pleased with his thoughts on the subject.

Archer chuckled and looked down. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.

Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.

I keep getting a danged wedgie.”

#

8. Recognition

The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.

He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.

“Any changes outside?”

“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”

The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.

“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”

“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.

“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought you equipment and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”

“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”

Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.

“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”

“You have a family. Your son is supposed to be one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”

“Yes, I opposed him being pushed to be an archer on the team by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed the suit for an invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”

“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.

“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer sighed. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”

He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.

I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”

He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.

“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”

“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.

“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”

“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”

You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”

Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did.”

From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.

“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.

Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. There were bodies with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.

He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.

“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”

“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.

They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.

The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.

#

9. Out On The Docks

For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The presence of ravens feeding on the dead was oddly reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens to be a good sign.

The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.

Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.

I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.

There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”

A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.

By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”

Stormy?” Archer asked.

Yes, love?”

You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”

You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.

You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”

They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.

As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.

Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.

Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.

Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”

Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.

“Hey!” He yelled.

Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.

“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”

“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.

“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”

The skipper paused.

Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.

“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”

“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”

“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.

The skipper swore under his breath.

“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”

The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium sized, but well appointed.

“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and have been waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”

“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.

“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”

“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.

Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.

“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”

“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.

“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”

The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.

“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”

“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.

“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”

“Here here!” Andrea laughed.

Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.

“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”

“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”

The Captain stopped talking for a moment.

“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”

Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.

The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.

“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.

“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.

“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.

“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”

The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”

“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.

“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”

Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”

Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.

“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”

Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.

You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.

Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.

Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”

Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that should be impossible.”

The Captain shook his head land laughed.

Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”

#

10. Ocean and Freedom

The Calliope gathered speed, passing ten-knots and they turned south. Following the shore with the land on the right, they sailed into the gathering darkness.

Captain Roberts sat back and sighed.

“We are clear. Radar shows us with no traffic near and sonar shows that the water depth is increasing nicely. We are in the channel.” The Captain nodded. “Now… I have something to celebrate our escape.”

Hopping off his seat Captain A. J. Roberts opened up a trunk he had lugged from Maribella without a word on what he had inside.

Bottles and bottles of exotic liquors. The largest of which he pulled up.

“RHUM!” He laughed. “All the way from the Caribbean! I bet you have not seen the likes.”

The Archer laughed.

“Actually,” Archer said softly to Rachel, “I have been drinking that brand for years.

Rachel laughed. “I have a bottle of that in my house now.”

The drinking went on for some minutes, The Archer was working on his second cup over ice to the Captains third. The two were seemingly getting into a race.

Suddenly the radio crackled and the Captain choked on his fourth cup of the dark liquor.

“Emergency channel is working! Huzzah!” He grabbed the microphone and called.

“Emergency caller, this is the Calliope out of Brisbane bound for Sydney. Go ahead with your traffic.”

“This is Royal Australian Navy Destroyer Guardsman. Reverse your direction return the way you came.”

“Negative, Guardsman, we are out of Brisbane, all on board are healthy and are seeking asylum from the chaos of the area.”

“Calliope, this is your last warning, the quarantine has been extended to Brisbane, come about now and return to your point of departure.”

“Guardsman, we have women and children on board, we cannot return. Do you wish to condemn them to deal with the collapse of government there?”

“This is Captain Monroe of the RAS Guardsman. Calliope, please reverse your course, I do not wish to fire upon you. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

“We are making our way to Sydney. Board us there.” The Captain Roberts replied to Captain Monroe.

“Heave to, or we will fire.”

“Captain.” The Archer was looking out a window. “We have a problem.”

In the air, a heavily armed helicopter suddenly lit up with navigation lights in the failing twilight of the coming evening. Already airborne, missile pods were visible on the sides of the rotary-winged gunship.

Captain Roberts looked out.

“Oh f’kn’ bloody brass nuts.” The Captain said loudly. “If you folks believe in a hell, you might wish to call ‘em an’ ask if they have exchange programs, it is about to become worse than that here. Guardsman is a Hobart Class ship, that there bird be one o’ its hammers.”

“What are those?” Stormy asked as two, then four pinpoint lights seem to move towards them from a mile out.

“Archer?” Andrea asked, pointing out at what Stormy saw.

Incoming! They’ve opened fire!” The Archer yelled. He reached down to his quiver and pulled out a rolled up plastic bag. Holding two locks of hair close to his heart, he watched the missiles track towards them at unimaginable speed.

“I”m sorry.” He whispered to the last remains of his family as he dropped the baggie over the rail of the yacht. “I’m so sorry I failed.”

OUT! Abandon ship!” Al was like a bull shoving everyone he could reach towards the railing. The only time in his life he used his hand to hand training to shove a group.

“Abort! ABORT! Do not fire! ABORT! ABORTABORT! We are…” The Captain screamed into the microphone.

It was his last conscious thought as the missiles impacted into the bridge of the Calliope. High explosive warheads sent shockwaves through the vessel. Air heated to thousands of degrees shattered doors and bulkheads as the yacht disappeared in a fireball of continuing weapons fire as the helicopters their weapons repeatedly.

Only after the Calliope’s shattered, burning hull slipped beneath the surface of the water the gunships returned to base on shore.

The haze and smoke slowly dissipated as the killing machine moved off, returning to the carrier.

There would be no rescue boats launched as the Guardsman followed orders and turned away back to its patrol.

#

Epilogue


Radio transmission on shore after the military radar had detected the contact:

Captain Michael Monroe made his report to the base. “Contact made. Illegal threat neutralized. No spread of infection or contamination. End of report.”

Rear Admiral Shyldon Gillette, Commander of the Royal Australian Border Protection Command read the electronic report out loud and turned towards a shadow in the corner with red eyes glimmering in the dark.

“The secret remains safe, my Lord, the operation will be able to continue to relocate the human blood sources into the feeding reservations.”

“Excellent. Keep the fear up. Any human that finds clues to the real source of the undead slaves, kill them. The living cannot know what is happening until the whole of the world is under our control.” The lips of Lord Maldark’s ghostly face barely moved to create a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of a muddy tomb. “Tell the lower caste to increase the numbers of the risen and to drive herds of the food towards the reservations, do not give them a chance to contemplate their position in the food-chain. That is key to our success.”

Yes, my Lord.”

The face that appeared to float in the shadow twisted unnaturally into a grin, long fangs glittered like glass in the subdued light, but the admiral was under the ancient one’s control now and was no longer afraid as he was the first night.

That night, over a month ago.

Out on the water near the sunken Calliope, a plastic sandwich bag floated on the water stuffed with two gently cut locks and five hastily pulled blood-red strands of hair sealed inside.

Together the hairs drifted towards the land of Oz in the prevailing current with wreckage from the destroyed yacht.

A bow floated on the wreckage, an unusual penobscot bow made of exotic woods. The bow lay on a raft of floatation devices, hastily lashed together, clear of the water with a quiver of arrows as the land grew closer with each passing moment.

<Finis?>

The Paramedic’s Last Christmas

Standard

The Last Christmas

 

 

He sat on the balcony, a fingerling red potato in his hand, feeling the weight and shape of the hard tuber.

In the previous weeks, after he had completed training for his next level of 3rd Dan black-belt in his martial art and began to feel peaked.

He had tinkered on the potato gun for weeks, the competition leading up to the finals showed a very intense group of people who dedicated their lives and teamwork to launch a tuber the farthest.

One potato, like the one in his hand, flew for nearly two-kilometers, until the controversy erupted that the team had rifled the inside of the PVC tubing that gave a spin to the torpedo-shaped tuber and stabilized it in flight.

He softly laughed at the thought, the most you could get out of him these days, the contest also included contests on how far a pumpkin could be thrown with mechanical means.

Teams built such things as trebuchet, mega-sized elastic slingshots with hundreds of bungee cords attached to the sling, drawn back with an electric winch. One creative team came up with a crossbow monstrosity with a complex, compound shape that exploded when drawn back to full cock.

Investigation into the incident showed the structure was basically sound, but three bolts put in place team members forgot to tighten before drawing tension on the frame of the giant crossbow. The oversight worked for one launch, the next time they cranked the infernal contraption back, the limbs of the bow snapped forward in a dry fire, sending spring powered shrapnel flying for hundreds of feet, hitting people not even watching the giant bow being used.

The following year, the administration added new inspector teams to check everyone’s submission for the contest.

Such was the “Tater Gun and Punkin’ Chuckin’” contests. Two days of laughter, friends, shade-tree engineers and NASA types that got involved.

Including those of his own teams from the local company.

Those were good days, he mused. Since then, two of those friends had killed themselves. One stepped in front of an oncoming truck during a call. There was no proof of intent, other than she spoke of it with one person a year before.

Another, suntanned, handsome, he was out on the ocean beach one summer’s night and went for a swim, never to return.

The Employee Assistance Program, designed to prevent such events, but it was an uphill struggle. Those that sought help for the depression, the chronic pain from sitting in positions that they constantly found themselves in, for depression and insomnia, often were quietly categorised by other EMS teams as lesser value resources. 

“Weak mind.” Some whispered.

For this reason, few if any that activated the EAP or even spoke of it. When they did, it was a deep secret.

He scratched his nose, a medic of decades, the thing he missed most, was laughing.

Sleeping was difficult, too. The paramedic rarely remembered his dreams. But, those dreams he did remember, he wished he forgot before he awoke. As it was, he would wake with the feeling of dread, of darkness and sadness that cast a pall over everything. 

So he increased his caffeine intake and stayed up until the last moment he could. Where things such as turning off a light switch was an effort in decision-making, and then collapse into bed to go straight to sleep.

Maybe.

It was telling on his ability for critical-judgement calls. He began to feel afraid to leave the house and even got to a point of misanthropic frame of mind.

He disliked walking through crowds, a thousand faces he could look into in a single “Arts-&-Crafts” show, knowing that a certain percentage would be on medication for one ailment or another. Many were diabetic, under control and lived lives that no one would be aware that they had any trouble with their blood-glucose levels.

Other people, did not follow their schedule properly and would have a crisis building.

He could see those.

The perspiration, pallor. A lack of focus as they tried to keep up their composure, but failing.

He could see that, to him, it was obvious.

Once, German physicians had ridden with him and his junior partner on the Mobile Intensive Care Paramedic unit, in Germany, doctors rode on the rescue units to do the treatments needed. After witnessing the American version, they declared them slightly insane, in a humorous German way, and went back to their country to change how their system ran.

It mattered not, these days.

His last shift he had the privilege to have a twenty-one-day-old patient that an adult shook to death, a month after a fellow paramedic shot himself.

A darkness grew inside his soul in the weeks afterward until the infanticide call.

The days had come where he would think that his dark side was in control.

A paramedic that wept in the quiet hours when no one was around, driving his massive four-wheel-drive Ford F-450 that was his toy, he often pulled into a farmer’s field that lay fallow for the last four years, and wept. Unstoppably, deeply, until he could not breathe.

A bottle of Polish Rectified spirits sat in the armored lunch box behind the seat, its seal intact. He knew that the one-liter bottle of the fluid that had many uses.

Cleaner, fuel, sanitizer (in a pinch), antifreeze and even drink.

However, a dangerous drink. Ethanol is a poison at those concentrations of more than ninety-five percent pure.

Technically, for sale only in New York, but with connections he had long made, a six-pack of the ethanol laden bottles arrived at his door in a hard-sided case.

Five bottles sat in his house for people to gaze at. One he had opened. The sixth, sat in the truck in the fishing gear.

Not that he ever went fishing anymore, since his wife of a decade left and filed for divorce, saying that he was not home when she needed him. A curse of Fire, Police and EMS. Divorce rates seven-times the rate of civilians, locally.

He shot archery more often, it was less of a problem to get bait and being sure that the fishing license was in reach.

And it was quieter. He also did not trust himself anymore with a firearm in the empty house, it was a dark and empty place.

Still and all, he took steps. He ceased all drinking when on his own, which was frequent of late, focusing with a bow on a small target, he found more peace as he watched the shaft go on target more often than not.

Small targets he found, paper-plates held in place with toothpicks, colored in with sharpies he had around the house, they were the cheapest target he could find.

Today, he finished the potato gun. He wondered about the quarter-pound spud moving at more than two-football fields per second speed that might be a new distance champion shooter.

The other thought that he kept at bay, usually, with his archery and driving in the back-country, if he stood in front of the gun by accident while testing it, if it would hurt.

Shaking his head, he stood up and walked back in the house to get ready for the next shift.

Maybe he might have a traffic accident to help at, then grab at the opportunity to step in front of a semi-truck on the highway like the cute and flirty medic that got waffled by a semi.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

No. He would not do that. The driver would be an innocent in the on-duty suicide and totally unfair.

First rule: Above all, do no harm. It would harm the trucker in countless ways.

Pulling on the jumpsuit with all the patches that indicated his level of training and position as a paramedic team leader.

No, not tonight, he said to himself, finding once again the reason to choose to see it through to the end of the twenty-four hour shift.

A tenuous choice, but it was be another day. Regardless of how it worked out.

This was his last year.

Flee Epilogue

Standard

Epilogue

Radio transmission on shore after the military radar had detected the contact:

Captain Michael Monroe made his report to the base. “Contact made. Illegal threat neutralized. No spread of infection or contamination. End of report.”

Rear Admiral Shyldon Gillette, Commander of the Royal Australian Border Protection Command read the electronic report out loud and turned towards a shadow in the corner with red eyes glimmering in the dark.

“The secret remains safe, my Lord, the operation will be able to continue to relocate the human blood sources into the feeding reservations.”

“Excellent. Keep the fear up. Any human that finds clues to the real source of the undead slaves, kill them. The living cannot know what is happening until the world is under our control.” The lips of Lord Maldark’s ghostly face barely moved to create a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of a muddy tomb. “Tell the lower caste to increase the numbers of the risen and to drive herds of the food towards the reservations, do not give them a chance to contemplate their position in the food-chain. That is key to our success.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

The face that appeared to float in the shadow twisted unnaturally into a grin, long fangs glittered like glass in the subdued light, but the admiral was under the ancient one’s control now and was no longer afraid as he was the first night. That night, over a month ago.

Out on the water near the sunken Calliope, a plastic sandwich bag floated on the water stuffed with two gently cut locks and five hastily pulled blood-red strands of hair sealed inside.

Together the hairs drifted towards the land of Oz in the prevailing current with wreckage from the destroyed yacht.

An odd-shaped bow made of exotic woods float on the wreckage drift behind bag of saved hair. Lifted clear of the water on a small raft of floating wreckage, it sat securely on the quiver of arrows as the land grew closer with each passing moment.

 

<Finis?>

Flee Chapter 9. Out On The Docks

Standard

9. Out On The Docks

 

For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The ravens feeding on the dead was, oddly, reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens a good sign.

The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.

Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.

“I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.

“There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”

“A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.

“By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”

“Stormy?” Archer asked.

“Yes, love?”

“You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”

“You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.

“You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”

They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.

As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.

Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.

Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.

“Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”

Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.

“Hey!” He yelled.

Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.

“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”

“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.

“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”

The skipper paused.

Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.

“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”

“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”

“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.

The skipper swore under his breath.

“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”

The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium-sized, but well-appointed.

“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”

“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.

“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”

“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.

Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.

“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”

“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.

“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built-in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”

The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.

“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”

“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.

“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”

“Here here!” Andrea laughed.

Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.

“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”

“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”

The Captain stopped talking for a moment.

“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”

Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.

The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.

“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.

“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.

“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.

“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”

The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”

“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.

“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”

“Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”

Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.

“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”

Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.

“You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.

“Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.

“Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”

“Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that you swear is impossible.”

The Captain shook his head land laughed.

“Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”

Flee Chapter 8. Recognition

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8. Recognition

 

The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.

He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.

“Any changes outside?”

“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”

The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.

“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”

“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.

“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought your equipment, and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”

“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”

Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.

“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”

“You have a family. Your son is one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”

Yes, I opposed him being pushed into the sport by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”

“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.

“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer took a deep breath as if to clear his soul. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”

He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.

“I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”

He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.

“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”

“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.

“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”

“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”

“You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”

“Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did, I failed them, then I killed them.”

From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.

“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.”

“Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. Bodies lay with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.

He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.

“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”

“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.

They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.

The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.

Flee chapter 5. Debriefing

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5. Debriefing

 

The group walked into the cafeteria , Zac carried  the skull like a prized science experiment, carefully turning it over in his hand as they all sat down. The blue-green eyes of the youth from west of Brisbane sparkled with high intelligence and excitement of the new treasure. 

Archer poured himself a coffee in a styrene cup from a stack he had found in a cabinet, handing one each to Andrea and to Al.

“So what happened down there?” Al asked.

Archer took a tentative sip of the steaming black water while Andrea spoke.

“We entered the classroom, and I would hazard a guess that it was asleep and we surprised it. I bet it wasn’t even aware we were in the building.” Andrea said to Al, as she sat with the others in what was once a cafeteria.

“If Andrea had not seen it and fired first, I’m not sure we would have survived.” Archer added. “It came straight at her and my aim was not on. I shot the wrong shadow.”

Stormy found some herbal tea in a cabinet, saying it would be better for Archer, taking away his coffee.

“You sure I can’t have the coffee?” Archer sounded exasperated. “It doesn’t bother me.”

Stormy gave Archer an icy look and shook her head. “I’m worried about your caffeine intake.”

“I was lucky, it happened to come over the table where I was pointing the riot gun, I pulled the trigger when it startled me.” Andrea said. “I was not tracking it. It just moved into my line of fire with that face and those eyes.”

Al chuckled and turned to the Archer.

“How did you decide to shoot it with that arrow you made from a dowel?” Al shook his head in disbelief. “I know you carry that one you keep fooling around with. What made you think of that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure, but if I was wrong, we were in for a hell of a fight.” The emerald eyes of the Yank still twitched with the adrenaline in his system, left over from the fight for his and Andrea’s life. “But, one way to destroy a vampire is to run it through the heart with a stake.”

“Okay,” Al pulled at his ear. “I don’t quite follow. What you are getting at?”

“Okay, wooden stake in the chest. Can it be thrown? Could it be larger? A spear? Wooden shafted and driven through the chest?” Archer said softly.

“Um, yes, it follows.” Al said. “Okay.”

“Okay, then what is the difference between an arrow and a spear? A javelin and an arrow? Size? So, I used that wooden arrow that I have worked on.” The red-head shrugged.

“You thought that during the fight?” Zac said. “Wow.”

“Well,” Archer chuckled, “A significant deal more than that, but I’m being succinct about it.”

“Heh, my friend, if you think that fast after you drink your coffee, don’t you ever quit.” Gail laughed, softly. 

Everyone except Stormy chuckled, who failed to appreciate the humor in Archer living on caffeine.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

2 Dracul Skulls (“Noble” caste, Possibly “Royal” Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, “Identification of skulls” Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views. Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was on display in London Museum. Skull lost during WWII air raids when a bomb struck the museum, authorities presume the attack destroyed the skull. But no part of the skull could be found.

Flee Chapter 4. Revelation

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Dracul/Nosferatu Type Vampire Skull

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

4. Revelation

The door was ajar to the training room, only long tables and chairs filled the room. Andrea and the Archer stepped in slowly and quietly so they could hear the typical wheezing of those horrors that could be hide in the dark.  

But they were not alone.

Movement… Weapons turned the same time. Archer lightly bumped a chair with his hip.

“Stop walking.” Andrea hissed at Archer.

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something moved and echoed Andrea’s hiss, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It moved quickly, a blur under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger on her weapon. The flash of expanding, burning gunpowder illuminated the room for a less than a blink of an eye, driving the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment. Another hissing sound and an arrow buried itself into the head of the shadow and the hiss became a shriek of anger.

Bits of a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earphone buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot the wrong shadow with an arrow and it stuck in a stupid angle in the wall, the sight of it made him shake his head while he nocked another shaft to the bowstring, tracking the correct shadow this time– the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell, brass bounced off the floor in slow motion as the black-shadow charged Andrea. In that moment an arrow intercepted the creature in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, landing on all fours. Its face rebuilding and it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

A flash of inspiration, Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, and suddenly bi-pedal would have stood nearly to the ceiling if it got to its clawed feet, the shriek becoming a drawing out roar as it tried to stand. Still, its facial features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However, although it was immensely strong and changing shapes, it was in a twisted  position, struggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it with her foot.

“Shut up!” Andrea yelled as she pressed the tip of the barrel into the dark visage of this solid shadow. A contact shot, she fired into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone exploded and splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her.

Suddenly the angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked and clawing at the arrow stuck that in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

“No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

“You shouldn’t talk, that damned thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes  and arrows stuck in the sheet-rock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had two huge fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”s

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means, ” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creäture, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

“There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

“There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

“Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

“No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

“Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

“No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

2 Dracul Skulls (“Noble” caste, Possibly “Royal” Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, “Identification of skulls” Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views. Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

Flee Chapter 3. Stepping Out

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3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidence of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with the dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until we clear this building.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandoleir with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.

Flee Chapter 2. Eating Well

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2. Eating Well

 

“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” Archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

“Aw, Archer, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

Archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” Archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

“You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns will attract attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

“The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The Archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by not standing their ground and getting bitten, it was FUBAR.”

“FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What is FUBAR?”

“Fucked up beyond all repair.” Archer said.

“Or reason.” Al injected.

“Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the Archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. Who lives, who dies. Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene as he looked at a bit of plastic that stuck to his finger.

“It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew I was human, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

“Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on Archer’s shoulder.

“Let’s walk, don’t wanna trip.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”