The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
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The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

Bodies had piled up around his farm. Malam Plando’s farm was a garden of horrors anywhere the police dug into the ground.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer than the investigators discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

In the six-months after his conviction and his move to Death Row, his turn came. Few people who the courts convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited to last no more than two months.

He, it was his name and he was about to scream it out loud in laughter.

Inmate number 1854X-195S5-1-31E walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with blinds obscuring the view to the chamber beyond, the guards assigned to his restraint, wordlessly strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

With some effort they rotated him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

*Idiots. They don’t even know what is coming.*

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

“Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

He laughed.

*The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.*

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp sting when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They were thinking he was going to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

“Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the blinds opened, revealing a crowd sitting in the gallery.

“Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When you get the call, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor. An old style display that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

It ticked past the time, they were late! His rescue was not coming!

Then the lights went out, only the setting sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tubing in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the strap when the techs and guards fled during the blackout.

*Cowards.*

*But I have not heard any alarms. Some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while.*

Malam grinned.

*People thought I died when the power went out.*

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families as he stalked the hallway down to where the body-hauler would park.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in, it was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

*There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.*

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, Malam walked free, laughing at the power outage orchestrated by his family and caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

*Screw them all! I’m free, next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. I’ll break into the home and put his head.*

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness was coming and dark thoughts on his first in town grew in his mind.

Malam smiled, it would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope and energy bars.

*The drugs would have expired, I can’t use them on my clients, it might kill them.*

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He was covered in blood.

“Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He sqautted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Malam struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Ostus.

His hands were stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look Ostus and his partner had when he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

Malam laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

“It means Evil. It is what my mother called me.” Malam shrugged and the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the dark uniforms in a slick that glistened in the dark with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in their steps,  and the officers saw them and dropped the nightmare snacks and walked towards Malam and N’oi.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the huge convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen and made no other human sound.

Then N’oi looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out to Malam with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed N’oi’s head with the bat in a single swing and took off in a run. Leaving the cop-things to ponder over the body he left behind, Malam fled to the park.

He sat at the base of a tree he had marked long ago and dug with his hands.

*Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibals? Shit! Shit! Shit!*

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

*That’s another thing that’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run and they do not give up. And… Where the hell is everyone?*

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absense of driven vehicles.

Grimacing at the cold shirt that stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him shiver.

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer evening with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

*No, first get the hell out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes.*

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

Looking in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water. A few were dry.

One opened when he pulled on the handle and he found two polo shirts and a hoodie sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

*A little tight, but they will loosen up some.*

He turned around, a person sat in the corner with their back to him.

He slipped out and looked at her in the light of the rising moon that filtered through the glass. He thought he recognized the heavy-set girl by tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while Malam tied a plastic bag over her head.

*No. Impossible, she is long dead. Part of my collection.*

Malam ran through the shadows of the street, heading to the middle of town. Shuffling people began to follow him. Some chewed on finger-food.

*They’re eating real fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!*

He almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice pleading to anyone for help.

He ran around the corner away from the sound, looking over his shoulder and made sure no one followed him.

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

*Damned good use of a stick!* Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a walking winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

“Shot! gun! Get the Damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by shells of ammunition.

A scream and he fell over a curb when he backed up from the force of the mob attack by the black bat-winged things.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

“That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands scattering bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

*Cop!?* Malam shook his head. *I saved a cop.*

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again, this time with the sound of a man who knew the unthinkable.

The left leg was denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were the creatures chewed off his leg. The look of a man resigned, he was bleeding to death.

“Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

*Don’t tell me twice!* Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the cops head and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist.

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

*Now where the hell to go?*

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

*Yeah, right.*

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under the attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

*Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!*

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

*Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?*

A noise behind him! A group of creatures followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

*No. Not possible.* He shook his head. *Damn, stop thinking and run! I have to run! What is happening with the world?*

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs coming out of the shadows looked at him and screamed his name!

No, not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It lifted up a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

Panting and sweating like a horse. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

*How the hell did I get here?* He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. *Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.*

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse? He was on no one’s menu!

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

*Run!*

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibilant sounds of horrors that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

From behind, naked cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, screamed like the tortured victims of his shop, leapt and swung from trees and crawled like giant spiders over headstones.

Into the darkness Malam Plando ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead, creatures from nightmares he never had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanting in blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

Turning and walking out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherlock Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

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Married by Mistake Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird

MbM
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Chapter 12. Snarge: Blended Bird

Sitting in the right hand seat, Tom showed Kaylee how to take the controls.

Tapping a few displays, a chime sounded while Kaylee held on to the stick that guided the large aircraft towards their destination under Tom’s watchful eye.

“Now you are flying it.” Tom smiled. “Just hold the stick gently.”

“There is so much power in this stick.” She laughed slowly pulling to the right to bank the plane when Tom showed her when for a course correction. “This reminds me of a poem. To touch the face of God. ”

“The passionate artist in you is coming out.” Tom chuckled.

“We will be landing soon.” He said, after looking at the displays. “I want to take you on a low tour of this area to show you where we will be wine tasting at.”

Tom pushed forward on the stick and banked the Flying Sea Dragon slowly while talking into his earphones. She listened to him become all professional, deciding that he was talking to San Francisco by the sound of it.

“There, we have permission to fly low.” Tom looked at the displays. “Passing through four-thousand feet.”

“Low?”

“Yeah, about a thousand feet. Maybe less. As slow as possible and still fly.” He smiled. “I’ll fly it by hand and make a big figure-8 over the area.”

“Sounds fun.” She smiled. “Maybe I can flash someone down there.”

“Yeah… No.” Tom laughed. “You would cause us to crash.”

“How?”

“Who do you think would be staring?”

Kaylee laughed as she bumped him with her hip as she walked back to change her clothes and began to pull on her walking shoes when a chime sounded that drew Tom’s attention.

“What?” Tom said in an irritated voice to the display. What he looked at was not visible to Kaylee .

“Kaylee , sit down, put on a seat belt.” Tom ordered. “Now! We have a flock of birds…”

Alarms sounded and Tom yelled a profanity.

“Fire in engine one!” Just as something large hit windscreen with a loud “THUMP” and obliterated the view outside with reds and browns.

“OhHellNo.” He said it as one word. “Bird strike! BIRDSTRIKE.”

Alarms sounded and lights flashed on the display panels as the plane took a decided change in direction. Tom struggled to straighten out the plane and called an emergency into his headset.

“Affirmative, cleared for Stockton.” Tom was all business as Kaylee struggled with the seatbelt.

Another alarm sounded. A loud bang from the rear of the plane, more profanity from her husband.

“Uhh… Negative, not going to make Stockton, we are losing power in engine number two, going to set it down on the highway.” Tom swore a stream of words that surprised her. He did not talk that way since she had met him.

“Dammit! Too much traffic. OH YAY! Look! Water!” Tom yelled at no one in particular. “Come on you Flying freakin’ Sea Dragon, Kaylee is too cute to die.”

A long straight canal was on the far side of the highway, pushing the number-two throttle forward he was able to coax more thrust out of the remaining engine.

“Engine two is spinning up again. We have some extra power.” Tom said into the microphone. “We have a canal to set down in just west of the freeway.”

More lights flashed information in the pilot’s console. Amber and red display flashed as Tom pulled on the stick, commanding the wounded metal bird to do his bidding.

“Flaps full.” Putting his hand on a knob that was already at it’s maximum. “We want to come in as slow as possible here.”

“Landing gear up. Check. That would be unfortunate to put down in water with wheels down.” Tom gave a smile to Kaylee .

“Now it is like always. Easy into the water.”

The plane passed so low over the lanes of cars, she could see the people’s faces as they looked up. In one red mini-van, she could see the face of a small child staring while she rode in the car seat as the big jet rocketed the divided lanes of the interstate and over the water.

Lined up, Tom put the flying boat down with room to spare on both sides.

“Hang on to something.” Tom warned through gritted teeth when he brought the plane down to a rough but safe water landing.

Talking into the microphone on his headset, Tom told the flight control where they were. “Lat.” Tom said with a series of numbers and then softly spoke the word “Long.” with another sequence that Kaylee did not understand.

“Made it!” Tom smiled wryly as he put down the headset and shutting down the engines. “That was fun in a twisted way.”

“Tom?” Her jaw dropped at his cavalier tone. “TOM! How do you think this was…”

“Sorry,” He interrupted. “I need to check the engines to make sure we don’t need to abandon ship.”

“What do you mean, “Abandon Ship”?”

“If we have a fire, I want you safe. This place could burn to the waterline and I need to drop an anchor to keep us from going aground.”

He walked to the main hatch that opened left side of the plane, opened a door of a closet next to the entrance and pulled out an anchor attached to a heavy chain. A rope as thick as her thumb, he threw the anchor out then waited for a count of three, then tied the rope to a ring in the door frame.

Then he walked past his wife who was changing colors from pale to livid.

“My god.” Kaylee gasped. “We are still in danger?”

Tom climbed up a ladder to a hatch and opened it then disappeared up through the hole. It was the same kind of hatch that they had used more than once to sunbathe between the engines of the Pacific Wizard.

“Tom?” Kaylee looked up from the foot of the ladder to the hatch.

“Come on up! We are safe, you might be interested in what happened.” He called down and she climbed the ladder, like she had done many times before, then she was giggling and happy, now she was beginning to shake.

Tom stood by the engine, there were several dents in the leading edge with traces of a brownish goo and feathers in the fan blades of the turbine.

“What’s this?” She asked. “Blood?”

“Well, the official term is “snarge”, it is what is left of a bird when it gets sucked into an engine it at speed.”

“Snarge?”

“A combination of the words, snot and garbage.” Tom nodded while looking in the engine as Kaylee made a face, she felt she might get sick and walked over to the edge of the wing to vomit into the water below. But she held on to her insides.

“Damn, this did a number on the engine. There are vanes missing everywhere.” Tom gave a heavy sigh. “We were lucky to not have it happen to the other engine.”

He walked over to the opposite side, running his hands over nacelle’s leading edge, tracing his fingers over dents that were there, but the engine appeared undamaged.

“Oh poop.  Another problem.” Tom spoke as he turned and watched the Fire Department tried try to back off the road to the edge of the water. An ambulance followed by a sheriff unit trundled down the dirt road with lights flashing. “We are anchored farther out than they can reach. We’ll need to use the rubber boat to pull it closer to shore.”

“How do you do that?”

“Well, not much of a motor, but it will work after a fashion. Even if I need to drop two anchors and pull us by a winch.”

“Wait… anchors? Boat anchors?”

“Yes, four. In case I need to stay in a harbor with foul weather and unable find a hanger or fly to safety out of the path of a storm.”

“Why is it so bad?” She shook her head. “This is the worst thing to happen.”

“Worst?” Tom shook his head. “Naw. We’re alive.”

“I want to go home.” She looked at him. “Now!”

“Okay, once the Fantasy secured, there will be a limo pick you up and you will catch the flight to Ocean Bay.”

Tom sighed heavily as he pulled his phone from its holster and tapped on the screen a few times, and nodded. Then he swiped a finger over the screen.

“Mo? It’s Tom Harte. Say, I need a ride for someone and I’m not at a normal location.” Tom looked at Kaylee sadly as she climbed down the ladder back into the cabin of the jet.

Long minutes passed before he climbed back down into the cabin and found Kaylee curled up on a couch. Her legs pulled up and she was hugging herself in a fetal position.

“A limo will pick you up on shore and I have chartered a plane to take you back home. I will stay here to meet with the FAA, there will be questions.” Tom said softly.

Kaylee nodded and quietly wept into her knees.

Tom walked without a word to the front of the flying boat. At the door, he opened the shoulder-wide closet, and lifted out a bundle and put it in the water. Carefully finding a handle, he pulled firmly, causing a rubber boat to inflate at the door. An electric motor he quietly released from a recess in the closet then attached it to the mount on the back of the boat. With waterproof cables and a practiced touch, Tom had the rubber skiff ready in moments, then went to work.

He sat in the boat and the electric motor seemed that the twenty-foot boat would be woefully underpowered to move the jet, but after a minute, the machines began to move. Painfully slow in the beginning, then with gathering speed, against the flow of the rising tide, Tom was able to bring it within range of the fire department to reach across to the wing with ladders and anchored it with three anchor lines strung from the shore to keep it secure.

Inside the plane, delayed panic turned into anger at her brush with disaster, she blamed him for putting them in jeopardy.

Showing off nearly killed them, and she was not sure she wanted on the plane, any plane, ever again.

She had never been so frightened in her life and it made her angry, and he had promised! He was a supposed protector and her personal hero.

Her personal hero? Hero’s did not put their people in danger.

He was no hero. He was a… Loser.

It was the only insult she could think of just then.

*I don’t care if he is an author and has money.* She wept. *He almost killed us just to show off. Like a boy with his dad’s car.*

It was the most angry she had ever been at anyone in her life, she could not even look at him.

She wanted to go home, as far away from the plane, the man and this wine country, as he called it, as she could.

lunch of crushed fire.

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So far, I am convinced the world of the kitchen today is trying to perform some kind of twisted sense of humor.

In making a sandwich, A touch of mayonnaise, havarti cheese, mushrooms, sliced crimini mushrooms. Then powdered garlic, and a sprinkle of crushed red chili pepper.

Well, that was the plan. It all went well until the chili-pepper.

The dry pepper in a jar just takes a light shake. Instead of a pinch? I probably put two-tablespoons on the sandwich.

UGH!  Shake it off- carefully. And I ate it down anyway.  THIS was a sinus-clearing event.

and now, I know for sure it is not an anxiety/panic attack, but my tummy is asking me “WTF did you swallow? A bbq ember? Wow!”

Ugh, Refusal to back down, hard-headed “I refuse to let it ruin my meal.” attitude.

So now I sit here perspiring more than if I just sat in the sun after a hot shower.

To quote a famous cat. Pffttthhp.

I can even fail at making a lunch.

But I did finish making the frozen dog-treats.  Greek Yogurt, (Local “raw”) honey, banana, peanut butter that are now in the freezer. I just tried really hard to make a mess. One of the containers had a hole in it from a dog-tooth, so it leaked all over the counter. *Sigh* but that was the only fail. Messy enough. At least when breaking up larger frozen “Cubes” of the dog treat, I didn’t slice a finger.

Not that I didn’t try. heh.

I did get a half-dozen shots in with the bow, hit the milk-cap twice. I’m trying to get focused again.

On a related “Focused” note. Keep an eye on this (and a few others! PoffPublishing and Rarity for two.). blog for announcements of an anthology of Horror scheduled now for (NO later than) 1 October 2016.  Originally scheduled for 2015, but all of us have fallen behind and with my own rough patch coming up (Mama Dash with Multiple Myeloma- a bone cancer and Sister Sledgehammer [the “Dash it ALL” attitude. Do not @#$! with her, she will hurt you.] with hardware being taken out of her body to the tune of about a half-pound of steel. PLUS a discovery that the previous surgeries failed to reattach a TFL muscle back to the hip.  Papa Dash trying to crash and burn in front of the nurses the day of his surgery. ) I don’t see me doing much in a full-fledged assembly of a story, even if we have a team of us authors.

Speaking of which?

Anyone who wants to be part of an anthology of a horror novel scheduled for a Halloween 2016 season release.  We have some openings. We are shooting for a 50-60,000 word novel. No more than 100k words total. At that point, our short-story size begin to shrink.

So, shoot me a note. We can chat.

Dash

Assistant cook and chief bottle washer.

Oh and just promoted from journeyman baiter to master. So all is good there. (think about it and you’re allowed to giggle)

Anxiety, a chocolate labrador and fireworks

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Dear Humans:

 

I am Hershey, I have stolen the computer from the human that lives here and types out words I do not understand, but tonight it has come to pass I have had one need to speak my canine-mind.

Like many of my brothers and sisters in the entire world, we are your best friends.  You can beat us, kick us, but we will give you our unqualified love.

Why then, do you insist on making these noises with such things called “Fireworks”?

My human tells me it is all right.

I would bite him in the area where his legs join his torso if my panic got any worse.

It is NOT all right! PLEASE! Please! Please, can you do something else and not try to give me a heart attack?

Can you tell me what a heart is? All I know is I am dying of heat, I can’t breathe, my eyes dilate – whatever that means – and I try to sit on top of him, it seems to be the safest place, then I can still hear the pops and bangs.

Must you? Really?

It takes me hours to calm down.

He has played me sounds on the computer, supposed to calm me down he said.

Not!

You humans are crazy. Things that go boom. It just ain’t natural.

Y’know? I want to run away, far away. Get away from those things that go boom.

Storms and thunder is one thing, it bothers me, but I do not let it bother me.

Those things that go in the sky and make flashes in a blue sky. Noises that are not natural.

Can you just keep it to that one day? It is killing my relationship.

The big male human is scraping down and replacing the door I chewed to get into the next room the other day.  I was trying to get away from those explosions outside while they were out.

Please, just let me suffer one day. Not for the entire month, I promise I will not chase your chickens in the street anymore. I will bring back every stick you throw, I might even bring back your shoe.

No, scratch that, the shoe is mine. Catch me if you can!

Love all you humans. But you all are crazy liking them noisy things.

*signed*

Dog Signature

 

 

Hershey the Chocolate Labrador

Dog, firecracker, panic and home alone.

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Some years ago, the movie “Home Alone” hit the theaters, a lone boy did have panic events, bad-guys and adapted to the situation.

Tonight, such Hollywood adventures and good endings are not possible.  A date night with a stage play and dogs (Count them, TWO) are left home to defend the house and home.

Honey, the honey (or sand-tan) colored dog, is large, powerful and quite laid back. Sudden noises can get her to flinch, knocks on doors get her to bark. Thunder, firecrackers, fireworks, meh, not so much.  The sudden large roll of thunder might get her to raise her head, but that is about all you get out of her.

The chocolate lab, on the other hand. Not so laid back.  She hates the electronic bug zapper, firecrackers in the distance are just wrong.

Thunder? No. Just no.

Tonight, we head out to see a stage play of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, take in a dinner and sit through the long (two intermissions!) production with a total of four actors.

A pleasant Saturday night comes to a close, on our arrival home, we find one of the french doors to the great-room all but destroyed. The door jam is pulled away from the wall, the molding around the doorway has been chewed down and torn.  Wood.  Torn.

Torn?  Big danged splinters torn off, I could fit four fingers in the gap.

Paint is torn away from the wood as if a rough file had been run over it. Not fresh paint, either!  This took some work.

What the heck? Who did this?

Looking at the big dog first, she was first suspect, by all the family, until I pointed out that the kind of damage on the door took time. A lot of time.

And fear.  Something lit off a dog.

“Perhaps a knock at the door?”

No, not enough, they would bark and reset after a minute or two, this took time.

So now, the suspect is the smaller chocolate lab, who has a panic issue. We are coming to the 4th of July and explosives — which are not legal in the area — are a nightly event.

I think a deep panic set in, the cats aren’t talking, but they point little furry fingers at the dark brown one and whisper: “that bitch is crazy.”

*sigh*

Tomorrow, the door is on the list for repaires.  I may have to take it down and begin to prepare it for paint.

No fun to come home to that kind of damage.  But she stresses beyond reason when the pops are close- full fledged beyond sanity panic.

Some (four-legged) kids you can’t leave home without drugging them. I hate thinking that, or alternately, she cannot be left alone. She needs a human to stay with.

Over the 4th of July, we are taking off to a remote area that is 1. dog friendly and 2. having stayed before, they do not do fireworks, only down at the beach. We stay far away from the beach, hiding in an air-conditioned hotel room with thick walls, after we run her to the point of exhaustion on the beach and in the surf.

That is the plan of action, we will still suffer the tail end of the fireworks for another month to come.  But the worst of it will be avoided.

How was your night?

Valley of Fear Prologue

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Prologue

The Running

Northern Idaho, fifty-kilometers south of the Canadian border on I-95, he stepped out on the gravel of the shoulder. Hiking out of the forests, he knew he had his ancient Volvo somewhere in the area. Looking around, he was about a half-mile south of where he went in a dozen hours before.

It was a nice day in the northern panhandle to collect the data from the different stations that the school placed around in the hundred-twenty thousand acres of the healing scar left from the Devil’s Broom Fire of 1910. Five of the undergraduates had gone in, Phillip was the first to come out of the hike. A few inches taller than the others, his stride had taken the toll on his companions. Gil Van Zant, Andre Sondergeld, Reedah Wilson (herself a bit of a mountain goat.)and Doctor Ru’khu Ng, the oldest of the group that often show them up by out-walking them all.

Bruce could see the others catching up to him when he saw what made his blood run cold coming over the ridge.

Wolves.

A lot of wolves, at least… he counted quickly on the undulating mass of grey and tails losing count at fifty.

And they were coming up the path at full speed.

“RUN! Oh, good God RUN!” Bruce waved at the team. “Behind you.”

Gil, bringing up the rear looked and turned, echoing Bruce’s warnings and the group began to run. The wolves were a mile off and running fast but making a direct line to the group. Caught out in the open like this, they would not stand a chance if the wolves surrounded them.

But, three hikers carried a side-arm. If need, they could open fire. Bruce carried the heaviest, a foot-long barreled revolver chambered for the mighty Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum cartridge.

It was not a quick-draw gun by any stretch of the imagination and it took him nearly five seconds to draw it out of the holster that resided between his backpack and his lumbar region.

It was a poor weapon against a pack of wolves bent on an easy meal.

Fully loaded, the big wheel-gun only held five rounds, and reloading was not a speed setting effort.

Still, if he could get them to line up, he could take four wolves with a single shot.

The hysterical thought ran through his mind of a four-for-one shot.

But he still carried it with one chamber unloaded and hammer down. It was an old safety habit. Popping out a cartridge from his belt, he slid the bullet cartridge into the empty chamber as Reedah came up next to him, panting from running with the heavy backpack.

“I say drop our packs here. Where is your car?”

“Half-mile up that way.” He pointed. The wolves were less than a quarter-mile off and coming fast. “We turned left one rock too soon. Get that pistol of yours out.”

“Like what am I going to do with it. I have an officer’s model with a seven plus one. Gill has a longslide with nothing else, we have the same count. “ She looked at him and drew her small auto-loader.

Her math was correct, even combined, their first volley did not match the numbers of the pack that ran towards them.

“I,” Gil gasped struggling with his pistol and the holster. “Have never seen wolves chase humans and out in the open too!”

“Gil, we don’t have enough firepower to win this outright, maybe we can divert them. Professor Ng, what do we do?”

“Climb a tree!” The Professor pointed to one with low hanging branches.

“What about our backpacks?” Reedah asked as the professor sprinted past— without his pack and gun in hand. “Oh!”

The group made the tree when the wolves caught up — and ran past them in a full run.

“Look! They are tuck-tailed.” Gil pointed out. “Something has them spooked.”

“I don’t know what would spook a pack of wolves like that.” Andre said. “There is documentation that a pack can take down a full-sized moose or caribou.”

“Keep climbing.” The professor said, looking down the path. “Oh crap, keep climbing!”

“What?” Bruce asked. “What is it?”

“BEAR!” The Professor pointed. “LOTS of them!”

Down the path a dozen bears, golden-manteled in the sunlight and giant, gorgeous, carnivorous creatures ran up the path like a toothy tsunami, not making a sound other than the crashing through the brush as each tried to pass the other.

“UP! UP!” the humans began to shout at each other, the lead bear’s mass approaching a quarter-ton. The largest land predator in the lower forty-eight states, although smaller than their coastal cousins. These were the apex predators of the area.

“I’m stuck!” Andre yelled. “Oh my god, help!” Andre yelled when the galloping group of grizzly bear closed the gap.

And followed the wolves, running past, followed by the mix of deer, a wolverine, and groups of smaller bear.

But no smoke in the distance.

“Professor, what is going on?” Bruce said as he tried to holster his horse-pistol. Succeeding on his third try.

“Bruce, can you stop waving that thing around, you’re making me nervous.” Gil said. “You brought that big ol’ thing, you should have also brought the rest of the armored car.”

“It would take care of anything I thought we might run across, including bear.”

“You could try.” Gil retorted. “Me, I would rather make a lot of noise with it and try to scare a bear off, unless you can shove it down the bears throat and pull the trigger.”

“With your little autoloader, you would need to…” Bruce was drawing a breath to continue the argument when the Professor interrupted.

“Enough. Seriously, enough.” The teacher shook his head while he climbed out of the tree. “We have more than we need to report just for that.”

“What scares a freakin’ GRIZZLY?” Andre asked. “Not counting a whole village of them.”

“I, for one, am going to the car.” Reedah commented while she picked up her pack. “You all can stand around and discuss this, but I shot video with my phone.” She smiled and held up her Android phone. “Five minutes worth.”

The men looked at each other stupidly then picked up their backpacks and set off in Reedah’s wake, still arguing over what they just witnessed.

“We need to get out of this area. The rest of the animals are running, I see dust in the air, there is more coming. I don’t now if it is more bear, moose or what. But I’d say it’s time to get out of this valley.”

Pulling on to the pavement, they did not hear the soft sound of a moaning as they drove away.

Horror smelled the thin-skinned and slow animal that drove off in a mechanical beast and would follow.

Smart Bomb Chapter 15. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 14. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down.

“In my abdomen, nearest the power conversion units. It gets first choice of electricity generated by what I consume.” The android, who Alvin knew as Steve.

Before Steve told Alvin this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress, now he wished he could take those words back.

“That’s well and good, but you can’t just walk in to the building, they would catch that large of a weapon. It would be large.”

“No, it is only about the size of your eyelash.” Steve said it as if he was talking about a cat walking across the parking lot.

“That’s not much, how much damage can it cause?”

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.”

“There is no reactor near congress.” Alvin disagreed.

“Near the Jefferson viaduct that they built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin. “Regardless, I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

“Are you smoking something? You would be obliterated and they would fix the program, send someone new.” Alvin’s strangled voice sounded near hysteria. “We need to call someone. CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB… Even the United Patriots! Someone with skills to handle this! Oh my god… omy god!”

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

“I would be used as a weapon, no matter what. They would attempt to reprogram me and I would be obligated to detonate the device.”

“Were is it again?”

“In my abdomen, just below what would be the xiphoid process.”

“Can you take it out?” Alvin rubbed his face with his hands, peeking through the gaps in his fingers.

“It is possible, but you would need to do it, I cannot see inside, you need to pull the power plugs in proper order to keep the magnetic field in place.”

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

“Estimated median yield is about eighty…” Steve stopped for a moment, paused with an error.

“Eighty? Pounds? That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

“No, eight-thousand six hundred pounds.” Steve corrected. “I paused to weigh the amount to the correct amount. My operating code has been overwritten twelve times. Patches are numbering in hundreds, so it requires me to thoroughly check my information.”

“That, oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

“It is not as big as the one that would follow.” Steve’s eyes followed Alvin as the man paced some more.

“What explosion?”

“James Madison Nuclear power station. It is the smallest of its kind . It produces power for the congress members and president should an attack happen and the power grid becomes disabled. The energy of the explosion would cause a power surge on the order of one-hundred seventy to one-hundred eighty gigajoules through the wires and communications cables that the power company buried underground.” Steve let it sink in for a moment. “Then the failure of the coolant systems would cause a meltdown and poison the lands and atmosphere. It would be America’s Chernobyl for the next hundred generations of humans.

Alvin sat down for the uncounted time. He was a man who was too stressed to stay still for long. Standing to pace, sitting, standing. He was a man stressed to the breaking point.

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.”

“What if.” He paced around the room. “What if, we built another being like you.”

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.”

“True, I don’t.” Alvin stressed the “I”. “But, someone of another group I know of, nearby can. They have already built a miniature army that they play games with.”

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a quirk that Alvin picked up on. The android when struggling with an idea tilted his head to the left, slightly. He did it every time there was a middle road of thought. No yes or no, but an answer that was neither yes or no, but maybe.

“Synthetic skin such as mine can grow in a simple mixture of water and carbohydrates, double in mass every three hours.” Steve’s voice was as if he read from a list. “Power conversion units are available from different sources for farms to generate electricity. Mine is a kitchen model modified for extended use.”

“Maybe we can.” Alvin nodded. “Let’s go see a friend. I’m going to set up a laser for a moment. They are at the end of the airbase. In the middle of the biggest patch of nothing out there. No way to approach without being seen.”

“The aircraft control tower?”

“That’s part of it. You have good eyes.” Alvin smiled. “Good programming. But that is where we are going. The rest is underground.”

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes.

“Yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin said.

Setting up the laser output, he shined it out the window, towards the window of the abandoned control tower for fifteen-seconds, then turned it off. Repeated the process only shining it for ten-seconds and then paused.

A dazzling green light illuminated the spot behind the window for ten-seconds then went out.

“We are good to go.” Alvin smiled.

The two climbed inside the small car that sat there patiently and the drive was faster than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries.”

“How fast can it go?” Alvin laughed as they got out at their destination.

“This ten-thousand foot landing strip would allow Sleeper to reach the top speed of…” Steve turned around and looked at the car with a good impression of human surprise. “This data is in error. But, this little car insists, above three-hundred miles-per-hour.”

“Bull!” Alvin gasped.

“Agreed, but we will need to get new tires, according to the car. These tires are not able to handle that speed.”

2 Seconds… T-Minus 2 Seconds

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T-Minus 2 Seconds

Passing through the atmosphere, photons interacted with the oxygen and nitrogen, but still straight on to the stalled dark blue car of LucilleMay Sprecks who was frozen in fear.

Photons struck the paint and chrome of Lucy’s car. Instantly redirected by reflection, the photons passed through the air at ninety-thousand kilometers per second slower than in a pure vacuüm. Some colors absorbed by the paint and then reflected the remaining color of dark blue.

Engine 2315 self-dispatched, rolled down the driveway, already the crew had dropped paintbrushes and rakes, running towards the engine. The seasonal firefighters did not know the nature of the call, but the Captain was waving frantically. The Engineer already on the radio. The two men, from years of experience, knew of the impending accident was just seconds from happening and called for a dispatch of a paramedic unit.

“Copy, medics Code-3 to your location.” Dispatch responded.

The photons traveled the distance between the sudden obstruction and passed through the iris of Russell’s eye in twenty-five nanoseconds — 0.000000025 — striking the light-sensitive membrane in the back of Russell’s eyes. Neural pathways reacted to the absorbed photons and processed it to his occipital lobe, in the back of Russell’s head.

T-1.9999955 seconds. Photons streaked past Russell’s head and entered the lens of Lulu’s eyes. The nervous system transmitted the image at two-hundred miles-per-hour to the brain of Mrs. Fletcher.

Russell’s brain transmitted the image to the frontal cortex. One-point-six seconds it took to have the one-hundred billion axioms to recognize the threat, the mind of the skilled rider tried to organize a reflex action.

T-1.99925 seconds. Fifty-miles per hour they traveled towards the immobile car. More than seventy-three feet per second — Already they had covered more than a third of a football field.

T- 1.5 Seconds. Lucy saw the collision coming, her eyes processing the closing motorcycle and her mind locked up. All she needed to do to avoid the impending collision was move her foot to the gas-pedal. But in that moment, she did not know what to do. There were no answers for the panicked soul that only wanted a glass of wine and to save the soul of a lady Druid.

Russell’s brain processed information at the speed of three supercomputers.The most intelligent man on earth was not needed to know that the exit routes were:

Oncoming traffic in front of the stopped car — rejected as death was all but certain.

Forest with big trees, bushes and large pointy rocks: – rejected. The outcome would be equally bad.

Hit car — poor choice, but the debate was moot with the outcome defaulted while the mind of the man searched for safe exit to this disaster. He was out of time for evasive maneuvers.

T- 1.25 seconds. BRAKES! The mind screamed! Russell took a deep breath.

T- 1.20 seconds. BRAKES! The mind begged. The entire world was silent, his soul was deaf to all sounds. All the world was mute.

T- 1.1 seconds. BRAKES! The mind commanded. No bumps, no sound of wind. Silence was louder than a rock-concert in a steel warehouse.

T- 0.9 seconds. BRAKES! The mind ordered. The engine was inaudible.

T- 0.8 seconds. A pleading voice sounded through the earbud of the motorcycles comm system.

“NOoooooo!” It was Lulu.

T- 0.5 seconds. BRAKES! The foot finally responded and jammed down on the rear brake and the hands grabbed for the front brake lever.

T- 0.4 seconds. The brake pads built up pressure. Years of riding, he closed his hand into a fist and crushed the front brake lever.

T- 0.15 seconds. The friction pads moved into contact with the rotating mass of the brake disc and began to engage at fifty-one feet away.

In an instant, Russell did calculations in his head, estimating he needed an extra twenty feet to fully perform an emergency stop.

Twenty feet he did not have.

T- 0.10 seconds. Russell tensed up. Impact was imminent. Pressure in rear brake built up enough to stop rotation of the rear tire. Seventy-percent of the weight of the motorcycle shifted to the front tire.

The shock absorbers on the motorcycle compressed as the big bike did a nosedive. On two tires, patches of rubber the size of a hand of a large man tried to stop a half-ton of steel, rubber and human flesh and bone.

The rear tire of the motorcycle began to skid, the tire locked up and melting from friction with the highway, liquid rubber now lubricating the tire which began to yaw to the right, the front tire slowing faster than the rear. Lulu, sat farthest away from the center mass of the motorcycle and adding more weight to the pendulum. Out of control with the dynamic forces Russell valiantly struggled to stop the inevitable.

Unstoppable, moving towards the immobile car, “Crossed up” as Gertrude the motorcycle yawed and slid sideways, they moved with Lulu making prayers, begging that it would be all right.

“Please don’t let it be bad, Lord, please let it be all right.”

It would not be all right.

T- 0.05 seconds. Russell could see over the top of the car, his mind processed information at a phenomenal rate, he could see the road was clear on the far side of the obstruction.

If only… Was his sole thought.

He could see the eyes of the little old lady, they were wide like a deer in the headlights, with plate-sized pupils.

T- 0.02 seconds. Photons made shadows on the ground. Shadows that merged as the front tire was bound down as tightly as it could be without locking up as the rear brake did. Speed was dropping rapidly, if it was on a graph, it would show the line of the deceleration as nearly vertical on a second by second chart.

T- 0.01 seconds. Russell could calculate his speed was still greater than…

T- 0.00 seconds. Impact! The photons that made shadows, now only made one as the front tire hit slightly ahead of the rest of the hog.

The force of the energy ripped the big bike’s grips from Russell’s hands. The husband’s body became a missile of kinetic energy launched by the impact of the vehicles.

Russell hit, bounced and flew over the top of the car, breaking the windshield with his helmeted head as he went by and landed partly on his face. The open-faced helmet affording him little protection, sliding and rolling down the asphalt. Russell came to a rest on his back. His face hurt, but he was awake.

T+ 0.50 seconds. Russell laid there, taking stock of his limbs. Pain was not overpowering but there was no question he was hurt. Movement at the periphery of his eyes made him turn his head.

The car was on the move. The little old lady was leaving! He could see her tail lights getting smaller as he tried to read the license plate from his awkward position.

Then, he saw his best friend’s body.

She was alarmingly still. Still as death.

T+ 1.5 seconds.

“Lulu…” He whispered a plea. “Lulu, move.”

She lay on the ground, partly under the motorcycle. Unmoving, silent. She lay there with her leg bent in way that was unnatural. He tried to crawl on his arms, leaving a bloody trail back to where his wife, his copilot and his best friend and lover, lay. Russell’s vision became blurred with agony as the pain set in. Blood dripped off his face where the road abraded his skin away with the rough black top.

T+ 5.0 seconds. Pounding of feet and a heavy “Thump-thump” of a huge motor pulling up next to him. An enormous chopper with an even larger rider looking down at him through goggles. A tattoo of the 82nd Airborne division on his forearm oddly was in focus to Russell’s eyes.

“We caught her, brother. We caught that old lady before she got very far. Hang in there, help is on the way.”

“Lulu?” Russel moaned. “My wife?”

“Your old lady’s alive, bro. Hurt bad, but alive.”

“Call 9-1-1.”

“Station is right there, they are coming now.” The giant biker told Russell with a slight Norwegian accent. “They’ll be here in two seconds.”

Two seconds, if only he had seen the car two seconds sooner.

FINIS

Flee Chapter 9. Out On The Docks

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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.”