Writer of Horror Fiction

Dark Stories: George and Jason, Part 2

In honor of Halloween, and in honor of my new favorite TV show, The Walking Dead (I saw the premier tonight, and I loved it!), here is some more of the continuing saga of George and Jason, before they enter Jeff’s life in Comes The Dark.  I wrote a lot of stuff for them both, and there is at least a Part 3 coming up, and maybe even a Part 4.  Forgive me for any typos that I missed-I tried to clean this up as best I could, but I am sure there are a few here.

Without further ado, here ya go.

George and Jason, Part 2

The memories from those early days continued to trickle into George’s mind as he entered the room he used as a bedroom.  He plopped down on the small blanket and thin pillow he had acquired from the nurse’s station downstairs.  His room was situated next to the room Jason had laid claim to, which had once been a dusty storage area.  The entire second floor was mostly storage with the main area below housing the class rooms, gym, and church.  He and Jason had blocked off the doors to the church from the part of the building they stayed in when they first arrived.  It would have been impossible to protect the large open nave, with its massive windows and glass doors.  The irony was not lost on George.  He had found Jesus and even fled to a house of God, but had to steer clear of the church to avoid an agonizing death.

***

After the riot, George, Al, Jennifer, and Jason decided to bide their time for at least one more day.  The rumors about what was happening outside had faded away as fewer newcomers were funneled into the high school.  Most of the refugees still trickling in were being processed at the elementary school, but one of the last bits of gossip they heard was that there weren’t any more people seeking shelter.  There was no one left out there alive.

Soldiers patrolled the gym, moving between isolated groups with their automatic weapons un-slung and ready for anyone who chose to cause them trouble.  Another day went by and any new rumors passed along by the refugees about what was going on outside were mostly just unintelligible garbage George dismissed out of hand.  Soldiers who were willing to talk insisted there were more refugees still funneling in across the street.  All he knew for sure was that more troops were showing up at the school.  He saw them talking outside the gym and could hear more vehicles out in the parking lot.  Soldiers stationed with the huddled masses inside were more agitated than usual.

It was enough to convince George that their little group’s time had come.  Despite the eradication of the troublesome gang members, it would not be long before someone else tried to start another revolt.  Everyone was tired, angry, and afraid.  They were jammed into a claustrophobic environment and it appeared as if George wasn’t the only one planning something.  When it all went down, he wondered if the soldiers would even bother with tear gas or just start firing their weapons into the crowd.

After a long sleepless night it came to George.  Jason was small enough that he could slip out of the cafeteria when they shuffled into the cafeteria to eat breakfast.  There had been no head counts in several days.  The guards had slacked off ever since the real troublemakers had been eliminated.  They were paranoid and concerned that everyone would try to rush their positions at the main exits, or try and steal their weapons, but didn’t appear worried that someone might try sneaking deeper into the building.  When George approached the twelve year old, Jason was more than willing to go on an “adventure” to help them all out.  He was practically champing at the bit to make a break for one of the doors that led to unused classrooms in the high school.

At breakfast, Jason displayed no fear as he stood up and boldly walked across the room away from their table.  No one, including the soldiers standing guard and serving the food, took notice of the twelve year old.  Just as George thought, the other refugees were too wrapped up in their own woes to care about some random kid.  The soldiers were just as distracted, with someone different approaching them to argue or complain about something every few minutes to pay attention to a boy slinking around the crowded space.  George, for all his confidence that he was doing the right thing, could barely watch as Jason crossed the linoleum floor toward one of the sets of doors.  When Al squeezed his arm and smiled to let him know that Jason had made it, George felt weak.

No alarms were raised as Jason slipped through the doors, nor were there any hints that the soldiers suspected anything.

When the time came to leave the cafeteria the three remaining members of the group shuffled out with all the rest of the entrapped citizens and returned to their cots, biding their time until lunch.  If Jason were caught in the few hours in between the two meals, they hoped he would get no more than a scolding.  Even as high strung as the guards were, unless he snuck up on one and yelled ‘Boo!’ he would probably be safe.  If one of the adults had gone and had been caught … it was hard to imagine it would have gone well for them.  George remembered the fit Jennifer had thrown about Jason taking on such a responsibility and how she couldn’t sit still as they waited, wondering if he was okay.

At lunch, when Jason returned to them unnoticed, it took all the trio had to not stand up and cheer as he slipped in beside them at their table.  They sat, grinning and patting him on the back, but waited until they were back in the relative privacy of their small section of the gym before asking him what he had seen.  He told them about the corridors he was willing to venture down.  He had found several empty classrooms, but more importantly a hallway leading to an exit on the opposite side of the building that didn’t appear to be guarded.  He was able to open the door-no alarm had sounded and it was only locked from the outside.  There were no guards posted outside at the back of the building.  Now all they needed was a distraction so they could make their move.

George winced at the memory of their excitement and shared euphoria.  They had been so optimistic!  It was hard to imagine how he had rooted for someone to attack the guards or to cause another riot, just so the four of them could steal away in the ensuing chaos.  There was nothing redeeming about such thoughts, though surely God would forgive his weakness in that moment.  The four of them gathered up what few possessions they still had and the small amount of food they were able to sneak out of the cafeteria for their anticipated journey.

The rest of the day went by uneventfully, except for more and more soldiers running in and out of the gymnasium, hour after hour.  Most of the newer residents of the makeshift dormitory did not notice, but George and his team was studying the soldiers, hoping that something would come up that would keep them occupied so that the foursome could make an unannounced exit.

With looks of exasperation and nervousness on most of the soldier’s faces, George guessed it wouldn’t take long.  He could sense that things were getting ready to boil over outside.

They settled in for the night and the lights were turned off.  George told Al to be ready to wake Jennifer and Jason at a moment’s notice.  After a few uneventful hours, neither of the men could keep their eyes open and so when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night it woke them both.  People were jumping up all around them and several were screaming.  After a couple of minutes of complete confusion, a young lieutenant came into the gym with a bullhorn and called for everyone’s attention.  After the alarm was shut off and he had spent the better part of another minute asking for silence, everyone settled down.

The lieutenant appeared poised and George guessed he was a veteran of either Afghanistan or Iraq and was called back stateside when the shit hit the fan.  The soldier’s voice was confident and forceful.  He announced that they were going to have a fire drill, strictly as a precautionary measure.  No one had any reason to be alarmed and they would all be back in their beds in a few minutes if everyone cooperated.  He directed them to form two single file lines so they could move over to the cafeteria.  George heard the calm and calculating words and could see that the lieutenant’s body language did not contradict it—there were no nervous twitches and no cracks in the his veneer.  But when he looked closer, the soldier’s eyes told George everything he needed to know.  He wondered how many others sensed it.  There were ripples of panic throughout the crowd but nothing substantial.  The lieutenant was good, but George could see the truth he was trying to hide.

It was time to leave.

George squeezed Al’s arm and gave the younger man a curt nod.  Al returned the gesture and pulled his wife close, leaning in and whispering in her ear.  She went white as a sheet as she listened to him speak.  Her hands were on Jason’s shoulders and as they tightened, the pre-teen looked back at the others.  His eyes began to sparkle with excitement as he realized their adventure was about to begin.

When the sound of gunfire from outside became audible, only a few people toward the back of the lines noticed.  When those people hesitated, several soldiers jabbed at them with their M16s and kept them moving toward the cafeteria.  Soon everyone could hear the weapons fire and frantic conversations broke out up and down the lines of refugees.  Several of the men and a few of the women yelled at the soldiers, demanding to know what was going on outside.  When they were ignored, they screamed even louder and others added their voices to the mix.  What started out as apprehension was turning into something far worse as panic spread throughout the crowd.

The foursome knew they needed to make their move before things got ugly.  They fought through the surging crowd toward the front of the pack, making their way into the cafeteria.  They then maneuvered over toward the exit Jason had departed through hours before.  They waited, afraid if they tried to leave now it would be noticed as the rest of the refugees filtered into the room.

George couldn’t recall exactly how everything went down, but he believed that was the moment when several people decided to charge the soldiers.  He could not recall if it was a bunch of individuals acting on their own or some sort of concerted effort.  What he did remember were the results.

A warning shot was fired and rifles were aimed at the potential attackers, who had enough sense to stop before they were fired upon.  Another noise, this time an explosion from outside, shook the floors and walls moments later.  After that, everything was a blur.  There was pushing and shoving and more shots fired, but George didn’t pay that any attention.  Instead, his eyes were focused on the door offering him, Al, Jennifer, and Jason a chance at escape.  He grabbed Al by the shoulder and slammed his other fist into the door, pushing it open and shoving the other man through.  George then waved Jason and Jennifer into the depths of the darkened building.  They took off running, the sound of gunfire and screams echoing behind them.

Jason took the lead, maneuvering them through the building, easily avoiding areas that had been populated by soldiers.  There was little to worry about; it appeared as if most posts had been abandoned, perhaps only moments earlier.  The repetitive reports of automatic gunfire and the rage of the crowd became muffled as they passed through several more doors.

After a while, it was hard to determine whether the gunfire they were hearing was coming from inside or outside the building.  The echoes made it hard to tell if they were getting closer or farther away from various trouble spots as they followed Jason down another dark hallway.  After ten minutes of running, George began to worry that the twelve year old was leading them in circles.  But when he saw a beam of light shining from down a hallway, he breathed a sigh of relief and swore to never doubt Jason again.

Moonlight shined into the hallway as they turned the corner and made their way down that final corridor.  Jason ran ahead and waved them on as they rushed toward the exit.  The sound of gunfire and screams were getting louder.  The letters in the EXIT sign were lit in a luminous red and everyone felt a great sense of relief.  George gestured for Jason to get behind him and he moved up to the door and peaked out the glass door.  What he saw confirmed what the boy had told them earlier.

The door led out to the staff parking lot at the back of the building.  The lot was jammed full of cars.  Beyond that a flat field ran for about a quarter mile, with a wooded area beyond that.  George cursed, wishing that just one member of his little party had some familiarity with Gallatin and might know how deep the woods were and what was beyond them.  His best guess was that they weren’t too deep and that a subdivision or a farm or two weren’t far off in the distance.

Even if the stand of trees was only a few feet thick, they should be able to slip into them and not be discovered by the Guardsmen.  George didn’t want to creep around in the darkened woods for too long, especially with the infected roaming around out there.  There was no distant glow of city lights out beyond the woods, but he wondered if the power was still up and running anyway.  Beside starlight, the only other light source was coming from the other side of the high school.

Another explosion had the little group grabbing for each other and Jennifer screamed, startled by the excruciatingly loud noise.  The building vibrated and a bright light flashed overhead, casting dramatic shadows on the parking lot.  The image was so bright it burned into George’s retinas and he spent the next thirty seconds trying to blink it away.  More gunfire followed, louder and closer.  He listened for any other noises he could differentiate from the explosions and was rewarded with sounds of men yelling and vehicles moving off in the distance.  There was something else as well.  It was a sound he could not quite decipher.

He turned to face the others.  The plan wasn’t complicated.  The woods were their best bet.  They could angle away from the parking lot and go north—the trees dipped in at their closest point there and were only a hundred yards away from where they were now.  They would avoid going deep into the woods unless they were spotted or in danger and would try to figure out the best direction to head after they got there.

Even when George could no longer hear any yelling or the sound of vehicles moving out in front of the high school, that other noise, the one he couldn’t quite put his finger on, continued.  It was a constant hum, almost a buzzing.  It was as if a massive hornet’s nest had been riled up.

George ignored the sound as he wrapped his hand around the door handle, ready to jump outside.  It was then that he noticed something out in the dark—shadows moving out in the woods.  Before he could take a closer look he heard the thudding of boots echoing down the hallway behind them.  The four turned as one to stare back down the passageway.  They couldn’t see anything, but heard yelling along with the echoes of gunfire and screams coming from inside the building.  It had been muffled before, but now was much clearer.

George said a little prayer and opened the door, ushering the others outside where they pressed themselves up against the building.  As soon as the door opened, sound thundered from all around them and the meager noise from inside was drowned out.  The night sky flashed repeatedly with a lightshow that reflected off the woods beyond the parking lot.  The shadows George had seen moments before were coalescing into human shapes moving through the woods toward them.  He swung his arm out, pressing it against Al’s chest, who was about to depart their shadowy hiding place to rush for the woods as they had planned.  George motioned for Al and the others to take a closer look at where they were headed.

A man had broken free of the trees.  Behind him, several others followed.  It was hard to tell if they were men or women with light flashing only intermittently on them.

At first, none of them could discern much about the man as he stumbled out from behind a tree and moved closer.  After another flash of light from the front of the building, his face was lit up brighter than daylight for an instant.

Al hugged Jennifer and muffled her scream.  The man moving out of the woods was dead.  He wore a pair of overalls with a tremendous rip in them.  The hole in the material was wet with blood and something that looked like tendrils dangled from the rift, bouncing against the soiled denim fabric as the stiff stumbled along.  To George, it looked like the man had been torn open and then something had decided to dig into his guts haphazardly, pulling random bits and pieces out.  As quickly as the man was showcased in all his malignant glory, the bright light blinked out and he was hidden from view once again.

They tried to remain calm as they huddled against the wall, watching as more of the human shaped monstrosities came from the woods.  George recalled wondering if he had gone insane, because none of what he was seeing could be real.  But as the lights flashed on more ghouls making their way toward the soldiers at the front of the building, he realized that this was far too horrible for his mind to have created on its own.

The quartet was still trying to grasp the full magnitude of this nightmare when another door, about thirty feet down from their position, opened and slammed against the brick wall.  Another group of refugees poured out and ran toward the cars in the parking lot.  They didn’t notice George’s group and apparently had not looked outside before bursting from the building.  Based on how fast they were running, George guessed that something had scared the hell out of them inside.

One of the people in the other group, a heavy set man wearing a John Deere cap, was waving the rest on, getting them to fan out and check the cars for one or more that had keys in it.  George hushed his crew to silence as the other group became loud enough to be heard over the clamor coming from the far side of the building.

When some of the shadowy forms to the north stopped their progress toward the front of the building and turned to face the parking lot, George knew his decision to remain quiet had been the right one.  The infected switched direction and moved into the parking lot toward the other group.  As George watched them, he blinked twice, hard.  He could see more human shapes coming toward the other group of refugees, but these weren’t bunched together like the others.  They were spread out, coming from … everywhere, from every direction past the parking lot-from across the field, from the woods … everywhere.

A dark thought trickled into George’s head.  If these people hadn’t come along we would all be dead now. He would have led his group into the woods and right into the arms of the undead if the loud group of refugees had not drawn their attention first.

A screamed ripped through the air from the north side of the building and the thunder of numerous M16’s firing on full auto nearly shattered the foursome’s eardrums.  The mix of sounds was joined by the screams of the group in the parking lot as they discovered the unwanted attention they had gained.  George counted at least forty shapes closing in on the parking lot.

He motioned for his group to move south along the building, toward the larger student parking lot situated to their left and away from the other refugees.  He put his finger to his lips and the others nodded, petrified.  George knew he was just as terrified as Al, Jennifer, and Jason, but also knew that unless he found a way to fight through his fear he would never see his wife and daughters again.

Even as they kept moving, it was hard not to watch the larger group of refugees as they were slowly surrounded.  Most of them were hysterical with fear, but they continued to search the vehicles in the lot.  The first of the shambling monsters reached the edge of the parking lot with five others right behind it.  They stumbled along, but did not falter as they stayed locked on the live targets in the lot.

A young man thought it would be a good idea to climb on top of one of the cars to get a better view of the lot.  He then proceeded to leap from one car to the next, glancing down through each windshield as he did so.  He was moving so fast that George wondered if he would be able to tell which car might have keys in the ignition, assuming that was the purpose of what he was doing.  It was too dark for him to be having much luck, even as bright flashes of light lit up the sky every few seconds.  After about a minute of this futile exercise he had gained the attention of several of the rotting figures.  If he noticed he didn’t seem to care as he continued his jumps, each ending with a loud whump as he crashed into the hood of the next car in line.  He got half way through one row of vehicles when he noticed a hand reaching up for him.  He was out of its reach, but he panicked and twisted his body away from the grasping claws and slipped, flying headlong into the next car.  A sickening thud accompanied the fall as his skull connected with a Taurus’s front quarter panel.  George watched in horrified anticipation as several fiends closed on the young man’s position.  A shaky hand grasped the hood of the sedan and the refugee woozily got to his feet.  He steadied himself just in time for the first ghoul to arrive.  A scream burst from his lips as another came from behind and together they dragged him back to the ground.  George tried to ignore the sounds that followed, which could only be described as cannibalistic euphoria.  He looked away and fought the urge to wretch.

All of them saw what had happened to the car jumper, but there were other things occurring at the same time.  Several people tried to outsmart the stiffs by weaving and darting in and around the parked cars, but still found themselves trapped between vehicles.  One or two put up a valiant struggle, but others appeared to give up almost immediately as they were surrounded by ravenous fiends.

A young woman, possibly in her mid-twenties or maybe younger, had a small girl in tow as they made their way through the lot, focused on testing every door handle they passed.  On the third try, the woman struck pay dirt-a Mercedes station wagon was unlocked.  The woman tossed the little girl into the passenger seat and climbed in after her.  Looking around frantically, she found the automatic door lock and pressed it before searching for the keys.  An elderly man in their group who was nearby witnessed the young woman’s success and moved in her direction.  He jiggled the handle and knocking on the window, pleading with her to let him in.  After a few moments, he pounded frantically on the window with the flat of his hand, his voice raising several octaves as his frail arms smacked against the glass.

The quartet all watched as a teenager moved up behind the old man.  For a moment it appeared as if he was going to help him with the car door, working to convince the woman to let them join her inside.  The kid was wearing a yellow tee shirt and as the light brightened and another explosion rattled everyone’s eardrums, George could see words tattooed across it: Bravo Echo Echo Romeo.  When the young man gripped the old man’s hair and pulled his head back to take a huge bite out of his nose, George’s little group knew the truth.  The bite caused a geyser of blood to splash across the window of the Mercedes, but even before the blood had stop spewing from the wound the monster had removed his hand from the septuagenarian’s hair and wrapped it around the old man’s body.  The ghoul’s mouth never let loose of its prize as the two crashed to the ground.  The old man’s bellows of rage at being locked out of the car turned into honking squeaks of terror, then gurgling noises as he died on the pavement.  Two other rotters joined in the feast, but were thankfully hidden from view behind the cars.

The woman and child who had barricaded themselves inside the German luxury car were locked in a silent scream as they witnessed everything.  The woman covered the child’s eyes as the horror grew on her face.  Perhaps, George guessed, the man had been someone she knew, perhaps even a family member.  She was unwilling to unlock the door for him and as punishment she had to bear witness to the complete desecration of his body.

George knew that it was time for them to get the hell out of there.  There was nothing they could do for any of the other refugees.

With a muffled command, George looked away and gestured for the others to pick up the pace.  They had to get as far away from the asphalt surface of the parking lot and the few remaining refugees there who were getting torn to pieces.

But when Jennifer screamed out Al’s name, George was forced to turn and see what was happening.

“Al!  What the hell are you doing?” he yelled after the younger man, who had broken ranks and was running toward the Mercedes.  That was when George was sure they were all going to die.

His gut clenched up and he turned to Jennifer, who was about to take off after her husband.  “Stay here with Jason.  I’ll get him back.”  He grasped her shoulders firmly, giving them a quick squeeze, and was off.  He didn’t look back, hoping that his false bravado would be enough to keep Jennifer from making the situation go from bad to worse.

It was the little girl.  That was the only reason Al would do something so unbelievably stupid.  Maybe he could bear to watch an old man and a few other unfortunates get ripped apart without losing his mind, but a little girl?  It had been too much for Al to take.

George took off after his friend, but Al had at least a twenty foot head start and was already closing in on the car and the three ghouls that had wrestled the old man to the ground.  George clenched his fists in anticipation of a battle he dreaded but knew was unavoidable.

As he ran, that sound was back in his ears-the buzzing noise that kept getting louder.  They weren’t just close to the hornet’s nest, they were inside it.  It tickled George’s eardrums and made him want to cram his fingers in his ears to block it out.  It felt as if it was vibrating his entire body and set his teeth to chattering.

He looked ahead and saw the three shapes shifting and twisting together on top of the corpse they had ripped open next to the Mercedes.  He could also smell them as he got closer: sickly sweet, like rotten fruit splattered on the ground, the juice thick and sticky.

Out of the corner of his eye, George saw even more of the damned souls coming onto the parking lot.  Others were moving past the flat asphalt square, on their way to where the soldiers were firing their weapons continuously in front of the school.

Al moved into the group of stiffs on top of the old man and nearly slipped in the wide pool of blood beneath them, but regained his footing.  George watched as he planted his foot and kicked at the head of the first monster—it was the teen that had pulled the old man down.  He connected; his tennis shoe landing with an audible thud as the monster’s head rocketed backwards.  George covered the short distance and stomped on another ghoul’s arm that was reaching out to grab Al’s leg, snapping the bone and forcing its head to the asphalt.  Its skin ripped and black ooze squirted out onto George’s shoe, but he ignored it as he sent his fist slamming into the side of the third one’s face.

They were far too late to save the old man and George doubted that Al had even considered that.  But in just a few seconds of furious violence, they pulped the three rotters that had torn the senior citizen to pieces.

Later George would spend a great deal of time thinking about what he had done that night.  He had never killed anything before.  He hadn’t even clipped a squirrel or a dog with his car.  He had never been a hunter and tended to prefer words over fists, although he had gotten into a few unavoidable scrums in his time.  He had never enjoyed the sight of someone else’s blood.  But as he sent the heel of his dress shoe into the temple of the last of the flesh eating lunatics, his only thought was better him than me.

Al reacted quicker than George, not giving a second thought to their handiwork as he banged on the window of the Mercedes and attempted to open the car door.  He pleaded with the woman to open up and let them help her and the little girl over and over again.

George knew it was a lost cause when he saw that the woman could not differentiate between Al and the creatures he’d just pummeled in front of her.  Streaks of blood and darker substances were spattered on his face and arms.  He looked half crazed as he hammered on the window glass.  She seemed to be sliding into shock and the little girl was now curled up in a tight ball next to her.  The woman kept shaking her head, but it was hard to believe it was in acknowledgement of anything Al was saying.  It was an empty gesture, a denial of everything left in the world.

The buzzing in George’s ears was overwhelming him.  There were no other sounds that could fight their way past it, not even Al’s frantic pleadings.  It felt like the sound was consuming him.  It went beyond an auditory signal—it was inside him, in his skin and deep within his bones.

That was when he finally knew what it was.

It was the cries of the dead; thousands of them.  They were everywhere.  It was their moans of agony and delight as they cried out for living flesh.  They were not only surrounding his little group, but everyone who remained—the soldiers, the diminished group in the lot, and everyone huddled inside the schools.

They had to leave.  They had to leave right that minute.

George grabbed Al, who continued to bang desperately on the door.  The wiry young man wriggled out of his grasp and continued to scream incoherently at the woman who was, for all intents and purposes, already dead.  George spied Jennifer running toward them, unable to follow his command as her husband came undone.  Jason trailed her, looking as frightened and confused as George was feeling.

It was all going to be over soon.  George made a quick decision.  He chose to give up on Al and rushed to intercept Jennifer before she could get to him.  George was not going to wrestle a grown man, but knew he could handle a woman half his size.  He would try to get her and Jason out of harms way.  Perhaps her screams as George carted her back toward the wall might be like a splash of cold water to Al.  He’ll follow us, he’ll have to.  It’s his only choice.

He wrapped his arms around Jennifer and dragged her back toward the wall.  She screamed for her husband and thrashed in George’s grasp, but he wouldn’t let go.  He tried to calm her down but she was hysterical.  When he heard Al scream once again, not in frustration, but in pain, George did not let her go.  He was still trying to calm her down before it sunk in what had happened.

He swung around with Jennifer in his arms and saw Al bent over, leaning against the car and beating at something that George could not see.  The old man. It hit George like a bullet.  He had turned.  They had forgotten him.  It was so stupid.  Everyone turned.

George could only say “oomph!” as Jennifer aimed a knee at his groin.  He dropped her and sunk to the ground.  Jason ran passed him and George weakly reach out to grab at his leg.  He missed and fell over on his face.  He crawled back to his hands and knees and tried to see what was happening.  There was a sea of cars in front of him, blocking his vision.  He saw Jennifer’s head moving and Jason was right behind her, looking as if he was trying to pull her away from something.  George spared a glance to his left and saw several more of undead closing on their position.

There’s no time left.

He winced as he got to his feet and stumbled over to the others.  As he rounded a car and leaned on the hood of another he knew he was too late.

Al had finished off the old man, but his hand looked mangled and broken, at least one finger bone had pierced the skin on his right hand, although his hand was covered in so much blood that it was hard to tell how much damage there was.  The old man’s head was nothing more than a pile of mush below him.  Al was screaming in pain and Jennifer had her arms wrapped around him, her scream a sharp counterpoint to her husband’s.  George realized that the hand was not the worst of it for Al when he saw his leg.  A huge chunk of flesh and muscle had been torn away.  The blood squirting from the wound was creating a river beneath him. Jason was screaming at Jennifer, close to crying. He was screaming for her to leave.  The only one who wasn’t screaming was George.

Al was going into shock and vomiting on himself.  He slumped down next to the all the people he and George had killed-if that was what you called putting something that was already dead down again.  Blood was everywhere.  Al was shaking, staring straight ahead.  He had stopped screaming.  The woman and little girl in the car were forgotten and so was everything else.  Jennifer was pounding on her husband’s chest, pleading with him to get up.

George felt dizzy and the buzzing noise was drowning out everything else.  This plague of the undead would sweep them all away; it would take each and every one of them away from all of this.

Would that be so bad?

It would be easy.  Let things just happen and they would be free of all the screams and all the fear.

No.

George grabbed Jason and pulled him away from Jennifer.  The boy resisted at first but then settled as he saw the dead moving toward them.  The buzzing, the cacophony of moans, was reaching a crescendo.  They would be here soon.  George reached back and touched Jennifer on the shoulder.  She had quieted some and she had her arms wrapped around her husband, holding him as if he was a life preserver—the only thing left to her.  She looked away from Al for a moment and stared up at George.

He saw only despair in her eyes.

He extended his hand to her and willed her to take it, to lift herself up and come with him and Jason.  He had one of his arms wrapped protectively around Jason who was staring at Jennifer, tears blurring his vision.  Suddenly, it seemed like the buzzing stopped and all he could hear was the words Jennifer said as she looked at the boy one last time.

“Go with George, Jason.  He’ll take care of you.”

It was the last thing she ever said.  She turned away from them and buried her face against Al’s cheek.  She closed her eyes and held him close.  Al never stopped staring directly ahead as she pulled him in tight and kissed him on the cheek.

George whispered her name once, pleading.  She would not turn away from her husband though.  He stared at the newlyweds for a moment longer and then glanced inside the car.  The woman continued shaking her head back and forth, denying that any of this was happening.  She and the little girl were intertwined, the child’s head resting on the woman’s shoulder.  George was tempted to bang on the glass, but Al was dying because of his attempt to save those two lost souls … Al and Jennifer both.

The buzzing came back to George’s ears, louder than ever.  The moving corpses were closing in and it would be moments before they would lose even their miniscule chance at escape.

Jason did not struggle as George turned; dragging him away from the one person left on earth that he trusted.  They didn’t look back as the dead closed in on their friends.  George couldn’t bear to think of what was going to happen to them in just a few more moments.

As he and Jason turned the corner of the building they heard no screams, no cries for help from Al or Jennifer.

 

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