Dark Stories: George and Jason, Part 3
Sorry it has taken me so long to post another part of George and Jason’s tale, but I should be able to get Part 4, the final part of their story, posted within the next week or so. There are other stories based on other characters, and now that Into The Dark is on the verge of being released, some of the other stories about characters appearing in that book will also be showing up here, on my blog.
As always, you can find all my Dark Stories listed in order on the Dark Stories page of my blog. So if you haven’t read all the ones that came before this, check out that page first. Thanks!
As usually, I apologize for any typos or grammatical errors. I try to do my best to insure that what I post is clean, but I am sure I missed a few things here and there.
So without further ado, here you go. I hope you enjoy this installment.
George and Jason, Part 3
George thumbed through a paper back romance novel he had commandeered from one of the preschool teacher’s desks. Wretched was the only word he could use to describe it. But it passed the time. He would not have been caught dead with such a book previously but now, with only Jason left to pass judgment, he could care less.
He thought about the boy and what was to become of him.
Jason would be a tall teen. He was gawky, scrawny perhaps, but he had the bone structure that indicated that he would easily break six feet as an adult. The boy was the whole reason they were holed up in this church instead of dead out on the road somewhere. George wanted nothing more than to take his chances and leave this place behind for good. He would take any risk that he could to return to his family. They needed him.
But so did Jason.
Jennifer had coaxed some other details out of the shy boy in the few days they were stuck at the high school. It was far more than George had been able to get out of Jason since then. His father lived up near Detroit and was not on speaking terms with his mother. She made the decision a year ago to move to Ohio for a fresh start. She got a job as a nurse and promised Jason a house to live in, so they moved to Gallatin where they could afford a cottage in the little town.
The move was a shock to Jason’s system. He did well in school, but being uprooted and losing all his friends had been tough. His mother was happy here so he didn’t complain for her sake.
The boy had lost touch with his father long ago. He barely knew the man and hadn’t said much about him unless prodded. Jennifer guessed that even though Jason acted like none of it mattered, he still missed his father a great deal.
Jason lost his mother not too long before he had gotten to the shelter. It did not take much to figure that out since he had come to the place alone. He would not talk about it and all Jennifer could gather was that the National Guard had picked him up, perhaps in his house, or off the street, and dumped him in the shelter.
So Jason had lost his mother and then the one person he had latched onto when things had gone from bad to worse. George guessed that Jason felt that Jennifer had betrayed him when she had chosen to stay with her dying husband rather than escape with him from the parking lot.
It was a harsh assessment and George could not blame Jennifer for giving up when her husband, who was her high school sweetheart, was lying beside her with his lifeblood pouring out onto the asphalt. All she could do for the boy was to tell him to run away with George. That she could not see past her own grief and agony was nothing George could blame her for, but he knew Jason didn’t see it that way.
After George and Jason fled the parking lot of the high school, they kept moving around the building. As they got further away from Al and Jennifer, Jason managed to start walking on his own instead of forcing George to drag the boy along behind him.
Jason’s reaction to Jennifer’s abrupt farewell was worrisome to George, but his concern for the pre-teen’s mental well being had to take a back seat to bigger priorities.
They gradually made their way to a corner of the high school where they could spy what was going on out on the street. It took forever as George kept them sliding along the cold bricks of the building. The wall was not straight and it forced them to spend time creeping around corners, pausing to make sure they were not coming up on anything they couldn’t deal with. They reached several bushes that hugged the corner of the building and dove behind them, hoping they could hide there for a few moments. It was then that George realized how truly screwed they were.
The undead were scattered, spread out after moving in from north of the school onto the street between the high school and the grade schools across the street. They had pushed survivors they came across before them, herding them like cattle to the slaughter. By the time the hoard had reached the schools, its numbers were in the hundreds, if not thousands. Both soldiers and citizens alike had been defeated at every turn and it appeared that this was where the final battle between the undead and what remained of humanity in this region would take place.
The ghouls were in thick clusters surrounding islands of soldiers and the sound of automatic weapons fire were small disruptions to the deafening roars of the creatures. They were in the street, on the grass, everywhere, attacking everything living thing they could get their hands and teeth on.
Before that night, George had seen only bleak hints and whispers of what was happening outside the high school he’d called home for the past few days. It had been nothing worse than an uncomfortable itch at the base of his spine. That itch hinted at the truth of things, but nothing up until now had grabbed him by the throat and throttled him with the revelation that the world had come to an end.
George’s eyes zeroed in on a particular soldier on top of a pickup truck out on the street. It looked like he was dancing on the narrow roof as he dodged the grasping hands of the undead surrounding the truck. For an instant George was reminded of a group of concert goers trying to touch the leg of a lead guitarist as he jammed out on stage. The M16 in the soldier’s arms looked somewhat like a guitar, even as he fired into the crowd erratically, frantically trying to clear a path for a quick escape. Despite his efforts, the crowd wouldn’t part and the clot of ghouls around the truck kept growing thicker by the second. The dead clumsily attempted to climb the truck to get at him, but instead fell underneath the press of other bodies pushing on them from behind. Those that were crushed underneath served as step stools for the other stiffs who were able to get higher and closer to the soldier.
The young private continued to fire his weapon and bellowed resistance as he did. He hit the mark with the occasional shot and a head would disappear below the mass of contorting bodies, but mostly his attacks did little to influence the crowd, except perhaps to make it grow even more excited by his presence.
The ghouls dragged themselves onto the hood and into the bed of the truck behind the soldier, who was able to dodge their hands for a short while. The first few that that snagged his camouflaged leggings were easily shaken off. George was hunched down the bushes at the corner of the high school with Jason held closely in front of him as they watched helplessly as the terrible scene unfolded no more than fifty yards from where the hid. George could feel Jason shaking uncontrollably and tried to squeeze his shoulders tighter just to let the boy know he was safe, but it was useless. The middle-aged man would later recall whispering something like ‘everything will be okay’ in the boy’s ear, but wasn’t sure if it had been more to reassure Jason or himself.
George silently rooted for the soldier, who ran out of bullets and started swinging his M16 around like a bat, not with much hope of connecting with anyone, but more in an effort to deter those closest from reaching out to grab him. The young man’s screams increased in volume as he sidestepped several grasping claws and backed into another group of avaricious hands that latched on to his legs at the ankles. He attempted to turn and face these new attackers, his rifle still held out in front of him, but lost his balance and slammed down hard on the metal truck roof. A hollow clunk was the only sound George heard as the soldier crashed and was pulled over the side of the truck.
George, at ground level, couldn’t see what happened next, but he was cursed with a vivid imagination. He knew the man was being pulled apart, the angry ghouls snapping at one another as they fought over the tastiest morsels. The only consolidation for the soldier was that there were enough of the undead that it was unlikely there would be enough of him left to reanimate.
The ongoing carnage out on the street was almost hypnotic. There were numerous small groups of living humans trying to hold the line, but all of those groups were being infiltrated by the walking dead. So many of the infected were in army fatigues it was hard to tell who was alive and who was undead. George remembered how fast the old man that had bitten Al had changed and knew that those dying right now would be up and helping the other ghouls within minutes. It made the battle all that much quicker: soldiers often had no idea who was alive and who had reanimated, because both the living and the dead were saturated with blood and viscera.
Of all the crowding, surging undead, the largest concentration George could see was moving toward the entrance of the high school. Some of the guardsmen were falling back, around the bushes where George and Jason hid. George retained a firm hold on the boy as he watched the soldier’s run by. He felt like he was clutching a rabbit: he couldn’t squeeze Jason too tight, but if he relinquished his hold the kid would more than likely skitter away. But at that moment, Jason seemed sedate, not squirmy or making any noises that would draw any attention, at least.
One of the entrances to the high school was behind where George and Jason hid, and it was apparently the fall back position for many of the National Guardsmen. They were trying to delay the inevitable onslaught by seeking sanctuary inside the high school with the rest of the soldiers and refugees inside.
George wondered if the riot inside the high school had been quelled and how much innocent blood had been spilled in the process. After seeing the massacre outside, he suspected that anyone who had been killed in the clash between refugees and soldiers was probably better off than anyone still alive.
He scanned the front of the building, but his vision was blocked by part of the high school that jutted out onto the expansive lawn in front of the school. He couldn’t see the opposite end of the building, but did see the advancing horde moving in his direction. The ghouls were methodically following the retreat anyone left alive on the street … and those survivors were leading the dead straight to the high school.
George saw several vehicles moving erratically back and forth on the road and in the parking lot across the street, where even more soldiers were falling back through the doors of the elementary schools. Looking around, he dismissed the idea of trying to find a vehicle. There were far too many bodies already jammed underneath the wheels of several military vehicles and even a semi that had been commandeered by the National Guard. There was no possibility of driving out of the area.
George held his stomach in check as he saw more bodies being crushed under the heavy equipment and pulped beyond recognition. The few vehicles still in motion were barely moving as more ghouls mindlessly crashed against them in an attempt to reach the drivers. Bodies and appendages were dragged under wheels and bogged the machines down. Corpses ruptured and became wedged into wheel wells, forcing the vehicles to a standstill.
George forced himself to continue looking out on the street, which was starting to resemble the ninth circle of hell. There had to be something out there … something that would give them some spark of hope.
There has to be someplace for us to hide.
The screams echoed all around them. More of the dead filed past their hiding space, not sensing the two easy targets as they followed groups of soldiers streaming past. The sound of shattering glass and panicked shouts behind them told George that the people still alive inside the high school were starting to realize what they were up against.
Jason had grown still, only barely shivering. As George looked out on the street, he forgot about the boy for a moment. It appeared as if the dead were all clumping up out there, attacking the established positions of the soldiers while others surrounded the entrances of the two schools across the street. He watched as countless numbers of the wretched creatures crawled through shattered windows of classrooms that looked dark and vacant. Jagged shards of glass sticking out of the window frames were ignored as they sliced into the rotting bodies of the ghouls. Chunks of their flesh fell to the ground, bloodless and inert.
That was when he saw it-the one place in this nightmarish realm that they might make it to alive.
There was nothing surrounding the church. No soldiers and no stiffs. Gallatin United Methodist Church was posted on the sign out front. Flashes of light from weapons fire and spotlights being used lit up the building as George scanned it for damage or indications of someone hiding inside.
It looked like a simple church with a modest steeple that had been built onto. Another structure, attached by an extended hall, stretched north of the main structure. There was a set of double doors at the front of the church, but no other entrances facing the road. No visible shattered glass, no boarded up windows. It was next to the elementary schools, just north of them on the other side of the street. It would be a straight shot across from where they were hidden.
More of the undead had shuffled past where George and Jason were crouched behind the bushes. The battle raged on behind them and on the street in front of them. They had move soon.
George closed his eyes and tried to ignore the tumult of unnatural moans, human screams, and ear shattering explosions. He found it to be nearly impossible as he mumbled a short prayer.
As I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.
He brain locked up, blanking on the rest of the passage. George promised that if he ever saw another bible he would memorize all of it.
He opened his eyes and grabbed Jason by the shoulders. The look on the boy’s face made George pause. Jason was still breathing, still conscious, but there was something in his eyes that sent a chill down the man’s spine. Jason looked dead inside.
George shook the boy, rattling the teeth inside his skull.
“Jason!” he screamed in a stage whisper. “We have to go! We have to go NOW!” He continued shaking the boy, almost as much for his own benefit as for the kid’s. It was activity, it was movement. It would keep him distracted enough that he might not freeze or go mad with fear.
Jason eyes moved, tracking until they focused on George, who stopped shaking him and took a deep breath. The blank stare remained, but it looked like there was a trace of curiosity in Jason’s eyes. It wasn’t much, but George would take it as positive sign that the boy was listening and knew what was going on.
“We have to go … there.”
George pointed across the street, pushing the itchy leaves of the bush out of the way to give Jason a chance to see where he was pointing. The kid stared at the church, but did little else.
George shook him again. “Jason! We have to go now!”
A barely visible nod was all George got in response. It was enough. After a quick survey of the area, he stood, tugging on the back of Jason’s shirt as he did. After a moment, the boy rose of his own volition. George put his hand around Jason’s neck and leaned in.
This time Jason looked at George and nodded with confidence.
They took off running over the unkempt and slick grass that fronted the high school. A brief glance down confirmed that the grass was not slick with dew, but with blood.
The vivid image of hell returned as George imagined that they were slipping on the entrails of the dead, sliding downward into a pit toward Satan himself. The heat of several explosions nearby reinforced his nightmarish thinking as they slogged forward.
They ran, slipping in and out of flashes of light that showed ghouls surrounding them on all sides. Soldiers who were still alive kept the ghoul’s interest directed elsewhere. That was what George was counting on. If the infected discovered him and Jason, they might not break off an attack, but it would be best not to tempt them.
Their movements couldn’t be heard over the eruptions of screams or weapons fire, even as the duo weaved between clots of the infected and living that seemed more like a single organism with a thousand tendrils frantically waving about.
The dead grabbed and pawed at the living, smashing fists into armored vehicles that were stalled out, shattering glass or pressing themselves inward on small groups of men firing frantically into the crowd. Other survivors were doing better. They had managed to put down enough of the undead that they had created barriers made of piled corpses that encircled their positions. But even the most composed and calm soldiers were faltering, and as their ammunition ran out they were using their rifles as bludgeons before falling beneath a tide of rotting arms and gnashing teeth.
They kept moving, pausing only briefly to skirt the areas that would draw attention to them. The dead had won this battle and more than likely the war against humanity. They were too busy gorging themselves, swelling their ranks even further, to notice two dark shapes in the night as they ran past. As the duo inched closer to the church, a cold though ran through George’s mind: the human race was about to become extinct.
They hit the other side of the street and avoided a chain link fence that had been smashed flat by vehicles traveling back and forth over the grass between the school parking lot and the church.
They crossed the church lawn with Jason running at
George’s side. George knew the boy was suffering from the loss of Jennifer among other things, but as stunned and traumatized as he was, Jason still seemed willing to fight for his survival. That was something, at least. They reached the edge of the church, sliding across the wall until they were next to the glass doors. A quick tug on the handles confirmed they were locked.
Both the man and the boy were out of breath, wheezing and slumped over as they leaned against the building. After a few seconds, George slapped Jason on the back and led the way to the north side of the building, where the parking lot was. It was furthest from the action. It was also where he hoped to gain entrance to the church without attracting attention.
They crept along, paying close attention to everything behind as well as in front of them. George did his best to scan the area, but it was next to impossible to be sure they hadn’t been spotted. They managed to get to a darkened window and glanced inside at the chapel. It was nearly impossible to see much, but as far as George could tell, the inside of the church looked untouched by the calamity outside.
They kept moving, turning the corner and gliding into the parking lot. There was another set of glass doors and several windows that gave them a view of several vacant class rooms.
Great, it’ll be real tough for these bastards to get at us with all this damn glass, George thought sarcastically.
The side doors were locked as well. George peered inside and saw another set of doors beyond a vestibule that were wooden. The inner doors had small panes of glass in them at eye level, but he couldn’t make out anything beyond them. He turned and scanned the parking lot, trying to find something that might help them break into the building. An open dumpster sat at the back of the lot.
“Stay here,” George commanded Jason as he sprinted toward it.
There didn’t appear to be any movement beyond the lot, though the battle from the street remained thunderous. The side of the building was strangely peaceful and calm, as if it had a bubble of protection over it. George had already blotted out their harrowing experience on the street in his mind. A wrong move out there and he and Jason would have been dragged down in an instant, surrounded and engulfed, but that was in the past. The adrenaline coursing through him had him feeling energized and invulnerable.
He reached the dumpster and leaned over it. The whiff of stale garbage was pleasant compared the stench of corrupted human flesh that wafted on the air and stuck to George’s clothes like cigarette smoke. If he ever made it out of this place alive, the first thing he was going to do was ceremoniously burn the jeans and button down shirt he had put on that morning.
He pushed several garbage bags and loose trash about, leaning deeper into the container in an attempt to reach the back. As he lifted yet another hefty bag, he spied something that might work for what he needed. It was a broken piece of metal framing. He practically slid into the dumpster to avoid losing the spot where it was buried between several sticky plastic cups and what felt like a bag full of grass clippings. He got his forefinger and a thumb around it and grunted as he inched it closer, before managing to wrap his hand around it. George winced as the sharp piece of metal almost cut into his hand. It dug into the skin but didn’t break it.
George heard a whimper behind him and slid out from the dumpster, in the process scraping up his belly to match his scratched hand. He turned to see where it had come from, but already knew. Jason was on the ground squirming backwards in a corner of the entryway as a large figure shambled toward him from the direction of the street. George could see others in the darkness behind the intruder and knew they had been followed. He took off running toward the boy.
The man was hulking. A huge gut protruded outwards and the arms, which had a multitude of bite wounds running up and down their length, wobbled as the he came at the young boy. To say the man was obese was the understatement of the decade. It would be more accurate to say that the man was carnival-freak sized. George estimated he weighed at least four hundred pounds. The waddle of flesh hanging from his chin had been chewed on, but only half devoured. The free floating skin and greasy fat beneath flopped and slapped against the open wounds on the man’s shoulders as he moved closer to Jason. There were stains running down the front of his shirt and onto his pants. Normally George would assume it was the blood, but wondered if the behemoth had been caught mid-meal and it was the remains of his last supper as a human being.
George closed the distance quickly, gripping the shard of metal in his hands. It was rather thin but the broken end was sharp and could spear someone pretty good. Knowing that there were others coming, he didn’t want to lose the sliver on his first attack.
The huge man noticed George and shifted its massive girth in his direction. No sound came from its mouth, but a bubbling hiss emanated from the wound in his throat and green goop spewed forth from it as the man silently growled. George rushed forward, launching his foot at the beast’s chest, sending it backwards. He was surprised at how incredibly heavy the man was, even in death. It toppled into the arms of one of the creatures following it.
Moving past the tangle of arms and legs on the ground, George lashed out with his metal weapon at a teenage girl. The metal bent, but the force of the blow knocked her to the ground. The girl had no lips or eyelids and looked cartoonish with her rictus grin and bulging eyeballs. Two more stiffs were behind her, but George could see no others following them. Those last two were still a few feet back.
The final two ghouls were moving slow enough and were far enough back that George had time to raise his heel and send it down with the full force of his weight onto the head of the girl he’d just smacked with the metal framing. A sickening crunch verified that he had shattered her skull and he avoided looking at what he was sure would be a grisly scene beneath his foot. He could feel the ooze of mushy organic matter clumping to the heel of his shoe.
George turned to glance at the two stiffs he’d knocked over and was happy to see that the smaller one’s legs were still stuck under the stiff he’d dubbed Gigantor. The diminutive one tried to reach out and grab for George, oblivious to the fact that it would have to extricate its legs from underneath the huge beast first to reach him.
Jason was back up and moving toward the fray. George waved him back, sending a well placed kick to the skull of the ghoul trying to grab for him from underneath Gigantor. Its head rocketed to the side and sprayed the asphalt with teeth and what looked to be an eyeball. George looked at his handiwork and realized even with the head trauma he’d just caused it was still moving. He kicked it several more times, until its arms stopped twitching.
Gigantor was desperately trying to get up off of his back, but like a turtle that had been flipped over on its shell he was having a hard time of it. He could wait.
George turned to face the last two monsters that were closing in on him and Jason.
They had been soldiers. The first’s uniform had been ripped off to the waist and he was a few organs short, although his ribcage was still intact. Most of the visible meat on its arms had been ripped clean off, with only bones and ligaments remaining. The other one had one arm and only two fingers remaining on the mauled hand at the end of the appendage.
Dropping the piece of metal, George charged at them. His fist nearly dislocated the first soldier’s jaw as it plowed into it. The blow knocked the creature back and gave George the time he needed to grab the other ghoul by its lone arm and spin it so its gnashing teeth couldn’t reach him. He sent the ghoul skidding across the pavement as he let go, leaving a trail of gristle behind. The one George had punched was already moving back for more, and the stench emanating from its open chest cavity was horrendous. He grabbed both sides of its head quicker that it could react and drove the skull down onto his knee. Pushing the head away, he watched the body tumbled before him. To insure the job was complete, George brought his heel down on the skull and then raced over to finish off the other soldier, who had managed to get back to his knees. A quick kick to its hindquarters dropped it to the ground again. George placed one foot on its back to hold it down while he stomped on its head with the other, until his shoe was soaked with brain matter.
George bent over, exhausted. He was going to have to deal with Gigantor still, but knew the fat man was probably still trying to get off his back. Filling his lungs with corrupted air, he tried to lower his frantic heart rate.
Despite the grim chores he had just completed, George felt exhilarated. How these slow moving, stupid creatures had conquered the human race within a span of just a couple of weeks was incomprehensible. Unless he had to face off against the entire horde on the street, he was certain he could manage just fine against them.
Taking a deep breath, George turned, ready to deal with Gigantor. What he saw sent shockwaves through his body. He had already been stunned several times that night, but nothing compared to what he was seeing now.
The boy that had been nearly catatonic only minutes earlier had managed to regain his senses enough to pick up the piece of metal George had dropped and beat the fat ghoul to death with it.
After it had stopped moving, had stopped grabbing for him, Jason had continued pounding on the head of the corpse, sending sprays of blood and some sort of black, oily discharge squirting out of it as the sharp piece of metal connected with it time and time again.
The look George saw in the boy’s eyes of a stone cold killer. There was no anger, no rage, just focus. He made no sound; there were no screams passing through Jason’s lips. He just kept beating on the dead man, obliterating the flesh and bone of his skull.
George hesitated before moving closer to the boy. At that moment he was afraid to try and separate Jason from the lump of dead flesh in front of him. All the bravado he’d felt at his meager victory against the ghouls slipped away in a heartbeat. It was like a cold splash of water to his face as he watched the twelve year old in his care take out all his frustrations on one of the monsters who wanted to corrupt him like all the others.
The boy was not just splattered with guts, he was drenched with them. Bone chips and a stringy substance that George did not even want to guess at dangled from the boys tightly curled hair as he continued pounding on the corpse with the bent piece of metal.
“Jason!” His voice carried over the muffled sound of battle out on the street. He used the same tone of voice he used when he was mad at his children. He prayed to God it would have the same effect on the orphan as it did his daughters. George got what he wished as the boy stopped the gore-drenched piece of metal from descending into the innards of the ghoul’s head once again.
“Stop that NOW!” George stood with his own clenched fists, trying to display an anger he did not feel, but needed to dredge up if he had any hope of saving Jason from oblivion.
Jason looked at George for a moment and then his eyes dipped back toward the dead man at his feet. After a moment, perhaps to insure that the man was indeed dead, he looked up again. Lifting his hand, he offered the thin strip of metal to George. The look on the twelve year olds face was the same hollow, shell shocked look that had been there earlier, back where they had hid in the bushes next to the high school.
There was something else there too. Through all the dirt and gore that covered Jason’s face, George could see tracks of tears running down it, leaving a trail of purity in a field of blood caked nightmare. The middle aged man felt like crying as well, as he realized that despite all Jason had been through, the boy’s soul was intact. It was pummeled and damaged nearly beyond repair, but it still remained. But for how much longer?
George held back the tears and slapped Jason on the back affectionately, smiling. It was not returned, but he still felt relieved. They were survivors. More importantly, their humanity was still intact.