Dark Stories: Fred and Bobby
Well, I have come to the point where the main characters from Come The Dark have been all detailed out via the Dark Stories I’ve posted thus far. As I mentioned in the past, I wanted to continue this trek, and shed some light on some of the other characters that are introduced in Into The Dark. But before I do that, I decided that I would post this little tidbit.
I realize that this isn’t much of a short story, really. It is more of an information dump on two characters that show up briefly in Comes The Dark, but have a profound impact on the four survivors in the story. Fred, the father who ambushes Jeff and Megan at the farmhouse, and his son Bobby. I had originally written this bit as an extensive explanation of who they were in my manuscript, but for what seems like obvious reasons now, it seemed unnecessary to the main story as I started doing edits.
I will freely admit that this brief overview of these two may not resonate that much with any of you. More or less, it is information on two peripheral characters to make them hopefully feel more human to you, given the circumstances with which they are introduced in story. I guess my objective was to make sure that everyone had a reason to exist that I introduced. I wanted everyone, even these two guys who are in the story for all of a chapter, to have a real existence and real lives.
I guess it is up to you to see if I achieved that or not with this brief introduction to Fred and Bobby.
As always, I would like to point out that I did my best to make sure I edited this piece properly, but I am sure there will be a few typos here and there. So forgive me those. I hope you enjoy:
Fred and Bobby
Fred had spent his career as a mailman in Lawrence Park, where he and his wife Carol had lived for several years. It was located near Milfield, but closer to the city. Considered a more upscale address than most of the outlying suburbs, several recognizable local celebrities called it home. Old, trendy neighborhoods with half a million dollar plus homes were the norm, and the Harrington’s liked the status they gained when they moved into the area. While Fred’s salary wasn’t impressive, Carol was a marketing executive for a large downtown Cincinnati Fortune 500 company, which afforded them a pretty decent lifestyle.
Despite the ease with which Fred handled the expensive hunting rifle he was carrying when he ambushed Jeff and Megan, the first time he had handled the weapon had been only three weeks earlier. In fact, he had never touched any sort of firearm until he met Carol. Carol might have enjoyed her urban, yuppie existence, but she was still a country girl at heart with a family that loved to hunt and fish. Fred’s boys, Bobby and Charlie, had gone out with Carol’s brother Teddy on many occasions. He took them hunting near his place near Hillsboro, which was about forty five miles east of Cincinnati. He was the one, with Carol’s permission, who had bought the boys their rifles a few years earlier for Christmas. Fred had been hesitant about the idea at first, but Carol had convinced him that Teddy would teach them all about gun safety before they ever got to use them. He had agreed, reluctantly.
The rifle Fred was carrying had been Charlie’s. After his older son had died, Bobby managed to teach his father how to use it. That knowledge had helped him and his son out of several tough jams with the undead.
Up until coming across Jeff and Megan, Fred had handled the rifle fairly well. He’d been willing to pull the trigger when his wife had been bitten by several of the infected. When her eyes opened back up after her heart had stopped, he had taken aim and put her out of her misery, despite the sensation that the world was caving in on him as he did it.
Fred had managed twenty headshots on the undead at long range with Charlie’s rifle. Bobby had shot even more of the stiffs during their travels. Still, it was Fred, the novice, who came into his own during the apocalypse. He had become a survivor, able to deal with anything that came his way, or so he presumed. That rifle had given him a sense of confidence he’d never had before in life.
Back when everything started, when the first reports of the virus showing up in Ohio had hit the air, Fred didn’t have much of an assertive personality. Carol had been the one who ruled the roost in the Harrington household, which had been just fine with Fred. When the soldiers with bullhorns had rolled down their street urging everyone to head to the local community center where a shelter had been set up, it was her who had announced that they would be hunkering down in the house and not bothering with such a place. She believed that all of this nonsense would blow over within a few days. Fred didn’t have much to say about that, despite his unvoiced concerns.
And when everything continued to go downhill, and it was too late to do much except sit and watch as the amount of infected in Lawrence Park grew exponentially, it was Carol who decided it was time for the Harrington’s to make a run for it.
Up until that point, the boys hadn’t the need to fire their rifles in defense of the house. They’d learned by watching some of the neighbors as their houses were turned into something like the Alamo that just about any loud noise could set off the rotters. They would swarm and within minutes, there was typically nothing left of the people hiding behind their locked doors. But as long as things were quiet, the stiffs seemed willing to leave things well enough alone.
Their food and water supply had shrunk to a dangerously low level by the time Carol suggested to Fred that they get in the Acura SUV parked in the garage and head out to Teddy’s place. Fred, as he typically did, deferred to his wife’s judgment, which pleased the boys tremendously. Before their parents could say anything else, they were rushing around the house, collecting up everything they wanted to take to their favorite uncle’s ranch.
Later on, Fred could never quite recall what it was that had set the stiffs off. Perhaps it had been the suitcase Bobby had dropped down the steps, or the vase Charlie knocked over in the front hallway. It might have just been the fact that everyone seemed to have forgotten where they were and let their voices rise with excitement at their eminent departure. All he knew for sure was that one minute they were talking about what route they should take to get to Uncle Teddy’s, and the next the doors and windows were being bashed on by several of their undead neighbors. Within moments, the sounds of smashing fists had increased tenfold and there was a huge crowd surrounding the house. It sounded something like a hailstorm going on outside.
The Harrington’s had attempted to grab what seemed like all their worldly possessions for their departure, and only in hindsight did Fred realize how incredibly foolish that had been. Besides their weapons and the food and water they could carry, grabbing anything else hadn’t made much sense. Still, it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time. That, Fred decided, was the real culprit for what happened next.
As the front door threatened to collapse under the strain of a dozen bodies, Fred commandeered Charlie to help him drag more furniture in front of the door while Bobby and Carol scrambled to collect the suitcases and bags of clothing that had been tossed into the kitchen so they could move them to the SUV. Before they could get very far, the large picture window at the front of the house shattered and the feeble plywood sheet covering it was threatening to snap into kindling. Foolishly, everyone chose to rush to the window in an effort to hold off the onslaught, but it seemed like a hundred arms were already grabbing and pawing at them through the growing gaps in the barricade.
A stray arm clutched at Charlie’s neck, and before he could even cry out, he was being pulled through the rapidly increasing gap in their defenses, head first. It was just that quick. There was no slow, dreadful struggle, no failed tug of war between his family and the undead. It happened so fast, Fred didn’t even realize Charlie had been attacked until Carole screamed out a few seconds later. By then, it was too late. Charlie’s body didn’t even have much of a chance to twitch in its death throws as it was dragged ruthlessly out the hole. The instant his head had been yanked out the window, several ghouls had torn into his face and neck, killing him almost instantly.
The moments following Charlie’s death were a blur. Fred might not have believed in miracles before then, but he did after he somehow managed to drag his wife and other son to the garage as the rotting horde on their front lawn poured into the house. Bobby and Carol both fought him every step of the way, believing in their stunned state that Charlie was somehow still alive and they needed to save him.
Something snapped in Fred after Charlie’s death. His voice, always quiet and unassuming, thundered as he exhorted his family to get to the SUV. And for some reason he couldn’t quite comprehend, they listened to him. They managed to grab their weapons, but little else, before they climbed into the vehicle.
The back end of the Acura took a beating as it plowed through the garage door and several stiffs that had been in the Harrington’s driveway. Their race through the neighborhood was a chaotic obstacle course that forced Fred to navigate through several of their neighbor’s yards in an attempt to escape the horde. Tucked away inside their house, it had been hard for Fred to believe that most of the people in the world had turned into savage monsters, but the moment he saw how many of foul, rotting monsters were shambling around outside, all his doubts about the magnitude of the plague evaporated.
The sounds of Bobby’s howled curses was barely audible over the caterwauls of the deceased as Carol wept silent tears next to Fred. Despite the din, all Fred could hear was the pounding of his heart as he was forced to slalom around another clot of bodies in front of him.
The Acura suffered a few more dents and dings before Fred managed to plow through the twelve foot tall hedges lining the edge of their subdivision. As a mailman, he was familiar with most of the back roads in the area, and was able to navigate the SUV to an area not clogged with the wrecks choking the major roadways. Despite his desire to head straight for Hillsboro and Teddy’s place, he knew that wasn’t feasible. His knowledge of the local area gave Fred only a bit of an edge, which diminished as they left Lawrence Park. The GPS in the Acura was on the fritz, so their path became more convoluted the further away from home they got. Fred waited patiently for Carol to say something to him, to offer him some sort of guidance, but she sat in stony silence on the trip, leaving the decision making up to him.
After an hour or so, thoughts of getting to Teddy’s place took a back seat to survival. The world had been wrecked, and Fred was beginning to doubt that getting to Hillsboro was going to be something they would be able to do very easily, or perhaps at all.
The journey that first day consisted of a series of misguided attempts to stop and collect food and water, along with a failed attempt at seeing if there was any gas left in the pumps at a convenience store several miles from their house. The undead were everywhere, and every time they stopped the Acura and stepped outside, it never took more than ten minutes before the surviving members of the Harrington family were forced to rush back to the SUV before getting surrounded and overwhelmed.
Originally, Fred had believed the news reports that stated that most of the infected were confined to certain areas of the city, while outlying suburbs and rural areas were relatively safe. No such luck. There were deaders as far as the eye could see, in every direction. Many hadn’t stirred since the last of the living had departed or died days and weeks earlier, but when the sound of the Acura’s engine roared through the area they woke out of whatever stupor they were in and swarmed the vehicle. It made for some messy getaways.
They somehow managed to find a place to hide outside of Gallatin, deep into the night. They sat in the SUV, buried in a stand of trees for several hours with the engine turned off. They had been forced to leave the Acura where it was parked as they hoofed it to a house a hundred yards away that had been abandoned. They spent the next day silently fortifying the house the best they could, dismantling furniture and using it to barricade the doors and windows. The only door that wasn’t blocked off was the one off the back porch, which Fred and Bobby used to sneak out to go hunting over the course of the following week.
That was when Bobby taught his father how to use Charlie’s rifle. Hunting was a challenge, but they managed to scare up some game. It seemed that most of the wild animals were still plentiful despite the fact domesticated animals had been slaughtered just like the human population. They saw more than one dead cow, its bones picked clean by the combination of the ravenous undead and the scavengers that made sure whatever they left behind was devoured.
Unfortunately, with every shot of the rifles, the infected became aware of their position and tracked the father and son to their location within minutes. It forced them to travel further afield on each trip, away from the house they had commandeered, to insure they didn’t bring any stiffs back home with them. Even with a thorough effort to insure that the surrounding area was corpse-free, it was only a matter of minutes before the first trickle of rotters would appear off in the distance after a trigger was pulled. It was even worse when they got a kill. The scent of fresh blood was like a magnet that pulled and compelled the monsters.
Despite all their precautions, it was after one of their failed hunting trips that they returned to the house to find the windows smashed in and the back door wide open. Rushing inside, they discovered Carol had killed eleven ghouls with her small handgun. It had taken sixteen shots to take them down, which meant she had been forced to reload the semi-automatic in the middle of the fight. During the battle, she had been bitten, but even after getting her arm gnawed on, she managed to continue fighting the rest of the pack off. She let the one that had latched onto her arm clamp down tight while she fired the gun with her other hand, shooting the three other stiffs surrounding her. Even then, she didn’t shoot the one on her arm. Instead, she slammed the butt of the handgun down onto its skull until she heard the bone cracked, firing at several other stiffs between each downward strike. Finally, when she was out of immediate danger and the one that had bitten her was twitching on the floor, she put a bullet in its head.
Carol Harrington was a tough woman. Her husband would be the first to tell anyone that. It was forty hours of labor with no painkillers for the birth of Charlie and then a c-section with Bobby. Never a complaint in either instance and she was up and moving around the next day like nothing had happened. Any pain she had was suffered through in silence. This time was no exception. After all the ghouls were dead, she wrapped her arm in a bed sheet and waited for her son and husband to return to the house. Once they did, she was the one who insisted they leave right away, without any time for her to rest from the assault. Carol was nothing if not practical. They had to find another hiding place before more of the infected found them.
“Get off your asses, quit whining about me, and head for the Acura!” It was as simple as that. She made the pronouncement and there was no questioning her on it.
They drove the SUV until it ran out of gas, which unfortunately didn’t take long. After that, they walked for two hours, moving with as much stealth as they could manage. Carol, who refused any assistance, stood tall and kept walking until they found the old farm house with the grain silo next to it. It was surrounded by several large, barren fields and much like their previous hiding place, it had been abandoned weeks before. Given their ability to see what was coming at them for nearly a mile in every direction, they knew it was their safest bet.
Carol died a day later. She was strong, but like every other human being that had been bitten and infected with the virus, she couldn’t resist its deadly pull.
Less than thirty minutes after her demise, she sat up in the bed that Fred and Bobby had laid her down on in the farmhouse. The first thing she did after opening her rheumy eyes was to hiss at her husband. Fred, who had wrapped the rifle in a towel to muffle the sound, waited until the very last second before putting a bullet through Carol’s head.
They buried her an hour later, putting up a makeshift cross to mark her grave.
Fred and Bobby spent the next week or so at the farmhouse, living in silence, rarely speaking to one another. They saw more and more of the dead creeping around off in the distance, but none ventured too close. Even so, it was getting worse every day. There would be long stretches of time where they would see nothing, but then would spot a pack of twenty or thirty of the diseased vermin roaming near the property. At the same time, their ammunition was running low and they wanted to preserve it for hunting, so they had to continue keeping their heads down. Bobby found a bike out in the shed, but didn’t bother riding it anywhere. It was too dangerous a risk.
It was on one of those drab, muggy summer days that seemed endless when they heard a sound that was almost alien to them anymore. The sound of a car engine rolling down the road that ran next to the property. Even off in the distance, the engine was clear as a bell. There were no other sounds to interfere with it: no other cars, no people, no machines … nothing. There hadn’t been anything but the moans of the dead and chirping of birds for as long as they could remember.
The two of them watched as the blue Honda stopped in front of the huge property. At that point it was just some far away dot. It wasn’t until it turned up the road, moving closer, that Fred came up with a hastily outlined plan that would help him and Bobby escape the farmhouse and make one last attempt to get to Hillsboro and Teddy, if he were still alive.
Bobby had been hesitant about trying to hijack the van and wanted to see if they could just talk to the people to see if they might be able to hitch a ride with them. Fred steamrolled that idea without a moment’s hesitation. He was a changed man, no longer afraid to assert himself. The death of his older boy and wife of twenty three years had done that to him.
He reminded Bobby that the few people they’d seen since the escaped from their house in Lawrence Park had been none too friendly to them. If his family hadn’t been armed, Fred knew that there was no way they would have made it this far. They would be dead on the side of some road, left as bait for the rotters as their fellow survivors picked over their meager belongings. People were desperate, crazed, and none seemed to be in the mood for small talk or hospitality these days.
After a few seconds of heated discussion with his father, Bobby gave in and reluctantly nodded his agreement to the plan. Fred moved into position behind the shed and told Bobby to wait at the door. They would be ready for the people in the van, no matter how dangerous they were and how well armed they might be.
Despite the argument, and despite the lack of communication between the father and son, the two had grown much closer after Carol’s death. Before, their relationship had been okay-as best as could be expected between a rebellious teenager and his dad, but their level of trust and appreciation for one another had grown dramatically in the past few days. Despite the cloud of despair hanging over them, they knew they could count one another for anything.
Charlie had been a great older brother. He liked to heap abuse on his kid brother when they were younger, with wedgies and Indian burns being his favorite form of torture. But as they got older, they had learned to watch out for one another, to watch each other’s backs. Somehow, after Charlie died, Bobby managed to stay strong, despite losing his best friend. He had clung to his mother, knowing deep down that he had been her favorite, whereas dad had favored Charlie. So when she died, it had felt like his guts had been ripped out.
It had been the same for Fred. Somehow, out of their combined pain and anguish, they were able to form a new bond. Part of it had come from the last conversation Bobby had with his mother before she passed. When they had arrived at the farmhouse, Carol had sat her son down next to her. She had looked him straight in the eye and told him that it was his job to watch out for his father now. They were each other’s responsibility and no one else was going to take care of them if they didn’t take care of each other. The entire world was out to get them and they had to stick together if they were going to make it out of this alive. She made him swear to her that he would. Bobby had, and when he did, he meant every word of it.
Bobby didn’t realize it, but moments after he said his last goodbye to his mother and rushed from the room to weep silently in the shed, and before she took her final breath, Carol had the same conversation with her husband. And Fred had made the same promise to her that his son had.
They would stick together until the bitter end.