Writer of Horror Fiction

First three Chapters of Comes The Dark

In an effort to help folks find the first three chapters of the first book of my trilogy, I have decided to post them here on a separate page.  They were originally posted around the release of the first book in June and July of 2010, so digging around for them might not be too much fun.

So here they are.  I hope you enjoy.  Check the links on my bio page if you are interested in purchasing the book from Amazon or other locations.  Thanks!

 

Chapter 1

Jeff bit his lip as he tried to maintain a grip on the aluminum baseball bat in his sweaty hands.  He splashed through a slick puddle of blood as ran.

The backpack jounced up and down, and he slipped one hand around the strap to make sure it stayed in place.  The tin cans and boxes of crackers thumped in time to his footsteps.  Increasing his speed, he tried to suck in another lungful of air.

The cries of rage had grown distant, but slowing down wasn’t an option.  Not until he was safely back inside.  As he crested the hill, a smile tugged at Jeff’s lips; there were only a few more houses to pass before he was home free.

Pulling tighter on the frayed strap hanging over his shoulder, he moved onto the grass to avoid hearing his own footsteps.  He glanced back and forth but spied no movement as his house came into view.  It was hard to believe it had only been an hour since he had crept out to go on a hunt for food.  He spotted the dark brown side door, which stood in stark contrast to the light beige siding that surrounded it.

When he skidded to a halt in front of the door, Jeff’s eyes narrowed.  There was a smudge near the knob.  A rusty red finger-shaped outline caused his heart to skip a beat.

Feeling a rush of white-hot terror flood his system, Jeff looked around, eyes shifting to the bushes at the back of his neighbors’ house.  He could feel his pulse accelerate as he tried to keep his breathing normal.  Turning quickly, he looked across the street at the other houses, scanning for movement among the shadows.  He tried to blot out the moaning in the distance, tried to reassure himself no one was watching or waiting to pounce.  He tried to tell himself that everything was going to be okay.

He recalled staring at the door after shutting it earlier and wondering if leaving, even for a little while, was such a good idea.  There had been no scratches, and certainly no blood, on the door when he left.  That was not something the detail-oriented man would have missed.

Jeff dug into his pocket and curled his fingers around the house key.  Regardless of whoever—or whatever—had left the mark on the door, all that mattered now was getting back inside before he was discovered out here.

As the key touched the knob and the door moved slightly, Jeff’s hand began to quiver.  The door was already unlocked.  Worse, it wasn’t even fully shut.  He began to shake his head and whisper “no” over and over.  It couldn’t be.  Jeff knew he had locked the door when he left.  He had hugged Ellen, told Frankie and Mary to behave for Mommy, and then …

A cold, stark fear for his family’s safety overrode the slow itch of the self-preservation instinct in Jeff’s gut, and he slammed his fist into the door and burst into the garage.  Staring into the darkened space, he nearly stumbled, but somehow his watery legs managed to hold him up.

Mark, his next-door neighbor, was bent over Ellen, teeth buried in her neck.  A wide pool of bright red fluid gushed from where he gnawed at her torn flesh.

Jeff froze in the doorway as he desperately tried to comprehend what he was seeing.  The guy with whom he had shared a few beers over discussions about politics, baseball, and the Hortons’ Rottweiler crapping in their yards was tearing into his wife’s throat.  Jeff couldn’t quite see Ellen’s face, because Mark’s blood-drenched hand was clamped over her eyes and nose, but it was definitely her.  There was a faint scent of jasmine in the air mixed in with the rich, coppery scent of blood.  It was that perfume she always wore.  The tenth anniversary diamond ring he had given her a year before sparkled in a splash of sunlight as her arm flopped to the side.  Jeff’s eyes gravitated to the ring, but it was hard to catch more than a brief glimpse of it as his wife’s fingers twitched violently in response to the tearing motion of Mark’s teeth.

The door, already forgotten, banged against the wall.  Jeff did not hear the sound over the pounding of his heart, but Mark did.  The grayish figure lifted his head and hissed at Jeff, his teeth caked with bits of Ellen’s flesh.  Ragged runners of morbid gruel bubbled from his mouth as the lunatic huddled protectively over his prize.

All Jeff could think was that this was madness.  In a few seconds, Mark would wink at him and Ellen would sit up and say “Gotcha!”  Then they would all laugh at how gullible Jeff had been to even believe for a second that any of this was real.

But as waves of horror washed over him, Jeff could no longer deny the reality of what he was seeing.  Mark’s milky white eyes peered up at him; dark pinpricks that had been his pupils were the only color that remained.  Forcing himself to look away from the crumpled form of his wife, Jeff stared at his neighbor once again.  Mark’s shirt was torn open and hung slack on his oddly colored flesh.  Various sores and open wounds marred his neck, arms, and chest.  Greenish-black ooze stained the infected man’s clothing, and as he began to lever his body up, the stench slammed into Jeff like a sledgehammer.

Jeff wanted to run.  He wanted to run screaming from this place and never look back.  But as he shifted his gaze back to the only woman he had ever loved, a hundred different memories flooded into his mind, blotting out the image of the gore-stained lump of flesh that remained behind: kissing her for the first time at midnight on New Year’s Eve … burning the dinner he had cooked for her on the night he proposed … watching her and Mary powder the kitchen in flour when they tried to bake cookies together.  An echoing scream rattled inside Jeff’s head, but he couldn’t get it past his lips.  The woman who had inspired all those memories had been obliterated in the blink of an eye.

Jeff tried to take a step back, but discovered that his shoulder was pressed against the doorjamb, blocking his escape.  His legs had moved of their own volition, dragging the stunned survivor backwards until there was nowhere left to go.  As Mark finally rose and moved slowly toward him, Jeff realized he couldn’t breathe anymore.

Mark’s eyes fixed on Jeff, and he felt his legs and arms stiffen in terror.  The lunatic’s pupils were almost hypnotic as they burrowed into him.  There was great pain and rage in those eyes, but more than anything, there was hunger … a profound hunger that could devour the world if given the chance.

As the ghoul dragged its ruined body over Ellen’s corpse, it tripped and staggered.  Jeff blinked as he watched the bogeyman right himself awkwardly.  In that moment, it was as if the world suddenly snapped back into place.  Mark had turned into some kind of monster to be feared, that much was true, but he was also the bastard who had murdered his wife.  Watching carefully as Mark pulled his back foot over Ellen’s prone form, Jeff gripped the baseball bat tightly and assumed a wobbly batter’s stance.

The swing was not his best, but it still connected with Mark’s arm, sending him sideways.  There was a muffled thump as the bat connected with the infected man’s spoiled flesh.  Jeff’s eyes widened when Mark did not react to the painful blow, his milky white eyes never losing sight of their target.  Adjusting, Mark got his feet back underneath him and kept coming.

The second swing was stronger, aimed at Mark’s face.  It connected with the ghoul’s neck instead, and there was an audible crack as bones broke.  Mark’s head wrapped around the bat as his skin stretched and tore.  His knees buckled, but he did not fall over immediately.  Instead, he shot out an arm in an effort to grab hold of Jeff’s shirt.

Letting go of the bat, Jeff pushed back against the wall even harder, doing his best to burrow through the drywall.  The bat clattered to the floor, and Mark took a single wavering step forward before collapsing.  His head slammed into the concrete with an audible thud.

Jeff stood stiffly next to the slumped body for what seemed an eternity.  He stared into his neighbor’s eyes as a torrent of emotions poured over him.  Irrationally, he feared the repercussions of murdering his neighbor, though if Mark could speak, he would probably argue that he wasn’t dead.  Instead, the ghastly creature stared balefully up at Jeff as small noises burbled from his shattered throat.  Unable to move his body, Mark continued to grind his teeth and hiss, unchecked rage carved on his face.

When Jeff’s heart rate settled and he could breathe normally, he unglued his eyes from the man at his feet and looked at his wife, whose appendages were no longer twitching.  She lay crumpled, her legs bunched up underneath her, and Jeff could see the rubber burn marks on the floor beneath her scuffed sneakers.  It was clear she had struggled fiercely, even as Mark sank his teeth into her throat.  She was always a fighter, he thought.  Now that Ellen’s face was no longer obscured, Jeff could see that her eyes were open, a look of terror still on her face.  There was agony in those green eyes … an agony that must have been the last thing she felt.

Jeff’s knees gave way, and he crumpled to the ground.  Slamming his eyes shut, he willed the horrible images of Ellen’s death that were burned into his retinas to go away.  He felt dizzy and nauseated, but since he had not eaten in nearly a day, there would probably be nothing but dry heaves when the sickness finally overpowered him.

That was when he heard a bloodcurdling scream from down the street.

***

It had taken every last bit of his willpower not to curl up in a ball when he heard the noises coming from less than a block away.  They had tracked him down.  By the time he levered himself up from the floor and moved past Mark to slam and lock the door, he could hear them getting closer.  His neighbors were closing in on the house.  Jeff didn’t have the strength to look outside and see how many there were.  Instead, he leaned against the door, panting and exhausted as the moans grew louder.

Before he could even register it consciously, something made his body tense.  He tried to blot out the noises outside so he could capture the other sound just hitting his ears.  He looked at the door leading into the house.

Adrenaline flooded Jeff’s system again as reality came crashing down.  The sound coming through the door was clearer than the muffled roars of anger and hunger from outside, and yet … it sounded very familiar.

He began to hyperventilate, shaking his head in disbelief.  How could he have been so stupid?  How could he have blanked out and forgotten?

But the blood splatters in the laundry room confirmed what the cold, calculating part of Jeff’s brain already understood, though the rest of him refused to believe it.

Mark wasn’t the only one who had gotten into the house.

Jeff flew through the door.  Everything inside him screamed that he had to move quickly, get inside, and stop these marauders.  But as he heard the moans from upstairs, he feared he was already too late.

Jeff steeled himself as he rushed inside, hoping against hope that he was wrong, that somehow these monsters that had once been human had not found his children’s hiding place upstairs.

***

A short time later, Jeff returned to the garage, his eyes dull, his arms splattered with blood.  The aluminum bat was slung over his shoulder, dripping a thick, tar-like substance.

He ignored the pounding and screams of rage outside the garage door.  They had found him, after all this time.  The insanity outside had finally broken into his home and annihilated everything he knew.

As he slumped to the wooden steps, the small window on the side door shattered.  The noise of breaking glass was quickly followed by the sound of fists thumping on the thick slab of wood nailed behind it.  Jeff idly wondered how long his jury-rigged barricade would hold up, and he wondered whether it really mattered anymore.  He set the bat down and rested his chin in his hands, propping his elbows on his knees.

As he sat listening to the scratching and clawing, interspersed with ragged fists splattering against the wood, he glanced down at the two bodies in the garage.  He took a deep breath, doing his best to ignore the thick taste of death that came with it.  Mark was facing away, so at least the man wasn’t staring at him.

Jeff’s eyes slid from Mark to the pile of gas cans in the corner.  Several propane tanks sat next to the smaller canisters, along with some other odds and ends he had picked up a few weeks back when things had started getting dicey.  He shook his head in disbelief.  Back then, their worst concern was potential power outages and being forced to use the barbeque grill for all their cooking.

His eyes left the pile of supplies and moved back toward his wife.  Jeff wondered when he was going to cry.  His eyes were still dry, even as he looked at the ragged, bloody hole Mark had left where her throat had been.  He hadn’t cried inside the house, even as he cradled his dead daughter and whispered her name over and over again.

The pounding outside was getting louder.  It sounded like there was an army of them out there.  They hadn’t moved to the front yard yet, but it wouldn’t be long.  Then it was only a matter of time before they tore through the hastily nailed-up boards and plywood covering the windows and found their way inside.

Twisting his neck around to loosen up the stiffness, Jeff stood up.  He gazed down on his wife, recalling how her eyes used to sparkle like a thousand tiny emeralds.  That green was gone now, replaced with the telltale cloudiness that warned of infection.

When her hand twitched, Jeff backpedaled, slipping on the stairs and falling hard on his ass.  His body grew cold as it became clear what was happening, and he slumped in defeat, painfully aware of what he had to do.

Her hand twitched again.  Ellen was waking up.

Jeff snatched up the bat and cradled it to his chest.  His hands felt weak and useless, but he held onto the aluminum cylinder as though it were a security blanket.

Suddenly, a sound like a head ramming against the side door made him jump.  The wood began to splinter.

Spying Mark out of the corner of his eye, Jeff saw that despite a broken neck, his neighbor had managed to shift his head enough to stare at Jeff again.  The hunger in those eyes was undeniable, and Jeff knew he couldn’t bear it if he had to see that same look in Ellen’s eyes.

Taking another deep breath, he stood and lifted the baseball bat.  The fear was gone, replaced with a depthless despair.  His wife’s legs were starting to move.  Her eyes were still vacant and empty, but wouldn’t be for long.

“I love you honey,” Jeff choked out as he felt the strength return to his hands.  He gripped the bat tighter and raised it above his head.

The first swing took every ounce of courage he had.

The ones after that came a lot more easily.

 

Chapter 2

Ten minutes later, Jeff was in the kitchen, stuffing the remnants of his dwindling food supply into his son’s backpack.  There wasn’t much left, just some half-eaten boxes of cereal and dry noodles to gnaw on.  That was what it had come to.  It was why he had left the house to search for supplies.  Jeff staggered under the sudden realization that his family had died for a few cans of beans and some crackers.

He angrily jammed the last of his meager rations into the bag and ran toward the steps leading to the second floor.  From the back of the house came the sound of more glass shattering.  He had covered the big picture window with plywood, and it was holding for the moment.  The wood vibrated under a barrage of hammering fists, but stayed in place.  He rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Glad to get away from the stench of infection filtering through the windows and doors, he took a right into his office, trying his best not to look at the shattered door on the left side of the hallway and the carnage that lay beyond it.

Jeff rummaged through one of his bookshelves, found the souvenir mug he sought, then dumped its contents on the desk.  He sifted through the coins, bits of paper, and other faint memories until he spotted a tiny key.  After that, it was only a matter of retrieving the lock box from the top of the bookshelf; then he was staring at his gun.  The tiny nickel-plated weapon with the black grip was still in its original box.  Jeff looked at the etched wording on the barrel: MODEL RAVEN CAL-.25 AUTO.  He picked up the small clip sitting next to it and slid it into the gun.  He nearly laughed.  It was a pea-shooter that carried a meager six bullets in the clip.  He shoved it in his pocket and promptly forgot about it.

Now it was on to rifling through the desk for his pocketknife and Maglite.  Once he’d found them, Jeff looked around his office.  That was it.  He sighed and shook his head.  He was no survivalist, but he knew enough to realize that a baseball bat, a purse gun, and a heavy flashlight probably weren’t going to get him very far.

As he turned to leave, he spied something else on one of the bookshelves and stared at it for a moment.  It was the photo of Ellen and the kids on their last vacation at the lake.  Jeff remembered taking the picture.  It had been early, maybe about six a.m.  Ellen had been trying to drag the kids out of bed for ten minutes.  They didn’t want to go out on the boat and didn’t want to swim.  They just wanted to sleep.  She started tickling them, and after a couple of minutes, the three were wrestling in a tangle of sheets, screaming and giggling.  The photograph had been spontaneous; Jeff had grabbed the camera out of his bag without thinking.  They were smiling, laughing, their eyes lost in a moment of pure bliss.  When he showed Ellen the picture, she hated it.  Her hair was a mess, and she had no makeup on.  When he put it on display in his office, she was angry until he explained, “Everything that matters to me is in that picture.  It’s you and the kids, happy.  That’s all I care about.”  She never said another word about it.

Jeff’s fingers quivered as he traced the outline of their faces.  Another angry scream filtered from below, and he tore his eyes away from the picture.  Cramming it into his pocket, he headed back downstairs.

It’s time to go.

The urgent thought beat out a staccato rhythm inside his head as he made it back to the main floor.  Rushing into the garage, he could hear the roar outside.  They were actually starting to throw their bodies against the side door now.  The sound of them crashing against the house was nearly overwhelming, but Jeff ignored it and tossed his few supplies into the minivan.  Snatching up the baseball bat, he ran back inside.

He was out of breath when he reached the front door.  He bent at the knees and tried to suck in as much air as possible, tried to settle down.  The noise wasn’t nearly as bad here.  The mob had not spread to the front door yet, which worked well with his hasty plan.  He snatched up the hammer he’d dropped there a few minutes before and started prying at the two by four nailed across the door.

It took some effort, but within a couple of minutes, the board was down, and the only thing that stood between Jeff and the outside world was a deadbolt.

He dug into another pocket and pulled out the key to the car sitting in the driveway.  Palming the dark plastic key fob, he pressed the red alarm button.  The urgent honking cut through the tumult of screams and moans that had nearly driven Jeff’s family mad over the past few weeks.  For a moment, it seemed as if this new noise, so shocking and ordinary, would overpower all others.  But it was not to be.  A tide of rage carried the volume of his neighbors above that of the horn as they began attacking the car.

“Stupid mother fuckers,” he snorted with disdain.  After listening for a few more seconds, he pressed the red button again, and the alarm cut off, replaced with the sound of wet slaps on the hood of the Impala.  Glass shattered, and Jeff could imagine a thick press of bodies trying to get at whoever had been honking the horn.

He strained to hear as much as possible.  There was frustration and rage, but more importantly, he heard no one on the porch ready to punch a hole through the front door.  Taking a deep breath, he scooped up the baseball bat and put his hand on the deadbolt.  Jeff turned his head, allowing himself one last look around the house.  He wanted to remember it as it had once been, not what it was about to become.  Nodding to reassure himself, he tried to keep his breathing steady as he turned to face the door.

He flipped the deadbolt, then tensed as his hand slipped down to the knob.

“Well, here goes nothing.”

Jeff opened his front door.

 

Chapter 3

A wall of sound washed over Jeff.  The depth of the noise was profound, and he felt as if he were on a stage, the world around him vibrating with excitement.  His skin contracted around every hair on his body all at once.  The sensation was almost painful as the goose bumps puckered his flesh and the sound jarred his bones.

There was the smell as well.  It had been out there before, when he had slithered through the neighborhood, but nothing like this.  The stench, the miasma from a hundred infected and befouled bodies, had no discretion as it poured over him, baptizing him in its corruption.

Opening the door hadn’t drawn any attention, but as he let go of the knob, the door slammed against the wall, making a loud thumping noise.  He flinched and swung his head toward the mass of stiffened bodies milling around his car.

The mob turned to stare at him.  The sounds, the hissing and moaning, stopped as the corrupt shifted their gazes from the car they had been demolishing to face the man standing in the open doorway.

Not one was on the porch.  They were busy climbing all over the car, trying to capture the little gremlin inside, terrorizing them with its bleating horn.  Some shambled about on the front lawn, but were still a few feet away.  Jeff’s heart raced, but he felt as though time had slowed.  His vision dimmed, and the dread that had been pouring over him like warm molasses began to evaporate.

Move.

He caught something on the edge of his vision, beyond the crowded front yard.  When he tried to follow it with his eyes, seeking out the blur of motion, it was no longer there.  But it had been; he was sure.  It was something that could move much faster than his neighbors.  They were slow and sluggish, but whatever he had seen moved with a fluid grace.

Move!

There it was again, at the back of the crowd but getting closer.  He could see glimmers of light flickering between the gaps in the mass of bodies.  Whatever was making the shadows dance cut smoothly through the sluggish creatures on Jeff’s lawn as it slid closer.  He heard a bloodcurdling scream.

“MOVE!”

He barely recognized his own voice.  The fury of the word was jolting, setting him in motion as the mob surged forward, closing the distance to the front door.  The first group of neighbors was almost there, close enough that two in front could nearly reach to take ragged swipes at Jeff.  They missed as he quickly stepped back inside the house.  Their groans merged with the others, but Jeff could have sworn he heard a different tenor to their gurgling cries.  They were excited to be this close to someone still warm and breathing.

Turning, he ran to the stairs and jumped onto the couch he had hastily set in front of them, stepping on an armrest and vaulting over it.  He stood watching as more bodies poured in through the front door, scratching and clawing at each other as they tried to force their way through the narrow opening.  They were a crazed mob, frothing at the mouth and growling at him.  The first few were already at the couch, trying to get over, around, or through it.  They smashed, clawed, and tore at it, angry that something stood between them and their prey.

“That’s it, you bastards!  Come and get me!”

He had to yell to hear himself over the pounding fists and squeals of anticipation.  The moans were louder inside.  But when Jeff spoke, they seemed to go still, and the noise died down for a moment.  He had their complete attention.

He continued to back up the stairs as more bodies crammed into the foyer and spread into the dining and living rooms.  He wouldn’t be surprised if there were enough of them to fill the entire first floor.  One knocked over the vase on the end table near the door, and it instantly turned to powdered shards underfoot.  A few of the ghoulish apparitions appeared to be distracted, wandering toward the dining room table and grabbing at household objects like they were at a rummage sale.  The rest, however, continued to crowd around the base of the staircase, staring balefully up at him.  They raised their hands, reaching toward Jeff with unimaginable need.

The weaker ones were crushed beneath the churning mass of bodies as they poured over the couch.  It looked like some sort of blender in which whatever was dropped into the spinning vortex was sucked to the bottom to be pulverized, but in this case, it was only the smaller forms, children and the mutilated, being sucked beneath the trampling feet.

The first stiff form able to make it past the couch got a shot in the mouth from Jeff’s baseball bat.  It was a world-class uppercut that shattered the woman’s jawbone and sent her reeling back into the crowd.  She knocked another person flat, and Jeff lost sight of her as she was swallowed in the pulsating mass of bodies.  Heedless of her demise, the others pressed against the couch.  As three more bodies flopped over it Jeff rushed to the second-floor landing.

With hands shaking and breathing ragged, he pushed the massive bookshelf that stood next to the stairs toward the top step.  He had dragged it there a few weeks back as a precautionary measure in case the infected managed to break into the house.  In hindsight, it had been foolish to hope that mere furniture could hold back the horde, but he was still glad he had moved it into position.

Jeff felt a white-hot flash of fear at the sound of a loud grunt nearby.  The infected were almost to the top of the steps.  He responded with his own desperate grunt as the bookshelf teetered over and began its sideways fall down the steps.

The loud crash he had expected was muffled by the wall of flesh on which the heavy cherry bookshelf landed.  It smashed into the two leaders of the pack, driving them back into the convulsing crowd.  As he watched, Jeff’s eyes widened in surprise.  The six-foot-tall piece of furniture did not fall to the ground, but hovered as the monsters behind it struggled to free themselves of its bulk.

The bodies were piling up behind the bookshelf, and he could see it slowly turning like a heavy door being pushed toward the wall.  It had smashed a few of them pretty well but was no deterrent to the rest.  They were still coming.

As Jeff turned and ran for the master bedroom, he heard a thud.  The bookshelf had finally hit the floor.  They had pushed it out of the way and were on the move again.

He screamed a few expletives as encouragement, though none was needed, before slamming the hollow door to his bedroom shut and clicking the button-lock on the knob.  As Jeff moved toward his closet, he could hear his neighbors screaming in frustration from down the hall.

He climbed past the heavy chair he had placed in the closet, then shoved it, forcing the door shut with its bulk.  The large walk-in closet went pitch black, and he nearly yelped when the first fist slammed into the bedroom door.

The darkness felt overwhelming, but Jeff knew how little time he had.  He felt his way past a minefield of shoes and piles of clothing strewn on the floor.  When he found the back wall, he dropped quickly to his knees, setting the baseball bat down as he slid his hands over the carpeted floor.  Where is it?

He jumped again as the master bedroom door splintered and broke.  The mob was already forcing its way past the shattered remains of the feeble barrier and clambering into the bedroom.  They would be at the closet door in less than a minute, but that was all the time Jeff thought he needed, if he could find what he was looking for.

Cursing under his breath, he began tossing shoes out of the way.  He knew the spot on the floor was not covered, but could feel panic setting in as he continued his furious search.

Boom!

Jeff let out an involuntary yelp of surprise as the closet door vibrated in its frame.  There were excited moans beyond the door, as if his neighbors knew he was caught like a rat in a trap.  It would be mere seconds before he was in their grasp.

“How in the world did you know I was in here, you stupid bastards?” Jeff screamed.  His words echoed in the confined space and filtered out into the bedroom, where squeals of delight at the sound of his voice cascaded back in on him.

He heard the chair move slightly across the carpet, inching backwards as the press of bodies crammed against the door began forcing their way in.  “I mean, Jesus!  You fuckers can’t even turn a goddamn doorknob anymore, but you can sniff me out in a matter of seconds?  What the hell?” Jeff’s voice cracked as he spoke, his frayed nerves nearly past the point of no return as he clawed blindly at the carpet.

The chair slid another few inches inward, and with it came a splinter of light from the bedroom.  Immediately, Jeff saw what he had been searching for, a few inches to his right.  He whimpered in relief as he pulled the hinged door in the floor open.

He’d built the clothing chute shortly after they had moved in, when Ellen realized the laundry room was directly below their closet.  It made the transfer of dirty clothes a breeze.

He stared down at the washer and dryer.  Breathing a quick sigh of relief when he saw that no one had wandered into the small room off the garage, he swung his legs over and down through the hole.

As Jeff lowered himself through the narrow opening, his unwanted visitors managed to push the chair completely out of the way of the closet door.  The first shadowy figure stumbled into the room, falling inward, pushed by another four stiffs behind it.  Jeff snatched up his baseball bat as he contorted his hips in an effort to maneuver his midsection through the tight gap in the floor.

His neighbors turned as one toward him, their eyes going wide with excitement as they saw the man trapped in the corner.  Their potent smell curdled his stomach.  It was like a landfill, stockyard, and mass grave all wrapped up in one.  As they reached for him, Jeff screamed and felt something give.  The edges of the laundry chute scraped his sides, but as he landed on top of the washing machine, he heard the spring-loaded door on the chute slam shut above his head.

He slid off the washer.  There were cries of outrage from above.  They were already scraping at the small door, desperate to open it.

The sounds on the first floor were nearly deafening as he stared at the kitchen door.  Beyond were those inhuman things … probably more than a hundred.  Jeff hoped they were still occupied with their attempts to climb the steps and cram themselves into the various bedrooms on the top floor in a futile effort to find him.

He grabbed the gas can he had left in the room and opened it.  The smell of the fuel was pure and intoxicating compared to the noxiously rich smell of death now permeating the house.  He splashed the flammable liquid on the walls, watching as it ate at the traces of blood the first set of intruders had left behind.  He drained the can, splashing the last bit of it on the ceiling, specifically targeting the hinged door above the washer.

The chute door opened slightly and then slapped back shut.  A dark smile crossed Jeff’s lips.  He had put a set of tight springs on the sucker to discourage his kids from playing with it.  The clumsy bastards upstairs were having a hell of a time trying to get a grip on it, thanks to his handiwork.

Setting the gas can down, he picked up the road flare he had also tossed in the room.  Cracking the door leading to the garage, he relaxed slightly as he saw that the side door had not been breached.  In fact, it seemed that no one was pounding on it anymore.  Wedging his foot in the door to keep it open, he turned to face the kitchen.

There was only one thing left to do.

He pulled the cap off the road flare.  It burst to life, startling Jeff with its ferocity.  Quickly, he touched it to a rag he had soaked in gasoline that sat on top of the washer and watched it burst into flames.  He opened the kitchen door just wide enough to slip the flare through.  As soon as he heard the flare hit the floor, he yanked the door shut again.

Snatching up his baseball bat, he used it to slide the flaming rag off the washer and directly into a puddle of gas on the floor.

“The house is all yours, guys.  Enjoy it,” he said as he scrambled into the garage.  He made sure the metal door was shut tight, knowing it would hold back the flames for a while.  As he slid into the minivan, he thought about the rest of the gasoline he had used to drench the house.  Along with the propane tanks he had opened in the bedrooms upstairs, it should create one hell of a bang.

 

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