HIS OWN

His Own

Just outside of Fort Drum; in Jefferson County New York, on the old Jeffery’s farm; buried under four feet of loose earth in a freshly dug grave. Joe Miller suddenly awoke, and began to claw his way out towards the surface. He no longer needed to breathe, he realized, as he clawed at the loose earth to free himself, and he really didn’t seem to care.

In a long tunnel, under the city of Watertown New York, hemmed in by large military trucks, Frank Morgan wondered over the luck he’d had at getting himself into the Army facility.
He had flashed his press pass, half afraid they would open fire or something, and instead the young guard at the booth had just waved him in.
He could not have known that just that day an open, though somewhat restricted, invitation had been given to a reporter who was on good terms with the new facility’s commander.
The plan, cooked up by the reporter and the base commander, was to write a carefully worded article about the storage facilities, to dispel the rumors that were circulating.
The young guard had simply waved Frank through at the entrance, when he had seen the press pass, not knowing he had allowed the wrong man into the tunnel. They had only told him to expect a reporter. If he had looked at Franks pass closely, he would have noticed that he was not from the Watertown paper, and he would not have allowed him to enter.

Willie LeFray sat slumped against a wall in an alley off Beechwood Avenue, in Seattle’s red light district. He had been dead for over six hours. The money he had stolen, had allowed him to indulge in his habit for over forty six hours with no sleep. The last injection had killed him.
The Cocaine he had purchased had been cut with rat poison, among other things, so that the hype who had sold it to him could stretch it a little further.
The constant hours of indulging in his habit would have killed him anyway, but the addition of the rat poison was all his overworked heart could stand, and it had simply stopped beating in protest.
Willie’s eyelids flickered, and his hand shot up to bat at a fly that had been examining his nose.
Twenty feet away on Beechwood Avenue, the prostitutes were just beginning to show up in force, and the descending darkness hid the white trails that sped across the sky.

Ira paused, and slowly set the checker that had been in his hand, to one side.
“It’s time, ain’t it,” he stated.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is,” the older man replied, getting up from the small table.
“Come on then,” the older man continued, “we have a lot to accomplish.”
Ira blinked…

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America the Dead: Survivors Stories One. Episode 5

America the Dead: Survivors Stories One

 Copyright © 2018 W. G. Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.


No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


March 2nd

New York: Watertown

Joel and Haley

Morning

Joel Morrison awoke to the sounds of birds whistling in the early morning pre-dawn. Birds, he thought, usually the sounds from the mills drowned them out.

He had made it home around 6:00 PM the previous evening. He was working the midnight to eight shift and had stopped into the Rusty Nail after work to have a few drinks with some other guys from the paper mill.

He had wanted to leave before the bar began to fill up. The Rusty Nail had gotten more than a bit rowdy as of late. Two years before, one of Joel’s good friends, Moon Calloway, had been killed in the bar. That had seemed to turn the tide. After that point the bar had become much worse, a proving grounds of sorts for the young GI’s from the base. Joel often wondered why he even bothered to hang around there at all. Last night it had seemed as though the rowdy element was showing up even earlier than it usually did, when Johnny Barnes had offered the ride Joel had accepted.

The house on Linden Street wasn’t much, but it was paid for, and Joel knew a lot of guys at the mill who either rented or were damn close to losing their homes to the bank. Times were tough in the old U-S-of-A, and at least he had the place free and clear.

He had practically fallen into bed once he had gotten home. He hadn’t realized how tired he was.

He’d been working all the short shifts he could get, along with his normal evening shifts, saving the money after he’d paid off the house, and today would be the start of his first real vacation in over twelve years.

Joel had grown up in the small city of Watertown, and had never left. It suited him, he liked to think. Where else could you see the seasons change so vividly, or take a quiet stroll through the woods anytime you felt, he often wondered. The Adirondacks were close by. The southern tier, where he hoped to be in just a few hours, he reminded himself, stretched away for miles. Forever wild lands, Lake Ontario, wet lands. And if he wanted the big city it was just seventy miles away down route eighty-one.

This is going to be one great vacation, he thought, as he got out of bed. Despite the damn birds.

The vacation he had planned was a three week camp out in the State Forest Preserve that started only twenty miles to the east. The preserve was nestled up to the military reservation and stretched from there all the way into Central New York. Joel had no idea exactly where he would camp. He had decided to just hike until he found a spot that suited him.

As he headed for the bathroom he noticed that the clock on the dresser was off. Not blinking, but off, and he could vaguely recall dreaming of waking during the night to some loud noise.

It had seemed at first, when he had awakened within the dream, as though the entire house had been shaking. He had passed from that dream into another, but the noise and the shaking had seemed to accompany him into that dream as well. It had to have been the strangest dream he could ever recall having.

At first he had been in his bedroom; the walls shaking around him, and the next thing he knew he had been standing on a stone pathway that overlooked a wide and deep valley that stretched away for miles before it hooked to the right and disappeared. Its forward path blocked by even higher mountains, with others lifting even higher behind that. He turned to follow the ridge lines back to where he was and the scene had shifted to the bedroom once more. He had found himself sitting up in bed, breathing hard, frightened, the room silent, wondering if this was just more of the dream or an actual waking. As he began trying to figure it out, waiting for his head to clear, he had found himself sitting on a bar stool in the Rusty Nail, Moon Calloway beside him holding down the other stool.

He tried speaking to Moon, but he either couldn’t hear him, or he pretended not to. In his dream he had still known Moon was dead, so it made sense to him that he could not speak to him. He turned to Mort to order a beer and Moon had suddenly spoken.

“It was right here, Joel… Right here. Bad place to die… Used sawdust on the floor… Soaks up the beer… The blood…. You know….”

He tried to turn as soon as he heard the voice, but by the time he turned the scene had shifted again. Instantly the bar was gone and he found himself standing at the edge of what he took to be a lake at first. The water stretched away as far as he could see. There was a tang of salt on the air; red earth crumbled away as the waves came in, taking more land with it.  He could remember the salt smell from a trip to Florida as a kid with his grandparents. The smell of the sea.

“This is the place,” Moon said from beside him.

He turned expecting Moon to be gone, but he was standing a few feet away staring out over the water. He turned and looked at Joel. “You see it?” Moon asked.

“Yeah,” Joel managed. The word was barely audible, lost in the sounds of the sea as it worked to take the red dirt away. “Where,” Joel asked. “Where is it? What place is it?” He turned when Moon didn’t answer, but Moon was gone. He blinked and he was back in his bedroom, in bed in his own house on Linden Street, talking to a priest that was sitting on the edge of the bed. He remembered telling the priest that he just wanted to go back to sleep. That had apparently satisfied the priest, as he had shaken his head and seemed to float away.

Joel shook his head, recalling the dream as he entered the bathroom. He picked up his toothbrush from the small plastic cup that held it, squinted into the mirror, and turned on the cold water tap.

Nothing happened. No rattle of the old pipes in the wall. Nothing.

“What the hell,” Joel said aloud, “frigging water out too?” He dropped the brush back into the cup and headed into the kitchen to start the coffee.

“Shit,” he said as he entered the kitchen and remembered the power was off, and that there was no water with which to make the coffee. “Now what?” He walked back into the bedroom and tugged on the pair of jeans and shirt he had worn the day before; he walked through the house to the front door, shoving his feet into his sneakers as he went, and opened it to retrieve the paper that he knew would be there. The ends of the untied laces clicked and bounced against the old hardwood floors as he walked. At least he could read the paper, maybe even find out what the hell was going on.

The sun was just beginning to climb into the sky as the door swung open. He bent down.

“No damn paper either?” he muttered as he stood back up and began to search the lawn.

His eyes rose from the lawn and fell on the Hubert house across the Street.

Something seemed oddly out of place, and he puzzled over it for a few seconds before his mind told him what it was. The entire house was leaning to one side. That wasn’t all though, the street in between dipped and rose in places, and the lawn over there had large patches of brown dirt. The snow that had been everywhere the night before was nearly gone. His eyes had skipped over it, lending an illusion of straight lines until he had looked closely. His eyes rose to the Hubert house once more and he realized what else was wrong, the lot looked too big: He could see more of the Hubert house because the houses on either side were gone. No trace. Jumbled dirt and clumps of grass filled those lots. A leaning Oak that had been in front of the Schuyler house for two hundred years: Uprooted and on the verge of toppling onto the fresh soil.

As he left his doorway and started across the street to get a better look, his eyes took in the devastation that had changed most of the street overnight.

Broken cobbles from the old streets poked through the pavement in places, and the broken pipes below street level bought him the sound of running water somewhere deep below. The reality of it hit him and he stopped and turned to look back at his own house. His mouth fell open wide as he stared. The entire house was leaning from foundation to roof, the gutters had detached and snaked down to meet the ground. Almost seeming as though they were holding the house upright. Small sparrows where pecking through the debris that had fallen from the gutters, and singing in the warming morning air. Joel’s mouth snapped shut as he stumbled back into the street and sat down hard.

“What the hell is this?” he asked aloud to the street.

“What the hell is going on?”

Joel believed in the tangible. If it could be touched it must be real, and so believing, he reached down to feel one of the cracks beside him in the road. The road tipped, tilted, had separated, and the other surface had dropped lower. His fingers came away with small chunks of asphalt.

“Feels real,” he declared aloud, as he stared at the road. He pulled at it and a small piece of the asphalt he held snapped off into his hand. He bought it up to his face to examine it closely; threw it back to the ground, and got up from the street.

He looked slowly off in both directions down the length of Linden Street. As far as he could see in either direction the roads and houses were similar. In fact, he thought, the street doesn’t even look like a street anymore. It was still a street because he thought of it as a street. His street. There was now more gravel, dirt and broken asphalt chunks than there was actual street. And in several places it was gone completely. No sign. Wide spots that were wholly devastated.

Joel closed his eyes and then reopened them. It was all still there. Nothing had changed. He stood and stared for a few minutes longer before he started to walk off down the street in the direction of the downtown area, three blocks to the south.

He looked over the houses he passed. Most were partly, and some were completely destroyed. He felt as though he were in a bad dream. He knew he wasn’t though, as he had closed his eyes to blink away the sights several times to no avail. He had also pinched his left cheek until his eye had begun to water. No good. It was still there. He had done acid once, but only once, back in the seventies, and he had heard about flashbacks, and this could maybe be one, and he had been drinking pretty damn heavily yesterday, and…

He spotted a young woman sitting on the curb three houses down and walked up to her. She tilted her tear streaked and puffy face up to him as he approached.

“Is this a dream?” he asked when he stopped.

“No, it’s no dream,” she replied as she slowly shook her head.

“Where have you been since last night? Didn’t you hear the noise? Didn’t you feel it?”

Joel recalled the noise that had awakened him during the night. The noise he had thought was only an extension of the strange dream.

“Well, I thought it was a dream, you know, but I did hear a storm, or something, but I didn’t think it was a big deal… you know, they can get loud sometimes, but… What happened?”

“Yellowstone blew up,” she said simply. “Didn’t you see the TV?”

Joel shook his head.

“Well,” the young woman continued, “anyhow that’s what happened. They cut in to the TV last night; I was watching… you know, and they cut in and said that the Yellowstone caldera was going to fracture because of how close the meteor came. I came outside to see, and, well there was nothing to see at first, and then the ground started shaking, so I ran to get back inside. But the whole bottom floor of the building was gone.” She shrugged.

The young woman broke into fresh tears, and buried her face back into her hands.

Joel sat down beside her and put his arm around her in an attempt to comfort her.

“Is your husband here?”

“Not married,” she said, “There was a guy… A few years back. He’s stationed somewhere in the Middle East,” she finished, as she looked at Joel.

“Sorry,” Joel said, “how long have you been out here?”

“I called this cop that had given me his card… He said the police would come so I came back out to wait, but they never showed up, so I just sat here. I didn’t know where else to go or what to do! I’ve been here ever since, just watching the street crack.”

Joel looked around at the street.

“It happened all at once?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, also staring at the street. “One second it was still whole, the next it wasn’t. But it’s still going on. Every little while a crack will just appear and then another section will tilt or drop a little. Sometimes there’s no noise, other times it’s this horrible groaning sound… Like it’s alive or something.”

“Is your power on?” Joel asked changing the subject.

“No,” she replied, “went off right after the ground started shaking.”

“Mine’s off too,” Joel replied.

“The power lines fell while I was out here, arcing all over the place. Scared the shit out of me too, and then they just quit… Went dead,” She said.

“Listen… I’m going to walk downtown… see if the police department is open, or see maybe if everyone is there somewhere. You’re the only person I’ve seen so far… do you want to come with me?”

“Sure,” she said, as she stood and brushed at her jeans, “no use sticking around here I guess, is there?”

“I don’t think so,” Joel said. “I think… you know that everyone else is probably downtown. Getting organized or something,” his eyes betrayed the worry he felt. He hoped that everyone was downtown as he had said, but he wasn’t convinced himself. We have to find someone though, he thought, don’t we?

He stood up and they both walked off down the street toward downtown Watertown.

“Joel,“ he told her. Talking to you for an hour and didn’t even know your name.”

She laughed, halfhearted, but it instantly lifted the mood. “More like fifteen minutes if that… Haley.” She told him.

They exchanged small talk as they walked and it seemed to help quell the fear they both felt.

They wondered about the rising temperature as they walked.

“I wonder if it’s some sort of fall out from the earthquakes? Can it be radiation, Joel?” Haley questioned.

“Maybe. I flunked science, so I really don’t know. I don’t think so though. I mean, if it was, wouldn’t we be sick? I think ash is a possibility, maybe if they triggered volcanoes? Makes me wish I had paid attention in science class, or physics, history, one of those.” Joel said.

She laughed again, this time a little more fully. “No,” she replied. “I don’t think so either… I mean the earth shook… like an earthquake. I didn’t know we could get an earthquake up here.”

“Oh yeah… Lived here all of my life. It’s more than possible, happens all the time… You from here?”

“No… Syracuse, before that Texas.”

“Ah, the big city… Well up here we don’t have a hell of a lot to do so they teach us about fault lines, earthquakes. We have a huge fault line that bisects this entire region and continues on south to the Gulf.”

“All the way to the Gulf?” Haley asked. She patted his arm. “Big city my ass,” She laughed. “ You should see Houston you want to see big city, buster.”

Joel laughed and nodded. “Seen Houston once… I mean, a long time ago. And then only the Greyhound station downtown.”

She stopped. “Get out, really?”

“Really.” Joel told her. “Very bad place too,” he seemed apologetic.

“Yeah.” her eyes had suddenly gone sad. “Very.” She started her feet moving again. She had come close to telling him just how well she knew that area of Houston, and had nearly bitten her tongue to stop the words. Emotional situations… You never knew the things that would just jump right out of your mouth, she thought. Leaving you all kinds of vulnerable too.

They talked back and forth as they continued down the street. When they reached Fourth Street they turned and walked the short block to Main, turned left this time, and headed into the downtown area.


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America the Dead: Survivors Stories One. Episode 4

America the Dead: Survivors Stories One

 Copyright © 2018 W. G. Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.


No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


Watertown New York

Project Bluechip

Pearl

She came awake with a start. In her dreaming she had been leaning, leaning, holding the window sill and staring down at the street below. The heat, the cold dishrag freezing her tiny fingers. She had leaned back, shifted hands, placed the rag against the base of her neck once more, leaned forward and braced herself against the window frame and her fingers, slicked and unfeeling from the ice had slipped. She had plunged suddenly forward, falling, faster, panicked, and she had awakened as she had slammed into the surface of the bed, a scream right on the edge of her tongue waiting to leap.

“Here.” A woman’s voice. A soft hand at the base of her neck, holding her, easing her back down to the bed. “It’s okay now.” She held Pearl’s head up and bought a water glass to her lips. Cold, ice clinked together in the glass, she took the straw between her lips and drank deeply. She collapsed back against the bed.

“Where?” She managed at last. “Where is this place?” The ceiling was florescent lights in a panel ceiling. Dropped ceiling, her mind supplied. An Americanism.

“Blue,” the woman told her as Pearl’s eyes focused on her.  She was short, slim, dressed in fatigues, a pistol in a holster at her side.

“Blue?” Pearl sounded as doubtful as she felt. She must have misheard. “Drum?” She asked. It was the closest military base.

“Blue,” the young woman shook her head. “The new base… Blue.” She smiled, but it was a tired smile. “You remember anything at all?”

Pearl shook her head, but then spoke. “A car… A boy with a gun… An earthquake?”

“English?” The woman asked.

Pearl nodded. “Was it then? An earthquake?”

“More than one,” The young woman sighed. “It’s bad up there. You’re lucky they found you, Jeffers and the others. Lucky.”

Pearl nodded and then moved her legs and nearly fainted. She looked down, both were bandaged. She recalled the gun. “Shot?” She asked.

“No… No, just scraped up, banged up maybe” The woman told her.

“Badly scraped up?” Pearl asked.

“No… A few cuts, but they are swollen. A day or two and you’ll be fine.”

Pearl didn’t hear the rest as she sagged back against the bed and fell away back into the dream once more…

Watertown

Franklin Street

Roux

The roadway was tilted crazily, the snow was gone. Cold persisted, but it didn’t bother him in the slightest. A small, silver canister lay just a few feet away. Inhaler, his mind supplied. Maybe his other self agreed, but something inside him didn’t seem to want to agree. He ignored the canister and the line of thought for the briefest of seconds and it was gone completely. Slipped away from him to where ever thought ended up.

He had been lying half in, half out of the gutter for the last several hours that he knew of. He had no idea how long before that. Days? Weeks? Weeks seemed wrong. Days, he decided. He turned his attention back to the roadway before him. Was it a roadway? When he thought roadway, he thought highway, something like that. From what he could see this was more like a city street.

It had never occurred to him in the passing hours to move his head, but the thought of it being a street in a city had caused him to move his head slightly so he could look around to be sure. Slightly, but enough to know he could move it. And he had moved it enough to know it was a city street. And if he could move it that much…

His face came away from the asphalt with a wet sucking noise and he nearly stopped. Expecting pain to come. Expecting the sky to fall. Expecting something, but nothing happened. The sucking sound stopped when his face finally pulled free and he pushed off with his hands and found himself in a sitting position. He flexed his jaw, it worked, tended to click when he moved it quickly, but perhaps it was just residual of… Of?

He didn’t know what it might be residual of. There was something he had had in mind when the thought had popped into his head but he couldn’t get it back now. His mind seemed slow. Not slow as in stupid though. He considered. It was slow like a computer he had once owned. The damn thing took forever to boot. That was what this felt like. A slow boot. He laughed at the thought, but all that came from his throat was a low buzzing sound that frightened him back into silence. He nearly laid back down on the cold road right then, but caught himself. Whatever this was it seemed real. Not a dream and if he could just get his mind to work right he could probably roll with it. Roll right with it. Whatever that might mean. He lost himself for a time again. Sitting at the side of the road, starring into the dim, gray afternoon sunlight.

He heard the noise before he saw the little boy. The noise was more persistent: Crying, weeping, something like that. Something he understood, had known, did know… He wasn’t sure. His head came around and he watched the little boy walking along the opposite side of the road, his face was dirty, tear streaked, one arm swollen, infection, he knew, he understood infection. He had sen it somewhere. Infection was… Bad, he decided.

The hand was mangled. It looked chewed, a finger missing, maybe an accident with a dog, his mind supplied. Accidents with dogs happened. He watched the little boy stumble along. The arm a grotesque parody of a real arm, swinging freely from its shoulder socket. Their eyes met a moment later, but it was already too late for the little boy. Roux had used his hands to prop his knees so he could stand. A second of standing had told him he could walk, and a single limping step had told him he could walk well enough. It had probably been the standing, his mind supplied now. His feet scraping on the loose gravel at the side of the street. His one ruined leg dragging slightly

He held the boys eyes with his own. Large, frightened, transfixed by the odd glow in his own eyes. He had closed the gap quickly, limp or no. Long before the boy had ever thought to call out. A second of standing and looking down into those, large, sad eyes and he had reached forward quickly and pulled the boy into the air with both hands wrapped around his neck, cutting off his startled squawk. A second later and he had dashed him onto the street surface and fallen once more to the asphalt himself. He pulled the still warm body to him.


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America the Dead: Survivors Stories One. Episode 3

America the Dead: Survivors Stories One

 Copyright © 2018 W. G. Sweet. All rights foreign and domestic reserved in their entirety.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

Some text copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.


No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


Watertown New York

Project Bluechip

11:00 P.M.

The first quake had been minor, the last few had not. The big one was coming, and Major Richard Weston didn’t need to have a satellite link up to know that. He touched one hand to his head. The fingertips came away bloody. He would have to get his head wound taken care of, but the big thing was that he had made it through the complex above and down into the facility before it had been locked down.

He laughed to himself, before it was supposed to have been locked down. It had not been locked down at all. He had, had to lock it down once he had made his way in or else it would still be open to the world.

He had spent the last several years here commanding the base. He had spent the last two weeks working up to this event from his subterranean command post several levels above. All wreckage now. He had sent operatives out from there to do what they could, but it had all been a stop gap operation. The United States, hell, every government in the known world was finished.

The public had known that there was a meteor on a near collision course with the Earth. The spin doctors had assured the public it would miss by several thousands of miles. Paid off the best scientists in some cases, but in other cases they had found that even the scientists were willing to look past facts if their own personal spin put a better story in the mix. A survivable story. They had spun their own stories without prodding.

The truth was that the meteor might miss, it might hit, it might come close, a near miss, but it wouldn’t matter because a natural chain of events was taking place that would make a meteor impact look like small change.

The big deal, the bigger than a meteor deal, was the earthquakes that had already started and would probably continue until most of the civilized world was dead or dying. Crumbled into ruin from super earthquakes and volcanic activity that had never been seen by modern civilization. And it had been predicted several times over by more than one group and hushed up quickly when it was uncovered. The governments had known. The conspiracy theorists had known. The public should have known, but they were too caught up in world events that seemed to be dragging them ever closer to a third world war to pay attention to a few voices crying in the wilderness. The public was happier watching television series about conspiracies rather than looking at the day to day truths about real conspiracies. The fact was that this was a natural course of events. It had happened before and it would happen again in some distant future.

So, in the end it had not mattered. In the end the factual side of the event had begun to happen. The reality, Major Weston liked to think of it. And fact was fact. You couldn’t dispute fact. You could spin it, and that was the way of the old world, spinning it, but the bare facts were just that: Bare facts.

The bare facts were that the Yellowstone Caldera had erupted just a few hours before. The bare facts were that the earth quakes had begun, and although they were not so bad here in northern New York, in other areas of the country, in foreign countries, third world countries, the bare facts of what was occurring were devastating: Millions dead, and millions more would die before it was over. And this was nothing new. The government had evidence that this same event had happened many times in Earth’s history. This was nothing new at all, not even new to the human race. A similar event had killed off most of the human race some seventy-five thousand years before.

There was an answer, help, a solution, but Richard Weston was unsure how well their solution would work. He had put it in motion anyway. Teams were, even now, deploying the SS-V2765 compound. It was, like everything else, a stop gap measure, and probably too little too late. It was also flawed, but he pushed that knowledge away in his mind.

While most of America had tracked the meteorite that was supposed to miss earth from their living rooms, and had been side tracked by all the trouble with the former Soviet Union, he had kept track of the real event that had even then been building beneath the Yellowstone caldera. And the end had come quickly. Satellites off line. Phone networks down. Power grids failed. Governments incommunicado or just gone. The Internet down. The Meteorite had not missed Earth by much after all. And the gravitational pull from the large mass had simply accelerated an already bad situation.

Dams burst. River flows reversed. Waters rising or dropping in many places. Huge tidal waves. Fires out of control. Whole cities suddenly gone. A river of lava flowing from Yellowstone. Civilization was not dead; not wiped out, but her back was broken.

In the small city of Watertown, that had rested above Bluechip, near the shore of the former lake Ontario, the river waters had begun to rise: Bluechip, several levels below the city in the limestone cave structures that honeycombed the entire area, had survived mostly intact, but unless sealed, it would surely succumb to the rising river waters. By the time the last military groups had splashed through the tunnels and into the underground facility, they had been walking through better than two feet of cold and muddy river-water. The pressure from the water had begun to collapse small sections of caves and tunnels below the city, and that damage had been helped along by after-shocks.

When the last group of five men had reached the air shaft, carrying the inert form of a woman between them, they had immediately pitched in with a group Weston had sent to brick the passageway off. The remaining bricks and concrete blocks were stacked and cemented into place in the four foot thick wall they had started. The materials, along with sandbags initially used to hold back the rising waters, had been taken from huge stockpiles within the city, and from the stalled trucks within the wide tunnel that had once fed traffic into the base. There was no way in, and no way out of the city. With one small exception.

The exception was that air ducting. The ducts led away from the city towards a small mountain-peak about a mile from the city. There the ducts merged together, inside a huge natural rock tunnel that had been part of the original network of caves and passage ways. That tunnel culminated deep within the mountain at an air treatment facility. There were also several access points where the ducting came close to the surface via tunnels and passageways that ran though the huge complex of caves. And it would be possible to walk through one of the many air shafts to the tunnel, break through the ducting, follow it to the treatment facility or outside to the surface and freedom. It would be difficult, but it would be possible. The end of the trip would bring them to the surface, from there they could go anywhere.


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A free look at Alabama Island from Author Dell Sweet

ALABAMA ISLAND

Copyright 2011 W. G. Sweet all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the author’s permission. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques.


ALABAMA ISLAND


12:30 am

New York: New York

Carl Evans watched from the mouth of a dark alley. It was one of the things he loved about this place. You could hang out in an alley, smoke cigarettes all day and night long if you wanted to, and nobody said a word to you. Where else, but New York could that be true, he asked himself.

He leaned back against the wall, one sneakered foot propped on the brick behind him to hold him, the other flat on the cobbled stones of the alley. Another thing about New York, he thought as he inhaled deeply of his cigarette, and then let the smoke roll slowly out of his mouth. Old things everywhere you looked. These cobblestones for instance. He wondered how old they truly were.

“Young man.” The deep voice startled him from his thoughts. He lifted his head to see an old, gray haired gentleman standing at the mouth of the alley a few feet away. His face was creased and seamed. His skin so dark it was nearly blue. A cane in one hand supported his weight.

“What’s up, Pops?” Carl asked politely.

The man placed his second hand on his cane and leaned forward. “That cigarette will kill you.”

“Pops…”

He held up one hand as Carl began to speak. “Just telling you. Don’t need an argument. It will kill you. The big tobacco’s, they knew about it back in the day when I was a boy chasing that habit. And they knew about it when it was in commercials in magazines, and T.V. and what not. That cowboy died from it you know, they knew it and they still know it. It will kill you. In case you didn’t know it I wanted you to know it.” He straightened his back, lifted the second hand, nodded once, and moved across the mouth of the alley disappearing as though from some sort of magic.

Carl chuckled, lifted the cigarette to his mouth, took a deep drag and then found himself blowing the smoke out, dropping the cigarette, and crushing it. The old man had ruined it for him. He hadn’t smoked in ten years, but it tasted as good now as it had then. And he had figured with the way things were nobody had much time. Certainly not enough time to die from cancer or some other nasty surprise from cigarettes, but just the same the old man had ruined it for him.

He looked down at the blackened mess he had made as he ground the cigarette into the cobbles. Just as well, he told himself, it was time. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small silver canister. He inhaled a sharp breath involuntarily. He knew what it was. Knew what he was doing, but he still couldn’t believe he was actually going to do it.

He fingered the small red button on the top of the silver canister, hesitated, and then pushed it down. Something inside clicked. There was no other sound in the stillness. He tossed it down the alley, turned, and walked out to the sidewalk.

Route 81 rest-stop

Outside Watertown New York

1:00 am

A black truck pulled into the rest stop and two men climbed out; walking toward the rest rooms that sat in from the road. Concrete bunker looking buildings that had been built back in the early seventies. They had been closed for several years now. In fact the Open soon sign was bolted to the front of the building; rust streaked the sign surface. It seemed like some sort of joke to Mike Bliss who used the rest stop as a place to do light duty drug deals. Nothing big, but still that depended on your idea of big. Certainly nothing over a few thousand dollars. That was his break off point. Any higher than that, he often joked, you would have to talk to someone in Columbia… Or maybe Mexico, he told himself now as he sat waiting in his Lexus, but it seemed that since Rich Dean had got himself dead the deals just seemed to be getting larger and larger. And who knew how much longer that might last. He watched the two men make a bee line for the old rest rooms.

“Idiots,” he muttered to himself. He pushed the button, waited for the window to come down, leaned out the window and yelled. “What are you, stupid? They’re closed.” He motioned with one hand. “You can’t read the fuckin’ sign or what?”

Both men stopped and looked from him to the sign.

“Yeah, closed. You can read right? Closed. That’s what it says. Been closed for years. Go on into Watertown; buy a fuckin’ burger or something. Only way you’re getting a bathroom at this time of the morning.” He had lowered his voice for the last as he pulled his head back into the car, and turned the heater up a notch. The electric motor whined as the window climbed in its track. He looked down at his wrist for the time, 1:02 A.M., where the fuck was this dude. He was late, granted a few minutes, but late was late.

A sharp rap on the glass startled him. He had been about to dig out his own supply, a little pick-me-up. He looked up to see the guys from the truck standing outside his window. “Oh… Fucking lovely,” he muttered. He pushed the button and the window lowered into the door, the motor whining loudly, the cold air blew in.

“And what can I do for you two gentlemen,” He asked in his best smart ass voice.

The one in back stepped forward into the light. Military type, Mike told himself. Older, maybe a noncom. A little gray at the edges of his buzz cut. With the military base so close there were soldiers everywhere, after all Watertown was a military town. It was why he was in the business he was in. It was also why he succeeded at it.

“Did you call me stupid,” The man asked in a polite tone.

“Who, me? No. I didn’t call you stupid, I asked, what are you stupid? Different thing. The fuckin’ place is closed… Just doing my good deed for the day… Helping you, really, so you don’t waste no time,” Mike told him.

“Really?” The man asked.

Mike chuckled. “Yeah really, tough guy. Really. Now, I did my good deed, why don’t you get the fuck out of here ’cause you wore out your welcome.” He opened his coat slightly so they could see the chrome 9 mm that sat in its holster.

“Really,” the first guy repeated.

“Okay, who are you guys, frick and frack? A couple of fucking wannabees? Well I am the real deal, don’t make me stick this gun in your fuckin’ face,” Mike told them. He didn’t like being a dick, but sometimes you had to be.

“You know what my mother always said about guns?” The second guy asked.

“Well, since I don’t know your mama it’s hard to say,” Mike told him. He didn’t like the way these two were acting. They weren’t cops, he knew all the locals. If it had been someone he had to worry about he would have handled this completely differently. These guys were nobodies. At least nobodies to him, and that made them nobodies to Watertown. If he had to put a bullet in… His thoughts broke off abruptly as the barrel of what looked like a .45 was jammed into his nose. It came from nowhere. He sucked in a deep breath. He could taste blood in his mouth where the gun had smashed his upper lip against his teeth.

“She said don’t threaten to pull a gun, never. Just pull it.”

“Mama had a point,” Mike allowed. His voice was nasally due to the gun that was jammed hallway up to his brain. “Smart lady.”

“Very,” the man allowed. “Kind of a hard ass to grow up with, but she taught me well.” He looked down at Mike. “So listen, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna drive out of here right the fuck now. And that’s going to stop me from pulling this trigger. Lucky day for you, I think. Like getting a Get Out Of Jail Free card, right.”

“This is my business spot… You don’t understand,” Mike told them. “I… I’m waiting for someone.”

“Not tonight, Michael.”

“Yeah, but you don’t.” He stopped. “How do you know my name?” he asked. There was more than a nasal quality to his voice, now there was real fear. Maybe they were Feds. Maybe.

“Yeah, we know you. And we know you use this spot as a place to do your business. And I’m saying we couldn’t care less, but right now you gotta go, and I’m not going to tell you the deal again. You can leave or stay, but you ain’t gonna like staying,” The guy told him.

“Listen… This is my town… If you guys are Feds you can’t do shit like this… This is my town. You guys are just…”

The guy pulled the trigger and Mike jumped. He fell to the right, across the front seat. Both men stepped away from the car, eyes scanning the lonely rest stop from end to end, but there was no one anywhere. The silence returned with a ringing in their ears from the blast as it had echoed back out of the closed car interior. The shooter worked his jaw for a moment, swallowing until his ears popped. He lifted his wrist to his mouth. “Guess you saw that,” he said quietly.

“Got a cleaner crew on the way up. You’ll pass them in the elevators. The boss is waiting on you guys.” The voice came through the implant in his inner ear. No one heard what was said except him.

He nodded for the cameras that were picking him up. “In case you didn’t hear it, someone is supposed to meet him here so your cleaner crew could have company.”

“Got that too… We’ll handle it.” He nodded once more, and then walked off toward the rest rooms as the other man followed.

Once in back of the unit they used a key in the old rusted handset. It only looked old and rusty; it was actually an interface for a state of the art digital system that would read his body chemistry, heat, and more. The key had dozens of micro pulse sensor implants that made sure the user was human, transmitted heartbeat, body chemistry, it could even tell male from female and match chemical profiles to known examples in its database. Above and to the sides of them several scanners mapped their bodies to those same known profiles. Bone composition, old fractures, density and more. All unique in every man or women. The shooter removed the key and slipped it into his pocket. A few seconds later a deep whining of machinery reached their ears, the door shuddered in its frame, and then slipped down into a pocket below the doorway.

A second later they stepped into the gutted restroom. Stainless steel doors took up most of the room; the elevator to the base below. They waited for the cleaner crew to come up and then took the elevator back down into the depths.

~

The Bluechip facility stretched for more than five miles underground. Most of that was not finished space, most of that was connector tunnels, and storage space bored from the rock. The facility itself was about three thousand feet under the city of Watertown in a section of old caves that had been enlarged, concrete lined and reinforced. The rest area was one of several entrances that led into the complex. An old farm on the other side of Watertown, an abandoned factory in the industrial park west of the city and a few other places, including direct connections from secure buildings on the nearby base.

John Pauls and Sammy Black had Alpha clearance. Both were ex-military, but most likely military clearance was no longer a real matter of concern this late in the game, Sammy thought as they made their way down the wide hallway. The word coming down from those in the know was that in the next twenty-four hours the human race would come very close to ceasing to exist at all. No confirmation from anyone official, but regular programming was off air, the news stations were tracking a meteor that may or may not hit the Earth. The best opinions said it didn’t matter if it hit or not, it would be a close enough pass that there would be massive damage. Maybe the human race would be facing extinction. The government was strangely silent on the subject. And that had made him worry even more. The pass was estimated to be right over the tip of south America. So maybe formalities like Alpha clearance weren’t all that important any longer. If only Mike Bliss had given that some thought before he had pissed him off.

The halls were silent, nearly empty. Gloss white panels eight feet high framed it. It had always reminded Black of a maze with its twists and turns. Here and there doors hung open. Empty now. Always closed any other time he had been down here. So it had come this far too, Black thought. He stopped at a door that looked like any other door and a split second later the door rose into the ceiling and Major Weston waved them in.

Alice, he had never learned her last name, sat at her desk, her eyes on them as they walked past her. One hand rested on the butt of a matte black .45 caliber pistol in a webbed shoulder holster that was far from Army issue. Her shoulder seemed a little puffy on one side… Padded unevenly: Probably injured, Sammy thought: Even so, he had no doubt she could still shoot them both before they could even react.

Alice was etched into one of those name pins that the Army seemed to like so well, but oddly, just Alice, no last name, rank or anything else. She wore no uniform, just a black coverall. The kind with the elastic ankle and wrist cuffs. No insignia there either. He had noticed those months before. Her eyes remained flat and expressionless as they passed her desk.

“Alice,” Sammy said politely. She said nothing at all, but she never did.

“Sit down, boys,” Major Weston told them. He spoke around the cigar in his mouth: Dead, but they always were, and there was never the smell of tobacco in the office. They took the two chairs that fronted the desk.

The Major was looking over a large monitor on the opposite wall that showed the north American continent. This map showed small areas of red, including the northern section where they were. The rest of the map was covered with green. “Where we are and where we need to be,” he said as he pushed a button on his desk. The monitor went blank. He turned to face the two.

“So here is where we are. You know, as does most of the world, that we are expecting a near miss from DX2379R later on tonight.” He held their eyes.

John shrugged. “I’ve been doing a little job, must have missed that. It’s not gonna take us out is it?”

“Saw that on the news a few days back. Guess we dodged a bad one,” Sammy said.

“Right… Right,” Weston said quietly. “But that cover was nothing but bullshit.”

“It’s going to hit us?” John asked.

“Maybe… The fact is that we don’t know. One group says this, another group says that, but it doesn’t matter because it will probably kill us off anyway. Direct hit, near miss, it is going to tip over an already bad situation with the Yellowstone Caldera.” He raised his eyes, “Familiar with that?”

“Yellowstone park?” Sammy said.

John nodded in agreement.

Weston laughed. “Put simply, yes. Yellowstone has always been an anomaly to us. Back in 1930 the Army did an exploratory survey of that area. What we came up with was that there was a section of the Rocky Mountains missing. Looked at from the top of Mount Washburn it was easy for the team to see that the largest crater of an extinct volcano known to exist lay before them.”

“I guess that’s about what I thought,” Sammy agreed.

“Yeah. We all think that. Except it is not true at all because the Yellowstone caldera is not extinct, it is active. Active and about to pop. There have been several warnings, but we took the recording stations off line quite some time ago, so there has been no mention of it in the news. Budget cuts,” he shrugged. “So everyone is focused on this meteor that may or may not hit us and instead this volcanic event is going to blow up and when that happens the rest won’t matter at all.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor came to life. “All the red areas are spots where the surface pressure has increased. There was, at one time, many active volcanoes on the north American continent.” He clicked a button and the map changed to a view of the European continent with many of the same red shaded areas.

“All over the Earth… Higher pressures. Up until a few days ago the brainiacs were still arguing over whether this could even happen.” He laughed. “It is happening and they are arguing over whether it can happen. Well, we had our little debates and then we realized that history shows clearly that this has happened before. Several times. Call it the Earth’s way of cleansing itself.”

“But it’s not an absolute, right?”Sammy asked.

“Don’t start sounding like the scientists.” He reached below his desk and came up with six small silver cartridges. Each had a red button mounted on the top with a protective cap over the button itself. He clicked a button on his desk, and a picture of destruction appeared on the screens. It was obviously an aerial shot, looking down at a chain of islands. Smoke hung over the chain, reaching as high as the plane itself. As the plane dropped lower, rivers of red appeared. “That picture is an hour old. That is… Was, the Hawaiian chain.”

Sammy twisted further to the side, staring at the monitor. “How can that be…? I mean everyone would know about it.” He turned back to Weston.

Weston nodded. “And that would be true except the satellites are out because of the asteroid. Shut down to avoid damage. That is the official word.” He clicked the button on his desk and the monitor went dead once more. “I started this out saying that none of it matters and that is true. The Yellowstone caldera is going to erupt sometime in the next few days. Not a maybe, not an educated guess: If the satellites were up you would know that the park is closed. It has already started. We have had a few small quakes, but the big stuff is on the way.”

“Super volcanoes… Earthquakes that modern civilization has never seen… The last super eruption was responsible for killing off the human population some seventy-four thousand years ago. Reduced it to a few thousand. And that is not the biggest one we have evidence of.” He lifted his palms and spread them open, sighing as he did. “So it is a double whammy. If we survive the meteor the volcanoes get us, or the earthquakes because of them, or we’ll die from injuries. And I think those of us who die outright will be lucky. The rest of us will have a hard time of it… Staying alive with nothing… We will probably all starve to death.” He paused in the silence.

“Those cartridges are a compound developed right here in this complex for the armed forces. Project Super Soldier. SS for short. That kept people from looking too deep; they assumed it was something to do with the Nazi youth movement here and abroad. We let that misconception hold.” He waited a second for his words to sink in.

“SS is designed to prolong life past the normal point of termination. It allows a soldier to survive longer without food and more importantly without water. Does something to the cells of the host, I don’t pretend to know what. What I do know is that the people above me made the decision to release this…” He picked up a mug of coffee from the desk and sipped deeply. His eyes were red road maps, Sammy noticed now; like he hadn’t slept in a few days. He picked up the two cartridges; holding them between thumbs and forefingers, rolling them back and forth.

“A few months ago this facility… I fucked up and allowed several vials of the virus to be stolen… The people responsible have been dealt with, but the damage was done.

“Shortly after that theft we began getting credible stories of contamination in Brazil… Nothing else anywhere else, but it doesn’t matter. This virus is tenacious, it will spread from Brazil to the entire world and it will just be a matter of time. The upper ups read those reports from Brazil and believe this may be the last hope for mankind if it is released now… In time to save the world… Before the end comes… So, accidental… Purposeful, I don’t know what that theft and contamination was meant to be, but it tipped the scales and now the entire world is going to be let in on it.” He sighed deeply and rolled the cartridges across the desktop; Sammy and John caught them.

“So this is it for us. I guess you realize that you probably won’t get paid for this. No money is going to show up in your account. I will run it through before I pull the plug, but I truly believe the machinery will be dead by the time payday rolls around. So this is something I’m asking you to do.” He pointed to the cartridges that both men were looking over. Sammy held his as though it might bite him.

“Those babies are really all we have to hope with. Most people will die outright. They will never make it past the quakes, eruptions, and the resulting ash clouds and gases. Up here we should be okay as far as gases go, eruptions, but there are fault lines that crisscross this area. This whole facility is bored from limestone caverns. Probably won’t make it through the quakes, although it is a good eighty miles from the closest line,” he shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. My point is there should be a good chance for survivors here.”

“So we do what with these? Can they harm us?” John asked.

“Harm you, kill you? No, but you will be infected the minute you push that button. It will protect you the same as anyone else. There is enough in a single cartridge to infect about five hundred million people,” Weston said quietly.

“Whoa,” Sammy whistled. “Why infect… Why not inoculate? And why six cartridges… Three Billion people?”

“Minimum, three billion. That is before those infected pass it along: After a while it won’t matter. As to the question of infected, this is a designer virus. You catch it just like the flu. We infected whole platoons by releasing it in the air over them. Eighty-Nine point seven percent infection rate, but that doesn’t really matter because it infects people close to you and those people will infect you… Sneezing, waste, sex, water, food, it gets into and on everything. And once it is in you, either orally or via bloodstream you will be infected. The human body has nothing to fight it, no reason to be alarmed or believe it’s anything more than a virus. And that same response will help to carry it to every area of the body as your own defenses manufacture white blood cells to fight it. So you may as well say a one hundred percent infection rate.” He paused and rubbed at his temples.

“Be glad they decided on this. They have some others that will kill everybody in the world in a matter of days.” Weston nodded at the raised eyebrows that greeted his remarks. “I don’t doubt that the merits of which way to go were hotly debated,” he finished gravely.

“The virus is designed to live within the host, but it can live outside of the host. It can stay alive in a dead body for days, even if the body is frozen. In fact that just freezes the virus too; once the body is thawed it will infect any living person that comes along. So those,” he pointed to the silver cartridges, “are overkill. Same stuff is being released across the globe. Great Briton… Germany… Australia… West coast just a few hours ago. Manhattan has already been done, all the East Coast in fact. I want the two of you to head out from here. One vial here, then one of you head west, the other south. Go for the bigger cities… Water supplies… Reservoirs… Release it in the air or water, it doesn’t matter. There are men heading out from the south, the west coast. The Air Force will be dispersing the same stuff via cargo planes tomorrow or the next day… As long as they can fly, if we can even make it that long, and that isn’t looking really good right now…” He rose from the desk. “I’ll see you out.” He turned to Alice. “Alice… Pack us up.” Alice nodded as Sammy and John got to their feet, but her hand remained on the butt of the pistol. Rubber grips, Sammy noticed as he passed her.

“Alice,” he said.

“Um hmm,” Alice murmured.

Sammy nearly stopped in his tracks, but managed to hide his surprise as he passed by into the hallway. The Major fished two sets of keys from his pocket. “Parked in the back lot. A couple of plain Jane Dodge four-bys. Drive ’em like you stole ’em. Leave ’em where you finish up. Hell, keep ’em if you want ’em. Nobody is going to care.”

The three stood in the hallway for a few seconds longer. Sammy’s eyes locked with the Major’s own, and he nodded. The major walked back into his office, and the door rose from its pocket behind him. Quiet, except the slight buzzing from the fluorescent lights.

John shrugged as his eyes met Sammy’s, waiting.

Sammy sighed. “You heard the man… West or south?”

“Flip for it?” John asked. His mouth seemed overly dry and he licked his lips nervously.

Sammy pulled a quarter from his pocket and flipped it into the air. “Call it, Johnny.”

“Tails,” John said just before the quarter hit the carpet.

Sammy bent forward. “Tails it is. You got it, Johnny.”

John looked down at the carpet. “West, I guess.” John said.

Sammy nodded, looked down once more at the quarter and then both men turned and walked away toward the elevator that would take them back to the surface.

Haley

Market Place: Watertown, New York:

Early Morning

“I don’t give a fuck what you think, girl. Get that fuckin’ money in the bag, and get it in the bag now.” He shifted away, leaning back from Haley, but with the mirrored sun glasses it was hard for her to tell whether he was still looking at her or away from her. The drawer had hesitated opening, the reset from switching to emergency power, just a sticky register, something, she had tried to explain it, but he had taken it personal. Like she had meant to have it happen. Thankfully it had opened immediately the second time. She picked up her cash drawer and dumped it into the green plastic garbage bag he held. The ground trembled a little under her feet causing her to sway, and they both paused, waiting…

There had been earthquakes. A few aftershocks in between the major jolts, and then the power had gone out. This was, Haley hoped, only a tremor.

It had been the new assistant manager’s bright idea to stay open. To be a gathering place for people in the neighborhood until someone in charge showed up. It was three A.M. and no one in charge had shown up. Twenty minutes ago three people had walked through the front door: All dressed in military fatigues; all wearing the mirrored sunglasses and some sort of scarves or bandannas tied around their heads and below their noses. Hair, eyes, all the features you could look for and remember were gone. They would probably never get caught, there was nothing to remember. Never mind the fact that the alarms were out, the cops hadn’t been seen for hours, and they were robbing the market in the middle of some kind of disaster. Haley only hoped they made it fast and didn’t hurt anyone. The oldsters, her nickname for the older folks that lived in the area, couldn’t handle a lot of shock. Already some of them were overly frightened and shaking.

Her eyes swept around to the other two. The one guy seemed slightly heavier through the upper body, but the fatigues were out sized, so it was hard to tell. The last had a deep booming voice that he had only used once when they had come into the market, kicked the chocks that held the automatic doors open out of the way, and announced the robbery. None of the three had spoken since then.

There were twenty-eight people in the market, mostly the oldsters from the Old Towne neighborhood who had come to the market area because the lights were still on, and there were other people there. Old Towne was a far suburb of the city of Manhattan. Some young couples lived here, but getting into and out of the city was sometimes too much and before you knew it a face you had gotten used to seeing was gone. The oldsters with their pensions and fixed incomes stayed. The commute into the city, as rarely as they had to make it, meant nothing to them. Crime was usually low; it wasn’t a bad place to live.

A tremble passed through the floor once more; weaker than the last. It felt like a heavy truck passing over a bridge, no more than that, she thought.

Three earthquakes had hit so far, each one stronger than the last. Haley herself had watched the lights of downtown dim and then wink out. All of those old buildings that had lit up the sky over the old public square every night for as long as she could remember, gone in the wink of an eye. The flat screens that hung above the checkouts had winked out, and the two televisions at the front of the store that were on every hour of every day blacked out and then came back with snow and static. The skyline had lit back up, but it was flickering in places.

Haley had grown up in the Grant projects in Harlem. Six months ago she had made the move north to Watertown. She took a room on the north side of the city and up until a few weeks ago she had still made the trip back and forth every day, but she had found a place, a small walk-up, not far from the market. It was okay for now. And living near downtown suited her, or had. She didn’t know how this was going to change the equation.

The power had not come back on in the downtown district. The lights were running by generator. The generator was necessary for the meat department at the back of the store. It wouldn’t run forever, but it was on now keeping the meat freezers and the cold cases working; running the low powered emergency lighting system inside the market.

The robber that had been in front of her moved down the line to the next register when the shaking stopped, bag in hand: The other two stood silently at the front of the store, some sort of rifles with clips held in their hands, watching, Haley supposed, through their mirrored lenses.

The man with the bag had reached the end of the line when a much heavier earthquake hit and things began to tumble from the shelves, falling into the aisles. Above her she watched the ceiling lift from the painted cinder block walls and then slam back down once more. One second she had been looking outside at the massive bare limbs of the oaks that lined the other side of the street and the next she had been looking at the backside of the corrugated panels that made up the roof of the market. It had happened so fast that she wondered to herself if it had really happened at all. The thin steel roof trusses that held the corrugated panels twisted as the roof slammed back down, squealing as they did. It seemed impossible to her that they could continue to hold the roof.

Her eyes swept quickly around the inside of the market. Most of the oldsters were screaming, cowering where they stood, trying to melt into the floor, but a few were standing stoically; watching parts of the ceiling begin to fall. Haley held the side of the dead conveyor belt in her checkout lane as the floor rose and shook. The robbers scrambled to stay on their feet; the stock tipped and tumbled, rolling across the floor.

The looks on some of the oldster’s faces said, “I knew this is how it would end,” and Haley believed in that split second that they really had known all along that the world would come to an end in the downtown market square just like it was right now. They had been children playing in the school yard, young lovers chasing after one another through the tall grass, parents seeing their child off to school on that first day: Pensioners walking to the box to get their check as the little girls that lived next door played hopscotch on the sidewalk; old folks coaxing the cat into the house through the back door, and they had known. They had known all along. Her eyes swiveled back to the front of the market, and that was when the roof at the front of the store collapsed. The robber, the one with the bigger upper body screamed and jumped back, and Haley understood then that he was a she. Her scream seemed like a signal to everyone, and a fraction of a second later they were all, oldsters, employees and robbers, running for the back of the store as the ceiling of the market collapsed onto the tops of the aisle shelving. The lightweight steel girders grinding and screeching as it came down.

The doors to the back stock room slammed open and the crowd poured into the rear storage area, coming up against the stacks of boxes and crates, and stopping. Just that suddenly the situation had changed. They were no longer running for their lives, they were being herded like cattle by the three and their waving, motioning rifles, holding the doors open, pushing the stragglers, cut and bleeding, into the area as the last of the shaking stopped. Large clips depended in a curve from those rifles, Haley noticed. They were in their hands, but they also had other weapons slung upon their backs by straps that looked every bit as capable as the ones they held in their hands. The one with the thicker chest, the one who at least screamed like a woman, kicked the doors shut and they stood, choking and sneezing as the thick clouds of dust swirled and billowed in the emergency lights.

Outside:

The old Chevy began to rock on its springs, lunging first right and then left. It took a harder lunge to the right, and then jumped forward and slammed head on into the side of the building.

“Fuck, Calvin. Fuck,” the woman driver screamed. She held a rifle with a long banana clip that slammed into the ceiling. Her finger squeezed the trigger tightly for just a brief second and spat a burst of bright white light and noise; a jagged hole appeared in the roof of the car.

“Bitch, what the fuck?” Calvin screamed as he tried to roll with the shaking car, hanging onto the dashboard. The four in the back added their own comments, and in a second the entire car erupted into cursing and yelling. The ground movement tossed the car once more, picking it up and slamming it sideways into a truck that had slid over three spaces. The screech of grinding metal and breaking glass silenced the screams and yells from the car. The car bounced away from the truck, jiggled from side to side and then settled onto the ground; one tire flat, the nose bent upward.

“Get out… Get out of this motherfucker,” Calvin screamed. Bricks and pieces of concrete block began to tumble from the roof line as the main wall of the market bulged out and the false roof structure that fronted the store titled backwards and fell into the store space. A few of the huge glass windows that fronted the market cracked with loud audible clicks: Spider webs running like bolts of lightning top to bottom, and then shooting off to the sides. Huge walls of glass that were now held together only by the aluminum frames they rested in.

“Jesus… Jesus, those bitches will go… I know it,” one of the men that had been in the back seat muttered, as he tumbled from the car and staggered away. One tall window groaned, splinters of glass shooting onto the sidewalk, and the front passenger side of the car, and then collapsed in a small pile onto the concrete as if to prove him right. Screams surged out from inside the store mixing with their own. A thick cloud of dust billowed out through the opening. The glass glittered like gemstones in the sparse light from the interior of the market.

“Out… Out!” Calvin yelled. A small section of brick bonded to concrete block fell over and crushed the nose of the car, pinning it to the ground. Steam erupted from the buried nose of the car and rose into the cold air, mixing with the dust as it did. Calvin skipped backwards, the hard heels of the combat boots he wore getting little purchase on the asphalt. He fell backwards with the momentum, his hands splaying behind him, immediately cut on the glass and other debris that covered the asphalt. He wrenched himself forward and began to pluck at the pieces embedded in his palms. His eyes rose and swept across the others as his fingers worked. Murder, Shitty, Chloe, Tammy, he ticked off the faces mentally. “Who?” he asked. His quick head count had come up short.

“Rosie,” Tammy said. She was a thin girl with a shock of kinky pink hair. The name was picked up by the others.

Rosie had been in the front with him. She had been the one that had shot through the roof of the car. She was nowhere to be seen. Calvin stood, dusted his bleeding palms against his fatigues and walked around the edge of the car. Rosie’s boot clad feet protruded from under the car. Not moving. A pool of spreading blood seeping past the wheel that rested partway onto her body, and out into the lot. He stopped. “Rosie’s done up,” he said aloud. He raised his eyes from the pavement as a gunshot came from inside the market. He swore to himself. “Better see what’s happened inside. Stay right here,” He frowned as a second shot rang out. “Fuck… Listen, if it goes bad, get the fuck out… Just run.” He waited for Murder to nod. Murder was his first. The one he trusted the most. He trotted toward the front entrance, his rifle in his hands, safety off.

The Stock Room:

Things moved fast after the doors swung shut. The one with the thick chest tore off her bandanna and shook her head as if to get the dust out of her hair. White-blond hair flew about her face. She bent over a second later and vomited. Haley smelled it on the air instantly, and fought the gag reflex that started in her own throat. A few of the oldsters didn’t make it, and the small floor area was covered with sprawled and bent double bodies a second later as more became sick. Haley kept her eyes on the three. A second later the other two tore off their bandannas, and Haley’s heart sank.

The one with the deep voice spoke again: A tall pimple faced white boy, Haley saw. He couldn’t be more than fourteen. “Get these,” he said, as he passed long pieces of plastic to the other two. The plastic made no sense until a few seconds later when the other two began slapping the zip ties around one of the oldster’s wrists and tugging another through the first before pulling them tight.

“Oh God. Don’t do that to me,” Annie, one of the new clerks screamed. She bolted forward as if making a break for the now closed stock room doors, and Haley watched as the pimple faced white boy raised his rifle. He squeezed the trigger once. Annie collapsed to the floor in mid stride, like a kite that had spilled all of its air at once. One leg spread before her, the other at an angle behind her. Her body skidded along the floor an inch or two and then stopped. She sighed loudly. Her mouth was closed tightly in a grimace as she slowly tipped over to the floor. Her eyes were open, and for a second Haley thought maybe she was seeing, but then something in them shifted, and she knew she was gone. Haley turned away as a few of the oldsters began to mutter between themselves, a few others began to cry. Jason, the new Assistant Manager, stepped forward.

“Listen,” he began in a loud voice. “I don’t know who you people think you are, but you’ve killed someone now… Killed someone!” He stopped and looked incredulously at the three who stood closer to the doors. His eyes cutting down to Annie and then up once more. The pimple faced boy raised the rifle once more, Jason opened his mouth, and the boy shot him in the chest before he could say another word.

The blast was amazingly loud in the closed area. Louder than the other shot had been, and a large section of Jason’s smock turned instantly red, puffing out behind him. He sank slowly to the floor, his mouth working as though he had one last thing to say, but he said nothing. He reached the floor, tipped sideways, and a flood of dark blood spilled from his mouth. After that no one spoke: The other two went back to tying wrists with the zip ties, and time seemed to jump forward in quick little jerks as Haley watched them do her own wrists and then move on.

They would kill her now, she knew it. Nineteen years of living through the violence of the projects: Making it out; all to die in the back of some market stockroom over a few dollars that didn’t even belong to her. And they would do it. There was no reason not to now. They had let them see their faces. No reason to tie them. No reason to remove the bandannas. No reason at all.

A sharp banging came from the side of the stockroom and Haley twisted her head quickly. The door that lead out to the sidewalk, Haley knew. A voice calling, and the pimple faced white boy raised his own voice in answer; turning toward the sound.

“We’re good… We’re good,” he yelled in that voice that didn’t seem capable of coming from him. He turned back, his eyes scanning the crowd. They stopped on Haley.

“Where is that fucking door?” he asked. “Where’s it go to?”

She motioned with her head. “Behind the boxes… There, at the end of the aisle. Goes outside… Out front.”

“Show me, Bitch.” He moved forward and his rifle barrel dug into her stomach, and then upward, dragging heavily across the edges of her ribs as he lifted the barrel and motioned with it. She stifled the urge to cry out. She could feel blood trickling downward, across the flat of her stomach under the smock she wore. She walked the short distance to the door, and found herself suddenly falling as he shoved her hard to one side, and slammed down on the door width bar; swinging it open.

Haley’s forehead hit the concrete hard, and she slid forward on her chest, rolling into a skid of cereal boxes. She was out cold before the boxes tumbled to the surrounding floor, hiding her body.

The Padlock Situation:

“What the fuck? The one called Calvin said as he stepped into the room. The pimple faced kid held up the bag of money as he stepped forward to go through the door, the other two behind him. Calvin caught the edge of his shirt and shoved him backwards hard.

“Why’d you kill some? Why’d you do that? Didn’t we talk about it? Didn’t we make it clear? What the fuck?” His eyes swept over the two bodies that lay on the floor, blood running away in small rivulets toward the floor drain near the swinging doors that lead back out into the store area.

“The cunt on the floor tried to rush us… No choice!” The kid’s frightened, pale-blue eyes stared up into Calvin’s own eyes. A small smile played at the corners of his mouth.

“The other guy played hero,” the blond said. Her face was slicked with sweat, making it seem even darker than it was. She stepped forward slightly, trying to hold Calvin’s eyes with her own. Calvin’s hand flashed to his waist, and a second later he bought it up in a sharp thrusting motion. The kid gasped, his mouth opened, and a small trickle of blood ran from the corner and across his cheek. Calvin watched the life begin to bleed from the kids’ eyes before he released him. The kid slid to the floor as if in slow motion. Calvin sheathed his knife: The blonde stepped forward as if to catch the kid, and Calvin raised his rifle.

“You got something to say?” he asked.

The blond wagged her head. Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes. She stared down at the body on the floor.

The Parking Lot:

Chloe looked from Murder to Tammy. She had already started backwards at the shot. It had taken all of her resolve not to run. Tammy stood trembling, her eyes trapped, and unable to stay in one place for long; lighting first on Chloe, then Murder, then back to Chloe.

“Chloe! Fuck. Chloe!” Tammy hissed. “Let’s go… Let’s fuckin’ go.”

Far away the scream of an engine came to her, and Chloe’s eyes swiveled back to Murder. “You know he’ll kill us too… You know it.”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up, Bitches. Just let me…” Before he could finish the words, Shitty, who had been standing right next to him, had turned and sprinted a few feet away. He stopped and looked back, sweat trailing down his face, panic bright in his eyes.

“That fucking engine, Man. It’s coming here… Listen, Man. Listen.” They all listened for a second. “It’s cops… I ain’t fuckin’ waitin’.”

There may have been some hope of Murder holding them together, but at the same instance he had that thought a burst of automatic gunfire came from the market and he found his own feet moving. He followed the other three as they ran for the shadows at the back of the lot.

The Stockroom:

Calvin motioned to the blond and the other remaining kid and they stepped through the door out onto the sidewalk and the cold air. The blond started to walk away, but Calvin curled his fist into her hair and dragged her back. She cried out involuntarily as he pulled her around to face back into the stockroom.

“Can’t leave it like this,” he told her. “Your man fucked it up; unless you want to be in there with him you better take care of it.” Her eyes pleaded, but he pushed her away; turned loose of her. He raised his rifle, holding it on her. “Take ’em out,” he said quietly. “Take ’em out.” She turned to him once more, briefly, and then turned back, raised her own rifle, and began to fire into the stockroom. Things happened fast after that.

Cops:

Calvin turned at the sound of tires screeching on the wet pavement. A kind of low grade squalling as the tires slid to a stop, muted by the rain slicked roadway. He turned, fully prepared to flash the rifle, and show whoever this was that it might be smarter to take off. He wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted him.

A police van had skidded to a stop halfway across both lanes of the street and cops seemed to boil out of it: A half dozen. All armed. All dressed in riot gear, and bulletproof vests, Calvin saw. He fully intended to keep turning, but at nearly the same time he saw them his legs seemed to be pushed out from under him, and he felt himself falling as an eruption of noise and smoke filled the air all around him. He tumbled through the doorway into the dim interior. Just outside he watched as the blonde and the remaining man sprinted for the only shelter, the stockroom, but the cops were on both of them just that fast. They fell even as they made the doorway, sprawling on the heap of bodies just past him. The rapid shots fell off to single blasts, and then stopped. Two heavily armored cops ran forward, flanking the door, hesitated only briefly, and then jumped through the doorway into the room beyond. The silence held for a brief second longer and then one called back. Calvin fought to keep his eyes open, convinced that if he could do just that one small thing everything would be alright.

“Toast… Done up.”

The one that had called out turned, light flashing dully from his black body armor. He started for the door when his eyes fell on a thick padlock hanging next to the door. He grasped it as he leapt through the doorway; the other followed. They both bent and picked up the few scattered weapons that lay on the sidewalk; tossing them into the darkness of the stockroom, and then the first one slammed the door shut. He ran the padlock through the welded plates on the door and snapped it shut.

Calvin heard the click. His vision was lost in the absolute darkness of the space. He had already tried to move. He couldn’t. It was useless. It had seemed so important to try to move though. So important just a few moments ago. A few…. He blinked, but he still saw nothing. A buzzing started in one ear, and then that ear seemed to fill up with static, breaking the buzzing sound up into little bursts of confusion that tore away into his brain. He blinked and tried to listen harder, but there was nothing to hear, then…

“Come on, come on, come on!” This from one of the cops crouched back by the van where it idled on the roadway: Vapor curling from the exhaust pipe and lifting into the air: The two sprinted back, jumped into the rear of the van; holding the doors partially shut with their hands and the van roared away. It turned two blocks down and disappeared onto one of the side streets. The motor could be heard screaming on the still air for a few moments longer, and then it was gone. Silence held the street, and then snow began to fall lightly. Within a short time the entire street was covered in a coating of snow as lightening flashed in the dark skies above Old Towne.

The darkness began to suddenly take on more weight, and the fear that he might be dying settled in more fully with Calvin’s other scattered thoughts. A puppy he had had… So real… Its whole body was wagging right along with its tail. It was … was… When?  What? Gone… A birthday party… Not his… He had no gift… The sound of the lock clicking shut… Echoing, and then as suddenly as the light had left with the slamming of the door it flared back into existence: A bright ball up near the ceiling. A light to be sure, but unlike any light he had ever seen. It flared brighter… Brighter still, and then he felt himself rise, confused at first and then stepping from the shadows of the room and into the bright lights of a hallway. Panic jumped into him… How could he be walking? How could he be?

He spun, meaning to step back into the darkness, but the darkness was gone. All that remained was the over bright hallway that lead to… Whatever it led to. He couldn’t make an answer for it come to him. None at all. He stood briefly, still facing what had been the darkness of the back room, but now was only a smooth white expanse of flat wall, and then he forced himself to turn around… It meant… It meant the end… The end… He slid one foot forward and then the other, forcing himself to walk.

Haley:

She came awake in the dark. She was shivering, the cold of the concrete seeping deep into her body. Her head ached, but when she tried to lift her hands to it she remembered that they were still zip tied behind her back. Boxes tumbled away from her. That caused panic to settle into her for a brief moment until she realized that whatever had happened was over. The stockroom was graveyard silent, a thin blueish line of light seeped under the swinging doors about twelve feet away. Shadows began to emerge from the darkness as her eyes adjusted: Bodies, and then the thick smells of coppery blood and vomit came to her. She fought the urge to gag.

She was convinced she was alone, equally convinced that this was just a trick. She waited, and then waited a little longer, but nothing changed as she watched the line of light under the door. Occasionally it would flicker. Nothing else. She made her decision, carefully got to her feet, and stepped around the bodies to the swinging doors.

The roof was collapsed onto the tops of the aisles. The steel of the shelving units held it suspended there. Most of the emergency lighting was out, but a few lights were still lit: Some hanging by wires into the aisles. The space in the aisles to the roof was tall enough that she didn’t have to stoop over as she made her way to the front of the store. She stopped in the darkness at the mouth of the aisle, and looked out through the shattered front windows in front of her. Snow fell on the street beyond the glass. Lightning flashed sporadically in the skies, the sound of thunder sometimes close, sometimes far away: The lightening blue-white flashes of light on the snow covered street.

She waited: For what she didn’t know, but nothing came, nothing changed. She stood, listening to the clicking and buzzing from the flickering fluorescent lights of the market. She bumped against the sharp edge of an end cap that had partially buckled, jutting out next to her: Blood trickled away from her arm, rolling to her wrists which were still bound, her hands, swollen, were cold and numb. She turned and used the sharp edge as quickly as she could to cut through one of the zip ties that bound her wrists. Rubbing until one tie flew apart, making a plastic clicking sound as it hit the aisle floor and skittered away. She moved her wrists around in front of her and into the light.

A thin line of blood ran away from the wrist that had been encircled by the tie. Whether from the sharp metal she had used to escape the zip-tie, or the zip-tie itself she could not tell. A few more seconds of careful rubbing with the sharp metal edge and the other plastic cuff fell to the floor. She stood and rubbed feeling back into her hands. They came alive with sharp pins and needles nearly making her cry out. She flexed them, working blood back into them, and looked out at the falling snow. The whole world seemed quieted by it.

She looked around the entire front area of the store. It appeared empty, but it was hard to see anything; there were few lights working. The roof collapse had shortened the entire space, trapping what lights remained working inside the aisles, hanging from their wires. There were no sounds, no movements. She was alone, she decided. She stood for a few moments longer, still rubbing her hands, and then walked past the checkouts, stepped through a shattered front window, and walked off down the street into the falling curtain of snow.


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Yellowstone free preview from Dell Sweet

YELLOWSTONE

Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet all rights reserved.

Cover Art © Copyright 2018 W. G. Sweet

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

LEGAL

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental.

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 YELLOWSTONE


PROLOGUE

Somewhere in the World

Overclocking: SS-V2765

 

“Stay down next to the friggin’ bank, Hunter!” Beeker yelled. Beeker could see that Hunter probably wouldn’t be hanging around for much longer. He didn’t have the wits that Simpson had had. And a fire fight was no fuckin’ place to have to baby sit. Why was it that he always ended up with all the ass-holes any way? They had been pinned down in this particular position a sandy beachhead for four days. Sand and water in front of them, mountain and jungle behind them. They were on the other side of a river, and if the man upstairs the man that pulled all the friggin’ strings, Beeker liked to think, didn’t do something damn soon they might not see five.

The fire was just as heavy as it had been on the first day. Non-stop. Round after round of machine gun fire, and mortar rounds that came so fast it was hard to tell when one ended, and another began. Hunter crawled over, eating some dirt as he came. But at least he had crawled. The numb son-of-a-bitch had walked the first few times; like he was out on a goddamn Sunday stroll.

“Sergeant Beeker?” he whisper yelled over the sound of the gunfire. “Shouldn’t we maybe take the shit now, sir?”

“Hey, fuck you, if I say we lay low, we lay low. We take it like we’re supposed to, no deviations on my watch. Now, shut up and crawl your white-ass back over to your position, mister, NOW!”

The shit was V2765. The thing was, Hunter had already had it at least once, the rest of them hadn’t and never would. But Hunter had come with the vial clearly marked as a booster shot… He didn’t need that yet.

Hunter went, he didn’t have to be told twice. Beeker was one mean bastard, and he had absolutely no desire to mess with him. Even so this whole situation didn’t set well in his mind, and that was mainly due to the fact that it didn’t make any sense. And how in hell could it? he asked himself. There was no answer, because there could be no answer at all. Fifteen days ago he had been safe and sound in… In… It wouldn’t come. Someplace. He had been someplace, not here, and he had been… Whatever he had been, or where ever he had been it wouldn’t come. He could almost remember, like it was right there, just beyond memories…

He could remember waking up here with Beeker, Philips, and Ronson. In the middle of… Of… Where am I? He didn’t know that either, and they weren’t disposed to tell him. Other than waking up in the middle of this fire-fight, he couldn’t remember jack-shit. He made the outside perimeter, and curled up into a near ball as he pressed himself into the dirt embankment.

Jungle all around… Not the Middle East then… Where he had been… Had he been in the Middle East? Fighting… Fighting the… He couldn’t make the information come to him, but it seemed as though it was just barely out of reach like all the rest…

Bluechip… Volunteer? For? Thoughts floating around in his head… They had given him a shot… Some sort of booster? Yes, booster… Booster shot… For, what? He asked himself, but he had no idea.

“About fucking time,” Beeker yelled above the roar of gunfire… …They had been pinned down for the last several hours, with heavy fire. It had finally fallen off somewhat, and it was time to make a move: Beeker was no fool, he had every intention of getting his men the hell out, including that test case they had laid on him…

He’d already lost four good men on this mission. He couldn’t see losing any more. He looked across the short, smoky distance, directly into Ronson’s eyes, and signaled left, away from the sand, towards the jungle that pressed in from behind them. A quick sideways flick of his own eyes told him that Hunter and Phillips had caught it too. Beeker signaled Ronson out first, then Phillips, and then Hunter. It was a slow go; belly crawl for the first few hundred yards. The bullets continued to whine above them, but they all made it one piece. Two hundred yards in they were able to stand. The jungle finally offering some protection. Beeker led the way quickly yet carefully, through the lush greenery. The others fell in behind him silently. Two miles further through the dense jungle, and they finally lost the distant sounds of gunfire, and the jungle fell nearly silent. They fell silent themselves, moving as quietly as they could from tree to tree: Aware of the noises that surrounded them. A short while later when the gunfire had completely fallen off, the jungle seemed to come back to life. Bird calls, and the ever present monkey chatter. That was a good sign to Beeker, if the jungle was full of soldiers, the birds sure as fuck wouldn’t be singing. They pushed on through the night, and morning found them in a small village with a main trail running through the middle of it. They walked quietly through the village end to end… Burned out… Empty… A good place to rest-up.

“Oh, man,” Ronson complained. “Fuckin’ cra-zee,” Beeker agreed wearily. He was leaned back against the side of a burned out hut, smoking a cigarette he’d pulled from inside his jacket.

Hunter didn’t have the slightest idea where they were, let alone what they were talking about. Beeker had led them through the jungle and at first light they had come upon this village. They had crept in warily, ready for whatever lay before them. There had been no need, it was empty; a couple of dozen scattered bodies busy gathering flies: Burned out huts. The design wasn’t familiar to him. He had thought Beeker would move on. He hadn’t. They were still here. But where here was, and how Beeker had found it, eluded Hunter.

“Sure as fuck did thought we was done,” Phillips agreed.

“Yeah, well, we made it this far,” Ronson said. He grinned, and then the grin turned into a full fledged smile, and he began to laugh. Phillips joined him, and a second later, when Hunter was sure Beeker was going to open his mouth to tell them all to shut the fuck up, he started laughing too. “Oh… It’s good, look-at-him,” Ronson said, holding his side, and pointing at Hunter, “he don’t have a friggin’ clue.” That seemed to drive all of them into hysteria, Hunter saw. Including Beeker, who was usually hard-nosed and moody. He was doubled over too. Holding his sides. Tears squirting from his eyes.

“That true?” Beeker asked at last, once he had managed to get the laughter somewhat under control. “That your friggin’ problem is it, Hunter, you don’t have a clue?” he stopped laughing abruptly, and within seconds Ronson and Philips chuckled to a stop. “Do you have the slightest idea where your ass is?” Beeker asked seriously.

“No… Well, a jungle, I guess,” Hunter answered.

“No… Well, it could be a jungle, I guess,” Ronson mimicked in a high falsetto.

“Is it?” Hunter ventured in a near whisper.

“Look…” Beeker waited for silence. “Take a break, it’s going to get worse. Why don’t you have a smoke and kick back… Enjoy the break?”

“Well, the thing is that I don’t smoke, bad for the lungs. I’m pretty careful about my health.”

“Really?” Beeker asked politely. He chuckled briefly, lit another of his own smokes, and then spoke softly. “I would like your complete attention, Hunter, do I have it?”

“Yeah, sure…”

He cut him off, his voice a roar. “In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a fuckin’ war goin’ on, you pansy mother-fucker. A fuckin’ war, Hunter, you understand that, you ain’t gonna live much fuckin’ longer anyway. Get with the program mister, now!”

Hunter’s eyes bugged out, but as Beeker finished he forced himself to speak. “I know that… I can see that… It don’t mean I have to die though, not necessarily.”

“Man, Beek, don’t waste your time, he hopeless, same old shit, like Simpson. Like all those friggin guys before Simpson,” Ronson said.

Beeker drew a deep breath, winked at Ronson, and then spoke. “Yes it does,” Beeker said calmly. “It does because you ain’t a regular. You ain’t been here long enough, and you don’t mean a fiddler’s fuck to anybody. And that sucks, but that’s life, Hunter,” he paused and looked over at Ronson. “How long was the last one, fourteen days, am I right?”

“As rain,” Ronson replied coolly.

“And where are we now?” Beeker asked.

“Seventeen?” Phillips asked.

“Uh uh,” Ronson corrected, “eighteen, man, remember? Simpson bought it eighteen days ago, and this ass-hole came into play. Replacement, supposedly.”

“Right!” Beeker said. “It is eighteen, and that’s why nobody gives a fuck about you, Hunter. Eighteen’s too far, you’ll be done at twenty, it never goes past that, and I’ll bet bullets to bodies you’ll buy the farm long before we’re done with eighteen, see?”

“No,” Hunter said slowly, “I don’t see.” Seventeen? Eighteen? What the hell was that all about? he wondered.

Ronson chuckled. “I think he’s confused, again, Beek.”

“I think he was fuckin’ born confused,” Phillips added.

“Seventeen? Eighteen?” Hunter asked aloud. He didn’t get it, not completely anyway.

“Have a cigarette,” Beeker told him.

“I told you, I don’t…”

“Yeah, right, fuck that noise, there’s a pack inside your jacket… Check it… See if I’m right.”

Hunter fumbled with the jacket snaps, and finally pulled the jacket open. A half pack of smokes resided in the inside pocket. A silver Zippo tucked in beside them. He looked up with amazement.

“So?” Beeker asked, smiling widely.

“One of you guys stuck them there, while I was sleeping, has to be,” Hunter said.

“And when was that?”

Hunter thought about it. He Looked over at Beeker. Beeker just smiled.

“Don’t you get it yet, Hunter? Don’t you feel like an extra in a play.”

“Bluechip? Volunteer for SS-V2765? … Wow, they must have zonked your brain, man…

“Look, it was hard for Simpson too. He was with us for twenty days, and you know, I liked that sucker. He was all right for a white dude. All you guys show up… Combat ready… Except you’re all fucked up in the head… No idea what to expect or even where you are… It aint supposed to be that way, so we always have to lay it out… You are one of them, Super Soldier, we call it over-clocked… You’re gonna get dead, and you know what? Then you’re coming back… Don’t ask me what the fuck is in that shit they give you, all I know is you’ll get dead and then you’ll come back from it and they’ll ship you out… That booster shot? It ain’t exactly a booster shot. I don’t know what exactly it is, but once you’re gone I know this, it’ll bring you back.”

“Yeah, back… In the beginning some didn’t come back, it don’t matter though, ‘cause they come and got them too… But the last several months they, all of you, come back… Dead and then you’re not… And then they’re here and you’re gone and then in a few days some other dick-wad shows up in a supply drop…”

“What? A supply drop?” Hunter asked.

“Oh yeah… Supply drop… Wrapped up like a… Like a douche, man..”

“Uh uh, Beek, man, that line was really Revved up like a Duece,” Ronson said.

“Okay, bad analogy… I hate that fuckin’ song anyways… Always did, but you guys come wrapped up, like a package, man. We unwrap you and you’re alive… We leave you be for awhile and next thing you know you’re sitting up… Walkin’ and talkin’.”

“Yeah, boy… Fuckin’ freaky shit,” Phillips said. “Mucho freaky!”

Hunter swallowed hard, lit up one of the smokes from his jacket, and leaned back against the side of the hut. The silence held.

“So,” Beeker finished quietly, “you gotta deal with it man… You just got too… It won’t be long…”

Stateside: Project Bluechip

Complex C: Patient Ward

Test Subject: Clayton Hunter

Compound SS-V2765

Gabe Kohlson moved away from the monitors. “Heart rate is dropping, don’t you think…” He stopped as the monitor began to chime softly; before he could get fully turned around the chiming turned into a strident alarm that rose and fell. “Dammit,” Kohlson said as he finished his turn.

“What is it,” David Johns wheeled his chair across the short space of the control room. His outstretched hands caught him at the counter top and slowed him at Kohlson’s monitor.

“Flat lined,” Kohlson said as he pushed a button on the wall to confirm what the doctors’ one level up already knew. Clayton Hunter was dead.

“I see it,” Doctor Ed Adams replied over the ceiling speakers. The staff called him Doctor Christmas for his long white beard and oversize belly. “Bertie and I are on the way.”

“Lot of good that will do,” Johns muttered.

Kohlson turned to him. “Go on in… Do CPR if you want… They don’t pay me enough to do it. I don’t know what that shit is. Look at the way the Doc suits up. Clayton Hunter will be in rigor before anyone gets in there at all.”

“No argument,” Johns said. He wheeled back to his own monitor, called up an incident sheet and began to type.

“Me too,” Kohlson agreed. “Preserve the video, med and monitor data.” He punched a few buttons on his console and an interface for the medical equipment came up. He saved the last 48 hours of data, and then began to fill out his own incident report. These reports might never be seen by more than one person, maybe two if you counted the person that wrote it, Kohlson thought, but it would always be there. Classified: Top secret for the next hundred years or so, and he wondered about that too. Would it even be released after a long period? He doubted it. The shit they were doing here was bad. Shit you didn’t ever want the American public to know about. He had made his delivery a few weeks before. Whatever this shit was, bad people had not only come to know about it, but had come to have a need for what it did. It didn’t matter to him, not really. There were rumors, a few things he had seen while monitoring test subjects. Nothing he considered concrete. Maybe it extended life, that was  the strongest rumor. From what he had seen though, as far as test subjects, it did its fair share of ending life pretty effectively too. And here was another one to add to the growing number of failures… If that’s what they were.

This incident report, along with the one Johns was doing, would probably get buried deep under some program listing that no one would ever suspect to look into. Or maybe it would get burned right along with Clayton Hunter’s body. He glanced up at the clock and then went back to typing.

“Uh… Call it 4:32 PM?” He asked.

“Works for me,” Johns agreed. “I got 94 for the body,” Johns said.

“Yeah… Yeah, me too. That’s a fast drop, but we both got the same thing. 94 it is… No heart, no respiratory, dead as dog shit.”

“Dog shit,” Johns agreed. They both fell silent as they typed. A few moments later the doors to the observation room chimed, the air purifiers kicked on with a high pitched whine, and they could both feel the air as it dragged past them and into the air ducts. The entire volume would be replaced and the room depressurized and then re-pressurized before the doors would open. And that would only happen after the air was tested and retested. A good twenty minutes away before anyone would step foot into the room with Clayton Hunter.

Complex C, Autopsy Room

Ed Adams and Roberta Summers had dissected Clayton Hunter’s body methodically. The autopsy had been painstaking. It had to be, it was recorded in detail and some General somewhere, hell maybe even the president, would be looking that video over in the next few days. Maybe even watching live now, Ed Adams thought. They had that capability. There was nothing to see. He had suffered a major heart attack. The heart had a defect. No history. One of those things that just came along and fucked up your two billion dollar research project all at once.

“Coronary Thrombosis,” He spoke in a measured voice. “Appears to be after the fact. The artery looks to be mildly occluded… The myocardial infarction appears to be caused from a congenital defect… Specifically an Atrial Septal Defect… Bertie?”

“I concur. Easily overlooked. The lack of sustenance put a higher demand on the subject’s heart, the defect became a major player at that point… Bad luck for us.”

“Uh, bad luck for Clayton Hunter,” Ed Adams added.

“Of course, bad luck for the subject, Clayton Hunter. I simply meant bad luck for a research volunteer to be defective in such a way that in effect it would compromise a project of this magnitude so badly.” She turned her eyes up to one of the cameras she knew to be there. “This in no way paints a true picture of V2765. We should proceed, unsatisfying as these circumstances might be, we should proceed with subjects 1120F and 1119X… Same compound.” She turned back to the corpse on the table. “You want me to do the brain biopsy,” She asked Ed.

Ed frowned as he made eye contact with her. They had decided, at least he had thought they had decided, not to mention brain biopsies. Three times now he had discussed the importance of not focusing on the changes that V2765 made to the brain. Anything that altered the brain could alter financing, funding, lab time. Even the government didn’t like changes to brain matter.

“Are you thinking there could have been an embolism?” He asked.

“Well I,” she sputtered away for a second before Ed rescued her.

“I think all we would see is evidence of the embolism that occurred near the heart. We could search out areas of the body and most likely find more than one occurrence of embolism. Well thought, Bertie, but I believe we will take a look at the brain later in the week. Right now I want to focus on the enzymes, proteins, blood work and readying the other two for a conclusion of this trial.”

“Yes. I agree entirely, Doctor Adams.”

“You have your samples?”

“Yes of course, Doctor… Rex?”

Ed frowned hard and shrugged his shoulders in the direction of the thick glass. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “None in here. That was stupid, Bertie.“

“What was that,” Kohlson asked Johns in the control room.

“What?” Johns asked.

“That… Whisper, I guess,” Kohlson said.

“Oh… That. You know those two got it bad for each other. Probably making little remarks you don’t want to hear. Besides which, you make a report on that and we all have to deal with it: Them, sure, but us too because the bosses will be pissed off about it. Best to let that shit slide: If the boss wants to know, he will. He looks at all of this shit in depth.”

Kohlson looked about to say more when Doctor Christmas began talking once more in the autopsy room.

“Let’s close him up,” Ed Adams said. He stepped on a switch set into the floor, paused, and then spoke again. “Lower the air temperature in here. We intend to keep him a few hours while we attend to other parts of the autopsy… No one in here for any reason.”

Out in the control room Johns keyed his mic. button. “Will do… How low, Doc.?”

“I guess about 34 Fahrenheit will do… Just to slow it all down for a while.”

“Done,” Johns agreed. He adjusted a temperature graphic on a nearby monitor via his mouse.

Kohlson leaned over across the short distance. “So we got to look at that shit for a while? Great.”

“They’re going to sew him up, so it won’t be so bad.”

“Yeah… That’s like, I got a mild case of flu. It’s still going to suck, because every time I look anywhere I’m going to feel compelled to look at it.”

“Yeah. Me too. It’s there. Draws you to it. Like the Bunny on the Playboy Cover. You look at the rest of the magazine, but you know you’re going to end up looking at her. She’s the reason you bought the magazine after all.”

Kohlson nodded and smiled. “And I’d rather look at Miss January than a dead guy with big stitches across his belly and over his chest, sewing him back up again. That is some ugly shit.”

Johns laughed. “But you look anyway… Human nature. Why do you think people slow down and look at accidents?”

“Because we’re morbid mother-fuckers,” Kohlson agreed.

“Well, that too, but it is that fascination with death we have. Look,” He pointed at the monitor. Do you think Clayton Hunter knew he’d be laying on a steel slab this afternoon, dick hanging out, with Doctor Christmas shoving his guts back in and stitching him up with his nursey assisting?” They both laughed and turned away.

“She ain’t half…”

A scream cut off the conversation and both men turned quickly back to the monitor.

Clayton Hunter was sitting up on the steel table. Arms drooping at his side. Mouth yawning. Doctor Christmas had backed away until he had met the wall behind him. Nurse Bertie was nowhere to be seen.

“What the fuck… What the fuck. Get a camera on the floor… Maybe she fainted,” Kohlson said.

“Got it,” Johns agreed. He stabbed at the keys on his keyboard and a view of the table at an angle appeared. Nurse Bertie’s leg could be seen, angled away from the table, skirt hiked high. The camera paused briefly and then the view began to shift as Johns manipulated the camera angle. Her face came into view. Mouth open, blood seeping from one corner.

“Doctor,” Kohlson called over the speaker system. Outside the airlocks had clicked on and the air was cycling. Good, he thought, in twenty minutes the Calvary would be here. “Doctor Adams?”

The doctor finally took his eyes off Clayton Hunter and turned toward one of the cameras. On the table Clayton Hunter leaned forward and tumbled off the edge of the table. At the same instant the air purifier quit cycling and three armed men in gas masks stepped into the airlock.

“Jesus,” Johns sputtered into his headset microphone, “You guys can’t do that shit. That air has to be worked?” Three more men stepped through the lock and the door to the autopsy room opened as well as the door to the control room. A split second later the rifles in their hands began to roar. The sound was louder than Kohlson expected in the enclosed space. He clasped his hands over his ears, but it did little good. The soldiers, he saw, were wearing ear protection of some sort. Noise canceling headgear. The remaining three soldiers had stepped into the control room, he saw as he looked back up from the floor. They had their rifles leveled at them, the others were still firing within the confines of the small autopsy room. A small gray cloud was creeping along the floor and rolling slowly into the control room. The stench of gunpowder was strong in the enclosed space. The air purifiers were off. Kohlson knew there was another control room outside this one that controlled this space, and possibly another outside of that space that controlled that space: Built in redundant protection; it was clear that they were in a very bad place.

Kohlson saw Clayton Hunter lurch to his feet and stumble into the soldiers who were firing at point blank range in the tight confines. A series of bullets finally tore across his chest and then into his head and he fell from view. A second later the firing dropped off and then stopped completely.

Johns was listening to the sound of his own heart hammering for a space of seconds before he figured out it was his own. The smell of gunpowder was nauseating, and he suddenly lunged forward and vomited on his shoes. As he was lifting his head he saw that the soldiers were retreating back through the airlocks and into the outer spaces of the compound.

“Jesus,” Kohlson managed before he also bent forward and vomited. They heard the air filtering kick back on as both of them rolled away from the puddles of vomit and quickly disappearing low, gray vapor from the gunfire. The doors into the autopsy room suddenly banged shut and then their own door whispered closed as well: Once again they were isolated in their small space.

They both sat silent for a moment, and then Kohlson left and returned from the small bathroom with a mop and bucket from the utility closet there. He left again and returned with a bottle of disinfectant and sprayed down the vomit and the balance of the small room.

“That won’t do shit,” Johns said solemnly. “We’re infected. Whatever they infected that guy Hunter with, we got it now.

Kohlson ignored him, waited the ten minutes for the disinfectant to work and then cleaned up the mess. Neither spoke while he returned the equipment to the small closet and then came back and sat down.

“You heard me, right?”

“I heard you,” Kohlson admitted. “I just don’t give a fuck… It’s too fresh… I can’t believe it right now.” He looked up at the clock. “Mother fucker… I was off duty in twenty minutes… Twenty goddamn minutes!” He spun and looked at Johns, but Johns was looking up at the monitors that were still on in the autopsy room. The smoke was being drawn out by the air exchange, and the horror of the room was slowly coming into focus.

Doctor Adams lay sprawled in one corner, a line of bullet holes stitched across his back. The back portion of his skull was missing, jagged bone and gray-black hair clumped wildly around the fractured bone. Johns gagged and looked away.

“Jesus… They killed everybody,” Kohlson said as he continued to watch. Nurse Bertie lay where she had fallen. Only her legs visible in the shot they could see. Clayton Hunter lay against the end of the stainless slab, his head a shapeless mass. The stitches across his chest and stomach bulging. Kohlson finally turned away too.

“They’re coming back for us.” Johns said.

Kohlson spun to the door.

“Not now, stupid ass, but you can’t think we get to live after that. They contaminated our air. We’re dead. No way are we not dead.”

Kohlson said nothing.



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Zombie – A series from W. G. Sweet

ZOMBIE: ORIGINS

Copyright 2016 W. G. Sweet

All rights reserved foreign and domestic.

Portions copyright 2010, 2014, 2015 by W. G. Sweet.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. The digital version of this book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share a digital version of this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book in digital format and you did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your bookseller and purchase your own digital copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual living person’s places, situations or events is purely coincidental. Permission is granted to use short sections of text in reviews or critiques in standard or electronic print.


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This preview has NOT been edited. It contains graphic content and language


6:15 PM

Watertown New York: Public Square

Pearl (Pearly) Bloodworth

The streets were clogged with snow, but the sidewalks were impassable, so she had no choice but to walk in the street.

She made her way carefully, slipping and sliding as she went. It was just before 6:30 P.M. and she might make it to work on time if she could make the next two blocks without incident.

She had been working at the downtown mission for the last several months: The night shift for the last two months. The mission night shift was an easy shift. Everything was closed down. Those who had made the curfew were locked in for the night. Occasionally there would be a little trouble between residents, but that was rare. Watertown was small, as a consequence the homeless population was small. And trouble, when it came, was usually settled long before her shift. Her shift amounted to catching up on paperwork, dispensing an aspirin or two, and being there if there was an emergency of any kind. At 4:00 A.M. The kitchen staff would be there to start their day. Shortly after that the rest of the day-shift would be in. At 6:00 A.M. The mission doors would open and the homeless would take to the streets. She would have an hour of quiet at the end of her shift, sitting and listening to the bustle from the kitchen as they cleaned up after breakfast and began to prepare for lunch.

She heard the approaching vehicle as she was stepping around a mound of melting snow and ice. It was late and there had been no traffic on this side street when she had stepped into the street at the cross walk three blocks down. The alternative was the foot deep snow and ice thrown onto the sidewalk from the plows. She would never get through that and make it to the mission on time.

The Mission was on upper Franklin street, a short walk in a straight line, or even if you had to walk around the square and start up, as she usually did, but tonight the square was packed with traffic and so she had chosen the shortcut instead. Unfortunately it was not well lit: A four block wasteland of parking lots and alleyways.

She had almost turned completely around to make sure the car had seen her when the horn blared and startled her. A second later she finished the turn, hand clasped to her throat, and watched as the car skidded to a stop and three men piled out of the back seat slipping and sliding in the slush, laughing.

“What’s up, bitch,” one asked as he found his feet and stood staring her down. The laughter died away.

“Nice ass,” another said as he moved toward her.

She turned to the second man, the one who had just spoken, as she shrugged her purse from her shoulder, caught the bottom of it in one hand, and slipped her other hand inside. The third man, really just a boy, looked frightened as his eyes slipped from his two companions and then flitted to her.

The driver leaned out the window, “What the fuck! Get the bitch!” He was looking over the roof-line, sitting on the windowsill of the driver’s door, a smirk on his too-white little-boy face.

“Yeah… How about a ride, baby,” the nearest one said. The other had finally found his feet, stopped slipping, and was skidding his feet across the slush heading in her direction. She pulled her hand from her pocket and aimed the mace canister at them. They both skidded to a stop.

The closer one, the one that had made the remark about her ass, cocked his head sideways, shrugged his shoulders and then pulled a gun from his waist band. “Yeah… Kind of changes the whole situation, don’t it?” He asked.

His gun was aimed at the ground, close to her feet. She had only a split second to decide. He was less than five feet away, the gun rising from the ground, when she pushed the trigger and watched the stream leap at him. His face went from sarcastic smirk to alarm just before the stream of mace hit his nose and splattered across his face and into his eyes. A second later he was screaming. She had just turned to aim at the second guy when the world turned upside down.

She found herself tumbling sideways. Somewhere, close by, a roar began and rose in pitch as the ground below her feet began to jump and shake. She found her knees after she fell and skidded across the roadway as she tried to hold herself, but the shaking was just too hard. She collapsed back to the roadway and the relative softness of the slush and snow, her body jumping and shaking as she seemed almost to bounce across the short expanse and into the snowbank on the opposite side of the road.

The roar went on for what seemed like minutes as she tried to catch her breath and steady herself at the same time. Both seemed impossible to do, but almost as soon as she had the thought the trembling of the earth became less and a split second after that the roaring stopped. There was no silence. The sound of breaking glass, tumbling brick, blaring horns and screams in the dark night replaced the roar. Sounds that had probably been there, she decided, she had just been unable to hear them.

Pearl made her feet and stared back down the street where the car had been. The car was still there, the nose tilted upward, the back seemingly buried in the street itself. She blinked, but nothing changed. She noted the broken asphalt and churned up dirt, and realized the car had broken through the street. There was no sign of the men, including the driver that had been hanging halfway out of the window.

She drew a breath, another, and suddenly the noise and smells of the world rushed back in completely. The screams became louder. Horns blared. The ground trembled under her feet as if restless. She could smell sewage on the air. Broken lines below the pavement, her mind reasoned. She swayed on her feet as the earth trembled once more, lurching as it did. She waited, but the tremble was not repeated. She sucked in another deep breath and then began to walk, slipping on the broken pavement and slush as she did.

Franklin street appeared untouched as she lurched from the side street, slipping over the broken pavement, and retching from the overpowering smell of sewer gas. She collapsed to the icy pavement, skidding on her knees and was surprise to hear herself crying as she struggled to get back on her feet.

She nearly made it to her feet before the next tremor hit, this one much harder than the last one. She bounced sideways, knees slamming into the ground, crying out as they did, but unaware of her own cries.

Just as the trembling stopped she made her feet again and stood, hand clasped to her knees to steady herself, breathing hard, holding herself rigidly, wondering what was coming next. When the shaking stopped and silence flooded in she was shocked.

She finally opened her eyes, she had no idea when she had closed them, straightened from the bent posture she had found herself in, quieted her sobbing and looked around.

Forty feet away, the gray stone of the mission that had rose just past the sidewalk was no more: Churned earth had replaced it. The sidewalk was still intact, as though some weird sort of urban renewal had occurred in a matter of seconds. Her eyes swept the street and now they took in the sections where the sidewalk was missing. The entire side of the street was gone for blocks. What was in evidence was an old house several hundred feet away, perched on the edge of a ravine. Beyond that, houses and streets continued. She was on the opposite side of complete destruction, and there appeared no way to reach that side.

She turned and looked back at the side street she had come from. Churned earth, tilted pavement, the car was now gone. Farther down the short hillside that had appeared the public square seemed completely destroyed. Water had formed in the middle of the square and ran away to the north, probably toward the Black river, Pearl thought. To the west everything appeared to be intact, to the east, Franklin street stretched away untouched toward the park in the distance. Close by someone began to scream, calling for help. She took a few more calming breaths and then began to walk toward the screams: The west, angling toward the opposite end of the square.

The screams cut off all at once, and a second after that the sound of a motor straining came to her. Cycling up and then dropping. She paused in the middle of the road, listening, wondering where the sound came from. As she stood something ran into her eye, stinging,  clouding her vision, she reached one hand up and swiped at it and the back of her hand came back stained with a smear of blood.

She stared at it for a second. The ground seemed to lurch, shift suddenly, and she reached her hands to her knees to brace herself once more, expecting the shaking to start again, but her hands slipped past her knees and she found herself falling, her legs buckling under her. The ground seemed to rise to meet her and she found herself staring down the length of the roadway, her face flush with the asphalt. The coldness of the ice and slush felt good against her skin: As if she were overheated; ice wrapped inside of a dishrag at the base of her neck on a hot day. She blinked, blinked again, and then her world went dark.

She floated, or seemed to, thinking of London. A hot day. She was a child again: Standing in the second floor window and looking down at the street far below. The dishrag dripped, but it felt so good against her skin. The memory seemed to float away. She was rushing headlong through a never ending stream of memories. All suddenly real again. Urgent, flying by so fast, but sharp in every detail.

Pearl had grown up on a council estate in London: When her mother had died she had come to the United States only to find herself in the Maywood projects on the north side of Watertown. From one pit to another. Just different names, she liked to tell herself. Up until a few weeks ago she had still made the trip back and forth every day, but she had found a place, a small walk-up, not far from the mission on the other side of the public square. It seemed extravagant to have her own space, but living in the downtown area suited her.

She seemed to be in both places at once. Back in her childhood, staring at the street below the window, yet hovering over her body, looking down at herself where she lay sprawled on the winter street. She wondered briefly which was real, but nearly as soon as she had the thought she found herself struggling to rise to her knees from the cold roadway, her eyes slitted, head throbbing.

In front of her a shadowed figure had appeared staggering through the ice and snow, angling toward her. She blinked, blinked again and her eyes found their focus. The man from the car, suddenly back from wherever he had been. One hand clutched his side where a bright red flood of blood seeped sluggishly over his clasping fingers. Her eyes swept down to his other hand which was rising to meet her. A gun was clasped there. Probably, her mind told her, the same gun he had been going to shoot her with before. The gun swept upward as if by magic. She blinked, and realized then that the sound of the motor straining was louder. Closer. Almost roaring in its intensity. The gun was rising, but her eyes swiveled away and watched as a truck from the nearby base skidded to a stop blocking the road from side to side no more than ten feet from her. She blinked, and the doors were opening, men yelling, rushing toward her.

Bright light flashed before her eyes, and a deafening roar accompanied it. An explosion, loud, everything in the world. A second explosion came, then a third, and she realized the explosions were gunshots. She felt herself falling even as she made the discovery. The pavement once again rising to meet her. Her eyes closed, she never felt the ground as she collapsed onto it, falling back into the dark.

She was back standing in the window, looking out over the street. The heat was oppressive, but the ice wrapped in the rag was mothers’ wonderful cure. She tried to raise it to her neck once more, to feel the coldness of it, but her arm would not come. She tried harder and the window suddenly slipped away. A man was bent toward her face. A helmet strap buckled under his chin. Her hands were somehow held at her side. The motor screamed loudly as this world once more leapt into her head. She was on the floor of the truck, vibrations pulsing through her body as the truck sped along… In the back of the truck, her mind corrected as her eyes focused momentarily. Other men squatted nearby, including one who was partially over her holding her arms as the other man was tapping the bubbles from a syringe with one gloved finger. The mans face angled down toward her own and he aimed something in a silver canister into her face from his other hand. The hand opened and the canister fell to the ground.

“Itzawight,” his voice said in a far away drone. “Awightzzz.” She felt the prick of the needle, the light dimmed, his voice spat static: The light dimmed a little further, and then she found herself falling back into the darkness.



Everything that was the same about the city. The things you could depend on to be the same day after day, were gone. A few short days and they were gone. No more. And it had a feeling of permanence to it. A feeling of doom. Zombie Book One:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-origins/id829336927?mt=11


They are the ones who search out supplies, fight the Zombie Plagues and live in the constant danger of the real world so that the others can live in the safety of their settlements. Zombie Book Two:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-mission-zero/id830815503?mt=11


They stopped beside the grave, and silence once again took the night, no sounds of breathing, no puffs of steam on the cold night air. Zombie Book Three:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-outbreak/id1359462763?mt=11


In this book Pearl’s story is more fully told and many deleted scenes are added back to more fully tell the story of the Zombie Killers as a group. Zombie Book Four:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/zombie-the-final-mission/id1080831130?mt=11