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Xendrid

Crows and the Damned

7 posts in this topic

This novel was my self-assigned assignment for November of 2010. It was for the National Write a Novel in a Month deal. Obviously I failed, but I got some good practice and the experience in general was solid and productive. I plan to try again this year, though not a zombie novel to be sure. I think this attempt is salvageable though. 16,000 some words. No one but one other person has read any of this and he only read the first portion of a chapter. I've sent it to a few others for feedback but they don't have time to read (what a shame).

There are a lot of stupid mistakes and errors in this, but I've learned from them and that is what counts. However, I'd like to have seriously constructive criticism. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? My hopes are that knowledge will help me in actually finishing a 50,000 word novel this November! So if you are part of the very few who has time to read in these modern times, I thank you and await your feedback be it good or bad!

-----------------------------

Crows and the Damned

Chapter 1

"Outland"

The survivor walked on the dirt road to nowhere. Thoughts welled in his head, emotions and moods waging an endless war. He had been walking for three days. A yellow, black and white Columbia backpack hugged his upper back. The sun was a relentless companion in the sky. Out here it was as if nothing was happening to the world. He liked this feeling, but it also deepened a wound inside of him. The knowledge that all was not right in the world weighed heavily on top of each thought.

When he came upon a four way intersection he paused and sat down in the middle. Legs crossed as if in meditation, he retracted his pack and unzipped it. He took out three rolls of duct tape and some rope. He held a Snickers bar in his gloved hand. A moment of thought, then carefully unwrapped the package. It tasted sweet and soft and then the thirst came. His canteen had run dry a night before. He stopped after the first bite, slowly rewrapped the bar and put it back in its place. Next to it his fingers touched cold metal. He gripped the object and brought it out of the pack for observation. It was a M92 firearm. He checked the gun for flaws and the clips for ammo.

A light breeze blew dust across the fields around him. Tall weeds along the ditches swayed in protest and then calmed. He got to his feet in a clumsy fashion and repositioned the backpack and set forward down the Northern road.

It wasn’t long after he came upon the farmhouse. Usually all the farmhouses were on the inner rim of cities, but those were havens for the wicked. This one was much further outland; at least he thought it was. Time and distance gets lost just as easily as you. He jokingly thought to himself. A hopeless grin creased his bearded face. An army green gas mask worn around his neck like a scarf swayed with his walk.

A windmill scraped the sky only spinning gradually from age. Two towering silos stood guard over the farmhouse. Next to it a swing set that looked very old loomed in the shadow of the guards. The survivor reluctantly went forward. He did not want to be anywhere near the house, but he had no choice. He needed supplies. He walked past the tractor and crossed the high lawn.

He favored the back door and looked around before touching the knob. It turned with a click and opened as if inviting him in. His hand reached to his thigh and released the M92. He stepped in and paused. He was in a kitchen. The lights were out and only the orange tint from the world outside illuminated the modest room. A continuous droning was coming from the room beyond. The survivor moved with caution and stepped into the living room, weapon raised and ready. The television was on in the far corner. The pallet of colored bars fixed on the screen. A high pitched tone resonated from it.

Suddenly there was a harsh grunting as if someone was clearing their throat before a lengthy speech.

“Oh how lovely, a visitor!”

The survivor wheeled and turned to his left. An old lady in a dirty nightgown looked up at him with smiling yellow teeth. Her silvery hair matted and strung about. She was holding a cup of tea and reading a newspaper.

“Excuse me, mam. I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“Oh not all, love.” the older women set the cup down and the paper aside.

“Frederick and I haven’t had visitors in months! Or was it years. Oh I’m old and it doesn’t matter anyway!”

She was a fairly large woman. Dark veins zigzagged up her chubby ankles; only one slipper was present on her left foot. She began to move and the survivor backed several steps back. She shuffled and limped her way into the kitchen mumbling with her head down. The back of her nightgown had dark stains of grime. He suddenly realized the stench in the house. It was foul and punishing.

“Frederick said no one would come, but I didn’t believe him.” Plates rattled in the kitchen as she spoke loudly.

The survivor took the newspaper in hand. It was dated five months ago. The bold headline read ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY IN QUESTION AFTER MARKETS CRASH. Below it profiled recent outbreaks in disease.

“How long have you been here?” he asked as he stood watching in the door way.

“Frederick loved the place. He bought it a few years ago, or was it last month?”

She shrugged and fiddled around with a coffee cup and washed it out in the sink. Good, they have a well. Just then a rustling noise came from the right wall. An old door with a piece of 2 by 4 lay across the handle. His grip tightened on the gun.

“What was that?”

“Oh that must be the critters. Darned raccoons keep getting in the basement.”

The rattling again. “Here have a seat and I’ll get you some tea, dear. She smiled with her head cocked slightly at an angle.

“This Frederic, where is he now?”

She paused looking very puzzled as if asked to solve a difficult math equation. “I think he is out back trimming my bushes, I always loved my bushes. Do you want to see my bushes?” She raised her nightgown to the survivor and laughed an exaggerated hiu-hiu-hiu laugh.

“That door is the basement?” He pointed with the gun.

“Yes.”

“Open it.”

The expression on her face was appalling.

“Open it, now.”

The lady turned her back to him and reached for a butcher knife. She began to vibrate and breathe heavily. Fat shoulders rising and falling. The survivor raised the weapon. She began to let out a whine. It turned into a growl and increased in volume as she whirled with speed with the knife gleaming orange in her right hand. He knew he wasn’t dealing with a sane person from the start; he had been foolish to let it get to this point.

She lunged at him driving the tip of the blade at his midsection. He side stepped and hit the refrigerator hard. The crazy bitch flew past him into the living room stumbling down and letting out a shrill cry. The fridge came ajar and a grotesque grey hand fell out on to the tile. Maggots had revealed bone in the flesh and inside the fridge it was black. Other extremities were crammed in it all badly decomposing.

The survivor applied the gasmask immediately and began to cough and gag into it. He heard the crazy old bitch whaling knocking furniture over. Later he would wonder why in God’s dying earth he opened that freezer, but it was a curiosity that had to be fulfilled. In it was a human head. A younger male with one eyelid half closed and what looked like brain matter stringing from his nostrils. Pale purple lips appearing to be half eaten formed a grimace on the lad’s face. Veins and tendons branched out from the base of the skull.

He slammed the door shut and from the blind spot the crazy bitch stood in the door way. Blood stained her nightgown and dripped to her feet. “You hurt me. Frederick would never let you hurt me!” She roared and began to cry. The racket from the basement door was much louder now. He turned and opened it. Out fell a skinny naked man. His entire body was a blackish death hue. Even though the survivor had seen it many times before, he almost believed this man was dead.

It began to moan. The balding head raised and jittered and arms flailed out reaching for nothing in particular. The crazy bitch was now on her knees, head in hand weeping. She looked up and saw the dead man on the floor crawling in an unguided direction across the tile.

“Fre-Freddy? I wanted to let you out so badly, but you scared me. I’m so sorry, honey.” She began to crawl too; blood smeared a trail behind her. The survivor stepped around her and quickly headed down a hallway, still cursing his carelessness. He found a bathroom and frantically searched the medicine cabinet. The stench of feces didn’t faze him through the mask. He found a bottle of aspirin, gauss and needles. This was a glorious find. He shoved the contents into his cargo pants pocket and moved. He found the pantry with more good findings. The occupants in the kitchen were still audible.

“You came home sick!” The bitch screamed “You got bit by hoodlums and wouldn’t go to the doctor you stubborn fuck! And you hurt Johnny! You hurt him bad!”

His hands were clumsy and shaking. He acquired a few cans of Bush’s baked beans (his favorite), a box of Twinkies half gone and a few other sorted canned goods. He traced back through the hall and into the living room. Looking back the couple had met each other on the tile. The man’s mouth was agape and he had her in his grip. She screamed and kicked and then he brought his head down to her shoulder and bit down. Her scream paused with a gasp and she thrashed more, but the man didn’t budge and kept chomping down further into flesh. Blood squirted up onto the white cabinets and began to pool out. When the head peeled back it brought a string of meat with it in clenched teeth. The woman convulsed once more and then was still.

It was a massacre between husband and wife. The survivor pictured their wedding day, happy and carefree. Not so much now. ‘Till death do us part, or until we eat each other.

The survivor practically leaped out of the front door and ripped the gas mask from his face. He caught his breath and shook his head as if to shake off the terror right then and there. He looked down the sidewalk to the road he came from and then to his left where a mound of cement lay in the lawn. He jogged to it and grabbed a metal handle and began to pump. At first it seemed useless, but then water spurted out and he began to drink.

He got the canteen full, food and medical supplies replenished and only horror as a downside. Today was a good day.

An ominous cluster of thunderheads built on a blackening horizon. The man pulled up his right sleeve and gave the watch a glance. It would be dark soon and he still had distance to cover. It couldn’t be helped; he would rest for the night.

The wind began to pick up speed. He marched around the back side of the farmhouse along a wire fence. He found a small shed that was padlocked. It was very old and leaning to the right. To the left was a large machine shed. He stepped on to the concrete patio and tried the knob on the walk in door. It opened with a creek.

It was pitch black inside. He took out his pack and revealed a Maglite. He gave it life and scanned the innards of the building. A combine parked near the back stall, benches and tables lined the outer walls. Greasy wrenches and power tools were displayed on the walls. Perhaps they would come in handy. With that note, he stepped inside. It smelled musty and, save for the muffled wind outside, was silent. The torch unveiled a green rusted Dodge D150 pickup. In populated areas, empty vehicles clogged the streets. They were loud and if you happened to be surrounded you could consider yourself in a casket and not a form of transportation. Out this far however, that problem was null. The keys were in the ignition. An overwhelming sense of excitement hit the survivor. He opened the door and hopped in. Pepsi cans and bottles littered the cab and the ashtray was on the verge of overflowing. He gripped the keys. The silhouette of a nude female dangled off the keychain. Taking a deep breath he turned the key. The engine screeched and sputtered and then died. He tried again. Empty. He sat there a moment in the darkness. Rule of thumb was, expect the worst, always. He let out a sigh and climbed out of the pickup. He waved the torch across the tool benches and eyed a sledge hammer propped up against an end table. The survivor picked it up and exited the building.

The wind whistled in his ears. His face was a blank slate of purpose as he marched toward the rickety leaning shed. He took up the sledgehammer in both hands, raised it above his head and with a yell he brought it down on the door. Splinters exploded outward into his face. One caught him on the cheek and blood trickled down to the corner of his mouth. He licked it away and spat with indifference. The door was now missing a board now and a lopsided hole met the scruffy vandal face to face. He took up the destructive tool once more, this time keeping it horizontal to his midsection. Taking a step back he inhaled and brought the hammer back and to his right and then drove it home. The door came off hinges and landed haphazardly on the dirt landing of the shed.

A familiar red canister sat near a wheelbarrow and some spades. He picked it up and anticipated the worst, but it sloshed heavily in his grip and he smiled. He turned and started back for the dark embrace of the machine housing.

The orange tint of the day was diminishing into a gloomy grey. The smell of rain was strong in the air. He searched for a light switch and found it, but it gave no light to the building. The survivor filled up the tank and put the canister in the bed of the truck. He took out the lantern and two small candles he kept in his pack for such occasions. He brought up a metal chair to one of the tool benches and made his light. The dim glow from the lantern illuminated about eight feet around him. He squelched the flame just enough to keep it lit and still have a suitable light source.

Three hours past. He had eaten a much needed bean dinner and finished the Snickers bar from earlier. He pulled out a blood dried sheet of paper and read it for a long while. Tears welled in his eyes as he folded it back up and retired it. Distant rumbles of thunder sounded in the distance. He should get some sle-

A noise much closer than the thunder resounded from outside. It sounded like metal objects falling over one another. He was on his feet in an instant and quickly thought of the farmhouse. The front door…the fucking front door! In the horrific events of the afternoon, he had neglected to lock the front door as he exited the house. The crazy bitch must have gotten out with her beloved Frederick.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” He snarled through clenched teeth. He frantically searched for his backpack, found it and then extinguished the lantern.

He stood in the blackness of the machine shed, waiting and listening. His breath was heavy and fluttering. A pattering started on the tin above him. The rain had arrived. Lightning lit up the cracks around the walk in door. He needed to move, now.

The survivor slowly and carefully opened the cab door. He threw his pack in and fingered the torch on again. He moved like a wraith toward the forward garage door and unlatched the lock. He would need to move fast. If the truck didn’t turn over…well, he didn’t want to think about that. He heaved the large door up as hard as he could and sprinted for the Dodge.

He slid around the door and threw himself in and slammed it shut. He pawed the ignition and turned. It squealed louder this time and sputtered less. It took a second, but it roared with life and he flicked the low beams on.

Sure as shit, the crazy bitch was just thirty yards down the path. Shambling toward the machine shed. Her nightgown was a reddish-black and it stuck translucently to her wet skin. The grey hair that was once in all directions was now plastered to her cheeks. He revved the engine to make sure it wasn’t going to die. Then he pulled hard and put it in drive and leaped forward. The engine sounded lively and fierce. He had picked up speed driving headlong toward the wet on comer. Her arms rose as if reaching out for a hug. Here it is, bitch. The front of the pickup struck her square. Blood sprayed onto the windshield and she lifted into the air tumbling head over heels and landed hard. Her neck was at a twisted 120 degree angle and her legs were broken twigs. She let out gaks and gurgles, twitching in the rain. The survivor drove on down the road from which he had come.

The windshield wipers were going strong and the blood had since washed away. The survivor drove a steady pace northbound. He flicked on the radio. Not many stations were left to broadcast, but there was a few diehard folk who kept the transmitter going. The first station came in clear and sported a fast talking religious nutcase named Godfry Jones.

“Let that be a lesson to all the non-believers out there!” He blurted out in a thick southern drawl. There sounded more like dare.

He turned the dial again and got a monotone voice that sounded like a robot. It beckoned everyone in pocket counties to migrate to the nearest large city for safety. The list of counties went on for a time then sounded off brief instructions.

DO NOT ABANDON YOUR VEHICLES IN THE MIDDLE OF ROADS. IF ANYONE IN YOUR PARTY APPEARS SICK OR INJURED, WATCH THEM CLOSELY FOR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR. FOLLOW THROUGH TO YOUR COUNTIE’S DESIGNATED GREEN ZONE.

And then the broadcast fell silent after a long beep and a series of tones. The robotic voice returned, repeating the message for the next interval.

Lightning flashed the world visible around the Dodge as it sped along the muddy country road. Off in the distance a bright gradient of light shown on the horizon. Large buildings silhouetted against the stormy reddish-black sky. The pickup slowed down as it neared a turn. It followed the road east and banked around to higher ground. To the right and left tombstones started popping in and out in brilliant red and blue flashes.

A cemetery seemed like a morbid place to stop for the remainder of the night, but he was too tired to care. He didn’t want to be this close to “civilization” and be parked on the side of a back road, easy prey for looters. The Dodge slowly rolled through the ranks of slab and crosses until it came to a clearing on a hill overlooking the valley north with the city in view. He put it in park and doused the lights. He sat back and allowed his tense muscles relax. I should have ended them when I had the chance. He thought, looking at the visor pressed against the cab’s interior cloth. There was probably a gun cabinet. I made too many mistakes today.

He brought his feet up onto the seat and stretched them to the passenger’s side. His eyes fluttered, watching the prominent beams of light shooting toward the sky sway back and forth. The National Guard set up what they called “green zones” for people to seek shelter. The unfortunate reality was the green zones were now absolute dead zones. Pillars of black smoke twisted upwards like tornados from within the city. That was his destination tomorrow. He didn’t want to go. Here in the cemetery the dead he knew would stay dead. They wouldn’t moan and gak at him like the skeletal rots that shamble after his very alive and warm flesh. No, for now they were six feet under and that was okay with the survivor. There was no other choice.

He slept.

Chapter 2

A Gathering of Crows"

A woman walked toward him. She was holding a coffee pot and wore a smile with bright lips and shining blonde hair. It was early morning and the sun was shining through a window over a spotless sink. He peered around the room. It was all void of furniture everywhere else but the kitchen. A single framed picture hanged from the wall to his right. It was him and the women with the coffee pot. They appeared very happy.

“Refill, dear?”

He looked down at the table. It was void of any wears. He looked up again and began to say something, but the woman was gone. A puzzled look occupied the man’s face. He was clean shaven with short combed hair and was wearing a white button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

She had vanished right before him. Panic took hold of him and he got up out of the chair he was in. “Mel!” He called out to her.

He was no longer in the kitchen. It was a bedroom. “Come to bed, honey.” The women with golden blond hair spoke softly to him; the voice was enchanting and warm. The survivor felt belonging and happiness when the voice spoke. He took a step toward the bed. She was laying there, dressed in a pink silk nightgown. Her long naked legs shifted as she stretched and let out a yawning smile.

“Melissa, I...”

“Ssshhhh,” She put a finger to her bright lips, “just come to bed.”

He smiled and she smiled back. He lifted off the white carpet and allowed himself to fall weightlessly down into the soft abyss of the bed. The sheets and blankets shot up around him in a puff as he impacted. He laughed and for some reason expected her to laugh as well, but she was silent. He looked up in time to see the sheets settling back to the bed. They had covered his mistress from sight. He crawled toward her. “Come on, sweetheart. Let me see your face once more.”

The hand reached for the top edge of the sheet. Fingers curled around it and brought the sheet back from a face. It was not the gorgeous women he so desired, but a nearly mummified face, skin grey and sunken to the boney interior. Her bright perfect lips were gone, leaving the teeth completely exposed. He revolted and screamed her name as the skeletal mistress wrapped a boney hand around his collar and pulled him near. Her teeth pressed into the flesh of his neck and bit down.

The survivor burst back into the world of the Dodge cab grasping at his neck with both hands. His vision cloudy and sweat sealed his clothes to his slender body. He panted heavily and started to cry. A moment later he regained his composure and sat up in the dawning light. Dust particles filled the air around him. The sweat glistened under his eye sockets in yellow arrays. His neck ached miserably. He opened the door and stepped out onto the wet grass. He tilted his head from one side to the other and stretched the length of his body until the petrified state dissipated.

The neck still hurt, but it was bearable. He drank greedily from his canteen and then used the remainder of the water to wash himself. His dark brown hair had grown significantly since life last permitted a trip to the salon. When he finished his morning piss and ate a Twinkie and carrot breakfast, he hoisted himself onto the roof a nearby mausoleum. The survivor wore a vest that he modified to sport a few attachments. One of which was a holster for binoculars. He unhooked them and brought them up to his bloodshot hazel eyes. Nothing in the actual city was coherent from here, but he could make out the freeway, highways and back roads that led to it. The freeway and highways both were littered with multicolored specks some of which were on fire. The specks were cars that people had to abandon because of blockades that forced them to go by foot or for other reasons that didn’t matter now.

He took the binoculars away from his eye sockets and surveyed the nearby roads that he could take.

“The main road would get me as far as three miles out.” He surmised allowed then holstered the binoculars back into their satchel and leaped down to the grass.

The Dodge drove its way out of the myriad of the forever dead. It hit the dirt road back the way he had come and turned onto the paved highway leading toward the city. The survivor made it only half a mile of Zen driving before passing the first of the abandoned specks. They were now full-fledged dormant shells. Driving on a deserted highway with only remnants of those before had a calming effect on you. Not necessarily a good calming effect, but one that screamed aloud I am the king of the road! He scanned for music, but only got religious propaganda and the robotic voice from the rainy night before. The loop was still the same and he wondered how long it had been going on for. He flicked the dial off and continued his road trip of the damned.

About four miles out, the empty husks of vehicles began to multiply. He weaved and dodged rubble and pileups. At one point he happened upon a threesome in which a charred skeleton was leaning out of the windshield. Arms outstretched and its lower jaw was absent. Hideous black smoke bubbled from the wreckage and the stench of burnt everything penetrated the truck cab. It was like a safari for the apocalypse. To your right you have a three car pileup where two individuals met headlong and burnt up in a fiery maelstrom and the unfortunate bastard who rode his last ass end didn’t even have time to kiss his own ass goodbye. And oh look here, ladies and the living. We have a body farm to your immediate left, featuring those who were dispatched accordingly by the armed and ready-to-blow-you-to-shit. Humor knows no discrimination.

The survivor donned the gas mask once more as he approached the city. He didn’t see the heaps of dead often, but they were usually a sign of a desperate military action to eliminate anything and everything that resembled a shamble or a moan.

The time finally came when the old Dodge could venture no further. Thousands of cars plastered the highway into the grandest of traffic jams. He stopped the truck for the last time and gathered his pack. The sun was positioned at high noon, only a few patches of cumulus accompanied it. He double checked the M92 at his thigh to be certain his friend had not been lost along the way. Its weight was still there. The last man alive that he had seen gave him that gun. For someone to trust another in a world where the only thing you can be sure about is yourself, it was not an event to take lightly. Or was it feasible that one could trust themselves? It didn’t matter until you were bitten he decided. Only then does the game change the rules. That man, who gave him the gun and trusted him when none thought it possible to do so, was dead.

A crow cawed mockingly as the survivor walked among the metal husks. There were too many to search, so he had to make due by glancing at the interiors as he made his way by. More crows showed up. Perched upon the electrical wires that ran parallel to the highway, they watched the survivor with apathy and announced their presence.

Nothing of interest caught the survivor’s eye. Either it was completely empty, or filled to the visors with useless belongings. Most likely from people who expected to never return home. He kept on until a familiar black and white seized his gaze. A shattered bar of red and blue dangled from wires along the driver’s side window. He half sprinted to it. On the side it read High Way Patrol arced around a large star. He peered in the back door and saw nothing so he circled around the front. In the passenger’s seat sat a black duffel bag. The survivor scavenged and found nothing but a badge and some Mentos. On the floor there was a white sagging box of what looked like some extremely melted donuts.

“Wow.” He shook his head in comical disbelief. He opened the glove compartment and fished out a stubby black object with a red trigger. It was a Taser. Not the kind that shot out, but the kind that really packed a punch. It wouldn’t do much good against them, but there were other uses he was sure would present themselves. With the Taser tucked away in his pack, he proceeded on.

The highway met a bridge cutting through a river. It was to no surprise to the survivor when he saw bodies floating downstream. Leaning against the concrete guardrails, he pulled off his fingerless gloves and wiped his callused hands free of sweat. Dirt and grime settled under the nails and in the crevices of his skin. The water must have been only five or six feet deep at one spot underneath the bridge. The hood of a red minivan was warping under an inch of murky green river. He mused as a body floated in the direction of the drowned vehicle. His gaze followed the man who looked like he was doing a terrible job at the backstroke. It happened to get caught up on the corner of the vehicle and floated there, bobbing up and down in the current. It tried to turn over, but couldn’t. This man was wearing a white shirt with that was torn wide at the bell where intestines stringed out of the pop belly of the man

The survivor glanced to his left back at the beginning of the bridge where the barrier had been disgruntled, probably from the minivan’s detour into the murk. He went over and picked up a 40 or so pound chunk of concrete and brought it over to where he stood watching the terrible backstroking man. He raised the rock above his head and let it drop. It landed with a splash and a crunch.

Beyond the bridge was only two short miles of road left to traverse. The jungle of gas guzzlers became its most dense. Large buildings in the city began to dominate the sky in front of him like monoliths that had been rinsed in gasoline and treated with a flame. His own footfalls and the recurring caw of the crow were no longer the only things audible. Distant pops and cracks echoed from the metropolis. Also the occasional siren, as if it did any good. He passed up one of them sitting propped up against a wheel. It seemed even less coherent than average, probably a result from baking in the sun for weeks.

Weaving through the vast amount of vehicles was beginning to wear on the survivor, but he was less than half a mile away from the urban destination. A fire inside of him that he deemed anticipation flickered to life inside of him. The sun was now low in the west; he’d be in the city by the start of dusk.

He stopped briefly and propped himself on the hood of a blue Corsica. He un-shouldered the backpack and unwrapped a Twinkie. His legs and feet ached despite the expensive trail boots he managed to scavenge up along the way. The sugar would at least take the edge off his weariness. He nearly finished the Twinkie when he spotted a box shaped object on top of a grime covered FedEx truck. It had a black object encased in its wiry frame. He grimaced as he set his weight back down on his souls and investigated. It was a crow in a trap.

“Can’t caw your way out of this one, huh?” It didn’t seem to care he was there, but another did. The curious one ducked as one swooped at his head. He stepped back down to the roof of the cab and watched for a few minutes. The furious flyer returned and this time made a pass over the cage. A twig with berries dropped on top of the enclosure. The prisoner jabbed at the twig until it passed through the bars.

The survivor envied the crows’ intelligence and capacity to survive and preserve. He went for the cage once more. This time he was able to reach it unimpeded and reversed the trap. The prisoner was weak and apprehensive.

“Come on little guy, you’re free to go about this hellish world.”

It did not budge.

The berries were already gone. He still had the last half of the Twinkie in his jacket pocket. He took it out and plopped it on the roof just outside of the trap. The prisoner cocked its head side to side, but still did not budge. He took the offering between two fingers and edged it inside of the cage only slightly. The crow opened its beak and partially opened its wings in defense. Then it lurched out and seized the offering.

“There, now was that so hard?”

The bird was not interested in what he had to say. There was a small shallow cylinder in the cage that looked only moist. He slowly dragged it out of the cage and hopped down to the road and searched for a source of water. He found a pothole along the side of the road that had collected the previous night’s rain. He filled the dish and returned as the prisoner finished his sweet meal. He replaced the dish and the crow hopped to it without protest. He lopped up the liquid and looked to the sky to gulp it down. The survivor watched the prisoner, bemused. The crow finished drinking and started to pick through its silk black coat of feathers. It seemed to be watching back as it fanned and ruffled. Finally it shook its head and began to hop toward freedom. The free bird now took flight and circled around the FedEx truck. It then met with the other crow and they danced in the air like dots of ink dropped in water. To the survivor’s amazement it landed upon the cage that imprisoned it. Without thinking he took out another Twinkie and the crow resounded with a caw. He tore a piece off of the sweet yellow cake and tossed it a few inches in front of him. The crow leaned down in anticipation watching the yellow fluff land. He hopped off of the cage and hopped once more. Taking the fluff up into this beak and tearing off bits with a foot.

It finished the next offering with a louder caw this time. Then it took flight and circled like before. The survivor wanted to try something. He took another piece of the Twinkie in his right hand. It extended out in at a slight angle and he called out “Here!”

The survivor wasn’t sure why he was doing what he was doing, but he didn’t care. For a moment the crow simply circled the vehicle with the stupid looking human on his knees raising an arm up to the sun. The crow landed. Wings fluttered clumsily and talons dug into the jacket sleeve at first. Then things settled and the man looked up at the crow in a state of guffaw. Astonishment and glee sure, but disbelief more so. Moreover he couldn’t believe that it worked and he wasn’t about to jinx it. The crow kept its wings quivering ever so slightly while the survivor slowly bent his arm inward bringing the crow to eye level. He measured the crow and the crow measured his hand, Twinkie still stapled between the tips of his index and thumb.

“Go ahead. Take it. It’s all yours, friend.” As if the crow understood the liberator, it sidestepped to the end of the man’s hand and plucked away this last offering.

“Good boy. What should I call you?” His voice was low and confident. “How about, Twink?” The name seemed to suit the bird since it seemed to adore the yellow crème filled cakes.

The crow cocked its head with indifference to the name. The liberator’s mouth curled up into a grin with the tip of his tongue visible. He moved his free hand to the bird’s back and lightly touched the hard silk. For a moment Twink did not react, but as the hand sloped down its back it whirled its head with protest and found a finger.

“Ouch, damn!”

Twink cawed wildly and quivered long black wings. Well that’ll teach me. A drop of blood trailed down the bottom of his index finger.

The crow lifted off and landed on some garbage the wind must have rounded up between two cars. Should he try it again? He watched for a time until Twink found something he liked. The black figure hopped along the littered pavement with a French fry locked tight in its beak. The arm rose toward the clouds again.

“Here!” He called out.

Twink stopped his hopping and arced wings. The next moment they were together again, Liberator and Prisoner. Both were survivors.

There was now only two football fields’ worth of road before they were within city limits. An orange ambiance gave away the sun’s escape. To the west it was beautiful, but that beauty was tainted by CDC encampments. White tents by the hundreds were stationed in a super quarantine facility. Now the tents were painted with red and most were torn to bits and folded in upon themselves. A few military Humvees parked on the outer perimeter of the camp, half of them charred to a crisp. Makeshift helipads were encircled by corpses; a rather large gun had cut the bodies down to nothing but twisted bony meat chunks. Limbs were scattered to and fro. The same story was told every single time. Those in power tried to control and maintain the outbreak, but it always ended the same. Someone would make a mistake sooner or later and the whole establishment went to shit. The marines would then lock and load and let the lead fly. Click, click, boom. That is until the lead ran out and there were still a few hundred of them coming. Then it was all putting their tail between quivering legs and pissing as they ran.

The black feathered ex-con perched on the survivor’s shoulder. At first he walked at a steady turtle pace until Twink became comfortable riding shotgun. Then it was business as usual, the distance between the two travelers and the cityscape shortened with every caw and footfall.

“Pass me another beer, paaaal.”

“You only get one.”

“To hell I do! Now hand it over, Johnny boy.” The man with a strong southern drawl and a red baseball cap tight on his head leaned forward.

“We have a limited supply and I’ll be damned if I let you fuck up because you got drunk off your redneck ass.”

“John, it’s only two beers, come on brother.”

A serious and strong face glared at the man opposite him.

“Whatever, but I’ll end you before you have a chance to get me killed. Understand, Dale?”

“Yeah yeah, Johnny boy, I gotcha.” The two made the exchange of beers on the roof of an apartment building. Pops and crackles of gunfire echoed over the city. A terribly haunting scream could faintly be heard. It dragged on in anguish until it finally fell silent.

“Damn, that one was a screamer.” Dale said matter-of-factly as he took a swig from the already half empty beer bottle. “Hey, we should check on Lando and see what his black ass is up to.”

John nodded silently and pushed himself out of the green lawn chair. He was incredibly graceful despite his tall and muscular stature. He looked like a lumber jack, wearing a plaid long sleeve shirt that was rolled up to his large elbows and dirtied blue jeans. Thunderous footfalls were generated by combat boots the size of Dale’s head. He reached for a small fold out table that sat in between them. A pair of binoculars was surrounded by empty beer bottles and 7.62x5 rounds, both empty and unfired. Leaning against the table was a Moson-Nagant rifle. It was polished and looked nearly new.

The lumberjack was now peering over a ledge to the buildings beyond the street. There was another apartment building opposite the one Dale and him were on. A façade of tin, bed sheets, and furniture littered the rooftop into a crude shelter with an overhang. Under it in the shade sat a black man fanning himself with a Maxim. John took out a walkie talkie from the chest pocket on his plaid shirt and keyed it three times. The magazine stopped waving and a scratchy voice broke over the receiver.

“Hey there Lumberjack, this is Purplehaze reporting in, over.” The voice crackled.

“Cut the crap, Simon.”

“Lighten up big guy. Just having a little fun is all.”

“See anything on your end?” John watched as the recipient stepped out from under the overhang and disappeared behind the shelter. A moment later the voice crackled again.

“Our little group is moving further down to Central, but the corner of Denton and Elrook is still blockaded.”

He looked down the main street and saw police cruisers and armored vehicles parked around weighted twelve foot gates. Cement barricades were in front of them and all around the entire thing was two dozen or so shifting figures. At the opposite end of the street a larger group was slowly shambling away from the area. They seemed to be attracted to whatever was moving the fastest or whatever was making the most racket. It was hard to predict where they would end up or if they were ever going to move on.

“I think it’s time for a little run.” Simon reappeared from around the shelter and put a dirty white shirt on and tied on some sneakers. He slung a green duffel bag around his shoulder and keyed the walkie again.

“I’m going shopping fellas, what do y’all want?”

Dale sat up from a lazy slouch wide eyed and blurted out “Tittie mags for sure!”

John sighed and responded. “Just anything that will last us, pal. You know the drill.”

Simon waved to John and departed the roof. Bird on shoulder, the survivor approached a twenty foot high stone barricade. Spotlights were mounted along the top of the slabs. Twink lifted off and flew to the top. He perched there and watched the man with beady eyes. An appliance shop with boarded up doors and windows to his right and a repair shop with three garage doors, all closed was to his left. They all had graffiti on them that he couldn’t read. He inspected the appliance store’s windows and found a loose board. Two rough kicks and the board fell to the way side and he climbed in.

Light rays seeped through the cracks in the boards. The place was in disarray, broken glass crunched under his boots and he tip toed around every household appliance imaginable. He found the doorway that had an Employee’s Only plate dangling by only one screw. Through it was a hallway that connected a bathroom and a lounge. First he checked the lounge for supplies and to his dismay only found two cleaned out vending machines and a small fridge that was just as empty. He used his Maglite to find the back of the hallway where the door to the ally was located. It was jarred shut by something heavy on the other side. Each time he pushed against the door it opened an inch more. He put his shoulder into it one final time and it finally opened just enough to allow him through. It was nothing more than a rusty old washing machine. He kicked it hard and it hurt him more than it hurt the block of metal. He carried on down the alleyway and emerged on the street that he was on before entering the appliance store, the barricade was now behind him and to his surprise Twink flew down to greet him, cawing the whole time.

“So you really are with me.” He grinned and for the first time in a very long time, he didn’t feel completely alone.

Simon was in a dead run. Nothing more than a flash as he sprinted for the grocery store. He’d made this trip only three times before. The first time he nearly got shot by the owner. He pleaded with the fat man for a time before they started to break into the store as Simon had. The owner wore a tan shirt over his round belly and a come over above bushy eye brows. A Mossberg shotgun in both hands and a mean streak. He cocked the shotgun and pulled the trigger. Ka-blam. One of them went down as its head popped wide open.

“Jesus man, you would have done that to me!” Simon exclaimed, crouched behind the service desk as the hot shell ejected from the Mossberg landed and rolled.

“Get out of my store or help me you damn fool!”

Simon did his best to help, but it didn’t matter. There were too many of them coming in to the small store and they were already cornered. He crawled around the counter and saw an opening in the horde, so he kept on crawling to avoid getting his head separated from his shoulders.

The blasts from the shotgun were deafening. Bloody bone fragments and what were probably pieces of brain rained down on him as he army crawled through the aisles. A box of cereal exploded above him and pellets pinged off the shelves. Now he was covered in gore and Fruit Loops.

“Oh Juheeezus!” He blurted out and quickened his pace, ass shuffling side to side as he went.

Poor ‘ol George’s shotgun ran dry. Regardless his finger kept dry firing as the horde drew in closer. Their moans hit a chorus and George turned the gun around and started swinging it wildly at the intruders.

“Get back you pieces of shit! I won’t go down without a fight!” And that was the last thing the proud owner of George’s Groc&Shop ever said. The horde grabbed him and pulled him down to the blue and white tile. He looked up into the mirrored bowl in the corner and watched himself being torn apart.

It was empty now and on Simon’s second trip he made sure to reinforce the barricade and made a little doggy door for himself that he didn’t think they were smart enough to go through. So far it has worked like a charm.

There were only five aisles in the store and two checkout counters directly to the right of the entrance. The courtesy desk where George met his end was at the back wall which was also where the bathrooms were. Simon was pretty sure there was one of them in the men’s john, but he didn’t want to fuck with it so he piled miscellaneous objects in front of the door. It probably wouldn’t hold, but oh well.

He filled the duffel bag full of every kind of canned good on the shelf. He also found a few packs of lighters near the registers. After his was done with his shopping, the bag was almost too heavy to carry, but he wasn’t too worried since the main horde had finally vacated the area between his apartment and the store. A thought crossed his mind and he acted upon it. He swung the duffel bag onto the counter top of the courtesy desk and nearly slipped in a pool of blood. A curse word or two later he picked up a blood soaked Mossberg. Simon whistled and stowed the shotgun away in the duffel bag and left.

The survivor and his companion stocked through littered streets. Television sets were broken on the curbs as if an irate girlfriend was throwing your stuff out the window. It was an urban rendition of the Mojave Desert. Regardless of deserts being the most desolate places one could hope to find, this beat all. Never did any place feel so empty and discarded. He would rather be in the middle of the Mojave right now.

More remnants of the effort to contain the outbreak were present nearly everywhere you looked. There were posters featuring what was either a dead woman, or one under anesthesia, wearing an oxygen mask and above the photograph in a stylish font read “Who did you infect today?” and at the bottom it listed the top five prevention methods. The real kicker was an entire building that resembled a spook with a giant sheet of plastic as a mask. Yellow tape that wasn’t police tape, but a rip off of sorts was torn and slouched against light poles. A gaping maw of plastic the shape of a tunnel stretched about 15 feet from the entrance of the structure. Near the opening it was torn to shreds and hundreds of tiny holes were punched through it. Blood spatter stained the entire maw and a heap of torn bodies covered up the hole like a sunken cave entrance. The survivor stepped through what had to be a few thousand empty shell casings.

A figure flashed in his peripheral vision and Twink exploded off of his shoulder in an anguished caw and made for the sky. He felt the wind of the blow against his cheek as he shrunk backward from the spontaneous threat. Metal cut through the cloth of his jacket just shy of skin. Quickly making distance between him and the attacker he stood poised to fend off another blow.

“Hia, give me all your shit, empty dem pockets and the pack on your fucking back, now!”

The figure was scrawny and black with soot and grime. Wicked teeth smiled between quivering lips. A hunting knife was shaking in his left hand. The man’s hair was thinning and it gave off a greasy shine in the sunlight. Twink cawed and cussed at the two figures, their shadows long against the pavement.

“The next cut ain’t gunna miss. Now hand your shit over.” The words were wet with saliva as a greenish tongue licked at a reddish mustache. The survivor stood there without moving. He kept an intense gaze fixed at the man’s face.

“You’re too ugly to be making demands.”

“What’d you say bitch?” You sounded more like jew and bitch more like bish.

“I want your shit, now motherfucka!” The man shook his head wildly as saliva stringed out of his mouth and arced through the air. “I’ll kill you for it then. If you give me your stuff now then I won’t have to kill you so soon. That sounds like a right as shit deal to me.” Hoarse laughter boomed from the putrid thing.

“You’re the lowest form of scum on this planet yet you stand before me and threaten my life. What gives you the right?” To himself his voice sounded frail and weak, but he was too tense to care.

The laughter stopped and he pointed the knife to his own chest. “Fuck is wrong with you? God gave me it. He probably led me to find this knife too. I don’t know what I woulda done without it. I cut so many fine ladies with this beauty.” It kissed the cold steel and cracked a smile.

A shutter went through the survivor’s body. The blood started pumping, he could feel it coursing through his head and pounding anger into it even faster than his heart could beat.

“Your goody-to-shits talk is killing my boner. You’ll pay for that!”

You’ll pay for that. The survivor replayed the phrase in his head.

The putrid thing charged screaming, the hunting knife waving madly above his head.

You’ll pay for that. You are nothing but filth that needs to be wiped clean.

It didn’t even take a second. Hands moved faster than thoughts and the gun was raised and ready.

Pop, pop, pop.

The putrid thing hit the ground hard and skidded forward on the ground. Empty clanks sounded from the three spent shells. The M92 dropped slowly, barrel emanating white smoke. Silence hung heavy in the air, not even Twink broke it. He holstered the weapon and breathed deeply.

“God didn’t give you anything.”

Twink returned to his liberator and found his shoulder. The bird was strangely quiet as if being respectful to the tension in the air. Anyone who saw the incident would portray it as badass and heroic, but the survivor shivered for a long time after. It was like that first fight in grade school, you didn’t really kick ass, but you put up a good one and came away with adrenaline still high and trying to escape through the fibers in every muscle of your body.

One of them appeared from behind a dumpster and three others followed it. “Time to move on, Twink.” They circumnavigated the shambling posse and continued on down the road. They repeated this dance of the dead numerous times, on occasion they had to take detours around walls of undead that aimlessly searched for some semblance of living flesh to gnaw on. It wasn’t too terribly difficult to escape them unless it was in a tight spot. He was picky in choosing his routes with this very important step to survival at the forefront of the decision making process. Maybe he’d write a book on it someday. If there were to be a someday that is. He figured it would be a best seller for sure. Or did someone already do that?

His thoughts whirled around in these lonely sessions of firing neurons. Regardless of the fact that surviving in this world was a full time occupation, there was a lot of walking and waiting involved and that meant all kinds of thinking. Even though he considered suicide a weak and pathetic way to go out, on a few occasions when times seemed to be at their worst, the thought of taking his own life was almost tantalizing enough to make him do it. Obviously it never broke him.

They broke through the outer barrier of this suburban hell. A clearing opened up to them after climbing up to an overpass. Beyond were wide streets and scores of walking dead. Buildings looked sorrowful in their abandon. Graffiti was on every surface you could see, spelling out anarchy and other pretentious words relating to destruction and death. Why even bother? There was only destruction and death. The graffiti was nothing but a speck of paint on an already defaced architecture. It wasn’t the good kind of graffiti either. Some artists were just that, artists. These were kiddie shit compared to the pros. Back then… back then, he thought and then laughed out loud. A startled Twink tried to keep his balance. Back then in New York graffiti meant something. Although his step-up job to his career was busting the kids who shook cans and ran. It kept him in shape and at most the only weapon they ever had was their spray paint. Once he tackled a kid who turned on him and sprayed some of the stuff right in his face. He resembled a member of the Blue Man Group. Everyone at the office gave him shit about it, but he was young then too, and he helped the kid stay out of trouble. He stopped with that thought lingering in the midst of his brain. I wonder where that kid is now. The question saddened him even though he knew there would not be any other answer but the one.

He shrugged his thoughts aside and slide down the grassy incline of the overpass, landing hard on the cement below. There were a few shops on either side, but the sun had vanished behind the cascade of buildings leaving the hordes of dead lightly shrouded. It would be easy to stumble into a mob of them and lose track of a way out.

His pace quickened and Twink embraced. The street broke off to the right into a much larger street. His side found the wall of the corner building, it was a post office. He slide along its yellowish cement shell and peered around the corner. A fairly large horde was making its way in his direction. Beyond that was a main street that seemed to go on forever.

“We need to move fast.” He whispered to the bird.

He broke from the wall and jogged to the opposite corner of the street. The closest bodies moaned at the sight of movement and shifted their trajectory in his direction. The rest of the horde followed while the stragglers hung back in a stupid daze. He waited on the sidewalk for the first of them to get close enough. The lead zombie jolted forward and the survivor juked around and arced back to the post office and then proceeded through the opening he allowed himself by drawing the horde away.

He relaxed a bit and slowed his pace down which made Twink stop fluttering as well. A quick look around at the surroundings revealed a good sized apartment building and a few side shops. The largest of which was George’s Groc&Shop. It was shut tight with large wooden boards. The shadows in the streets grew a darker shade of blue with each passing minute. Reddish-orange haze hung over the buildings in a gradient. He approached the small grocery store and stopped when he heard noise within its barricaded innards. He crouched down behind a vehicle and watched over the hood. Soon a wooded flap on the shop’s right side window clanked open and a duffel bag popped out. Gun in hand, the survivor watched, forgetting about the crow that was perched high on his shoulder. A moment later a dark skinned man with a tan jacket and faded blue jeans followed suit of the bag. He got to his feet and brushed off his front and as he reached down for the duffel bag the survivor spoke.

“Don’t do that.”

The dark skinned man jolted up right and raised his hands high above his head as he saw the man standing on the other side of a car, crow on shoulder.

“Who-who are you? Please don’t kill me.” His voice fluttered anxiously.

“What’s in the bag?”

“Food and stuff.”

“And stuff?” He pointed the gun from the man to the bag and then back to the man.

“Look man, I just needed to get food for me and my friends. We’re just trying to- what the?” The man lowered his hands half way and squinted his eyes nearly shut.

“Is that a bird?" Suddenly aware of Twink’s weight on his shoulder the survivor shifted his feet.

“Never mind that, what’s your name?”

“Simon. Look man I don’t want any trouble, I just-“

“Take me to your friends.”

“What?” The man seemed transfixed by the bird, but he kept his hands raised not forgetting about the gun. He considered the shotgun for a moment, then figured it was probably empty and besides by the time he got it out he would have a bullet between his eyes. “Alright, but only if you point the gun away from me.”

The survivor lowered the gun, but kept a finger on the trigger.

John gazed apprehensively through the binoculars at Simon’s sheltered roof. It was taking him longer than usual. Worrying wouldn’t help anyone and it certainly didn’t help himself so he sat back down in the lawn chair and attempted to relax his large frame.

“He’ll be okay. He got out of there when it was full of zombies and he killed like thirty of them. Or so he says. Although I never seen him with no gun.” Dale regarded while shoveling peanuts in his mouth.

John didn’t say anything. Dale was very optimistic in stressful situations, though it helped from the time to time, it was usually blind optimism.

The dark skinned man was marched across the street to the apartment building by the survivor. It was hilarious to watch the scrawny guy try and climb a fire escape with thirty odd pounds of groceries on his back. Twink flew to the top and perched watching them with intrigue.

“Seriously how do you have a damned pet crow?” Simon grunted as he hoisted himself up the metal stairs.

“It’s a long story and one I don’t trust telling you yet.”

Once they reached the top he confronted Simon with questions. It was a very exhaustive Q&A session that involved religion, what is your favorite color, and criminal records. This was the survivor’s nature. It was once his job. After making it through the Academy and finally being assigned to real police work, he only wanted to go higher. He wanted to be a detective since he was a child. The fascination started from reading all the inspiring tales of mysterious murdering maniacs being brought to justice by clever deductions and raw detective work. At the age of 25 he was indicted in the NYPD as a detective.

“Alright, you are alright with me.” The survivor holstered the gun and extended a hand.

Simon’s body slouched and he let out a sigh of relief. They shook hands.

Chapter 3

"A Detective Story"

“Nathan.”

“Yo, Nathan.”

Nathan’s locked gaze broke from the suspect sitting on a bench at platform 4A.

“Sorry, what?”

The man sitting in the driver’s seat shook his head and looked at him with disapproving eyes.

“Relax a bit, our friend isn’t going to suddenly vanish like Houdini.” Nathan agreed distractedly, taking a sip from his coffee. The cold late January air gripped New York on the outside of the black unmarked cruiser. His partner thumbed through a stack of photographs.

“Do you think this is the real deal?” Nathan asked.

“For what it’s worth, the FBI gave us these. This is the guy. No doubt about it Nick.”

Everyone called him Nick ever since the chief did. Nathan Nicholson was catchy and he knew it. Robert Mitchell was his partner in, well, justice. He had been in the business of detective work far longer than him and a lot of what he knew came from Robert. Together they had fried some of the coldest cases to ever hit the department. Nathan was always battle ready, never once would his guard go down. It was nigh impossible to escape his predatory nature. The few who were lucky enough to manage such a feat were quickly outwitted or outgunned. Most of all, Nathan was a survivor.

He’d taken bullets and dished them right back. It was a mobster who almost did him in. Not the new age modern I’m going to pop a cap in yo ass ganster, but a classic Italian Mafioso type. It was a high profile incident that netted him a spotlight in headline news. Detective Battles Old-Time Mobsters. Though he didn’t like attention, he was glad the article didn’t end with And Loses.

“Robert, Sammy is on the move.”

A bald man in a flimsy dark green coat, hands in pockets, got up from the bench and casually walked to another individual who wore a gentlemanly hat and overcoat similar to the ones Nathan and his partner had on at the time. A quick exchange took place seamlessly between their passing and both men departed in opposite directions.

“We’ll take Mr. Hatandcoat.” Robert stated as he put the car in drive and pulled a U-turn in the glistening steaming street. The target was walking at a brisk pace down the platforms to the entrance of the train station. Nathan applied the cherry light on the dashboard and turned it on. Robert gave it some gas and the engine roared. They flew up to the curb and pulled over. Nathan had the door open before the cruiser had even stopped.

“FREEZE!” He boomed as he drew a Glock semi-automatic from a chest holster.

Mr. Hatandcoat took off in a dead run. His hat departed from his head and tumbled down the sidewalk and landed in a gutter. Nathan holstered the gun and was after him, Robert in toe. Dodging and weaving, the marathon was on and Nathan was gaining on the target. An old lady was shoved violently aside by the perpetrator and Nathan yelled for Robert to tend to her.

The suspect skid and nearly landed on his face while trying to turn a sharp corner. Nathan was only a few yards away as he edged his body forward and spread his arms out. They collided.

“Hands out where I can see them.” Nathan had tackled him so hard the man was still trying to recover his breath.

Robert caught up to him, “The lady is fine.” he said panting. “Looks like you got him.”

Nathan rolled the cuffed suspect over and hauled him to his feet. “Get the car, Bob.”

“Right.”

It was interrogation time again at the NYPD headquarters. Carl Duvaul sat in a cold chair in the middle of a naked white room. He no longer donned the overcoat and his hat was probably on some homeless guy’s head right now. His face was scarped up and his chest hurt like a sumbitch. That cop hit him like a freight train and he wasn’t even that big of a guy either. Rather short actually. Five foot nine he figured, maybe not even five-eight. It didn’t matter, the feds had him and he was sunk. Perhaps they didn’t know the real deal and maybe they hauled him in just for the drug charge, but the more intelligent criminal inside of him who seemed to only show up when it was too late told him otherwise. They weren’t regular cops. Regular cops would have been the ones to haul him in for something as piddlyshit as a drug charge. These guys were more than that.

He ignored the large glass window behind him. The nosy faces that flashed by the little square window on the rooms only door were harder to ignore though. Looking at him and talking about him on the other side. Dirty and long fingernails clawed at his right arm, an uninvited draw back from tweaking. He could really use a fix right now.

The door opened and three men stepped inside. The first man was Robert Mitchell, the second was Nathan Nicholson and the third was some guy named Dario Manny. Dario was there just to witness, Carl supposed. He was the only one who was dressed in suit and tie. Not really the type to play the good cop/bad cop role in this dramatic crime story called Carl’s Cock on the Chopping Block. The other two he knew, especially the short one. Both of them had white dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up to elbows and their gun holsters hugging their upper bodies. Nathan was slim and toned while Robert had a bulging belly and a thicker neck.

Robert sat down across from Carl and set down a manila folder on the face of the table. He glanced up at Carl and then opened the folder. For some reason the man’s gaze scared the living hell out of Carl. Sweat began to speed down the sides of his head.

“Hello, Mr. Duvaul.” Robert was now looking at the contents of the folder and with a wet thumb, began to scan through the sheets of Polaroid and documents.

Robert paused on a photo of a handsome man wearing sunglasses. It was black and white, but very high resolution. This was the work of a damn expensive camera, Carl marveled. The officer slid the photo in front of Carl and leaned back in his seat and spoke.

“We’re looking for this man. We know for a fact, Mr. Duvaul, that you know this man and that you also know where to find him.”

Carl thought about bargaining off the drug charge for information, but he wasn’t even sure himself if the information he knew about the man in the picture would suffice. Also the gaze the bigger guy gave him wouldn’t stop piercing his soul. Nathan loved the effect Robert had on people. He could be convincing and terrifying all in one expression. He could kill you and make you laugh at the same time. A damn good detective Robert was. Too bad he let himself go, but they say that is what happens with age. Not to sound cliché, but the alcoholism didn’t help either. Nathan wasn’t the best handler of stress, but he considered himself under control and able to thwart off the need for such substances. It made Robert function better, but those late nights with too many shots were killing him. He also smoked, a lot. Another craving Nathan could barricade against.

“I asked you a question.”

“Y-yeah I know the guy.” Carl rubbed his arms. “I used to work for him, until I started on the heroin. He fired me.”

Robert’s gaze never changed. He already knew all of this, but he kept his chilling patience.

“Good, good. Now, tell me about this man.”

“Well, we all called him Jimmy.”

“Who is we?”

“He had other associates working for him besides me. There was a cook and a cleaner. Then there was another guy, but I only saw him when I saw Jimmy. He was big and wore sunglasses like Jimmy has on in the picture.”

Robert nodded and pretended to read some of the other documents in the folder.

“Alright, now who exactly is this Jimmy?”

Carl scratched his neck and wiped his brow of sweat. “He was very meticulous about everything. Keeping everything clean and straight, that kind of shit. I did the driving for him and on a number of occasions he had me pick up hookers.”

Robert’s left eyebrow raised slightly, but the death grip of a gaze held firm. “How many hookers and from where?”

“We got most of them from the Port. I can’t remember how many, there was a lot of pickups. I did that for like a year and a half. I think.”

“Did you ever see them again?”

“Nope.”

Robert nodded again and then slid the photo of Jimmy aside and began to lay out fifty five other pictures. Each of them featured a macabre scene of gore. The look on Carl’s face was no surprise to Nathan. He was nothing but a small time tweaker. This was a big time massacre.

After a winded discussion about the dismembered hookers, a name finally surfaced.

“Rachel Lee. She was, special to Jimmy. We picked her up a lot, unlike the others.” Carl shuttered every time he glanced at the photos. It was hard to look away from so many caricatures of horror. Each time he did see them, he wanted to hurl. And hurl he did. The room stank from the vomit, but everyone toughed it out and the men standing behind the glass window were getting a kick out of it. They were the lucky ones, but Nathan didn’t see it that way. They were going to check in on Miss Lee and find Jimmy before he could dismember another fifty hookers.

“One night, the last night I ever had to pick her up that is, she left Jimmy’s in a hurry and told me she wanted to go home and quick. This is about the time I started in on the heroin so I couldn’t have cared a shit about anything at the time. So I drove her to the spot I picked her up each night and she took off. Through my fucked up haze I could have sworn she was covered in blood, but I always figured it was just the smack doing the wack to my brain.”

Nathan stepped forward next to Robert. The gaze finally lifted, but only a little. Carl started again. “Shortly after that Jimmy fired me. He was very different too. Like a man who was on the edge and hanging by his dick.”

“Where is Rachel now?”

“Hell if I know, we always picked her and everybody else up at weird spots. Probably so the fuzz wouldn’t bag the girls. Her spot was different though.”

Maybe it was Robert’s finally lightened gaze, or Carl’s serious need for a fix, but he went ahead and haggled.

“I tell you only if you let off my drug charge.”

Robert was going to deny him and Nathan knew this. He put a hand on the table in front of his partner and leaned in toward Carl. “Sure, pal.”

And Carl told them.

When John spotted more than one person extrapolate from behind the shelter, he flashed out of the chair as fast as lightning and had the rifle propped over the ledge and aimed across the way. He peered through the scope and saw Simon and another man. The other man saw him and vanished. Simon had forgotten to key the walkie. He got it out of his pocket and turned it on and almost immediately the deep voice crackled after him.

“Just what in Lucifer’s hell are you doing, Simon?”

“Don’t worry boss, I picked him up along the way, or he picked me up rather. Anyway, he’s cool.”

John relaxed his grip on the rifle and set it back against the ledge. He then walked over to a laundry hamper that was duct tape crudely to a makeshift pulley system. He began to push the rope along the pulley and the basket slowly inched its way high above the street to Simon’s roof.

Simon and the survivor didn’t talk much. It was strange to have anyone to talk to in the first place and Simon’s attention was focused mostly on Twink. Simon and the bird stared at each other for a while until he said “It won’t stop looking at me, it’s creeping me out!”

“His name is Twink.”

“Why’d you name him that?”

“When I found him he was trapped in a cage. I fed him Twinkies.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out the box. “Here.”

They ate the cakes and watched the stars begin to fade into existence. Simon dragged a black object to the overhang where there was a coffee table, two chairs and a couch. Boards were propped against the door leading down into the apartment. A closed off section had a sleeping bag and some blankets and a lamp hanging overhead. He rummaged through a pile of items and procured some newspaper and a bundle of sticks.

“Where did you manage to get those?”

Simon was putting the contents in the grill that he had brought over. “Surprisingly enough there are a lot of trees around here. For a while the streets were pretty clear of the rotting so I was able to grab a bunch from down the street.” Simon lit the newspaper with a lighter. The warmth invited them in and they sat while Twink hid his head in a wing. A similar glow started to flicker from the roof where Simon’s friends were.

“What’s their story?” The survivor gestured toward the building.

Simon smiled “John and Dale. They were about as lost as you can get. I set up shop up here right as soon as the action hit my area. One day I heard a lot of gunfire. I was used to the military firing off all kinds of bombs and guns and stuff, but for some reason not so much as the police came by here.”

He took out a cigarette and lit it in the fire then pointed to the south. “They came down the street a few days ago, making such a damn racket with their guns. A whole lot of them were surrounding the fools. John and Dale probably put down at least fifteen of them. Still there were too many and there wasn’t anywhere to go, but I didn’t want them bringing them to me either. So I told them to get inside the building across from me because I knew that it had been condemned a few months before the cluster fuck.”

He took a drag on the cigarette and blew the smoke into the night air. “The zeds got in, but by God they made it to the roof and got the door barricaded. They don’t have a shelter up there though and no fire escapes to climb down from. So I send them supplies when I get them.”

The survivor listened with as much interest as a child hearing a list of toys Santa Clause promised to give him. To hear other stories similar to his was somehow comforting. High spirits was something of a luxury that had gone missing long ago.

Simon snuffed his cigarette and turned to the survivor. “Well it’s been a pleasure…”

The survivor wasn’t used to formalities and sat there for a moment before he realized what Simon was expecting from him.

“Nathan. Nathan Nicholson, you can call me Nick if you want. It makes no difference to me.” It did make a difference though; the chief was a good friend and a man he respected and looked up to.

“Well, Nick, I’m going to get some sleep. We got some work to do tomorrow. I got an extra sleeping bag rolled up in the corner there. Help yourself.”

They shook hands once again and both retired into the night.

It was around 9 PM that night when Nathan knocked on Rachel Lee’s door. The door opened and a petite pretty Asian woman stood there in a bathrobe.

“Are you a cop?”

“Yes, and you are Miss Ra-“

The door slammed in his face.

“You’re not very good with ladies are you, Nick?” Robert chuckled and stepped forward and knocked on the door. “We just want to talk to you about a man named Jimmy.”

The door opened again. “Come on in.”

They spoke with her for about forty-five minutes and left. She told them everything. Jimmy had raped her, beaten her, but he got careless and she got away. Then she got to the good part, exactly where he could be found and at what time. That time happened to be tomorrow around 11 PM.

Nathan awoke to a sharp poking sensation on his cheek. “Get-what are you-Twink stop it.”

Simon was still asleep and the sun was just cresting the peaks of the buildings. He took a box of cereal and ate out of it, throwing a few pieces to his feathered friend as he hopped around and pecked at them. Now I have an alarm clock that not only squawks, but pecks.

Simon talked in his sleep. Mostly something about a guy named George and a girl named Roxanne, something about George shooting her tits off with a bazooka. Oh well. Dreams are for the person dreaming them and no one else.

John was awake. He watched Nathan from afar. Then with the walkie in hand he raised it in the air and waved it a bit. Nathan went over to Simon’s things and found the device. He turned it on and said, “Hello, stranger.”

“Hello yourself, what’s your name?”

“Nathan and you must be John.”

“John Hamelton, at your service.”

They both took a seat, Nathan on the couch and John in his lawn chair. So close and yet so far away.

“So Nathan, how’d you get here and where are you from?”

“New York.”

“New York!?” John crackled loudly and walkie screeched. “That has got to be hundreds of miles away, son. Do you have any idea where you are?”

Nathan never really thought about how far he had come, he shrugged at the thought of going from New York to Chicago.

“It has been a long haul, one I prefer to keep behind me.”

John considered his words and felt great respect for the other survivor. “We’re not so different you and I. Wanna know where I came from?”

“Judging by your accent, I’m going to say Canada.”

“Correct.” The lumberjack leaned back and engaged in a bittersweet wave of nostalgia. Nathan wasn’t sure why John was so impressed by his miniscule journey compared to his.

“How did you end up in the US, John?”

“My wife wanted to move state side, so we went to Aurora. She had family in Chicago and so here I am.”

Nathan felt hot in the cool morning air, fog shrouded the skyline. Should he bother asking? He will ask.

“Your wife…where is she now?”

John didn’t answer right away. He only sat there with his neck resting on the top of the chair and gazed at the brightening sky.

“Dead.” His voice was a chilling calm that sent Nathan into an episode of shutters. He expected him to say that, but not so brazenly.

“I’m sorry, John.”

“We all have things we’re sorry about, but being sorry doesn’t make anything right.”

Nathan agreed. They sat in silence until Simon woke.

The weather was clear, the night was warm, and the operation was ago. Nathan and Robert were back in their car, watching the Karington building. It was a place for high rolling tourists and anyone who had money in general. Their target floor was number 48 and in it would be their primary suspect for the nearly sixty confirmed homicides they had been investigating over four years. The entire NYPD was in tandem with this operation and the task force assigned to the raid had the top officers ready to bust down the door. Nathan and Robert were to go in first. They were in dashing business-like suits and wore an earpiece to communicate with the Fireteam. The two men checked their firearms and holstered them from sight. They exited the vehicle and proceeded to the dazzling skyscraper towering above them.

They went up separate elevators and landed almost at the same time on the 48th floor. It was empty and they started to sweep the floor. They had made their way to room 153, a bachelor’s suite fit for a damn king. Nathan heard muffled voices inside. He also thought he heard moans and the unmistakable sound of humans fucking.

Robert keyed his earpiece and said “We're good to go on this end.”

He looked at Nathan and Nathan looked at him. They both nodded, firearms gleaming in both hands.

Robert swiped a card through the handle-reader and the red LED light flashed to blue and a small beeping tone sounded. “GO!.”

They flew the door open and rushed the room beyond. There were at least seven men seated around the room in the middle. Clear white couches were positioned around creating an arena for rape. Three men were on top of a woman while the others on the couch drank wine and snorted coke. They were eccentrically dressed and armed just the same. Their faces flashed surprise and Nathan yelled for them to freeze as he always did. They started for their feet and pulled out guns. It all seemed to be in slow motion as the large glass windows blasted inward showering the entire room in glass. It was deafening and confusion was a foe of everyone in the room.

Nathan and Robert ducked down behind cover while black armored men flew through the now open windows. The lights of the city twinkled beyond and the room began to explode. Gunfire boomed through the air and Nathan brought the gun up an over the cover and started picking targets. The three men fucking the chick were still at it as pieces of furniture and wood flew about the room as lead pounded from the guns. Nathan drew a target’s head into his iron sights and fired three quick shots and witnessed brain matter flower against ceiling. Robert’s gun was a higher caliber and it drowned out all other sounds. He wasn’t picky at where he shot since the men weren’t wearing any body armor so he blew holes in as many as he could before his clip ran dry. He exclaimed that he was reloading, but no one could hear.

A SWAT member dropped limp to the floor as a man came from a back room with an AK-47. He blindly lay on the trigger and the myriad of bullets punched holes in everything including a few of his friends. They were cut down and blood was the response. So much blood. Nathan thought as he threw himself back into cover. He was practically in the fetal position during the rapid firing of 300 rounds per minute. Another member of Fireteam rolled out of the way and raised an H&K MP5 and fired a few short bursts into the Hollywood sharp shooter. His mass buckled and the AK-47 clanked on the kitchen counter.

The suite was gorgeous and truly fit for a king, but now it was a killing field. The three naked men scattered and the women laid where they left her. One of them grabbed for a pistol and was shot dead. The others hit the ground and put their hands behind their head. Two of the remaining opfor were behind an overturned piano and were taking pop-shots when they could.

The room was incredibly quiet save for those couple of shots that wizzed to the far wall on the other side of the room. A man was screaming bloody murder and SWAT were yelling orders. Nathan ducked as a shot was fired in his direction. A puff of wall shot out.

“Flash out!” Someone yelled.

There wasn’t any sound as a black object flew through the air and landed behind the piano. Everyone braced and the blast made ears ring. Three SWAT members rushed the piano and lunged at the two men who were thriving around on the floor completely incapacitated. They cuffed them and called it clear.

“Alright Nathan, it’s time for you and I to get to work.” Simon invited Nathan to have a fresh shave which he took gladly. His beard made him look like a typical hardened survivor, but it was incredibly itchy and hard to maintain without the luxury of a trim and a shower every day.

“Just what kind of work are we doing?”

Simon regarded him with a smile as he duct taped some wood together and shoved them in the duffel bag. Along with them he threw in a bag of nails and two hammers.

“Got any duct tape on ya?” Simon asked.

“Yeah, a lot.” Nathan handed his stash over and Simon nodded with approval.

“Well are you going to enlighten me on this?”

“Most of the non-perishables are drying up from the grocery. So our time here is starting to come to an end.” Simon said with a depressing sigh.

“John and Dale can’t get off their roof, so we need to clear out their building before we can plan our evacuation.”

“I don’t like the sound of going into that building, but I suppose if there is no other way.”

Simon put a hand on Nathan’s shoulder. “You’re a badass dude, I can tell. And John is a badass dude, Dale is a lot smaller, but he knows how to shoot. And I can run pretty fast and hold my own against them freaky walkers.”

Nathan liked Simon and even though he hasn’t really met Dale or John, he wanted to help. This went against his code for survival. The code states that you don’t trust anyone and only rely on yourself, but only surviving wasn’t enough anymore. Having acquaintances was lifting and he didn’t feel alone anymore. Besides, he could stick with these guys until he got his bearings enough to continue on his own.

“Let’s do this.”

“First, we need to go to the grocery store. I found this little beauty there when I first busted in.” Simon pulled out a Mossberg shotgun that had blood dried along its length. “The shitter is that it doesn’t have any shells left and I suspect good old George has some more stashed somewhere in there.”

Nathan thought back to Simon’s talk studded sleep. Huh.

“Alright, so we get some ammo for this, maybe a few final supplies, then we head on over to our neighbors and crash the party.” Simon slung the shotgun over his shoulder and tossed the duffel bag at Nathan who really wasn’t ready to catch it, but did anyway with a humph. “You carry that, I’ll do the running.”

Nathan nodded and they started their descent to the street below.

Ears still ringing, the two partners stood motionless watching paramedics work through the gore. Holy shit. Was the only thing Nathan could think of to say, and he didn’t even realize he wasn’t saying it out loud. Nothing about that operation went the way he expected it to, except for the part where he came out of it alive.

“Good work, Nick.” Chief Reynolds said in a deep rhythmic voice. He shook Nathan’s hand. A military style hair cut topped off his head. A chiseled middle-aged face with very piercing blue eyes smiled professionally as pictures were snapped.

It had been three days since the Karington shootout, but it seemed like it happened only five minutes ago to Nathan. Regardless his emotions were impossible to gauge by anyone who didn’t know him well enough. Someone like his partner, Robert. Both were chiseled in the way of emotion and were able to shroud how they felt from the entire world. But when it all became too much, the resulting cataclysm was nuclear. Without anything to extinguish the flames like alcohol or pot, one with the emotional bottlenecking capabilities such as Nathan’s was apt to burn alive. Robert indulged in the alcohol and even though it calmed him and squelched the stress, it was only able to take off the edge.

Nathan liked the detonation. For him, the edge was where he wanted to be. So close to the edge that you were struggling to keep your balance. For this man, letting out a rage so hot and brimming with energy, was the greatest feeling he could ever hope to feel. It may sound masochistic, but when the fuse burnt out and the bomb went off, it didn’t go off on anyone else but Nathan. The rage was not anyone else’s fault but his own. So why should they suffer for it?

He knocked on Robert’s door. It was 9 AM, three months after the Karington shootout.

“Robert!” Nothing. The door stared back at him.

“You’re late, again!” This time he took out his cell phone and skimmed through his contacts and found Bob. No answer. He went around the side of the two story white house. Robert’s wife Carol left to take the kids to school and go to work herself. He found the rock along the side of the house and flipped it over. A brass key shined in the dirt.

Nathan went upstairs and found his partner in his boxers, passed out on a desk with several empty bottles of Scotch surrounding the drooling man.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

Robert didn’t move so he took the only bottle that had liquid left in it and poured it on his face.

Robert spit and coughed as he inhaled some of the liquor.

“Get your ass up.”

“Get your ass out of my house.”

“Why are you doing this to yourself? Carol called me this morning, you know.” Nathan lectured. “She has had enough.”

Enough. The word ringed in Robert’s buzzed head. Then he became angry and in a fit of rage swiped his large arms across the desk and sent glass flying against plaster.

“ENOUGH? I’ll tell you who has had enough, Nathan. Me! I bet you couldn’t guess that one now, could ya?”

Nathan said nothing.

“Every damn time there is just something that everybody has to complain about. Why can’t people just leave it be?” He began to moan as he put his head face down on the desk and covered it with his arms.

“Robert…”

He began to cry.

Nathan pulled up a chair from the living room and sat next to his broken partner. He patiently waited for him to finish what his mom once called “Letting go”.

After a time he fell silent and raised his head and looked out the window beyond his desk.

“Robert?”

“Yes, Nick?”

“You’re a good man. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Robert half laughed half sobbed. “Yeah, yeah. You too little buddy. I’ll call Carol and apologize, then I’ll meet you at the station.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of the paper work for the week. You can finish cleaning up your act. God knows there are enough bottles of Scotch.” He cracked an unsure smile. Being sympathetic was easy, but the whole cheering up process was a whole different ball game.

Nathan went back to his car and sat in the driver’s seat for a few minutes. Robert would be alright, but he’ll have to keep him up or he’ll continue to fall down. The end of his thoughts were drowned out by what had to be thirty or forty military helicopters flying toward the inner part of the city. Nathan marveled at the sight because it wasn’t something you saw every day. He turned the keys in the ignition.

Simon and his new partner, Nathan met little resistance on their way to their trapped acquaintances building. The entire establishment hadn’t been tended to for years. Weeds grew out of every crack in the brick walls and cement ground. The stoop was very uninviting. Leaves and garbage were stuffed in the corners. The door was ajar. Simon peered in through the opening and a hot musty rot of a smell slapped him in the face. He turned back out to the street and grimaced.

Nathan laughed at Simon’s misfortune and donned his trusty gasmask. I am so lucky to have this. He thought.

“I’ll go first.”

Simon didn’t protest.

Inside the blue light from the morning sun lit the side rooms just enough to see without a light. Nathan had his Maglite out and glowing anyway. To his immediate front was the staircase that led to the upper floors. To the right were the reception desk and a small waiting room. On his left was a larger room that looked like it was probably once a recreation area, but now it looked like a haven for junkies and pigs. Careful not to step on the debris that littered the entire surface of the floor, he checked the rooms and found nothing to be concerned about so he gave a muffled confirmation to Simon and began to ascend the staircase.

“Jesus ‘o Mighty Fuck.” Simon coughed out as plumes of dust were uplifted by their footfalls. The wood creaked under their feet and gave an eerie feeling to everything. “I wish I had a –“

Nathan stopped suddenly and jerked a finger toward Simon without looking at him. Simon was about to ask “What?” when he heard it.

Someone was shuffling around on the floor above them. It was faint and that made it even more eerie. They proceeded slowly and as quietly as they could this time. Light from the bottom floor windows started to fade as they got higher. Nathan damned whoever decided not to put windows outside of the rooms as well as inside, but it couldn’t be helped. The Maglite will have to guide them.

Nathan’s boot hit the third floor’s landing. He stopped and scanned the hallway, first to his immediate left and then to the right. Almost right in front of the staircase was one of them. It was standing nearly perfectly still with its back facing the survivors. Black locks of hair that were shedding off of a pale white scalp beamed in the light. It was wearing a blue plaid shirt and jeans that were torn to bloody bits. The right leg was virtually non-existent. Below the knee it was nothing but bone with tendons dangling off of it. Some of the gore was stuck in its shoe.

Simon’s wide eyes were the only thing you could see of him. Nathan shined the light away from the zombie and shone it on himself so Simon could see. He mouthed Don’t make a sound and put his finger to his lips then motioned for Simon to follow. He lit up the floor before him so he could avoid obstructions and began to move forward. He made it four feet before shining the torch back on the zombie and to his absolute horror, it was gone. It was like some cliché scare tactic in a cheesy horror film. Nathan almost laughed out loud, not because he thought it was funny, but because he absolutely couldn’t believe that the stupidest and most simple trick in those shitty movies actually happens. Then Simon’s whimper broke his stupor and he scanned the entire length of the floor top to bottom for the gimped zombie. The door labeled 3-E was open all the way, that is where it went Nathan deduced and felt rather childish and stupid. They moved toward the stairs even slower than before. Keeping the flashlight fixed on the doorway to apartment 3-E. Nathan made it to the stairs and Simon coward a few feet behind him. Suddenly he screamed and Nathan shot the beam of light to his rear. There was only a skinny blood encrusted white arm sticking out from room 3-E. The bony fingers held a death grip on Simon’s orange hood and Simon was writhing up and down with his eyes as wide as Jupiter whimpering. The look was the look of a man who truly thought he was going to die. Nathan stepped down two stairs and then lunged with his right foot outward and drove it into the arm. The brittle bone snapped with a crunch and the skin broke open. Dry bone marrow puffed out and the zombie fell down into the landing.

Simon was still screaming as he landed on his ass. The hand still had the death grip on his hood and it flopped down across his neck. Simon truly lost it as if the world’s biggest spider had just landed on his shoulder and he was the world’s biggest arachnophobia sufferer.

Nathan stomped his heavy boot down on the shedding skull of the zombie until it was nothing but mush. Its eyes were popped out and brain oozed out of every orafis. He stopped the frantic assault and grabbed the hand that held Simon and ripped it free and threw it into the darkness of room 3-E. Then he slammed the door shut and grabbed Simon’s upper arm and hoisted him up and put his face close to Simon’s.

“Get it together, are presence is well known.”

Sweat was pouring down black skin and saliva leaked from the corner of Simon’s mouth. His eyes were shivering in the whites and his lips trembled.

“Come on!”

“O-okay.” Simon responded in a whimper.

---------------------------------------------------

Damn these forums and their formatting. Yeah I know the detective back story portion needs to be completely rewritten. Thanks for reading.

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I haven't read it all yet, but it's pretty damn decent so far - one of the better earnest attempts I've seen recently to be sure. But while I like the general level of detail, in the first action sequence where he confronts the crazy old cunt in the farm house, I didn't exactly understand what was going on entirely. Had he shot her? Had she stabbed herself? No cause of the bleeding later described is explicitly mentioned. If you're trying to portray the chaos and confusion of action, you did that well but I also found it a bit confusing myself.

With the truck, keys in the ignition would most likely have meant that the battery was dead since in most automobiles at least the HUD lights will be on when the key is present, if not the interior light or possibly the headlight as well. I would imagine the truck not even hinting toward ignition when he twists the key, regardless of how much fuel is present. This is more nit-picky than the last and still somewhat up to personal preference, since there could have been gas which had gone stale or evaporated or a punctured tank or some such.

Still, it was overall good insofar as I've read it. Keep up the work. Just remember that if you find yourself embarrassed at things you've written in the past, you're still improving!

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I haven't read it all yet, but it's pretty damn decent so far - one of the better earnest attempts I've seen recently to be sure. But while I like the general level of detail, in the first action sequence where he confronts the crazy old cunt in the farm house, I didn't exactly understand what was going on entirely. Had he shot her? Had she stabbed herself? No cause of the bleeding later described is explicitly mentioned. If you're trying to portray the chaos and confusion of action, you did that well but I also found it a bit confusing myself.

With the truck, keys in the ignition would most likely have meant that the battery was dead since in most automobiles at least the HUD lights will be on when the key is present, if not the interior light or possibly the headlight as well. I would imagine the truck not even hinting toward ignition when he twists the key, regardless of how much fuel is present. This is more nit-picky than the last and still somewhat up to personal preference, since there could have been gas which had gone stale or evaporated or a punctured tank or some such.

Still, it was overall good insofar as I've read it. Keep up the work. Just remember that if you find yourself embarrassed at things you've written in the past, you're still improving!

Hey thanks for the feedback. The crazy old bitch stumbled into the living room and fell on the butcher knife she was holding, I'll make that part more clear in later drafts. As for the truck, most vehicles I thought don't suck energy unless the key is at least partially turned in the ignition. It could be different for certain vehicles. Never really thought about it. Also I was working off the assumption that the truck was still in moderate use by the farmer so the battery should be good, but the farmer just didn't get around to filling up the truck with gas.

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Awesome story bro, i have literally been reading it for hours and iv'e read the whole thing so far. it is extremely awesome and you should keep up the good work.

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