Sneak Peeks

A little taste of published works, and works in progress

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STAGE 3

   

     "Doc, you said that some people made a break for it. Did you actually see Sarah get out? Did she say anything? Was she heading home? Was anyone with her?"
     Walker shook his head, and it was clear that he was fighting back his tears. 
     "Honestly, I don't know. We tried to stick together, but it was a mad rush. People were everywhere, running…..screaming…..dying. Once I closed myself off here, I looked out of the window and saw a group of people run into the parking lot at the rear of the building. I saw them from up here, watching them get away." He saw a spark of hope come upon Mackenzie's face and tried to fan it, "They got as far as the alley. That much I know. I'm sure I saw a woman with short blond hair. It might have been Sarah." He watched Mackenzie's eyes open wide as she drew in a deep breath of anticipation, and suddenly his tone was resolute. "Yes. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that the woman I saw was Sarah Cullen. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah got away, safe and sound!"
     Little Mackenzie curled her lips into a circle, and she squeezed Mason's hand hard.
     "Oooo, Mace! Did you hear that?"
     Mason threw his arm around her shoulders and drew her in tight. 
     "I heard it, Mack." 
     He shared in her enthusiasm, but he was regarding Walker with suspicion. The man was nowhere as certain as he claimed. He may have seen someone who might have been Sarah, or the whole thing might be a lie. But he wasn't about to deny Mackenzie her glimmer of hope. Still, the amelioration was dubious at best. Mackenzie's spirits were buoyed for the time being, but it only meant the fall was going to be just that much harder. 
     His concerns evaporated when the girl leaned into him and planted a delicate kiss on his cheek.
     "Thank you, Mace," she said sweetly, "Thank you for bringing me here."
     There was nothing for it now. The deed was done. Mackenzie was happy, and for now, that was enough. They would continue to take this journey one step at a time, and deal with the future when it came.
     "S'okay, Mack." 
     Mason patted the girl's hand and looked back to Walker, considering. What was to be done with the good doctor? He had an instinctive dislike for the man, but that was only par for the course. He had the same instinctive dislike for everyone.
     With a few notable exceptions, he allowed, giving Mackenzie's hand another gentle pat.
     In a normal world, he would have preferred to never see Walker again. But in this new normal, could he afford to be so cavalier? The man was a doctor, after all. Weak, absolutely, emotionally damaged, to be sure, and cowardly, most assuredly, almost to the point of impotence, but a man's lack of mettle didn't disprove his worth to Mason. In his book, there was absolutely nothing wrong with a timely exit at full speed with tail tucked firmly between ass cheeks, but even with that consideration in mind, a niggling little detail kept gnawing away at the back of his thoughts. When this man should have been either running or fighting for his life, he had chosen instead to withdraw completely, compliments of a needle. That showed more than cowardice. It showed capitulation; full surrender in the face of adversity. Still, with a full accounting of his own panoply of faults, Mason couldn't hold that single failing against the man. After all, how many times had he, himself, sought solace in a bottle? And Walker did acquit himself by attending to the immediate threat, and that couldn't have been an easy thing, especially for a doctor. 
     At last, Mason came to a decision, and though he tried to tell himself that it was a coldly calculated reckoning of the benefits of sharing the road with a medical man, he knew that it was really more a product of his lingering and damned annoying sense of morality.
     "You can come with us if you like, Doc. We have a way out if you want it."
     Walker dropped his eyes to his lap and considered for several long moments, then he released a heavy sigh and brought up the rolled cloth to lay it on the table.
     "I think I should very much like that," he admitted meekly.
     Mason gave the doctor a nod of consent, then he looked to the white cloth and flicked his head toward Mackenzie.
     "Leave the drugs behind, Doc. I don't mind a little recreational chemistry, but I have to draw a line."
     There was a long moment where Walker stared at Mason uncomprehendingly, but then he understood and forced a chuckle.
     "No, no, no, you have it wrong. Like I said, I'm a coward. This was going to be my escape." He unfurled the cloth and let the vial clatter to the table. "Look, see? Propofol. An easy transition from this world to the next. No pain at all. Just…..…oblivion."
     Mason couldn't help but scoff. 
     "A bullet's faster, Doc."
     Walker glanced down at the gun on the floor and shrugged. "And if I'd had one, I'd have used it, believe me."
     "That's too bad," Mason scowled his disappointment, "I was hoping you had a few extra clips."
     Even as he said the words, a dark shadow passed through his thoughts. It was like the first vague tickle of a notion; a notion far too horrible to imagine.
     "Sadly, no," Walker said. "I saw that poor policeman's gun on the floor and grabbed it as I ran. I'd never even held a gun before. I don't know what I was going to do with it, but it seemed right to take it." 
     The tickling persisted. The shadow was growing darker. But it couldn't be. It just couldn't.
     "I saw the cop," Mason narrowed his eyes, "and the empty holster. The spare magazines were gone, too. I assumed….."
     He let the words trail off, and studied the man. What Walker said next would either allay Mason's concerns, or give full life to that dark, dreadful thought.
     "No," the doctor scowled down at the pistol, "Like I said, things went bad quickly. I guess the poor officer did all he could do. The gun was empty."
     Shit.……
     Wrong answer.
     Just then, Mackenzie's hand gripped Mason's hand like a vice. She gasped and stared wide-eyed toward the doorway.
     "Doc," Mason felt his blood run cold, "Without bullets, how exactly did you attend to your patients?"
     Walker shrugged and rolled the vial in his hands.
     "Propofol is quick and painless. They didn't suffer, I assu—.…." 
     Something clattered to the hallway floor beyond the break room, and they all jumped to their feet.
     Christ!
     Mackenzie clung to Mason's side and hushed a firightened, "Mace……."
     Mason threw an arm around her shoulder and bent to whisper in her ear, "I know, Mack."
     Another crash. Far down the hall. 
     "I don't understand," Walker peered toward the open door with widening eyes, "They're all dead, I assure you. Every last one of them. I'm a doctor, for chrissakes!"
     Something metal clattered to the floor close by.
     "W-who is out there?" Walker stammered. "W-what is it?"
     Mason turned a steely eye to the doctor, and his words fell in a hush.
     "Doc, welcome to stage three."
   
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Stage 3: Alpha

Cover Reveal Coming Soon!

   
"Maybe we shouldn't keep running. Maybe we should hunker down and wait for help."

Lucy glared at him. 

"Hunker? Wait for help from who, Jim? The police, maybe? Don't you realize that the last cops in the city were torn to pieces right in front of us."

"Someone said they saw the governor on TV before the power went out," Jim grasped desperately at straws, "He was declaring a state of emergency and calling in the National Guard."

Just then, a pair of figures appeared from a doorway far down the block. It was a man and woman; young, frightened, dressed in mismatched clothing as if they'd thrown on whatever was at hand before fleeing into the streets. They moved furtively at first, bent at the waist and tip-toeing cautiously. The man was in the lead, guiding the woman along with their hands clasped tightly together. The woman's head was on a swivel, but her eyes alit on nothing. She was obviously blind, and being led by the other. But if the man still had his vision, he was doing a piss-poor job of leading them to safety.

Jim Lambert made as if he were about to call out to them, but Lucy clamped a hand across his mouth, said, "Don't you fucking dare!" and all he could do then was acquiesce with a horrified nodding of his head.

The man and woman took several wary steps across the sidewalk, then they stopped so the man could assess the wild creatures all around them. He leaned close to the woman and whispered something in her ear, and she gave a scared little nod and allowed herself to be guided toward some perceived safety on the other side of the street. Maybe they were making for the apartment building across the way, Lucy conjectured. Or maybe the man's car was parked against the far curb. Or maybe, she considered grimly, just maybe they wanted to be anywhere else but where they were. Either way, they didn't get far. As they stepped off the curb, they came too close to an overturned garbage can, and the woman's foot inadvertently sent an empty beer can skipping and skidding across the pavement. And all at once, every creature within twenty yards rushed at the sound, growling and snarling like wild animals. The young couple tried to retreat, but the woman tripped over the curb and fell to her knees, and when she cried out in sudden shock and pain, she effectively sealed their fates.  

The alfas were on them within seconds. One of them thundered into a parked car and was stopped short, but a big man in bloodied suit and tie all but collapsed on the woman in his frenzy. He clawed his way up one leg until he was on top of her, then he tore her blouse away in a stroke and began to claw away great swathes of pale, white flesh. When the woman's screams died away in a wet gurgle, her companion tried to run, but two others descended on him before he'd taken a dozen steps. They were a slim-built male and a little girl no older than seven, but the virus that fuelled their madness gave them both the strength of lions. The male raked his claws at the sound of the man's footfalls and managed to grab a handful of jacket. The man squealed in terror at the touch and spun around to throw feeble punches at his attacker, but then the girl crashed into his legs, howling and clawing and gnashing her tiny, perfectly-white teeth, and the poor man tumbled awkwardly back. He flailed away at each of them in turn as he fell to the ground, but he may as well have been fighting the wind. As his shirt rode up to reveal a bare crescent of skin, the girl sunk her dainty little teeth into his belly, and soon enough, all that remained of the man was a widening pool of blood. 
   

Arcadia Falls - Coming Soon!

   

     "It's the thing!" I shouted wildly as I began to climb awkwardly to my knees, "The thing from Old Town!"
     "Ya think?" Roly howled.
     There was a heavy thud against the door that sent Roly scampering across the foyer on his backside.
     "Christ, dude!" He screeched.
     Another thud, heavy enough this time that the door shook in its frame. 
     "It's gonna get in!" Roly was near panic, his eyes as wide as saucers and his flesh as white as chalk, "It's after us! It knows we know, and it's gonna kill us! Christ!"
     I threw my weight against the door just as another thud! rocked it in its frame. I was sent reeling back, but I recovered myself quickly and scrambled back to press my body against the door.
     "Good God!" Roly howled, "The windows!"
     The thought had already occurred to me, but I was too frightened to say the words. What would be the point anyway? If that thing was massive enough to shake a strong wooden door in its frame, what chance was there that any of a dozen double-paned windows would stop it?
     Roly launched himself into the livingroom and ran around like a crazy man, locking windows, throwing curtains closed and drawing blinds. It was a futile effort, but I abandoned the door and joined him, and we both rushed from window to window, shouting and cursing in near panic. When the last window was seen to, Roly dropped to his knees, gripped the hem of the curtains in an iron grip, and laid his head against his fists, crying, "Please, please, please, just go away!"
     It was a wasted effort. One good lunge against the glass and it would be in. My parents would return home to find windows shattered, the house in disarray and their son gone. And before they'd even begun to wrap their heads around the mystery of my disappearance, they'd forget I even existed. A month from now, they'd see a picture in the family album and wonder, who's this kid?
     Suddenly, the rage returned, and all I could think was Hell no! I wouldn't be erased! Not without a fight! But I needed a weapon. Something better than a rock. I ran a feverished eye around the livingroom, looking for anything I could use. A lamp, maybe? A chair? No. What I needed was a real weapon. A gun, or a sword, or a knife….. Wait! A knife! There was a block of good, strong knives sitting on the kitchen counter. Tempered steel, honed to a razor's edge. Not exactly the weapon I would choose in a battle to the death with a monster from the deepest circle of Hell, but better than nothing at all. 
     I climbed to my feet, left Roly in a huddle on the floor and ran into the kitchen. There was a back door there, and even though the deadbolt was locked, I took a second to secure the chain. Then I ran to where the knife block sat beside the kitchen sink, and my heart rose into my throat. The window above the sink was wide open! Desperately, I threw myself against the counter and grabbed at the window, and barely had I gotten the thing slammed shut when something dark and heavy thudded against it. The glass shook with the strength of the blow, but it held, and I was left goggle-eyed as a single black appendage writhed like a snake against the opposite side of the window. The vile thing was as thick as a man's leg and covered in short, black bristles, but it danced delicately around the very edges of window as if feeling for the opening that had been there a moment ago. Then the hard, double-clawed tip of the thing reared back and rapped on the window, and I was sure the glass was about give way, but the unseen creature reaching up from below appeared to be more confused by this invisible barrier than intent on smashing through. 
     I grabbed the biggest knife from the block and leaned hesitantly over the sink toward the window, but all I could make out in the pale moonlight was a black mass huddled against the side of the house. Then the appendage started to dance excitedly against the glass, and I realized my folly. I fell back from the window, but too late. The creature had seen me, and now it reached up a second limb, and then a third, and I watched in horror as the huge bulk of the creature began to rise up like a dog rearing back on its hind legs. A dark, amorphous shape loomed slowly up out of the shadows, and when the face of the creature appeared beyond the glass, it froze the blood in my veins. 
   
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