Sneak Peeks

A little taste of published works, and works in progress

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     "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."
     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.
     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."
Stage 3 on Amazon

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Stage 3: Alpha

     "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. 
Alpha on Amazon

Arcadia Falls

    The sound was growing fainter, there was no doubt. But even though my own ears told me that whatever was making that otherworldly howl was getting farther and farther away, every fibre of my being screamed the exact opposite. It was my nerves playing tricks on me, obviously, and yet no matter how I tried to explain away the contradiction, the more certain I was that it wasn't my imagination. Some unseen predator was close by, growing quieter the closer it came. And with a sudden prickling at the base of my skull, I realized what a foolish thing it had been to return to the land that time forgot.

    I barely had time to get out the words, "I don't think……" when Roly suddenly spun around and aimed a finger back into the bushes. At that exact moment, something small skittered through the undergrowth at a distance, rustling the foliage. We both took a frightened leap back, but then the rustling stopped and we could make out just the faintest hint of a whisper of a wail, as if it were born on the breeze from a million miles away.

     "It's right frickin' there, dude….." Roly hushed, pointing into the underbrush and backing nervously away.

     At last, the wail faded to a mere breath, all but inaudible. We both crouched low and peered into the brush that had so recently been our hiding place, and as we strained to see through the undergrowth, there was a slight rustling deep within, and then the light snapping of a twig. Then the sounds suddenly stopped, and total silence descended. Whatever had been moving around in there had frozen in its steps, like a lion stalking its prey. We waited and we watched and we listened, and after several long moments, a single leaf fluttered, a low-lying branch stirred, and the rustling began again; slow, deliberate, barely perceptible.

     And then, all at once, there was a violent eruption from deep within the brush, and a shadow exploded directly toward us. We leapt to each side just as a blur of black tore across the gravel road between us, then the thing vanished into the bushes on the other side of the road just as quickly, and having found himself miraculously unkilled, Roly put a hand to his heaving chest.

     "Son of a….." he began, then his natural coping mechanism kicked. "Jeez, it was a rat," he chuckled, "Just a rat. A dirty, stinking, beady-eyed little….." but then the bushes moved again, and the last few chuckles died in his throat.

     Something was still there, far back in the brush. Not a rat. Something else. Something big. The rat hadn't been making the noise, after all. It had been running from whatever had.
Arcadia Falls on Amazon

Stage 3: Bravo

     With one final pat on Clancy's head and a cautionary, "Not this time, Clance. You stay here and watch our backs," Mason grabbed up the three empty jerry cans, Christopher took the metal buckets, and Alejandra led the way through the open door of the truck, across the cab, and out the other side. She flung the door open hard enough to bowl over a female echo, then she leapt down and finished the creature off with a slash through the skull. Addison followed and immediately joined in on finishing off the last two echoes, then they took up positions on either side to act as sentinels as Christopher and Mason emerged and sprinted across the parking lot.
     Mason picked one of the two trucks at random and tapped lightly on the fuel tank. He grimaced, swore inside his head, and scurried around to the tank on other side. He tapped again, shot Christopher a grin, and positioned one of the buckets under the tank. The gas cap was locked, but even if it weren't, there were better ways of getting at what was inside than sucking up a mouthful of diesel fuel through a hose. With a single thrust of his blade on the underside of the tank, the fuel started to trickle, and when he opened up an air hole on the top of the tank, it literally gushed. 
     The bucket was filled in seconds, and in a carefully choreographed move, Mason swapped the full bucket for one of the jerry cans, and Christopher lit off back to the Peterbilt as quickly as he could and spilling as little of the fuel as possible. Ten seconds later, he ran back with the empty bucket and sent Mason away with a full jerry can. Over and over, they took turns making the mad dash to Gloria, and when the gush of fuel slowed back to a trickle, they moved to the next truck and repeated the process. 
     The sentinels only had to act twice in those first minutes, and both times, the duty fell upon Addison. The first was a slow-moving echo, and a single blow from the Nut-Buster was enough to cleave its skull open all the way down to the bridge of its pert little nose. Then an alpha came charging in, screeching and clawing wildly at the air, so he wrenched the Nut-Buster free, took two light steps aside to let the thing hurtle past, and swung around backwards to catch the alpha in the lower back, just above the waistline of its little black cocktail dress. The creature continued to slash its perfectly-manicured claws even as it fell, but with a severed spine, it could only crawl along on its elbows, gnashing its jaws and snarling like a jungle cat. One final blow ended the noise, but then another sound took its place as three, then four, then five alphas appeared out of nowhere and came charging in from both sides.
Stage 3:Bravo on Amazon


      At first, he could see nothing. Then, as his eyes began to adjust to the darkness, dim shapes began to coalesce out of the gloom. There was something large and square at the far end; a box that he himself had stashed there that very morning, filled with a few of his more peculiar…..eccentricities. And behind and around the box were dust bunnies; aptly named, apparently, because they were everywhere! Idly, he wondered when the underside of this bed had last seen the business end of a vacuum cleaner, and just as idly, he decided that it may never have done. But then he started to make something else out, huddled up amidst the dust bunnies; something darker, more angular. Something he'd drop-kicked under there as a child, no doubt. A ball, maybe? Or a toy? He squinted against the darkness and tried to make out that single dark shape, and quickly came to the conclusion that it was too oddly shaped to be a ball. So one of his action figures, then. Hey, maybe it was even his long-lost Stretch Armstrong! 
         All at once, the prospect of reclaiming a lost treasure from his youth pushed aside all other thoughts, and he scooted around the side of the bed and reached under to claim his prize. But just as he was about to close his hand around the thing, his eyes finally adjusted to the darkness enough for him to see the thing for what it really was. 
      There, squatting motionless among the dust bunnies like a beast hiding in the tall grass, was the silhouette of a massive cockroach the size of a child's fist.
      He recoiled in horror and emitted an audible squeal, but at least he had the presence of mind to remember the mission. He brought up the can of Attack, aimed it directly at the filthy creature, and fired. 
           And now, the monster moved. As the first droplets touched its skin, it skittered to one side, but then the fog filled the entire underside of the bed,  and it reversed direction. And then it set about a frenzied dance, skittering through the dust bunnies in one direction and then the other, twirling and spinning in its desperation to escape. But wherever it went, the spray followed, and at last, its crazy dance slowed and it staggered back to the wall as the poisonous mist coated its entire body with a filmy white froth.
            "Die, goddamit!" Harold swore at the creature, "Just fucking die already!"
    The stench of chemicals filled his nostrils and stung his eyes, and he finally released the trigger, and as the heavy mist settled to the floor, he could finally make out the hideous creature huddled up against the baseboard, coated in a thick layer of bubbling foam. He could detect no movement from the thing, but just in case it was a trick, he gave the creature one more quick blast, and when it rolled onto its back and curled its hideous legs over its fat, bloated body, he knew for certain that it was dead.
Jitters on Amazon
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