Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2-18-15 Writing Warm-up
11:33 AM

2-18-15 Writing Warm-up

2-18-15 Writing Warm-up
Artwork © David Paget, All Rights Reserved -
Story and Characters © Corey Blankenship, All Rights Reserved 
Brought to you by Four Fools Press: “Crazy Good Stories”

I hate crowds.

Crowds only mean trouble. I avoided grocery stores on Fridays and Sundays, knowing swarms would dogpile the aisles for the same selection that existed Monday to Sunday. I dodged town on the weekends when the nightlife clogged the roads with cars piloted by Captain Morgan. I sure as heaven owes no one a favor stayed clear of the big city on Black Friday. Funny that was the day crowds truly began to eat their own. You would think a dose of viral cannibalism would thin the crowds. The pandemic only made them less intelligent and less restrained, if that could be possible.

Which is why I hate crowds.

My hiding hole tucked amid the mountains proved blissful. I would have stayed there indefinitely, me and my faithful collie. Then a poor bastard stumbled out of the treeline, a harbinger that Rivendell would not last. Sure enough. He turned, then bit Molly. Then she turned, and my hatchet bit her. I burned the fool and buried Molly. Soon after, two more rabids crawled up the hill. I dropped them at the treeline. I almost had a hedge of bodies sticking out of countless pit traps when I decided it was time to move.

I burned the crowd of corpses and headed north.

The city loomed up before me, a crowd of huddled towers. I came only because the Arsenal was here. Having served my time in the Guard, I knew they had some pretty big guns. Maybe the magazine hadn't been wasted or demolished. The Big Man hadn't been keen on "crowd control." It's not PC to burn rabids. Nor is calling them rabids considered PC, but hey, I'm not one of those white collars hanging from the cranes outside the rabid hives they called "quarantines." No one made it out unscathed, except a few loners.

I passed a mangled helicopter, blood burnt into its shattered windscreen. The rabids had started out smart, or rather instinctively sneaky. Like a twisted fusion of Murphy's Law and a horror film, they turned at the worst moments without prior warning. They turned en masse. They turned and went straight for the jugular. That's why the military dissolved and this chinook smouldered on top of the barricade. I clambered inside to find what I expected. Ruins, weapons, and bodies.

And damn crowds.

Hefting my fireman's axe, I let the first camo-clad rabid enter true rest. I stepped over the guard's M4 and split another from scalp to sternum. Only a fool would fire a rifle around rabids. It draws crowds. Ten to twenty of them ate on each other, snarling and biting for another hank of flesh. I skirted the mob, slipping between Humvees set in defilade. The .50 cal tempted me to let out some steam on the herd, but I knew its magazines would be nearly empty. I charged toward the bunker with its surprisingly open door, upswinging to replace a third rabid's eye with my axe's spike. Thankfully the rest had fanned out of open buildings to hunt.

I'd hate to face a crowd in here.

The crypt stank of old blood and urine. I walked down the concrete stairs to more doors ajar. Apparently the initial fight went downstairs. Bodies lay everywhere, bloated and torn. I replaced my axe for my ash wood slugger. I exchanged home run shots to the melon for jabs with Sting. The machete eased up on my energy loss, though I preferred the bat's distance. A few corridors later and I found the door I needed. A brawny fellah with coal skin blocked my way. His stripes declared him a First Sergeant, while his name tape read Salem. And, as you'd imagine, he had the bloodshot eyes and foaming mouth of a rabid.

The bastard raised his massive paw and then barked out of his raspy throat. A corporal and private shuffled out from their nooks in the wall, where I presume they'd been eating on the fallen. I stifled a chuckle. Even in living death, First Sarge pulled rank. They had me at a disadvantage since I had Sting in my main hand and Ashy in my offhand. Never a good time to learn dual wielding than like the present. Well, except the past.

Private Luggin's leaped straight at me while Corpoal Half-Hand tried to flank in the narrow hallway. I swatted Private for his poor form, while Sting admonished Mrs. Nubs for chasing men with her wedding ring on. I retreated a few steps. Rabids can be as hard as opossums to take down if you don't destroy the central nervous system. I flicked Sting and slipped it reflexively into its sheath. Corporal came around first like a persistent bar girl, bone claws ready to plunge for my heart. I dropped her with a hammer swing, then shifted grip to uppercut Private Luggin's as he dove over her collapsing body. The two fell in a heap.

Then I saw the train engine of a rabid, Sgt. Salem, barreling toward me. His feint had worked and now I was going to pay. There wasn't enough tunnel to get off the tracks. My pack straps bit into my arms, and my chest burned. Great. My steam was running low while Senior NCO Feral spooled up. Tactics. Good to know a life of military training did the ol' man good.

Time for a hail Mary.

I dropped the bat and tugged Sting back out. Sgt. Salem was in my face. I dropped, presenting the carbon blade as I collapsed on my pack. The meat truck of a man fell with me. Reflexes kicked in as my pack crunched and I twisted violently, bounding with the momentum sideways. The motion led me out from under his beefy shadow and let him slap into the concrete floor. Sting glistened in the blue light of my chest lamp. The impaled soldier struggled to his hands and knees. I scrambled upright and grabbed for my axe.

First Sgt. Salem turned, my machete sawing with his labored "breaths." I still didn't know if they truly needed air. Blood bubbled from his chest wound and mouth as he tried to roar. Only a low gurgle spilled from his clenched teeth. He swiped and I swung. He broke my clipped-on tablet and I severed his high-and-tight from his shoulders. Heavy steam vented out of my collar as I wiped at my face with a rag. I had plenty of those in this mad world. I then picked Salem's pockets, and pulled out a heavy key ring. Bingo. Government thriftiness finally benefited me.

I collected my weapons and inspected my gear. I thanked the heavens I didn't crash into any spilled blood. Sting survived the fall, somehow, another miracle notched onto its legacy. When I finally found the right key, the heavy grey door swung open. Inside I saw high-stacked crates. Too bad the First Sergeant had turned before he could access the magazine.

Lurid signs with stark symbols marked each crate and canister inside the room. I selected a mask from the wall and donned it. The world shrank to twin dusky corridors. Even with the constricted vision, I noted that the arsenal had been depleted; some higher-up had been successful in an initial grab-and-go. I guessed poor Salem got the shaft of running clean-up. I pushed a rack toward the lift on the opposite side of the room, adding various pieces as I went along.

The hydraulic lift jerked and spasmed its way to ground level. I had a pretty cart of silver tubes. I crouched behind the load, axe ready. I dared not open my canteen until in the clear sky. Damn the fighting and work left me parched. No rabids lurked in the bunker. I pushed my load to the door and glanced outside. The orgy continued, and, as dusk crept in, so did more feeders. I would have plenty to test my theory. God, I hope this works, I genuinely prayed.

The sun set as forty starved-yet-glutted husks tore each other apart. They mingled strangled yelps from broken larynx with shrieks and gravelly barks. None noticed the long cylinder stained red by the sunshine as it rolled across the pavement. A light hiss whispered from its cap. Foam poured from the pack's mouths. I watched them wriggle and flop on the hard top. The spasms ceased as they stiffened. Silence pounced on their broken bodies. I felt solitude replace the frenzy.

I scanned the horizon through my fogged goggles. Heaven owes no one favors, but it can give them whenever it wants. An abandoned mosquito-fogger sat with its driver's side door ajar. I pushed my cart over to the truck. Lo and behold, the poor federal employee had the courtesy to turn and leave the key in the ignition. I dumped its tanks and filled it with nerve agent.

For the first time, I was ready to drive into town. I knelt on the concrete and rubbed my finger in an old firepit. I marked my forehead and then clambered up into the truck. It was Ash Wednesday. Perhaps I'd clear my town by Easter. I might even be able to get my cave back. I smiled at the thought.

I would give up my hatred of crowds for Lent.


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