Episode 50: Warning: Graphic Content Well, fans of good zombie novels on the web and those who enjoy free online apocalypse fiction - time to wrap up Year One of Maple Leaf Zombies, Terrifying Tales From Canada. We hope you're enjoying our free zombie web book and we'll have more in store for you! Be sure to share and recommend our directory page from our newspaper publication website - http://www.delta-optimist.com/maple-leaf-zombies - Read at your leisure, no downloads or sign-ups required like a typical Ebook. Also be sure to check out our fun Maple Leaf Zombies social media pages where we discuss and share all things in the world of zombies, horror and sci fi, comics, artwork and pop culture. OK, now that we squeezed in one last plug, let's get right at it........
Let’s get back to Leo who just completed his little torture session. Finishing Rodney was remarkably easy, too easy, even for the others who are beginning to realize what they’ve become.
As he heads to the stairs he's intercepted by one of the colonists, a survivor White picked up at that casino. This chap is Carter, who, until now, has been noiseless. He’s a six-foot-eight human eclipse.
They're soon joined by a downcast White. Carter seems impatient and eager to talk.
"Hey, there, Leo, you finished interrogating that Rodney guy? What you do to him? He dead? The whole group heard about it!"
"What do you think? Why bother even asking?" scoffs the dude.
"Listen, I wanted to talk to you. I have an idea, something, you know, that could save us all," promises Carter.
“OK, let’s here this,” answers Leo.
"Umm, well here it is," continues the tall man, seating himself on the stairway. Leo sits beside him while White remains standing.
"Before Tim found us, me and my wife moved around a lot. I was with another group before this and we ended up in a war against these neo-Nazi skinheads, and those goofs took no prisoners….”
Leo interrupts, snapping at Carter to get to the point.
“Before all that, I was in the military, see. I was stationed at a missile launch facility, you know, a nuclear missile silo, out in the country. Things happened so fast, people getting sick and the dead rising and ripping everyone apart, craziness. I was supposed to go back and remain at our station for further orders but me and the rest of the crew powered everything down and took off, look for our families and take em' back. Got my wife but we didn't get back. Rough out there."
Intrigued, Leo raises his head and begins rubbing his coarse beard. "Hmm, all right....go on."
"I can get us back in there. Power things up and change a few settings. The satellite link is probably still working, so we can get new coordinates and send that missile mother straight for the monastery. We're far enough away from the blast zone. It could work. Would need a couple of guys to help but I think I can do it."
White is aghast. Is this guy really serious? Launch a nuclear bomb? Even thinking about it is making him disjointed. Are they really that scared, that desperate? It’s true that a drowning man will grab even for the point of a sword. But this is beyond mildly ludicrous, entering into absolute insanity. A nuke, really?
"Are you serious buddy? That's insane! I know this world is making everyone a bit nuts but that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. What are we talking about?"
Annoyed, Leo doesn’t want to hear White's indignation. The gruff leader is liking this idea, so much so his blood feels like it's starting to itch.
"I want to hear this, Tim. You know that I'm going to destroy the cardinal and that whole damned place. We're far away but one day, maybe not tomorrow, but one day they'll find us. We've got some guns, we've got some ammo, but not enough. They send a few thousand dead things on us and there's no way we can stop them. My boys won't be cattle for that Hagstrom or the cardinal."
"Just wait, listen to what I have to say..." White interrupts in disbelief Leo is gobbling this up like a chocolate eclair.
"No, you just wait Tim," Leo commands.
"I'm going down there to destroy them, but you heard what that sucker Rodney said. They've got thousands of dead things guarding it. They've got way more guns than us. They're stronger than us. Beth, she was in the army, said she did munitions. It's perfect for me cuz I was planning to blow that place up. I'll take her and a few others, find a helicopter, find some explosives, maybe mining dynamite, and drop a big piece of crap of that place. It's risky, might not make it, but it can work," forecasts Leo.
But if we don't come back by a certain time, OK, I want you to go with Carter and nuke em'. I mean it. Leave Fred in charge around here and nuke them all."
White sighs, asking Carter, "Don't they have all kinds of procedures, safeguards against some nut taking over one of those silos and starting nuclear armageddon?"
"Sure they do, but I know what we need to do to get launch sequence. The codes haven’t changed since the world ended. Just need a couple of people to come with me," assures Carter.
White puts his hand over his mouth and begins pacing in circles nervously. "You sure that would work? You could do this and we all remain in one piece?"
"Absolutely not," replies Carter in a sarcastic tone.
Leo and Carter shake hands as if they just pulled off a highly lucrative business deal. The FBI guy reluctantly joins them. He needs to take a walk but knows it'll do little to clear his head. Damn it. This is so crazy, so enormous. If they go this route, their future and the already busted world is further irrevocably altered.
When the dude reaches the top of the stairs he’s met by Patricia, who’s holding both his kids by the hand. He only offers a knowing glance and moves on.
Meanwhile, at the monastery, the cardinal, Hagstrom, Archie and Kate stand in a guard tower silently watching the thousands of sickening plague monsters that surround and guard the complex.
Hagstrom removes his robe and is completely naked, while the others remain silent, not perturbed in the slightest. He smiles and dives backward into the sea of rot, many obedient hands catching him and keeping him up. With arms extended the maniac is body surfing, apocalypse-style.
This is a paradise and no one will take it away from him. He won't allow it. The empaths eventually begin a lively conversation but don’t open their mouths, having mastered their telepathy. Soon, they'll summon all the minions from all the ghost cities to form the most unfathomable army that's ever walked the planet.
Hey there’s more, something ghastly. From the dried forest several huge beasts, burning red balls for eyes and reaching heights of eighteen feet tall on their hind legs, quietly appear. The mutants meander to the fringes of the decomposing crowd and sit compliant, looking up at the smiling blood suckers.
Resembling something between a hyena and grizzly bear, and having extra-long, razor-sharp fangs that seem like overkill, the creatures are also under the control of the cardinal and his kind.
After the undead slowly lower him to the ground, Hagstrom approaches one of the monstrous things and strokes its head as if it’s a loving, loyal pet. Obviously, this even more bad news for the warm-blooded, very bad.
Archie turns around and looks down into the compound to see recently acquired faultless twin boys, probably no more than ten years old, being escorted by a pair of armed priests to the mess hall which has been converted into a blood bank. He smiles and, through dizzying telepathy, informs his colleagues in reverie, “I used to know identical twins. They were similar in every way, except appearance.”
The others frown and look at each other, recoiling at what kind of oddball they have in their fold.
A couple of days later things are quite in the dome. Everyone knows just how real and close the threat has surfaced. If it wasn’t for Leo and his brutal ways they’d all be cattle.
The dude has been walking around the complex as if he just won a pushup contest at Muscle Beach, the only one who doesn’t seem frightened as he prepares for the attack.
Lately he's been thinking about his good buddy, the personable Archie. He can’t be one of those demented blood sucking fiends. Leo’s pal, a shiftless man of leisure who loved his marijuana almost as much as his fishing trips, and looked rather pelagic himself, was so lovably odd, saying or doing the most eccentric things, such as drinking gravy out of a buffet pan at formal parties. What kind of nefarious, unredeemable creature has he become?
Agent White visits Leo who's sitting relaxed on a bed sharpening a hunting knife. Smells like Bengay in here. The dude recently completed a lesson on the intertwined, interconnected nature spirituality to a half-dozen eager young men, including a wide-eyed Eric, who left his room feeling as though they just met a rock star.
That look in several of the young disciples' eyes, the beginnings of a maniacal reverence for their new holy man. White has seen this before in his days with the bureau, having to take on doomsday cults that needed to go down. Then again, were those nutjobs really all that wrong?
His hands in his pockets and leaning against the door, White asks the dude if they should consider evacuating.
Leo sighs and looks at him.
“To where? Listen, my friend. We can keep running and running, or we can stay and fight, hold our ground. Our best chance, obviously, for making it is not out there, but in here. Those freaks gotta die anyway.”
White is amazed at Leo’s brazen clarity, confidence and sense of purpose, even though the mood here has certainly taken a big-time shift. Seems everyone is feeling desperate, and some are talking about running away, but Leo remains the cool-as-a-cucumber force keeping it all together. He has all the answers.
“You still want to go through with Carter’s idea, you know, if it doesn’t work out. If you don’t come back? There’s got to be another way, no?”
Leo stands up and grins, “Nope,” and pats the FBI man’s shoulder.
Then, a question out of left field to Leo, literally. White's not even sure why he asks it.
"You ever play baseball? Don't know why I'm askin' it. Just seems to me you used to. I loved the game, everything about it. Don't know if I'll ever see another."
Leo chuckles, having already completely forgotten about Michael but now recalling his same query.
"A little, I guess. But that was a long time ago. I was different then."
The dude reaches for a bible on the table next to his bed and gently rubs his finger on it. Next to the good book is a bottle of hand sanitizer and a half-eaten jar of orange marmalade.
"Tim, there's much to do, but when I'm done there's much for these people, the chosen left here on this new earth, to learn. I’ll teach them, my people delivered to me by the man upstairs. And this thing with the bomb, it's a holy thing, you know."
White doesn't say a word. Problem is, what other choice do they have?
The dude’s face suddenly forms that scary scowl.
“There’s one more thing before we go. Get Fred, Keron and Seth and find Vic. Put you skates on. Everyone meet me up at the roof of the admin building in twenty minutes, got something else to say.”
A short while later and just as he ordered, Keron, Seth and Fred stand anxious with arms crossed on the rooftop. Leo is also there but Patricia somehow heard of this impromptu meeting and also joined. Leo keeps shaking his head, preferring she wasn’t around for this little confab. Nobody says a word as they wait for Vic who eventually arrives with Jules.
Perplexed, Vic, who was supposed to accompany Leo on the upcoming mission, asks what’s up.
“Just wanted to say I know, know everything. You think we’re stupid, right?” Leo grumbles.
“What the hell you on about? What’s your malfunction?” Vic counters. “Don’t have time for this bull. Say what’s on your god damned mind already!”
Leo pulls the map from his overall pocket, the map Rodney had been preparing for his masters. Bring the dead here and take everyone away!
“I was wondering what happened to this. Found it in your bag. You were taking this with you, huh?” alleges Leo.
The others are flabbergasted but remain silent.
Vic angrily points at Leo, shouting, “You, you put that there. I didn’t do anything! What the hell is this?”
“I’ll tell you, tell ya what this is you piece of garbage! Planning to cut a deal, eh?” the accuser hollers, turning to wave the map at the others. “You were going to cut a deal with those freaks when we were gone, kill us and deliver our location to our enemy. Looking for the good life but that ain’t happening for you!”
Vic also turns to the others but is momentarily lost for words, so he raises his cane to profess his innocence.
Like a lightning bolt, Leo charges at the condemned who manages to take one wild swing at the dude. Leo blocks it with his forearm.
Then, he tackles the stunned Vic around the waist and hoists him over a shoulder in an impressive display of brawn. Next, Leo runs to the roof’s edge and throws Vic. Down, down, down, splat! No more beloved Canadian icon.
What the hell? It all happened so fast, too fast for the others to do anything, let alone react and even try to stop it. Vic….a traitor? Thank god Leo figured him out too!
“I can’t believe it, him too?” laments Fred.
Leo puts his hands back in his pockets and slowly approaches the others.
“Yes, him too. Sucks, I know. I’m just glad I figured it all out before it was too late. Now get someone to clean that mess up. We’ve got to get ready, leaving in the morning for the mission.”
“Rodney, he said they have all these abilities, powers, they know you’re coming. Have the place surrounded with plague monsters. What’s your plan?” Keron wonders.
“Simple. We’ll blow them up. Let’s get downstairs and I’ll explain it all to you, my friends. You’re my family and I won’t let anyone to hurt my family,” Leo answers.
It’s all the assurance they need and somehow he makes it seem all the more possible by how he says it.
As the others begin to head back, Patricia, who didn’t seem fazed one bit by the latest execution, asks Leo to stay behind for a minute. When they’re gone, she confronts him. She knows Leo won’t hurt her…never.
“Rodney, I believe he was bad, going to turn us in to them, but Vic, I don’t think so,” she says in low, firm tone. “Leo, I won’t say anything to the others, but you set him up, didn’t you? Why?”
Rubbing his beard, Leo grins and looks up at the rumbling sky, not at all unsettled Patricia had him figured out.
“You’re right, Pat, I set him up…had to. Didn’t trust the guy, not one bit. If push came to shove, he would have sacrificed the whole colony. Don’t ask me how, I just know. Besides, this also puts to bed any doubts who should be running things around here.”
Patricia clears her throat and approaches Leo, taking his hand to reassure him she’s on his side.
“I’ve seen a lot of terrible things, what people can do. Evil stuff. You’re being strong for the group, I get it. Things are so terrible now, we need someone like you to protect all these people, all these kids. I get it, really.”
“I’m glad. I’m really glad you understand,” a cavalier Leo returns.
This one can hold her own against him, Leo assesses, so he'd better keep on his toes around her.
“And, well, another thing. You should know, I want you to know. Olivia, I had her killed. I got Mike and Vic to go out and find her when she ran off. They found her all right and did what I told them to do. Can’t have her getting caught by those blood suckers, those freaks, and leading them right to us. Told Mike and Vic to keep it quiet. Are you mad?”
The intuitive Patricia shakes her head. “I knew, you know. I knew what they were up to, what you ordered them to do. The others don’t, but I do. I’m going with you, by the way, tomorrow and you’re not stopping me.”
Leo puts his arm around her shoulder and the two begin heading back. “I know that, Pat, I know.”
Early the next morning, after the light beige motorhome and the retro van are packed, everyone says their hopeful goodbyes at the big gate. Leo shakes hands with Andrew and Fred, telling them that take care of his boys if he doesn't return. Jules, Peter, Beth and Big Mac Mike are also taking part in the dangerous mission, but Leo decided to keep Seth here in case White needs him for the crazier backup plan.
Before he gets into the van, the righteous dude adjusts his scuffed bowler cap and stares at the orange and teasing grey clouds. Finally, a cool breeze. It’s so invigorating.
"My name is Leo. I've done some terrible things, unimaginable things, but also truly extraordinary things. It's not over, though. I'm on my way to kill some monsters, really. I'm the hand who will also take out anyone I think might be a threat to my group. The universe has granted me a series of miracles to get to this point, to survive this long, so you'd think I won't be punished for my acts, what I've done and what I'm about to do. Yes, this is the only way."
And off they go to god knows what. Hopefully they complete their task and most of them make it back. Hoping everyone returns in one piece may be expecting a bit much, but, on the other hand, it's not so insurmountable. Leo pushes a cassette into the deck and Stuck in The Middle With You starts playing. He can't help but smile at Patricia who’s smiling back.
Meanwhile, in the woods watching quietly through binoculars is Head Snapper. He’s accompanied by one of his samurai biker babes and another undaunted man who witnessed Olivia being hunted down.
“That’s em’ over there. Real bad people, dangerous. Gotta take em’ out and take that place. Those domes, that big wall, that would be real good for us, get outta that bunker,” Head Snapper declares in a hushed voice. They return to their bunker where Brother Dave dutifully stands guard.
Well, Leo and his group are gone. White is now the big cheese, the man running things around here. He remains in the parking lot almost an hour after the crew departed. Everyone else has made their way back into the dome for breakfast, all those forlorn faces wondering if Leo's venture is nothing more than a suicide mission.
The only other option is Carter's ludicrous scheme to nuke the whole damn countryside. No one is ostracized for considering it a viable plan, though.
They would indeed become characters in the Bhagavad-Gita and be death, the destroyer of worlds. There's got to be some other way, something that will give them a real shot if Leo doesn't return, but, sadly, door number three doesn't exist. Where can they go if the blood suckers and dead come for them? There's nothing out there, nowhere to go. Leo's intrepid plan, it must succeed. God damn, he must win, or it's c'est la vie, baby!
His throat parched, the FBI man wants some kind of sign, a signal that there’s reason to hope and things have a way of working out if you just believe. Throw out an intention and see how the universe replies. Anything will do.
Suddenly, something odd as the thunder rolls through multi-coloured sky. What's this?
Something he hasn't felt in what seems like forever. Water droplets hitting his face? Yes, this feels wonderful! It's raining, hard. White looks up and closes his eyes. He extends his arms to welcome every last wonderful drop. Several excited Temenos residents quickly join him and do the same pose. Yup, things for this group of disparate parts just might work out after all, allowing for a life that could end up being pretty darn good - good enough.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
Thanks again or reading our free illustrated zombie web novel Maple Leaf Zombies - Terrifying Tales From Canada. Year One has come and gone. Things are likely to get even more challenging for Leo and our cast as they try to carve out some sort life in this apocalyptic world where the undead are the least of your problems. Stay tuned!