Gare-Bear

Episode 26: Warning: Graphic Content

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A few hundred metres outside the safety of the walled and heavily guarded monastery in the countryside, a lone dirty plague monster wearing an army uniform slowly shuffles past. It used to be a person, maybe even a good guy, but now it's just one of billions of re-animated, unholy corpses looking to savage the warm-blooded.

Beyond the walls everything just sucks, dreary as crap.

 

It hasn't rained in who knows how long, despite the occasional rolling thunder, and everything on the outside, including trees, is brown, crumbling and dying. Sucks!

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Yes, a nightmare landscape.

With his hands in his pockets, Fred Hall stands in a guard tower overlooking the ailing scenery, accompanied by Father Michael, who's holding a machine gun. Hall still wonders how they got all this firepower in Canada. Turns out that in their previous line of work these former criminals had plenty of access.

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The priest gives the hockey star the same spiel about their community being a bunch of lost souls until they found the path, and how this is god's cleansing which will see the most noble inherit a new earth.

Before they got here, most of these guys were in some pretty hairy situations, having to fight off the biters as well as living, so they're pretty experienced and can handle themselves nicely in the deadly world beyond those walls. And now they're sheep under the cardinal's spell.

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Hall, who's also one hell of a poker player, notices the occasional slight facial twitch by Mike, as if the priest isn't one hundred percent sold but desperately wants to believe the weirdo doctrine.

Guess it's good to at least have something in this awful time of doom and uncertainty. There’s also something the young priest just can’t out his finger on, though, something about the magnetism of the cardinal, how they’re drawn in to him. 

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In the dining hall, after Leo beats one of the other young priests in a game of chess, the righteous dude once again broaches the proposal about heading down to that medical centre in Seattle.

 

He's determined to get Kate even though the idea is pure crazy. Also, Kate had told Charlie all about where Lance and the boys went when things started turning bad, heading to that community way up north. Charlie relayed that info to Leo and now the dude has designs to also retrieve his boys…..get a plane, a pilot, and get his twins down here….can you believe it?

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The priest appreciates Leo's determination but tells him it wasn’t wise. The young priest instead wants to talk about how people should have seen all this coming.

He notes that just before the plague, several prominent organizations had come out with a report that warned the world was facing the biggest extinction since the dinosaurs, with seven in 10 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles going to wiped out in a few years.

Extinction rates were running at one hundred times their natural level because of deforestation, hunting, pollution, overfishing and climate change…sounds like stuff Vance was talking about.

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When the priest leaves the dude alone in the hall, a depressed and anxious Leo decides to wander around the building. Looks like he'll have to go down to Seattle by himself, he decides.

"I'll get you Kate, you'll be safe here baby, you'll see."

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Funny, he hasn't seen Big Gregg in a while.

He wonders what happened to him. Leo eventually ventures into a dark back room he hasn't seen before and turns on an old lamp with a flowery shade, then takes it easy on a musty couch. What's he doing here? Going down to rescue Kate, really?

 

The light flickers momentarily and suddenly someone else is in the room, breathing slowly, loudly and deeply. Really? He can't see this phantom but he can tell it's not Big Gregg, and he's positive it's not his mind playing tricks on him.

 

He knows how to handle anything else, but what's this? His chest is heavy, like someone is sitting on him wanting to take a dump. He's trembling, which is weird since he's been fighting flesh eating undead that don’t terrorize him anymore.

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There it is! A menacing shadow, standing up, breathing and moving slowly against the wall across the room, its negative energy all over that wall.

This is crazy! It's like someone is calling out to him, inviting him for god knows what!

Leo unfreezes and knocks over the lamp as he bolts out of there. God, put your skates on, man! He runs back to the dining hall in a panic, heart beating three million miles an hour. Now seated there are Hall, Charlie and Silent Dave. They're puzzled, wondering what's wrong, what happened. The dude somehow manages to compose himself.

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"Ya, like nothing, ya, nothing is wrong. All cool dudes." He wishes Big Gregg came back.

 

"So guys, all right, wudda we do about this. You think it's OK to stay? I still think we should get what we can and head to that island. Something is just not right here. That cardinal guy, I mean, look at him," Hall warns.

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The walled compound has clean water, guns, food and everything they could need, but Hall has a gut feeling something is going on, and the cardinal wants to use them for something more sinister.

Hall has no proof of malevolent intent - just that feeling. Leo just sits there, looking down at the table with his hands folded, in no mood to join this asinine conversation, instead trying to figure out a way to break everyone's ambivalence about a mission to Seattle.

 

"Ummm, ya but, like Fred, ummmm they're kind of weird but this is like a sanctuary. They got food and all that water here. Maybe we just wait and see for a while. We can always try for that Archie guy's island," Silent Dave suggests. "Like, what about your kids? Like, don't know if you wanna risk it. It’s way too dangerous."

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Charlie isn't sure either about leaving this place and the hockey star's trepidation, however, he's also concerned about the cardinal's appearance.

Is it some variation of the killer bug? Are they all at risk being in such close proximity?

 

And what about these priests, mostly a bunch of dangerous cons on some hardcore religious kick. Maybe they're all right and the world is being cleansed with the most worthy inheriting this dead blue ball.

Charlie also wonders what plans these whacky well-armed priests may have in store for them. And what about this Leo guy? What's going on with him?

 

Hall's wife, Avril, the joins the group at the table. She's less concerned about the odd cardinal, telling Fred their kids are playing outside with the funny cowboy priest. Leo smiles and wonders how his own kids are doing up in the wilderness. Sure, big handsome Lance is protecting them, right?

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“We're OK here, Fred. Dave is right, dude, let's just wait and see," Leo tells them. "We always have Archie's island if it doesn't work out. But this place seems cool."

 

Finally, Doyle joins the group, a couple of bloody tissues up his nose and him complaining about how the dry air is wreaking havoc on his system.

"Oh, my sinuses. So what's this about the island? We still staying here or what?" Someone in another room starts playing Greek music again.

 

While the survivors in the mission debate whether they should make an attempt for Archie's island, already heading up there is one of Leo's good drinking buddies. In a weather beaten and rickety fishing boat, Gare-Bear is making the trip, as well as his brother Lloyd and his wife, who's not doing so well and sleeping in one of the damp cabins.

The woman has Parkinson’s disease and the tremors are full-blown these days.

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She's running low on medication and becoming alarmingly pale. Keeping her comfortable, let alone alive, will be a real challenge. Skipper of this crumby vessel is Sunny, a part-time professional wrestler and life-long failing fisherman.

 

He's an acquaintance of Gary and hooked up with him a few days ago, deciding to go along with Gary's idea of heading up to Archie's island. Actually, it was an idea originally put forward to Gare-Bear by Leo when the dude dropped by the Sunstone that night.

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Too bad he hasn’t seen the dude since….he’s probably dead, Gary concluded. There's no more police, army or government, so that island is a good bet.

 

As the boat putters its way up north, Gary, biting his nails, has had a chance to ponder a little, how he always had goals, meant to do this and that, but was afraid to do anything more than get drunk at the Sunstone. Is this island some kind of second chance? Perhaps they're walking right into some kind of trap.

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He recalls someone famous saying that a man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. Well, Gare-Bear knows that’s certainly not him.

"We're almost there, right? Tell me we're almost there, Gary, don't know if I can take it out here," an edgy Sunny asks while steering the vessel.

To say it's gloomy out here is an understatement. It's like the opening scene of some cheap horror flick.

The scenery is supposed to be specular.

 

Well, it used to be. Now there’s an extra thick fog, the water is dark and still, and it’s creepy quiet, naturally. It also smells like a rotting vegetable and old man fart medley. Ya, it's dead even here, but at least they're out of that death trap city!

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Out of nowhere, Lloyd quotes, "A lion has gone up from his thicket, and a destroyer of nations has set out; He has gone out from his place to make your land a waste. Your cities will be ruins without inhabitant." What was that all about? Sunny tells him to shut his trap.

They're close, really close to that safe haven. Yes, Archie's island, there it is now!

Almost out of fuel, the boat pulls up to a dock.

 

A couple of other vessels are moored here - a good sign, no? There's no welcome party and even shouting "hello" draws no response. The men have an uneasy feeling as they head up to the lodge, weaponless. The doors are locked and shutters closed on this majestic log building but fortunately a pair of French doors are unlocked.

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Where in the hell is everyone?

They end up entering what looks like the bar/lounge and decide to head straight for the forty year old scotch. They barely get a sip in when they're startled by four figures standing in a doorway. It’s too dark to make them out.

 

"Ummmm, hi? I'm Gary, you know...Archie's friend. We came up from the Lower Mainland. Is Archie here?" Gary nervously asks. "You know Archie? Leo? We're friends. Is it all right?" The figures just stand there.....no response....not a word....nothing!

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A tense Gary once again asks if Archie is around but there's not a peep. What's wrong with them? Sunny moves toward the open French doors while Lloyd tries his hand at sparking a conversation with the peculiar individuals. Moments later something bloody, something horrific, takes place. The amount of blood and body material that ends up on the floor and walls makes the powerfully built Sunny wet his pants.

 

He makes a break for it, running out and down a cement pathway toward the boat. But he doesn't make it too far as an incredible pain fires into his lower spine.

The legs go cold and give out - instant paralysis thanks to an arrow from a crossbow.

This is a billion times worse than the punishment in the ring for the former heel, who makes a futile attempt at crawling before something grabs him by an ankle. He's then dragged quickly back into the lodge.

              

Meanwhile, still in bed on the boat, and with only a partially drawn curtain providing some light, Lloyd’s wife can't sleep. She's not sure what's going on. Did they make the island? She hears the horrible, desperate screams outside but it doesn't last long. In a few minutes there's ominous footsteps on the old vessel and she quickly realizes it's not her husband and friends.

 

For some reason, she's not scared, sitting upright on the bed and waiting for the intruders to make their proper introductions.

Sure enough, that's what they do. Why isn't she scared? Why isn't she upset something may have happened to Lloyd?

Why is she looking forward to seeing these new people? Feeling invigorated, she notices her body is calm and steady, tremors having disappeared.

One stranger stands in the doorway while another, a big, burly individual wearing a black hoody, balaclava and pink tinted shades, sits on the end of the bed.

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The one in the doorway is wearing the same getup but with cop sunglasses. What Lloyd’s wife doesn't realize yet is the drastic change in her appearance: a big bald patch, skin completely white and translucent and eyes transformed into bright blue balls.

 

It makes the intruders ever so happy as the big one on the bed removes his disguise to reveal himself......it's Archie! But he's transformed too, also completely white with those same alien blue eyes.

He wipes off some blood covering his mouth before smiling and patting her leg.

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"Welcome. We knew, felt, you're coming. We're really happy you're here to join us, join our family. You're home." The woman doesn't know what she's feeling - love? Belonging? What's with all the positive energy in the room?

 

Feeling like she can climb any mountain, she asks, “What’s happening? Do you know what is happening to me?"

Archie is thrilled to answer, “Something wonderful!"  He adds, heartfelt, "Do you hear them, others like us? We'll be joining them soon."

He was right, of course, when he told Leo about an upcoming war between the sons of light and sons of darkness.

Out of the blue, Archie, for whatever reason, decides to break out his Rodney Dangerfield material, prompting everyone in the room to look at each other puzzled.

"What a childhood I had. My mother never breast-fed me. She said she liked me as a friend!"

Outside, the crows are acting up.

 

 

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Story by Sandor Gyarmati

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