Episode 5: Warning: Graphic Content
"I'm doing this, doing this, screw them!" Leo chants while pacing the cluttered living room.
Intricate spider webs are already taking over the stinking dump. Leo's got last of the clean pair of shorts and underwear. He'll leave their acid washed jean jacket from 1986 in the closet.
The plan: take the gun and head out. Run, just run past those things. Find a vehicle, come back here to load up what few supplies are left, then head as far as he can toward Archie’s island. The fricken island! Odds of this plan working, let alone his survival...who knows.
This house doesn't even seem real anymore. God, the stink! Yes, the world has turned on its head.
You know what…hasn’t rained in a while….maybe a little rain would wash that horrible stink away.
This unwavering gloom is all some stupid joke.....no way in hell can this doomsday garbage be real! Safe to say he never thought in a million years he'd have to prepare himself for something actually bad to happen, but it's also safe to say he's not the only one. So the cook warnings were true after all, huh? What a joke indeed!
That afternoon, the baby soft hands of Leo McGregor clutches the shotgun tight, a few extra shells in his pocket, and he runs up the street. Mustn’t let anything distract him. He stopped taking his pills a long time ago, medicine for anxiety attacks and weird delusions that began when he was a little kid, since he took up the ganja.
His breathing is already laboured. Damn it. Why didn't he hit the gym and keep himself in shape like he always meant to? Even running on pure adrenaline isn't working. He feels so utterly alone as he somehow trudges exhaustingly forward.
Crows, lots and lots of them, all over - crows cawing with that low, guttural croak. It's as if they're mocking him, which is a good assumption.
He has to stop, but stopping means death. No choice but to walk. Running is reserved for the steadfast who take care of their bodies.
Chest tight, can barely breathe in that sickly sweet air – like an overflowing toilet bowl of mush.
He makes it past the crashed Cordoba. It looks like a tornado messed things up around here. He checks a few of the cars. No bloody keys and he doesn't have a clue how to hotwire. The ones that have keys...no gas. This isn't working, maybe it's time to head back to the house. He's languishing here. Stupid plan, stupid!
The overgrown grass has browned at these places, fitting for the end of the world, eh? And of course, there's nobody around, not even the roaming, rotting monsters.
Holy crap! He turns down one dead-end cul-de-sac and is stopped in his tracks. Bodies, lots of them on the street, scattered all the way to the end, festering corpses teeming with maggots. Rotten chunks of guts everywhere. What happened here? Nothing but putridity. A slaughter! Why can't things be back to normal, damn it!
This is unreal. His heart is beating super-fast. Sounds like a million flies here, ungodly. The taste of rot on his lips.
He’s already delirious with exhaustion as he huffs through this otherworldliness of dead bodies in an eroding landscape.
The smell, Jesus, the smell, like someone is grabbing him by the ankles and dunking him in an outhouse. He gags, his stomach can't handle it and he vomits.
These damned crows just won't stop laughing at him.
All right, next street Leo, just keep moving. Move you out of shape bastard!
A dejected and profusely sweating Leo runs but suddenly finds himself just metres from one of those monster things, a dead woman in a torn flower print dress. She, or it, locks her sites on him. MMMMMMMM, YUM, YUM, YUM, YUM, YUM........I smell bacon, I smell pork, run little piggy, I got a fork!
The monster, emaciated and its skin a rotting grey, gives the typical growl and stumbles toward him.
And those teeth, yellow and black......disgusting! Well, come on, the dead don't need to brush their teeth. A quick gasp and Leo fires the shotgun.
As the blast knocks the inexperienced dude backward, the dead thing's chest explodes with black slimy chunks spraying from the new hole.
The dead thing is thrown back and ends up lying on its back, quickly sitting upright and reaching its unholy arms out toward Leo, then an assertive grunt.
Leo hightails it outta there, back to his sister's place. Mission FAILED. Oh well, look on the bright side - whatever doesn't kill you will inevitably try again.
He obviously didn't sleep well that night but as he's about to light up a joint the next morning he hears something oddly familiar.
A rolling sound. Peeking through the living room curtains, he can't believe what he's seeing: a young man going down the street on a skateboard.
Huh? Leo hasn't seen or heard another living human being in god knows how many days and now this? How is this kid, maybe 16 or 17 with long greasy hair and a black skull cap with a Canadian flag, still alive?
The fit young man of indiscernible origin rolls past the house as Leo desperately runs out the front door waving his hands like a crazy man.
"Hey, hey man how's it going? Hey wait dude! Wait!"
The skateboarder is already well down the street but Leo got his attention. They look at each other inquisitively for a minute before the kid reluctantly walks back to Leo, who is thrilled. They shake hands and he introduces himself as Laszlo.
Wearing the usual skateboarder get-up and a backpack, the kid agrees to go in the house but is also understandably cautious. That all changes, though, when they start smoking Leo's fine cannabis.
Turns out they're both so-called bakers. Seems the counter culture kid has been going from empty house to house, business to business, getting food and supplies. His entire family got sick with the super flu within a day and the hospital had turned them away.
The heedful dad ordered his one remaining healthy kid out of their home, not wanting Laszlo to catch a guaranteed ticket to the other side.
Using his skateboard and a novelty fantasy knife, he's killed about a dozen of those resurrected dead with necessary strikes to their heads.
Both mischievous and intense in equal measure, he doesn't talk much but at least Leo finally has an ally.
He came all the way from Abbotsford and has no intention of staying long in Leo's deteriorating house.
The next morning Leo awakens to see the skater dude gone, and so is the dope!!!! All that's left behind is the kid's old school Walkman. Leo charges outside in a rage but is quickly put in his place when Laszlo calls to him. Leo turns around to see him sitting on the roof, smoking a fatty, of course.
"Hey man, what are you doing up there? What do you see? Anybody?" Leo asks, relieved big-time.
The skater, pauses, has a toke and then looks out toward the city. The stillness, it's like judgement day, he correctly assesses.
"No, not really. Stupid, like, ghost town. Just checking it out. I put your pot in the kitchen and rolled up a bunch of joints for us for when we go. When do you wanna go?" the unshakable kid asks with a relaxed smile before taking another long drag.
Looks like Leo will try finding a vehicle again but this time with some help. Laszlo seems not too concerned about the danger out there. What's more, the skater knows how to hotwire - bonus!
That afternoon, Leo is once again out in the streets, this time with his new ally. He's trying to keep up with Laszlo who's rolling slowly on his board and it does not take too long to find what they're looking for. They spot a non-descript little white bungalow with a detached garage. Just a crappy little hole in the wall but something about it looks promising. Don't know why, it just does.
Like mischievous kids, they peek in the garage's small side window to see a newer model German import.
They waste no time breaking into the house through a back window and rummage. Nobody here.
They should have done one of those military-style room-to-room sweeps to make sure it's safe....maybe next time. A very nice score indeed as the kitchen table has several cans of food and a few other useful things just sitting there, as well as the car keys. Leo wonders what happened to the occupants.
They don't matter. The car has a full tank.....excellent! As they head back, he also wonders how messed up everyone got when the world fell to pieces, and how nobody could do a bloody thing about it.
Back at Brandi's house there's a pleasant feeling of accomplishment. Leo almost feels high. Yup, things are looking up. Time to load the car. Later, just out of curiosity, Laszlo tries the doors at Vance's place and, amazingly, a side door is unlocked. They left a bunch of useful provisions behind and some clothing. The two skip the extra small t-shirts, though.
They decide to spend their final night in the neighbourhood at Vance's pad. Excellent, a big hunting knife and holder. Seven rolls of toilet paper too, which is awesome since Leo had run out a few days ago and had to use those entertainment magazines.
The two open an ornate wooden box in a closet to find a giant stash of porn. Some leather bondage and fetish paraphernalia too. Vance, you dirty devil! Leo feels pretty good about young Laszlo but can he trust him? Probably.
And as for Laszlo, he's pretty sure he has Leo figured out. The impulsive and sometimes underhanded skater gave ditching Leo and taking his weed some serious thought, but figured there's strength in numbers.
He kind of likes him, by the way, but also has his doubts Leo will survive much longer. He'll hang with him as long as he can but won't risk his neck for him.
Back at the little white bungalow a man and his wife have just returned from a scavenging trip to find their safe house has been raided - everything including the valuable car stolen. Neither has time for exasperation due to unwanted guests, several discoloured plague roamers with foggy eyes, entering through the open back door.
Brandishing a thick piece of metal, the man, known for his extreme piety and seriousness for which he took himself, is wearing a backpack and green camouflage t-shirt. He yells to his wife, wearing a matching shirt, to get out, now!
A striking figure when he wants to be, he charges at the loathsome, dirty creatures, smashing open a couple of oozing heads. Bits of brain and teeth sprinkle everywhere.
Holding a kitchen knife, the wife rushes to the living room and makes it to the front door, but when she opens it she's face-to-face a moaning dead thing.
The flesh around its mouth rotted away, the corpse springs forward and bites into her face, tearing off most of the lower portion like an orange peel.
The shocked woman doesn't scream as she falls back with her crazed attacker falling on top of her.
The man, seeing his wife is being disemboweled, furiously swings his weapon at several more snarling creatures before making his way to the bathroom and locking the door. What a mess out there. Dejected, he looks into the mirror briefly, seeing his wide, angular face covered with cold slimy black and yellow sludge.
Also, it smells like someone just took a dump on him.
The moaning dead things scratch and pound at the door, seemingly begging him to open up and be done with it all.
He remembers his wife telling him, "If anything happens to me, please stay alive.” He smashes out the bathroom window and makes his getaway. Maybe there's somewhere in the Great White North that's still safe....but not bloody likely!
Back at Vance's place, when it's time to sleep Leo chooses the daughter's super comfortable bed upstairs. The walls are covered with boy band posters and the rest of the room is full of teddy bears. Tomorrow will be an awesome day as well, no? Good job, Leo. That night the smell of weed in the house is strong.
The dreadful sound of what sounds like dozens of roaming plague monsters chomping their teeth are outside but the two dudes won't let that bother them. As Leo lays on the bed and lights up a joint, he looks around the room, aided by the moon's glow. Are Leo's kids still alive?
Leo is the last dude you'd picture wanting to be a father. This part of his story started when he met Kate, a super-hot and smart chic you'd normally assume wouldn't have anything to do with such a layabout.
She's tall, blonde, has legs like there's no tomorrow and super model looks. Brilliant......of course. She's a local girl who had scholarship at Harvard Medical. She wanted to get into research.
When she was visiting home she met Leo at a house party and was instantly smitten.
She knew it made no sense but didn't care. Many eligible suitors were knocking on her door but there was something about the carefree Leo.
When she first saw him, he was sitting on a stool surrounded by eager young hipsters on the floor, soaking up every word this wise and deep guru had to offer....while the lazy lothario smoked a joint. The hipsters, all wearing ironic t-shirts and girl jeans, are entranced.
"Man, the purpose of us being here is to love. But to love, the universe doesn't expect us to do extraordinary things or heroic things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary kindness.....love, is to show someone they have value, they are beautiful, they have meaning...."
His disciples are feeling so enlightened, although they have no clue it's all stuff he had ripped off. From across the room Kate is intrigued by this charismatic figure and the two hit it off. By the time she's back in school weeks later, and finds out she's pregnant, things are going south. She's ambitious, has big career plans and wants to change the world, everything Leo is not.
She tries to change him but Leo wouldn't have any of that. Ya, maybe he blew a good thing, a real golden opportunity. She had twins, adorable little boys. He saw them a few times when they were babies but, now that they're older, Leo is not on their radar.
Time to get into snooze mode.
Unbeknownst to stoners Leo and Laszlo, something was watching them as they strutted through the desolate streets, something unimaginable, incomprehensible. No, it wasn't one of those reanimated corpses but a being entirely different. Peeking from a darkened room of an abandoned house was abomination that was formerly an ordinary man but now transformed into pure malevolence.
Its skin almost completely white and eyes haunting deep blue balls, the thing is very thirsty. It was unwilling to expose itself to sunlight and that was a good thing for our dumbass duo. The mutation can sense others of its kind calling for it through time and space. Yes, they're big trouble. We'll be hearing more about them later, for sure.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
Comic art by House of Black Art (Jess Soares HouseofBlackArt.com)
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