Episode 49: Warning: Graphic Content.
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On a baking stretch of highway a familiar face walks aimlessly. It's Brother Dave (yes, really!). Can you believe it? It's been a long while since we last spoke of this crotchety character, assumed doomed after being abducted by Lillian's men and sentenced to that awful grey building. Well, he's the only member of Big Gregg's group that managed to escape but he's been alone ever since.
He’s also finally managed to push aside the guilt of getting the hell out of there while Gregg was trying to help Julia fend off the ravenous undead.
However, the grinding picture of her face being peeled and eaten like a fruit rollup won’t go away. Whatever, right and wrong nowadays are pretty ambiguous. Maybe it was always like that anyway.
His feet blistering and his cracked face sporting a massive salt and pepper beard, Dave's exhausted, hungry and bone-thin, having only a small can of diced pears left in his dirty backpack.
He should be dead now but his ill-temper has gotten him farther than expected.
Funny, he often thinks of Leo, believing he’s still alive out there, somewhere, but finding him is impossible. Is he enjoying a succulent patch of paradise?
At least Edna's stupid songs, especially Danny Boy, has vacated his head, but now he can't help obsessing that a sure sign the human race failed was when some hipster decided to put both chicken and pineapple on a pizza.
Strange, the loneliness seems even worse than the gut-tying hunger.
Three rotting, grunting plague monster follow him, but the shuffling cadavers are back some distance.
Brother Dave stumbled upon them as they feasted on a woman in a looted drug store. He knows they're so god damn slow that they're no threat as long as he keeps moving.
He managed to find a good working vehicle parked behind a burned down courthouse and got some decent distance out of town before running out of gas. Now, there’s nothing to do but walk to the safe camp up in Vernon which seems like his last chance.
Dave’s got a sister who has a place out in Manitoba but that might as well be in another galaxy. It's all true, every last drop of it, that saying a man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.
A corny old tune, by the way, ceaselessly burrows into Brother Dave's head.
Suddenly, a few distinctive pops drop the pursuing corpses, startling the weary walker. He isn’t sure whether he’s dreaming or awake as he turns to see something totally cool - that same vintage baby blue Chevy. Yes, it’s the same vehicle, for sure, gotta be! Talk about coincidences, eh? The car slowly pulls up beside him and stops.
"Mister, are you OK? Hey, need help?" a friendly, assuring voice emerges from the passenger side. The haggard Dave looks down to see two priests. What the heck? Priests? Where did they come from?
"Mister, we've got a place, food and water. We've got a secure place where all are welcome. Can we take you there? It's all right now," says the smiling, kindly passenger with an assault rifle propped between his legs.
Restraint usually not his strong suit, Brother Dave doesn't have the energy to talk. However, he can nod and smile. If this is an illusion, he'll roll with it. He's far away from the cities and all their plague monsters, having found sanctuary at last. OK, even though he senses there may be something wrong, he opens the back passenger door and gets in.
Dave leans back and rests his head, not caring one bit whether this a screwed up illusion. The two priests don’t say a word, looking at each other with sly grins.
Then, the sudden roar of motorbikes ahead.
“Hey. What the f………” shouts the startled driver.
Coming fast at them are a dozen race bikes, spreading out as the approach the Chevy. The lead biker raises a sawed-off shotgun and blasts away, splattering the driver’s brains all over the stupefied Dave.
This is happening way too fast, like a bloody blur. The vintage car turns sharply and rolls a few times, ending up on its roof.
As the crumpled Chevy steams, the other priest, bloodied and dazed, staggers out while holding his weapon. He doesn’t get a chance to raise it, though, as one of the other attackers zips past him and slices his head cleanly off with a sword.
Next to exit the vehicle is Brother Dave, blood trickling from his forehead and lips, and brain matter in his beard. He crawls a few feet before sitting himself upright.
“C-Come on, m-man….what the hell? Take it easy, I don’t got nothing!”
The bikers slowly encircle the injured perpetual pessimist and disembark.
They quietly stand with arms crossed, staring the bewildered Dave as if they were in no rush whatsoever. Finally, mercifully, the leader hands the shotgun to a subordinate, kneels down and removes his helmet. Yup, it’s Head Snapper, who in a reassuring tone informs Dave, “Mister, we just saved your ass. You don’t know nothin’ but we saved your butt.”
Dave remains seated and wipes blood from his eyes, but says nothing.
“I’m Head Snapper and this is my gang, you see. We’re doin’ a good thing,” the biker continues. He looks back and nods at the others to remove their helmets as well, revealing a plethora of hot women. Yes, WTF!
This is almost a bit too much for the cranky one but he manages to maintain his usual scowl.
“Ya see, well, how do I put it? Those fake priests, they were going to take you prisoner, use you, your blood for food. They’re workin’ for some real freaks in there. We’ve been watchin’ a long time, real long. Got one of em’ and got him to talk. Now we decided to do somethin’ about it, you know. We’ve gotta place, big bomb shelter. Good keeping out the creepies. We got a bunch of other people now too. Big group. We’re gonna wipe out that monastery place,” the brash biker explains.
Intrigued, Dave replies, “All right, I’m in. If what you’re saying is true, man, I’m in!”
“Ya, we've also been eyeing for a long time another group. They went way out in the woods,” the rescuer adds. “They live in this funny dome place. Got big walls and everything. After we take out the blood drinkers, we’re takin’ that dome place too. That group in there, been watchin' em' kill and rob like there's no tomorrow, real nasty ballsacks, especially their bearded leader, nasty. We'll take all em' out!”
Dave doesn’t know what to say as his savior pulls out a little digital camera to take a picture of him.
A few days later at the biodome, Seth sits at a desk going over this week’s work assignments. He just finished an hour-long banjo performance for the good dome folks, many, including Leo's kids, clapping their hands and stomping their feet. It was a nice break.
Even though Leo doesn’t seem concerned, since he's now an ardent believer things will work out if you only put that intent out in the universe, the pretend cowboy and Tim White are starting to have big worries about the lack of rain.
Yup, the rain catchers are pointless and the well could run dry. If this drought doesn’t end in the next few months, there won’t be any need to fortify this joint against the animal things, nor killing the cardinal and his bunch, because these inhabitants will be doomed regardless.
Seth is rattled when Leo storms in demanding to know Rodney’s whereabouts. The dude looks royally pissed and everyone knows not to venture onto his bad side when he’s in this state.
Within an hour a flustered Rodney is forcefully ushered to a darkened basement corridor, Seth and Jules each holding an arm.
“What’s up, what’s going on? I didn’t do anything!” Rodney protests. “What the big idea? I demand…..”
His BS meter having been in off the chart for days, Leo punches the newcomer with a vicious right cross. Seth and Jules manage to hold up the suddenly unwelcome guest, blood gushing from his mouth and legs having turned to jelly.
Keron, Jack and Eric quickly arrive, followed by a confused agent White.
“Look at this, just look at what our special guest was doing!” shouts Leo, pulling a map from his pocket.
“I told you to watch this guy, Jules. I’ve been following him around and it seems he was casing our joint. I went through his things and found this map that has our place circled on it. Look here, under it, he’s scribbled down how many men, women and kids we have and even our gun supply.”
Outraged, Jack grabs the injured Rodney by the collar hoping to get in a punch as well. He’s held back by Keron.
“What is this? What’s happening? What does this mean?” a panicked Keron asks.
“I’ll tell ya….he’s spying on us. Think you’re going to slip away and go back to the monastery? Tell em’ all about us? You still serving your masters, aren’t you?” Leo demands.
Rodney begins to regain his composure and shakes his head, desperately denying the horrendous accusation.
Now Vic joins the party.
“All right, take him to that back room, now. Keron, you’re coming with me on this. Tie him up. I know what to do!” Leo instructs, his voice suddenly nonchalant. “Don’t tell the others until I’m done with this fool.”
You hear that? You’re dead meat!” adds Jack.
For poor old Rodney the world over the next hour really does turn on its head.
His arms crossed, White grimaces at what's unfolding in the room. He tries to keep a straight face as he says he'll be stepping outside.
"OK, but I was hoping you'd stay. See what we're up against," Leo says, disappointed.
"F-f-fools, you're all dead. You, you hurt me, then you die.....b-better let me go....." the battered prisoner argues.
Leo has already reached the boiling point. He doesn't have time for this BS and neither does anyone else. Time to be a monster, the only way to defend yourselves against them nowadays. Wondering about the fragility of fate and fickleness of fortune can wait for some other time.
Leo's seething eyes dart to Keron. He hands a hammer to the reluctant man who immediately knows what the dude will ask of him.
"You said you'd do anything, that you're with me. I need to know that anyone here is willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how ugly and extreme, to protect the family. That's why I'm asking you do this now, Keron, without hesitation, and beat the holy crap out of this guy until he gives me all the info I need."
People are blinded by their sensorial intuitions, mistaking them for reality. If only the kind-hearted Keron could see what Leo grasps. There’s no god up there and we’re down here. We’re all part a super-intelligence that’s literally everywhere, including phenomena beyond the boundaries of what we can touch and feel with our limited senses. This universe is god and we are god, and god needs the dude for this massive auto-correct. He’s got the green light to proceed with whatever is necessary. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad, when you understand the true nature of reality. Hmmmm, seems Leo has not only gone off the deep end, he is the deep end!
Holding the hammer as if it weighs two hundred pounds, Keron looks down and nods. It's got to be this way. He knows Leo is trying to build something special here, so this will be just another body in that foundation. It's got to be this way.
What Keron doesn't realize is that Leo is also using him to set an example for the rest of the group. Insubordination won't be tolerated. This isn't a democracy and anyone who doesn't like the way things are being run around here will likely find themselves kicked out ASAP.
What Keron also doesn't realize is the dude decided that anyone requiring removal would be too much of a threat. So, as soon as they're banished and out in the woods, Leo and a select group of the most dedicated of his followers will quietly finish them off. No need to tell the rest of the colony. He understands his credence is intrinsically ruthless, but, yup, it's the only way.
There's a bone-chilling silence but it doesn't last long. Keron takes a deep breath and swings the hammer onto both the sap's kneecaps, shattering them like eggs. Then comes other parts of the body. The screaming eventually subsides and is followed by unremitting whimpering.
While the carnage takes place, Jack turns to Eric and is surprised to see the enjoyment all over the impressionable boy's face. My god, what has he done to his son? Maybe they really are broken now.
"I, I will tell now...then f-finish me quick, I, I don't wanna h-hurt no more," Rodney stammers.
His breath reeking, he tells them a story that's too fantastic even for comic books, describing how the cardinal had been battling cholangiocarcinoma, a form of bile duct cancer, before he was chosen by some higher power for transformation. Now, not only is there no sign of disease, he's blessed with superior abilities of physical strength and the mind.
Leo doesn't give a rat’s ass, knowing a simple bullet will still take them down. The problem his group faces is that the freaks need to drink human blood. Well, they could probably get by without it but blood makes them so much stronger.
Rodney explains how the freaks, calling themselves the chosen, discovered they don't need to drain someone dry and that just a little red fluid, perhaps a pint or two, will suffice. That's a good thing because there's not too many people left to feed the chosen.
Problem is, that's a very bad thing for those who are prisoners now kept like cattle, their only purpose for the remainder of their dreadful days being food for the blood suckers.
It’s a form of living death, an unimaginable hell.
Other people at the monastery serve the freaks, doing daylight chores, hunting for survivors and helping run the place. In return, they're treated like kings, or so they believe.
Let’s not even go into the fact they have that control over the plague monsters, using a massive horde to surround the place. Yup, hell on earth but for the chosen it's paradise. Just imagine how happy the chosen ones would be if they discover the delicious bounty in this dome!
"Oh.....my.....god.....no, Leo, this can't be, this just can't be," Keron shudders. "The evil, it's a nightmare. What are we going to do if they find us?"
Ready to wipe out anything with monotonous regularity, a determined Leo responds, "There you go, see what I told you. That place is a horror and they'll find us sooner or later. We may be out here in the woods, hundreds of miles away, but they'll come looking for blood and meat and will stumble upon us. What a prize we'd be! Right now, ya, we have the advantage. They didn’t know we're here, anything about us. We'll strike and kill 'em all."
"I'm with you, you know that, Leo. Anyone gives you a hard time, I'll kick their ass myself," the biker Jack promises.
Leo grins before reaching down to be face-to-face with the bloodied captive. Strange, the dude isn't enjoying this torture session but isn't feeling a hint of repulsion either. He feels nothing.
It's like brushing your teeth, just something you do. What possesses him, though, is an indescribable protectiveness when it comes to his boys. He'll kill everyone out there to ensure his kids stay safe. But would he sacrifice his boys if it means saving the group? Let's just say he doesn't even want to think about such a scenario.
"There's more, ain't there? Tell me all of it....you know what I'll do to you?"
Breathing heavily, Rodney looks down, wanting this agonizing session finished. Leo holds a big-ass hunting knife under the prisoner's chin and continues to demand more.
Rodney coughs up some blood and gurgles. Yes, for him it'll all be over very soon.
"The cardinal, that Hagstrom doctor and his woman. Even that other new one, Archie, who says he knows you. And there’s more. They, they....have that telap-telapathy thing. They can talk to each other over hundreds, no, thousands of miles. They control the dead. They know y-you are c-coming. Don't know what you're going to do, where you are, but they know you're coming. The dead are all around that place. l-like a shield. You, you not going through th-that."
"And you were out with your friend looking for us, scouting for them," Leo asks calmly.
"We all belong to a common, broken humanity, don't we?" asks the torture victim.
Leo nods, "Ya, it all has to be torn apart, but that's all right because I'm the new hand of god!"
The foreboding Leo delivers the knife into the side of the mangled man's head to finish this. The crunchy sound of cold blade penetrating skull forces young Eric to wince. The knife is left protruding as Leo puts his hands in his overall pockets and leaves the room. In the doorway he wipes his boots on the floor and looks down to make sure they're clean. He tells the others in the room "clean that mess up."
Time to head back to tell the others in the colony. They need to hear all of it, every last gut-wrenching drop. No point in telling the others about the Jesus dreams, though, since those inviolable visions seem to be finished now that the chain-smoking son of god managed to finally deliver his message. For now, Leo will raid the dwindling liquor supply for a couple of stiff ones, maybe have Seth and Fred join him.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
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