Episode 22: Warning: Graphic Content
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Our rightous dude Leo is feeling exhausted, despite having been being unconscious for days. Wherever he is, it smells like an antique furniture store.
He hears Silent Dave in conversation with a couple of other men downstairs, talking baseball…can you believe it?
Hmmm, they’re playing Greek music. Sitting on his bed with that colourful old quilt draped around him, and holding his black bowler cap, he pays no attention to that awful yellow tinge through the thin curtains. He’s handed a strong cup of black coffee by a young priest who then grabs a chair and sits in front of the dude.
Plenty of questions for Leo but he’s sure his host will give details in good time.
“Friend, you look like you were through the wringer, huh? How do you feel today? Any better?” the cordial host asks.
“Ya, I do, thanks. How long was I out? What happened? How did we get here?….ummm….Where is here?” Leo responds.
The priest pats him on the knee. “You’re in Princeton. We’re at the Saint Augustine of Canterbury Mission. You’ve been here for a few days. We prayed so much for your recovery. Your friend has been really beside himself because you wouldn’t wake up.”
“I’m in a monastery?” Leo asks, surprised.
“Welllllll, we just call it the mission. And I’m really happy, we all are, that you’re feeling better. Your friend, he’s a really cool guy. He told us about what you went through. He’s a very brave young man you know, having driven you around in that cool old car of his looking for help.”
Cool old car? Leo is wobbly but manages to stand and head for the window. Pulling the curtains aside, he sees the vintage Chevy parked outside. How did he get it running? Where did he find fuel? Beyond the overgrown gardens is a large concrete-brick wall. The plants outside may be dying, but it still seems kind of tranquil here. No mocking crows either.
“Thanks for taking care of me, ummm father, anyways, thanks. Anyways, ya, what can I do to help out around here?”
“You can call me Father Michael, or just Michael is perfectly fine. Why don’t you come downstairs with me and meet the others. Maybe have a bite to eat? You need to get your strength back my friend,” the encouraging priest says as he puts his arm around the dude and walks him out the door.
During lunch, Father Michael, owner a rather wide aw-shucks demeanor, updates Leo as the dude tries to gobble down some chicken noodle soup and weird-looking wieners. He wonders if people taste like chicken to the roving dead things.
Anyway, turns out the monastery at one point during the initial turmoil had about a hundred people who came from the outside seeking refuge.
One day a man arrived with his family and they seemed perfectly fine, but, you guessed it, they became ill. It didn’t take long for many others to become sick with that abhorrent infection including most of the brothers here. Those who didn’t fall ill fled and, by the time the misfortune had passed, only a handful of priests remained.
Their number was strengthened, though, by other priests who have been arriving from not only around the province but as far away as Oregon. They also got a bunch of recent converts. The mission is somewhat secluded, off the beaten track. There’s more to the story about this place but Father Michael isn’t revealing anything else at this time.
Dave and Leo have no clue just how much more there is to this story. They’re just glad to have lucked out in finding a group that’s so generous and welcoming.
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”
Starting to tire, Leo excuses himself and returns to his room. As he enters he sees Big Gregg, his hands in the pockets of his Gonzaga sweat jacket, sitting on the chair.
Gregg gives a quick smile. Not startled and knowing his friend isn't really there, Leo gives a quick raise of the eyebrows and smiles back to acknowledge him, then stands by the window and looks out. They don't speak.
Funny, only now he recalls a dream he had when he was about ten or so, a dream so real that when he awoke he wasn't so sure which world was the illusion. In that dream he was running, a boy going as fast as he can with a butcher knife in hand down a darkened corridor, storming a tall, shadowy figure shaped like a man but something far worse. The only thing he could make out was the thing's eyes, piercing blue balls. He could never figure out what he was supposed to be fighting in that scene but now it seems he's close to figuring out the answer. It's as if it's all connected to destiny, and we all know destiny is god's will.
Outside, a nasty wind accompanied by thunder and bright flashing lightening begins, but not a drop of rain.
Back at the remote cabin community way up in northern in Alaska, the group of almost thirty men, women and children, including Leo’s sons and Kate’s dorky brother, stand around a large crackling campfire for a critical meeting.
It’s late evening but the sun won’t set for a few more hours. It’s been a few days since Lance and the other hunter were killed by the monstrous bear-like creature described by the man who made it back.
At first they didn’t believe him, or want to believe him, and a sizable contingent of well-armed men who ventured out to track the thing down couldn’t find a thing.
The big problem they face will be the depressing lack of daylight during the brutal winter from mid-November to the end of January. If that thing is running around, there’s an even higher risk being in the dark for anyone beyond the big timber perimeter fence.
Devastated about the loss of their brave stepdad, the twins are now under the care of Patricia Myer, a youngish former architect and designer, and until now enjoying living an alternate life off the grid in the great outdoors. The camp also has no idea about the current state of the outside world now that their shortwave radio only picks up gloomy silence.
They had been hearing from similar camps north of the Arctic Circle as from survivalists outside the town of Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
The last chatter they received from the Inuvik group was a disjointed message that didn’t make sense, something about giant evil monsters roaming the land and gorging on human flesh. They’re supposed to be far away from civilization, the contagion and the risen dead, but now the wilderness isn’t safe?
What are these creatures? Does it have anything to do with whatever wiped out much of humanity? Seems a reasonable supposition, no?
They don’t know what’s happening and that puts them at a massive disadvantage. It’s up to Ted Altman, a rugged and highly skilled adventurer who spent most of his life living in the bush, and having been elected as camp president, to come up with a plan.
He’s still trying to make sense of this nonsensical situation.
Kate’s boys stand with Patricia, her arms around each of them, and look up at Altman, waiting for answers, but all he can do is look back bewildered.
He offers a forced smile before reaching into his mac jacket pocket and pulling out two miniature carvings for the kids. Sure, he can whittle, but he'd better come up with a hell of a lot more than little wooden bears. After the meeting, Altman has a confab with Mr. Pleats, telling Andrew they may have to evacuate.
Further east, about a hundred miles from the tiny northern Alaskan village of Nuiqsut, the last survivors of another camp are barricading themselves in a cabin in a desperate, but utterly futile, attempt at staying alive.
Two weary men with hunting rifles strapped to their backs are piling logs against the door while their wives frantically nail the wooden shutters closed.
The orange glow of from the fireplace adds to the gut-sickening mood. Seems like something has been going into their camp and taking the inhabitants, who tried to fight back, back into the woods for fine dining.
The final two couples tried to escape on their ATV’s but were chased back and surrounded by stalking giants working in remarkable precision.
“What are you doing, hurry up, get that window closed……….god…..hurry!” yelled one of the anxious men. “The bullets, the bullets, where did you put the ammunition?”
His wife screams, “Oh no, it’s still outside……with the ATVs, Jesus, what do we do?”
The four then bolt from the door and stand petrified when they hear something outside sniffing and then making a bizarre clicking sound. It sounds big, really, really big.
Then, an incredible deafening howl, something unreal, stabs at their brains, forcing them to cover their ears. Both women begin to cry as the husbands grab their rifles and aim toward the door. After a few moments of dreadful silence, an unimaginable creature bursts through the windows, splintering the shutters into thousands of pieces while destroying part of the surrounding wall.
It lands on the floor but before the men shoot, the voracious monster, some kind of red-eyed wolf that’s much bigger than a bull, leaps onto one of them and instantly bites his head off. Just one crunch and the head is swallowed.
Dark red is spraying everywhere as another giant furry monstrosity, which is certainly no wolf, explodes into the cabin and sinks its ungodly fangs deep into the torso of the other man. With a quick, effortless pull he is torn in two, his organs splashing onto the floor.
One of the screaming women falls and tries to crawl but a beast chomps into her leg and begins violently thrashing its head, swinging her around the room. Her head is crushed like a blood-filled egg on the fireplace mantel.
The other woman, covered with their chunky tissue, manages to run out the opening of the smashed dwelling and into the woods.
There’s still enough daylight and she runs from the mayhem like she has never ran before into the dense brush.
It doesn’t look like she’s being followed. She somehow gets a few hundred metres before tripping over jagged rocks and falling hard, shattering her jaw and collarbone. She’s too in shock to feel her injuries and tries to get up, only to stumble and fall again.
She then hears that clicking sound followed by terrible deep breathing of one, no…..at least two or three, mammoths surrounding her. Her body shaking, she can barely make out the giant, heavy figures closing in.
Just enough time for one last prayer........."Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever".
Back down south at the research centre outside Seattle, in his darkened room Hagstrom stands naked while looking out his window. There's nothing out there but roaming, mindless plague monsters.
No matter. He’s smiling as he sips a lovely glass of Merlot. Clair de Lune is playing softly and photos of his upset new test subjects are scattered on a table.
Little does Ford and the others know just how much the control freak is relishing this time. It would be most unfortunate if they figured out what’s causing the deadly disease or stumbled upon a cure….no, he wouldn’t like that one bit.
No one knows his secrets, his unquenchable desires, nor his crimes in the old world including his wonderful trophy garden.
The FBI were closing in on him before he was summoned from the National Human Genome Research Institute to this military complex.
A worldwide emergency was declared and they needed him. Now in this new, dark age he can fulfill his twisted needs unabated. The bext part - that annyoing agent who was following him is likely dead.
Yes, he really loves the way things are going right now. After another sip of that nice wine, he picks up the picture of Vance’s wife and presses it against his lips, feeling an intense, pleasurable rush.
This just can’t end. He won’t allow it!
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
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