Run Leo, Run!

Episode 6: Warning: Graphic Content

 

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Up and at 'em!

After a pleasant night's sleep things start well enough for good old Leo and the kid Laszlo. They’re in full-on survival mode. No BS! Shotgun on the front seat and a full tank of gas. The suburbs of Greater Vancouver can't be completely deserted, can it?

Leo drives off giving one last look at his sister's house in the rear view mirror. No creepers around, so that's a good thing.

 

Problem is, the routes in this unremitting heat are clogged with abandoned cars, many with doors and hoods open. Perhaps winding his way through the side streets will help. Passing row upon row of homes once filled with life and vitality, he seems to be making progress trying to reach the highway.

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Well, that's until something unexpected occurs (did you really think it could go any other way for these dorks?).

A military vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier, approaches fast heading in the opposite direction. Great news! Ummm, no! Leo is stunned when his windshield is peppered with bullets, forcing him onto the sidewalk. He stops and is immediately surrounded by soldiers pointing M16s.

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They're the real deal, wearing the usual combat helmets, goggles and bullet-proof vests. They yell at the two to get out of the car. It's the first time the intrepid Laszlo has the look of genuine concern. Bemused, Leo, his hands up and trembling, immediately complies, pleading with the aggressive soldier boys to take it easy.

"OK, OK, come on man, don't shoot. It's cool, it's cool!"

 

"Shut up. Get down on the ground now!" yells the youngest of the soldiers who quickly slams Leo face-first onto the pavement. Little punk! Aren't they supposed to be the good guys? As they continue to bark orders the skater is also slammed onto the ground.

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The one that appears to be the leader of this macho team, the biggest and oldest of the bunch, says they're taking the ride and supplies.

Leo can't help but notice during this farce that the leader, who has a big scar on one cheek, sounds funny, like they weren't exactly from around here. A Texan? They are also wearing American badges on their uniforms. The dude couldn't help but to ask.

 

"Uhhhhhhhhh, guys, you are American? W-WWhy are you up here? This is Canada, dude."

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The leader, a real John Wayne type, hoists Leo up by the collar, telling him, "Long story. Sorry boys but we're taking your vehicle. Just get out of here now if you know what's good for you. You want to live? Run! Put your skates on!"

 

Man, they're taking the gun, the car, supplies, but haven’t noticed the marijuana in the car yet. Just as Leo and Laszlo are pushed again by the gnarly commander and start walking, the inevitable begins. From the thick brush of an adjacent park the dead appear.

Not one, not two, not dozens, but a hundred. Then from the side yards, a hundred more suddenly appear.

 

A few more appear down the roadway, all making that ghastly, unholy groaning sound, and the group is surrounded.

 

"The dead, the dead.....positions!" the squad leader shouts. What the hell are they doing up here? Go back to your own country! The soldiers start firing their ear-piercing machine guns. Only a few of the monsters are wearing clothing, the rest are either in hospital gowns or are completely naked.

They don't look like they were ever human. Pieces of their rancid flesh plop down onto the ground but they keep coming. Leo crouches as the soldiers fire away from all sides. He sees his shotgun at their feet but there's no way can he get it.

 

He unfreezes and begins to move while the orange flashes continue, going for the car, when suddenly a rotting, emaciated ghoul lurches toward him, pinning him to the hood. Leo desperately tries to push away the filthy, infected sicko, its decomposing skin covered with pustules.

It's trying to bite him. Leo's breathe halts as he reaches for the knife at his belt and, somehow, he manages to lunge it into the side of its head, like penetrating a soft, rotten peach.

 

Leo never knew he had it in him.

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As the soldiers continue their thunderous blasts, the dude pushes off the dead thing with the knife still lodged in its skull and sees Laszlo using his skateboard like a machete on one of those things.....nice technique! They jump into the car and leave the fun times behind. Both laugh out loud.

"Alive, alive man! Screw them man!" Leo races down the street. He's king of the road! Take that fools!

 

"Oh, lay that pistol down, Babe.

Lay that pistol down. Pistol packin mama

Lay that pistol down."

 

A few minutes later they're still giddy over their accomplishment, looking back momentarily only to see something standing in front of them when they get their eyes back on the road. No! Leo slams on the brake but the figure is hit hard, in a microsecond, flipping onto the hood and face-first into the windshield.

The face is ripped to shreds and protruding through the glass, face-to-face with Leo who crashes into a pole.

 

"Uuuuuuh, p-pleassse, h-help m-meeeee, ohhhhh, help.....me." The quivering voice is coming from the face.

A stunned Leo sees that the horror facing him is no plague monster, it's some poor sap he hit. Leo feels a jolt through his spin.

Double crap! He stumbles from the vehicle, its front end crumpled and steaming. The victim lays motionless, face into the windshield, voice fading as he begs for assistance. Oh great.

 

"Holy man...man....wowwww...holy stokes dude, look at that, that was so intense!" shouts the skater in astonishment as the two stand over the poor guy.

The pedestrian is still wearing a backpack. Leo feels uneasy but gingerly reaches in to see if there's anything they could use. A pocket knife, a can of spaghetti, a framed family photo, a few books. That's it? This is so awkward. How macabre but nothing they can do for the guy now.

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If Leo could only call an ambulance. Leo also grabs the big plastic bag full of pot the soldiers never had a chance to find in the car and fumbles his way with Laszlo out of there. He can't call himself the righteous dude anymore. This is so messed up! The dead, they just keep coming!

 

The two knuckleheads are now running side-by-side in the littered, other worldly streets that are looking like some cheesy doomsday video game, just running through the dead suburb of Surrey desperately searching for a car, always being checkmated.

Running around all that debris, they probably scurried past a half-dozen or so Tim Hortons restaurants with the occasional Starbucks for good measure.

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The sun is permanently blocked by that foul yellowish haze. God, the universe, present in every little thing, every blade of grass and small stone, is punishing us all, the world of the wicked, sinners, pleasure seekers and selfie-takers. God's got to be, otherwise it's the sickest joke of all-time.

Please, no more surprising turns. "No more games, god, you there? Just help us, come on!" Leo doesn't want to think about the guy he just splattered. Think about something else, Leo, like how good it would be to have a nice big plate of perogies, slathered with sour cream. Ya, that's it!

 

The skater runs with his board while Leo and his cabana shorts carries a big plastic bag full of weed - what a site! They turn a corner and stumble upon another gruesome carnival. Come on!

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They see several dirty, foul groaning plague monsters kneeling over a young man, only his head visible in the crowd - a fresh kill. In a large warm red pool, the poor guy is being torn into little pieces. They're eating him up, while sopping up the thick blood like tasty country fresh gravy! Anyone got bread or biscuits?

They almost have the kid hollowed out. It sounds like they're tearing sheets....ya, savage gore galore. Yum, yum!

               

Crows suddenly echo their cruel song overhead as one of the sickening monsters, holding a bright red piece of flesh, turns around, mouth dripping, and fixes its dead yet demented eyes on Leo, the next tasty meal. Leo doesn't freeze anymore, since that's not an option, doing an about-face with Laszlo and sprinting, only to lose his breath a few blocks away. Leo wonders if he starts believing, maybe he can force an alteration in the course of events, force a so-called miracle.

 

Oh no, around another corner there's a dozen more, standing hunched and growling. It's chaos! The herd immediately stagger wildly toward them, forcing the exhausted pair to keep running. Now that's odd, for some reason the theme song for the comedy drama Eight is Enough begins playing in the dude's throbbing head.

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The two bolt down another street with the rotting dead in slow but massive pursuit. They run to the Evergreen Mall and try for a door....locked, damn it.

Another door is locked and they have to keep moving fast. Less than a minute after the two are gone, a man clutching a pump-action Remington peeks out one of the mall's windows to see the horrifying horde outside. He just missed the two dudes. The man then returns to his group hiding in a storage room. "It was nobody, guys, just the dead, lots of them."

 

Hey, don't go just yet, there's a little more!

 

While all that survival mess with Leo and his new buddy takes place, out of town in a desolate suburb there's another pitiable bunch hold up in Saint Gummarus Parish, a cute little white church just off a farm road. A few rotting bodies of the departed, who aren't up walking around, are scattered here and there on the side of the road and within the field brush.

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It's nightime and there's a nice, big fat moon providng plenty of luminance. The group of seven, including a pair of toddlers eager for their bad dream to end, are huddled around a rusty red camp lantern wondering what the hell is coming next. 

 

Two members of their group had taken their only working vehicle for a scavanging trip a couple of days earlier and never returned.

The leader of this bunch, and only protector, is a large-framed fellow clutching an axe, a former U.S. Green Beret who recently came to Canada to meet a woman he met online.

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Having to keep quiet so as to not attract the hungry corpses, they whisper of bold plans of finding another vehicle and making the trek to the safe camp up in Vernon. Perhaps they'll take on a few more survivors along the way in order to have strength in numbers. Any silly hope of the army coming to rescue them has long subsided.

 

"I don't like this. Spent my whole life trying to be on top of things and now we don't know nothin' including if Vernon is still standing," the man complains, weary of setbacks. "Might be just as dead up there. I say we head to the mountains, somewhere far away from those dead things. We get a cabin and...ya...that sounds about right."

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Just as one of the beleaguered members of the group begins to object, something begins scratching at the locked doors. Is that giggling they hear? Can't be. What the hell?

 

The others just sit like idiots while the man stands and gets ready for a fight he knows is coming. Suddenly, those doors burst open and what greets the group is something too ridiculous to comprehend.

 

"W-what the hell is that? What's this?" the man shouts. The others continue to sit with their mouths open, paralyzed in disbelief.

 

In the doorway are two hulking figures given an extra creepy spotlight thanks to the big fat moon. They appear to be men, but something is wrong with them. They're white as a sheet except for bright blue wrathful eyes. The intruders, who are so very thirsty, also have company - a group of approximately thirty or so plague monsters who stand obediently behind them, silent and watching.

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While his friends try to process the scenario, the man wastes no time jumping to action, raising his axe and making a run for the two freaks. It's as if he knows it's pointless but at least he won't go down like a sissy. He takes a wild swing at one of the pale invaders who quickly grabs the man's wrist and bends his arm back, forcing the defender to drop the weapon and grunt. The forearm snaps in two. The blue-eyed monstrosity then picks the man up with little effort and drops him over a knee, snapping the spine like a toothpick.

 

"Now you can scream," the smiling creature softly tells the others as he tosses the carcass aside, while the plague monsters continue to quietly stand outside and observe. The corpses know they'll get to feast as soon as their masters are done having their fill. Sure enough, the screaming hits full-throttle as the two aberrations stroll into the church to continue the blood bath.

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During the flesh tearing one of the little tykes, a wide-eyed blonde girl holding a teddy bear, crawls under a pew and closes her tightly. Beloved Canadian children's entertainer Vic Lemay's rendition of Puff, the Magic Dragon is playing in her head. She opens her eyes for a second to see her mother's head on the floor, vacantly gazing at her. Time to close your eyes, little girl, and resume the song. The next morning the light beige motorhome, carrying survivors hoping to find other people, passes the church and keeps on going.

 

By the way, Gummarus is the patron saint of separated spouses and hernia sufferers.

 

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Story by Sandor Gyarmati

Comic panel art by House of Black Art (Jess Soares HouseofBlackArt.com)

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