Sanctuary, Maybe

Episode 23: Warning: Graphic Content

Maple Leaf Zombies - A free zombie web novel

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At the dreary research complex, Kate and Abhi have discovered, stumbled upon really, upon a bizarre crystalline structure that's present in not only the infected but the healthy as well. It actually tries to disguise itself. Is that messed up or what?

Everyone seems to have it. But why are some people not becoming ill by the raging strain? Is there a trigger?

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Is there some other mutation in store for those who haven't died and become re-animated corpses? 

What's more, the test mice have it as well. Some are showing bizarre pathological features, changes that have Kate and Abhi stumped.

 

The mice are developing extremely aggressive behavior and their eyes are becoming blood red. A couple have also lost their tales, tripled in size and are growing long canines. They just don't have enough people here to study all this, let alone come up with some kind of antidote.

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Wearing bright orange biohazard suites with oxygen supplies, the two scientists are in a high-level containment room standing over a man strapped to a bed, wires attached to his head and chest. He's clearly in big-time distress. His lips and gums black, the man is pounding his head against the pillow, and his throbbing veins and turning dark.

 

"He's in too much pain, we can't let this continue. We have to give him something," Kate says sorrowfully as she places on oxygen mask over his mouth.

The heart monitor is beeping faster and faster. This experiment seems so evil, but oh well

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"You know what Hagstrom would say. It would interfere with the brain waves and we need them to guide us. I hate this too but it won't be too much longer, Doctor Pearson. Not much longer now," Abhi answers, injecting a milky white liquid into the man's arm.

 

Making a high-pitched squeal rather than screaming, the test subject had been injected with all kinds of chemicals and can't take this anymore. The test subject looks up at the pair for any kind of mercy, anything at all. How could anyone deliberately cause such suffering? Inhumane is an understatement.

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A greyish film begins to cover his eyes but now tears flow. He stops thrashing and seems calm in his few final moments, looking around the room and then the monitors stop beeping.

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But before that, an explosion of blood and tissue from his mouth. Hagstrom is aroused.  At least now the poor sap's troubles are over, no longer having exist in this ugly, hopeless world.

"All right, people, well done. Please get going on getting those tissue samples. I want his frontal lobe first, all right?" Hagstrom tells the pair on an intercom from an adjoining observation room. "And Doctor Pearson, my dear, don't ever even consider giving anyone pain medication without my authorization, all right? Hmmmm?"

 

Abhi, reluctantly picking up a bone saw, looks at Hagstrom and shakes his head. Kate doesn't even want to acknowledge the pugnacious bastard in the other room.

 

"When you're done harvesting that, we'll need to get going getting that kidney sample from the girl, all right?" 

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Hagstrom departs and heads down a hall, making a detour to look in on one of their guests. He adjusts his glasses before looking through the window of the room accommodating Vance's wife. Wearing a hospital gown, she's nervously pacing with her arms crossed. She's startled to see the scientist outside glaring at her, his face having an unmistakable malevolence.

 

She goes to a corner and tries to look away but he won't leave.

He stands there for almost ten minutes, watching, seething with unholy madness. It's best not to upset the poor woman by revealing what he has in store.

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At the monastery (no.....the mission) Leo is feeling an odd sense emptiness as he puts on his overalls and heavy-duty work boots.

Of course, let's not forget the spiffy bowler cap. The ugly yellowish sky doesn't bother him anymore, while Big Gregg leaning against the wall and staring blankly is no big deal either. The melancholy dude thinks perhaps it’s time to stop being vulnerable and scared.  

 

He heads downstairs to join Silent Dave and Father Michael for some powdered milk and canned vegetables. They even have….get this…..SPAM!

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They're joined by several others including a big, tough looking priest named Gareth, another recent newcomer to the fold. After breakfast they give the two dudes a tour. This place is great!

Outside there's plenty of activity as priests dig up the dried out flower gardens and convert the grounds into vegetable farms.

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Seeds are plentiful. Solar panels provide enough juice and they have enough food stock to last at least a year. The most valuable attribute about this place, in addition to those walls, is what's underneath: an aquifer that supplies all the fresh, clean water they need.

 

There's been a prolonged drought outside the walls and what's left in world is crumbling dry.

That precious tap in the middle of the grounds here is the most precious, valuable thing in the world and these wacky priests, all young men, oddly, have the means to defend it. Father Michael takes the pair to a small building where Leo and Dave see something completely unexpected: an armoury with a dozen various automatic weapons and several shot guns.

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Hanging on the wall are a half-dozen pistols. No wonder they seem a bit on the cocky side. An astonished Leo picks up a Desert Eagle handgun while told that the only major concern here is the ammunition supply.

 

Who are these guys? What kind of monastery is this? This is Canada, man, where did they get all these guns?

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There's obviously more to these guys that Leo needs to know.

 

"Hey, father, I mean Michael, how did you get all these?" Leo asks.

 

Dave picks up an Uzi and is impressed. It’s the first time he’s ever held a gun.

 

"Like, you guys are priests, didn't know you were allowed to carry around guns," Leo adds.

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"Things are different now, Leo," the young priests eagerly answers. "We call ourselves The Most Holy Order. We are warriors, you can say, and will do what needs to be done to protect the righteous and the word of god."

 

"And we shall bring suffering eternal to those who stand against the righteous," Gareth interjects.

 

Man, these guys are kind of intense. They look like they mean serious business.

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"You see, Leo, we are a new order. The priests who were originally here died when the infection was brought in, all expect one. We are, I guess you can say, newly converted to the brotherhood. You know, hopelessness was the soil that nourished our hope. Now we have lots of it, in this place, together. Kind of a lot to all take in, eh?"

 

"So, ummmm, you weren't a priest before this?" Leo turns to ask Gareth.

 

"Priest. No. I was wicked. I was lost. I was a criminal. I was a killer for a drug dealer. I was weak in spirit. I poisoned children but now I follow the path," the big priest responds.

 

Leo turns back to Father Michael and gets the same response. "Yes, Leo. You'll find a similar story from almost all of us. I was a guest of the provincial corrections system when everything went down. Many of us were. Now I follow the path."

They’re just a bunch of thieves, simpletons, cheats and layabouts who tried collecting government disability by claiming to suffer from general malaise.

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Gareth adds, "Growth begins when we accept that we are weak. I heard the words of the cardinal and I found the way. I'm now following the path, his light, we all are. I’m not weak anymore. You know, there's some that want to take this place. I won't let that happen. We won't."

 

"Cardinal?" Leo asks.

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Father Michael puts his hand on Leo's shoulder. "Yes brother, the cardinal. He has seen the face of god and has been touched by the light. You will meet him soon. Maybe tomorrow. It's going to be a great day for you....Anyway, you don't have to worry. You and Dave, we aren't going to force you to convert to the brotherhood…be priests or anything like that. Nobody forces anybody around here. You’re, well, you’re not prisoners. You both can stay here as long as you want, here at the mission, as our guests."

 

The young priest adds, "Oh, prayer service is in an hour. So, let's move it guys. Put your skates on."

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"Ummm, ya thanks, I mean thanks for everything. But, um, I'm kinda not much up for going to church," says Leo, hoping he doesn’t sound rude.

 

"I'm afraid that is mandatory, brother," Father Michael responds. "Oh ya, you don't mind that we took your cool blue car for a scouting trip?

We don't have enough cars or trucks here, so some of the brothers are out searching, if we can find any more.”

What's Leo supposed to say...no?

 

As they stroll out of the armoury, a curious Michael asks Leo a question out of left field, literally.

"Hey, umm, Leo. I was just wondering, did you ever play baseball? Weird question, I know. It just seems to me you used to play."

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Leo chuckles, looking down to a dry patch of ground to kick around a few pebbles. "Ya, I did a long time ago. I was a kid when I did, really good. But when I got a little older I fell out of it. Just another regret, oh well."

The polite priest pauses and looks around. "Wonder if we'll ever see a game again. I used to love baseball, you know."

 

The dude pats him on the shoulder, only saying "nope" before heading back to the dorm. That's odd, he's devoid of the old hankering for ganja, nor those insidious pills rammed down his throat during childhood to keep him hinged. This is the new normal, a better normal.

 

On the highway four young priests holding machine guns are travelling in the cool baby blue 1956 Chevy looking for any usable vehicles.                

    

Not far ahead, a light beige RV is stopped in the middle of the road with its hood open. It’s steaming - radiator shot. The occupants standing around looking at the mess are the scientist, journalist, engineer, teacher and hockey star and his young family. They wonder where they go from here.

 

They had been trying to make it to the safe centre in Vernon, having no clue whether it's still up and running or fallen like everywhere else.

They felt they had no options left and had to give it a try.

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It’s as if they’re wasting their time trying to stay alive….hopeless and depressing. Holding one of his kids by the hand, the hockey star, a multi-million dollar talent now without a league, thinks this just can’t be it.                                    

Of course, from the dense brush on both sides of the road, plague monsters emerge, lots of them, growling and hungry. One that's dripping entrails drags its feet straight for the hockey star's wife and screaming kids.

 

Holding an axe, the husband yells at her to run away with the children...."Just run as fast as you can...please stay alive!"

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She dashes as the diseased flesh eaters get close. The hockey player and his comrades make a courageous, or idiotic, stand and begin swinging their crude weapons.

They smash a few heads but are badly outnumbered. The journalist, a middle-aged man in a tweed jacket, is the first to be grabbed and taken down. The engineer, a slightly older woman, goes next. 

The others manage to get inside the RV and lock the door. The rotting ghouls are dead set (sorry if there's a pun) on gorging and begin to rock the vehicle back and forth as the hockey player desperately looks out the window to see if his family made it out of there.

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The crying woman, carrying their two year old daughter and holding her six year old son by the hand, doesn't look back as she scurries down the road….a couple of plague monsters slowly pursuing. The baby blue Chevy approaches her and slows down. Unbelievable! A miracle! 

 

Meantime, in the suburbs of Greater Vancouver on a rooftop, the potbellied man desperate for Lillian’s approval spots something.

He excitedly contacts someone on a walkie talkie. What he sees is a convoy of vehicles led by a semi-truck packed with valuable supplies. The convoy will stop when a Chinese lady emerges from a car that’s stopped on the road in front of them. Following a familiar, despicable script, she begs for help.

 

The convoy’s lead driver, the bald man with an Aussie accent, doesn't hesitate to leave his big rig to assist the seemingly distraught woman, who's wearing a recently appropriated silver crucifix around her neck. It's same old story.

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And just a few miserable blocks away, a small group of rotting plague monsters shuffle aimlessly on a littered street. The straggler in that stinking group is none other than our old pal Ned O'Brien - the now very dead Ned O'Brien. He somehow got out of that terrible grey building but, unlike Leo, was too late to find his escape.

 

 

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Story by Sandor Gyarmati

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