Scavenging

Episode 8: Warning: Graphic Content

 

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As dawn breaks things are finally getting done. All the boys needed was a little kick in the arse. Anna is running the gong show now. They gather some extremely useful tools from the building manager’s office and load two fully fueled promotional vans in the parkade with supplies. A trailer is hitched to one of them.

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Leo’s shotgun, Anna’s rifle and the two machine guns will come in handy in case there’s trouble. Those roaming corpse things are everywhere, all looking for a free meal. The gang is lucky to have such fire power because, after all, this is Canada where guns aren’t allowed. Funny, before this end of the world thing they never held a gun, let alone fired one, except for Ray who paid to shoot at one of those Las Vegas machine gun places.

 

Leo, Ned and Anna take one vehicle and the others ride the second. Her plan is simple: hit up a few abandoned homes and businesses for more supplies and head to a harbour for a fishing boat or some other vessel big enough to carry them up to Archie’s island. They’ll wait out the end of the world there.

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“Oh, darn, shoot, I left my eye drops back at the station. My allergies are killing me, Leo,” Anna says glumly. "And why does it stink so much  out here?"

 

“It’s all good, really, I’ll make sure you get more,” the smitten dude promises. It’s a promise he keeps as they later score a box of the stuff.

They work their way down a commercial corridor, driving past a few roaming monsters, some barley moving and looking dazed, while others have an angry expression wanting to follow. God, what a nightmare! It’s their world, after all, and Leo’s group is just a snack.

 

It’s as if there’s nobody else alive in the destroyed suburbs of this dead, crappy world.

They have to bust into some businesses, most nearly emptied but some nicely stocked, while others left their doors open. They carefully sweep each for any lurking plague monsters that may be inside.

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They encounter dead freaks only a few times and twice Laszlo uses his skateboard like a sword to open their softening skulls, once slicing the top of a head clean off. Another incident saw Anna use the butt of her rifle to cave in a forehead. My god, the horror, how can they be used to all this already?

 

They didn’t have to fire a shot and are wisely saving bullets. Besides, making noise might draw them. Ned is the only one of the group that looks like he could be a problem as far as being able to defend himself but they’ll worry about that some other time. For now, it's time to gather as much food as possible....and being picky is not an option.

                      food

"Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight."

 

The first night of their scavenging is spent in the back of a soup and sandwich shop. They barely say a word so as to not draw unwanted attention.

Funny how just a few weeks before everything was peachy, people were watching their hockey or arguing about the little things. The dude was busy chilling, perhaps in his bathrobe getting high and watching Baby TV cartoons, or maybe blowing his drug earnings at the casino. And now...this..the dead ruling the land!

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The next night, following a so-so day gathering, is spent in the back of a law office, paperwork on personal injury claims strewn about.

 

Day three is much better when they decide to try a few houses. Moss already sprouting through the roof's shingles, the first lonely home is a super double bonus score: a basement pantry of an extreme couponer! All sorts of canned and dried goods and sundries are packed in the trailer until it's jammed full. There's plenty of jarred peppers and pickles – an excellent day indeed.

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Tomorrow they’ll make an attempt for a boat. Tonight….they’ll stay in this dusty, creeky house that’s been so good to them. Who gives a rat's ass if it's on the creepy side.

They barricade the doors and sit around the basement floor enjoying a feast of cold canned beans, chicken soup and fish shaped crackers. The peppers are mighty tempting but their bellies are full.

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There’s no denying a sense of optimism is running high as the five enjoy a laughed-filled conversation around the flashlight, obviously trying not to be too loud during the festivity. Even the guarded Laszlo and Ray open up, although they're feeling that giving Anna full control of things is like giving Captain Bligh is own fleet.

Some of them wonder why the homeowner has a movie poster of Dan Aykroyd's Doctor Detroit on the wall, prompting Laszlo to tell them there's some things best left unanswered

Ned later grabs a box of cookies and heads to a corner while Ray and Laszlo also call it a night, leaving Leo and Anna sitting beside each other against a cool concrete wall. She abruptly stands and begins walking into the dark. Leo follows. She turns slowly, her head down with a shy smile, but her eyes go cold and she returns to her seat against that wall.

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“Girl, it’s so hot. Wish we had a fan….oh well,” Leo mutters.

“It’s not so bad,” Anna replies, sullen. 

 

“You know, I’m wondering if the hunting and fishing will be any good on that island. My father, I used to go with him all the time when we lived in Baie-Comeau. Those were so wonderful times. So many memories. I miss those days. You never think that you’re having the time of your life until it’s long over….yes, I miss that…..know what I mean?” she asks.

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“Your dad and mum…you have any idea what happened to them? Do you think they’re safe?” Leo inquires. Maybe it was the wrong question as she just shakes her head.

“We’ll make it. You’ll see. It will be all right. This group, we were meant to get together. I’m so sure of it. I don't believe in blind luck or coincidences. There's a meaning for everything. Everything has a purpose,” she adds.

 

After she reaches for the flashlight and turns it off, Anna rests her head on Leo’s shoulders and dozes off. This is nice. But Leo can’t sleep and just stares into the black to wonder about his little boys. He was never part of their lives and now it’s too late.

Are they plague monsters too?

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Not long after Kate had the boys and resumed getting her PhD down south, she met Lance Pearson. God, even the name makes Leo want to puke.

Lance with his chiseled movie star looks was a decorated American air force pilot, astronaut who made headlines by rescuing cosmonauts from a doomed Russian space station, and national spokesperson for children’s charities. The guy shook hands with the president, wrote a best seller and became a staple of the talk show circuit.

 

What a great guy, leaving his career and raising two boys as if they were his own. And let’s not forget how Kate and Lance make such an attractive, glamorous couple.

When they went back home to visit her family in BC they included good old Leo for a real family reunion. It was a great chance for the righteous dude to see his biological offspring.

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The last visit saw Lance take Leo and Archie out for a night of good food and cheap drinks at Leo’s stomping ground at the Sunstone Pub. It didn’t take long for the whole bar to stand around their table to hear exciting, and totally true, stories.

Flattering and charismatic, Lance even bought everyone rounds of shots. “What a great guy,” Archie said afterward, his face glowing like a 12-year-old girl with a major crush.

 

“If he’s so wonderful, why don’t you just go out with him then!” Leo rudely responded, carrying a big chip on his shoulder that could be seen from Vancouver Island.

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Kate was recently hired by a research facility just outside Seattle, some kind of military complex doing all kinds of advanced stuff in genetics.

Top secret, of course. Leo would later laugh to Archie how those scientists considered themselves oh, so smart but couldn’t find a simple cure for male pattern baldness. If there’s anyone who could survive this giant crap show and save his family, it’s big strong Lance Pearson!

 

The following morning sees the group make decent time rolling through the forsaken city, Anna giving the newly confident dude an occasional smile, when the petite leader suddenly orders them to stop at Big Joe’s Liquor Emporium. She figures it’s their last chance for quite a while to obtain beverages. Cool!

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The store is locked but it doesn’t take long for Ray to use a crowbar to pry the front door open. The only thing missing is some creepy music. Hmm, there's a strong hint of lavender and beer in here.

The group slowly moves through the premises that still has a few good bottles of this and that on the shelves. Laszlo and Ray are pointing their machine guns ready to fire at the slightest hint of danger, looking like GI Joe.

 

Leo and Anna hold their rifles making their way to another part of the joint, while a quivering Ned stands well back near the door, holding a hammer.

Of course, he kicks a bottle of butter ripple Schnapps on the floor and it rolls…thanks for making the stupid noise, Ned!

A moment of fright hits the group when something else makes a noise from a storage room.

 

They converge to investigate and Leo slowly opens the door with his gun ready……Time to blast some dead freaks!

                      liquor store

“No, stop, no, no please, please don’t shoot. Please don’t shoot us!” What the heck? It’s a young couple.

They can’t be more than 20, a skinny guy, wearing a red t-shirt and sporting a mop top haircut, and an attractive brunette with long hair.

 

“Please don’t shoot, just take our stuff,” the young woman pleads as both stand quivering with their hands in the air. Anna assures the two everything is all right (If they only knew!). Turns out they’re brother and sister, Sarah and Johnny, who somehow made it all the way from Edmonton.

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When things got really bad, they hooked up with a group camping out in the woods near Grand Forks, assuming they’d be safe, when a massive herd of ravenous dead descended upon them.

Only one guy had a rifle and everyone else was forced to use knives, baseball bats and rocks to defend themselves – thanks stupid Canadian gun laws!

   

The brother and sister managed to escape with an ex-cop and the three, for whatever reason, thought the evacuation centre up in Vernon was the place to go. Not long afterward, the cop became violently ill, having picked up the doomsday bug, so Sarah and Johnny left him in the back of a gas station, breaking their promise to come back with help.

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Their voices go cold, sounding hopeless, as they described how quickly the guy became sick, his orifice’s oozing greasy liquid and bones on fire. They are obviously guilt-ridden for their disloyalty but what other choice did they have? This is a different world now and loyalty could get you killed.

The doctors and scientist didn’t have a clue what they were dealing with anyway.

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The two newcomers are elated having a new group. “Whatever you want us to do, we’ll pull our weight. You’ll see. We want to help!” the young man promises.

They help gather some of the booze and get into one of the vans for the big trip. Leo isn’t so sure Anna should be automatically trusting everyone who comes along, but who is he to question?

 

Ned also gives Leo a doubting head shake but at least this new pair looks kinda all right. Good enough.

The vehicles head westward, no stops this time, but within minutes are stopped in their tracks once again.

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“Oh……great……..shoot…….crap!” yells Ned, looking ahead to what looks like a thousand snarling and hungry plague monsters in front of them. "Put your damn skates on!"

 

Making that terrible growling and screeching sound, they start moving toward the survivors to chow down. They look so dirty, grotesque and non-human.

Skater dude decides to jump out with a machine gun and begins to fire.

 

The head shots bring a few down while the bullets that hit anywhere else merely push the foul monsters back slightly.

The girls scream at Laszlo to get the hell back in the truck but the skater isn’t listening, seemingly in some sort of rage. Fortunately, Ray leaps from his truck and pushes the intense kid back inside just as the resurrected move within a few feet of them.

         

They back up, almost colliding, turn around and head in a different direction, the trailer swinging wildly from side-to-side.

Again, they’re stopped when another huge, unimaginable group of plague monsters appear on the road ahead, equally hungry.

              

The group is lucky to have another side street and speeds in yet another direction. Anna is driving the lead vehicle with an exasperated Leo riding shotgun clutching his weapon.

 

What a nightmare! It appears they left the herd behind when they encounter yet another grizzly group. It’s as if the desperate survivors are being lead like a mouse in a maze.

Anna takes them down yet another road and makes an odd choice when she pulls up to Forest Pines Cemetery…..is she kidding? The front gates are locked with a chain and padlock but Anna wastes zero time in jumping out with a pair of bolt cutters and breaks the damn lock herself.

 

After she secures the wrought iron gate they enter the grounds, proceeding slowly through the graveyard. The overgrowing grass makes this place look even drearier.

 

The group heads toward a centrally located office and chapel building. This place already looks so dirty and decrepit. Can you say creepy?

Leo and the newcomers question why she wants to be here but Anna isn’t fazed.

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“This place is safe, safe for tonight. Trust me, I know,” she says. The little French chic is annoyed her decision-making is now questioned but the group continues to follow her self-assured lead.

 

Once at the office, Anna instructs Ray and Laszlo to begin a check of the grounds with the machine guns.

A hesitant Ned is handed Anna’s rifle and told to also check with the brother and sister newcomers, who are only carrying pocket knives. They also must check the big fence surrounding the site for any potential breaks or weak spots.

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Leo and Anna will check the buildings. The dude is unsure about all this, things are happening too fast, but the sound of countless growling plague monsters beyond the hedges is an easy argument to stay at this morbid place. He’s sweating as he nervously clutches his shotgun, needing a toke badly.

 

His sexy companion holds a large carving knife as they move from room to room, some darkened while others are getting plenty of daylight through the windows, but always with that horrible yellowy tinge. Papers and junk are everywhere but it doesn’t look like anyone is around.

      

Every corner, ever closet, is checked. Leo feels relief he hasn’t had to shoot, that is until they reach the chapel building.

The side door is locked and secure but the front door to the foyer isn't. Inside, a moldy, unpleasant aroma and dead flowers greet them.

 

There’s another set of doors to the chapel area itself but it’s locked. The gloomy light from outside creates an even more dismal effect when passing through the stained glass windows. All right, building secure, no creepers around, time to go see the others.

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But then the pair hear something…..innocent and heartbreaking. Little sweet voices, child voices. It’s as if they’re whispering ever so faintly.

Where’s it coming from? Leo reluctantly peeks into the chapel through a set of foyer windows to see something unreal. It can’t be. No god, please, don’t make this real!

 

There, in the chapel aisle and slowly moving between several pews - little figures, tiny figures. There must be at least a dozen of them. Children, so young, ranging from maybe two to no more than five years old.

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They’re not growling but seemingly whispering amongst themselves, moving about in that hellishly lit chapel like they’re playing a fun game.

They don’t look dead, at first, and don’t really look decomposed like the others Leo encountered. It’s kind of hard to make them out but one takes notice of the stunned dude and moves toward the window, looking curious. This is too far-fetched to be real. It just can't be real!

 

It’s a cute little boy with a cheeky smile. It’s clapping its hands and smiling. Now it’s all clear. The boy may not be rotting, yet, but is a ghostly white, eyes dead and having that tragic glaze. It just stands there, staring at Leo and Anna. She begins to weep. If she didn't, that would be just cold, no? Even god must be crying.

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They walk backward out the front door before getting a chain from the truck to secure the entrance. They don’t say a word and just look at each other before Anna just can’t take this bull anymore, the tough little French chic hugging a bewildered Leo tight and bawling uncontrollably. Even she has a breaking point.

Leo wishes he had a big fat joint right now to take the edge off having to see these unpleasant things that should only belong within the dark nooks of a wild imagination.

 

The rest of the group eventually hear the commotion and run back to the pair just as Anna begins to regain her composure. Leo wipes a few tears as well and has to tell the shocking news to the others, his new friends.

 

They stand around dejected but no one knows what to do. There’s nothing they can do. The chapel doors are secure, the perimeter gate looks good and there’s no creepers in the other building. There’s no other vehicles here, so why the children were left here is a story they’ll take to the grave, which in a way they already have.

 

Yup, this is rough. The world is now truly dead. Ray wonders whether love, companionship and humour will return.

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They’ll spend a few nights on the top floor of that office building. They’ve got supplies and a great vantage of the entire cemetery g