Episode 25: Warning: Graphic Content
Maple Leaf Zombies - Free online zombie fiction
In the back of the ice scream shop in the suburbs of Seattle, Keron, the man with a bushy beard, is all alone. His sweet little inquisitive grandson is gone. Despite all his efforts, everything he's gone through, he couldn't keep his promise to keep the family safe.
Despite all his prayers, god ignored him. He knows what he has to do before the pale child turns, before he becomes another plague monster.
He'll never let that happen. He stands over the tiny body that’s gone cold, holding a hammer. Yes, he knows what to do.
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have many promises to keep, And miles and miles to go before I sleep, and miles and miles to go before I sleep."
A couple of hours later, Keron drives an older model two-door import through the desolate streets, now aimlessly. He's too numb to be devastated.
He’s too lost to even feel contempt toward the god that turned its back on him. A good man who always tried to do what’s right, who sacrificed so much in life, got nothing in return. It was all for not, and the saddest part is that now he gets the punishment of living. If only someone, something, can tell him why. Is there really a reason for anything?
A dust storm is really reducing his visibility. He's forced to stop when he sees dozens of figures through the thick dusty haze on the road ahead.
Instead of driving away, he decides to end the overwhelming emptiness by stepping out of his vehicle, walking a few feet ahead.
How fitting, the wind and dust is blowing so hard and loud, he feels like he's in a spaghetti western. Yes, it also reeks of death.
He holds the antique short-barreled shotgun but remains motionless as the growling flesh eaters head straight for him.
It'll all be over very soon, he concludes, and closes his eyes.
But things don't always happen like you expect, or want.
The thunder of machine gun fire startles him. He turns to see several other figures firing away. Orange flashes pierce the thick haze.
The infected roamers are blown away quickly while the bearded man stands with his mouth open, dumbfounded.
Who are those guys? Who in the hell asked for their help?
The shooters emerge but they're not the soldiers, they're some other guys he's never seen before. One grabs Keron by the arm, urging him to come with them, hurry the hell up before more dead show up. Yup, sure enough, more plague monsters appear from up the street, attracted to all that noise. Time for the men to put their skates on, or else.
In a house across the street, meantime, two faces peek from a window but keep quiet. It's a big, burly biker guy, wearing a standard leather vest, and his teenage son, both frightened but determined to survive. The dad, holding a Smith & Wesson .500, in a whispered voice reminds his boy they can't trust anyone. And he may be right.
Back at the research centre, on the roof Lieutenant Ford sits enjoying one of his last cigarettes when that distant crackling of gunfire interrupts his moment of peace. Yup, he’s still yearning for marmalade.
He goes to the ledge to investigate and Danny quickly joins him.
"Hmmmm, what's that? Get the Volare. We're going to check this out," he orders the young buck.
Inside the facility, in an operating room, Vance's daughter lies strapped to a bed, while heart and brain monitors are surpassed in volume by songs by Andy Williams.
She only has a few patches of hair left and her skin looks almost grey thanks to all the chemicals they've been testing in her. She seems remarkably calm, at ease, resigned to her doom.
She looks at Abhi, who's wearing a biohazard suit and preparing to inject a greenish liquid into her arm. Nobody says a word as the douche Hagstrom with arms crossed watches from an observation room. He’s got a little smirk.
Kate, meanwhile, works in the lab but eventually finds herself sitting on the floor in a corner, the burden of all the pain and suffering she’s participated in starting to seep into her core. How could she let Hagstrom talk her into these atrocities? What’s more, they are getting nowhere in figuring this out. All those innocent people she’s hurt, for nothing. She’s a horrible person, a monster, she reckons.
She screwed up, but stopping now could see her become one of Hagstrom’s test subjects.
She’s trapped. Better just keep doing what she’s doing since it’s her neck on the line. Yup, right and wrong are a bit blurry now.
Back at the mission, Leo, sporting his overalls and bowler hat, sits on the steps of one of the buildings with Charlie and Silent Dave.
Charlie fills Leo in on just about everything, including working alongside Kate at the research centre as well as the trip to Canada.
"So, those were the guys who tried to take my car, those American soldier guys," Leo says in stunned realization. "Those pricks! That was totally harsh!"
Charlie, who leaves out the bit about what’s really going on at the complex, their crimes against humanity, has no intention of going back. They’re all probably dead down there anyway, he concludes. Having abandoned the idea of going to Archie’s island, Leo believes this place has everything they could possibly need. It's his home now and Kate should be here too.
Sandlak’s arrival has planted a gnawing idea in the dude, one that won't go away. Leo feels ready to take the risk and head down to Seattle to get her. He knows he needs to get her back here. Problem is, Charlie has no intention of taking that dangerous journey, telling the dude it's just as well a million light years away.
"No way we'd make it there, let alone back. It's insanity. She's safe enough just where she is, trust me on that. Besides, everwhere you go, those things are around!"
Hall and Doyle join the group, also recently having meetings with the cardinal they found disturbing. Only Silent Dave, so far, has been denied an audience with his eminence.
"Like, good god man, can you believe that guy? What's with the skin, the eyes, the way he talks? Something isn't right here. Don't you think, Leo?" asks Doyle.
"I don't want to seem ungrateful, they did save us back on the highway. But there's something about these guys. You know what I'm saying?"
Hall and Doyle heard all about Archie's island from Silent Dave, recommending they get a few supplies from here and try for that place. Sandlak is feeling a bit uneasy here too, saying he's interested in joining them. Leo, though, is perturbed and doesn't want to hear that talk.
"You are being ungrateful, dude. So what if he's a little freaky, like who cares. This whole world is topsy-turvy, so that cardinal dude and these whacky priests are nothing. I'll take them over what's happening on the outside any day of the week,” Leo fires back. “Where else can we go, dude? We hit the jackpot. I'll hang out with old blue eyes any day."
Leo turns to Charlie, wanting to shift the topic back to getting to Seattle. They have enough guns and stuff for the trip, but Charlie, irritated, again shoots that proposition down, warning that travelling hundreds of miles in one big death zone makes no good sense, period.
"Please, can we please, please drop this? She's a really nice lady, a friend of mine. But if you expect me to go off with you, out there, all that way to fight through all those mutant corpse things, to get your girlfriend, you're sorely mistaken. Besides, she's married to some other guy, which makes your idea even crazier. Let's talk about something else."
Astutely unabating, Leo won't let this nonsense go. He doesn't want to fail Kate as failed Anna and Julia. Pondering how he should approach the cardinal about this, he reaches into his pocket and squeezes the bottle of eye drops. The conversation is interrupted when an irritable Gareth shows up and summons Silent Dave.
Looks like it's his turn to talk to the big, weird cheese.
As soon as Dave is gone, the group is joined by the mustached priest in the cowboy hat. Previously introducing himself as Seth, the fun loving character is carrying a top-of-the-line banjo. He sits with the guys and plays a little Cotton-Eyed Joe. Charlie certainly enjoys it, tapping his feet after popping a couple of antacids.
The group hasn't got a clue several faces continue watching the esoteric mission from the heavily wooded hillside overlooking the compound.
Now let's move up to the camp north of the Arctic Circle, and to say tensions are high would be one hell of an understatement.
Camp president Ted Altman and six men leave the seemingly safe confines behind the timber wall on another mission to find that unholy bear thing.
It's been way too quiet in the forest lately. They don't hear birds or even crickets. It's like they are in a graveyard up here. They'll need to find some game to stock up for winter, but first they need to track down the beast that killed their friends.
With shotguns, revolvers, a Barrett REC7 and AR-15 in hand, the team head out on their ATVs southward to an area near where the bloodbath occurred.
Altman is showing strong leadership qualities on this day. Perhaps deep down he knows it's his last, so why not go out on a high note?
They're on their way to face a heinous beast that could be way more than they can handle. If they only knew just how much they'll be in over their heads.
A few hours later, after having found the guns Lance and the other hunter dropped when they were slaughtered, Altman's group is making decent progressing tracking something really big.
Soon they have to disembark their rides to traverse some challenging landscape on foot. Areas of forest floor are soaked in red. It's obvious something new rules the woods, and it's not them. A short time later it's time to make their way back, since it would be safe to say staying out here when it gets dark is unwise. The seven sit on a couple of fallen trees to catch their breath when they hear deep, heavy breathing.
It's coming from several sources, all around them. The bushes rustle, prompting the anxious men to bolt up and point their weapons in all directions.
"What's that? Ted.....what's that? Let's just go," one of the men tells Altman in a hushed, urgent voice. "There's a lot of them, whatever they are......oh man, what is that?"
Another hunter, a young Italian lad, starts to realize they're in a dire situation, and also wants to get out quick. "Che cosa sono quelle cose?"
The strange breathing stops as Altman inadvertently moves away from their tight circular formation, backing up and ready to shoot at anything that appears out of the dense foliage. His forehead dripping with sweat and hands shaking, he gets a terrifying sense they're the ones being stalked.
Then, the fear goes away. Like Faust, he's been granted a moment of complete contentment, a moment he wishes could last an eternity.
Now for his soul to be handed over to the devil. In one patch of bush red eyes appear, glowing intensely, then several sets of demon balls.
"Shoot, god damn, shoot!" one of the men screams.
But he doesn't have to tell them as they unload World War 3 into the forest, the booming sound of their firepower echoing for miles across the unholy wilderness.
They keep shooting until their clips empty but rapid reloads allow them to keep on going. They finally decide to stop when it appears the brutes are gone, but an unbelievable thing bursts from the brush and lands in front of them, unleashing a demonic, deafening screech.
It's not the bear thing, nor the wolf-like thing, not even an animal. It's some kind of giant, hyena-type monster, but as big and heavy as a rhino with ungodly long fangs.
The black furred monstrosity, having giant bony plates protruding from its spine and tale, lets out another ear-piercing screech, forcing a couple of stunned hunters to stumble back and fall onto their backsides.
The Italian guy steps up, seizing a split-second opportunity his inept cohorts obviously won't, and blasts the creature's head into a thousand pieces, the thunderous sound travelling to the moon. The monster crumples to the ground, black and yellow fluid spraying everywhere.
"L'ho fatto! Ho ucciso il mostro!" the shooter boldly celebrates.
What the hell just happened? What the hell is that? The men are disoriented but quickly get their bearings. A couple begin to laugh out and do a fist pump, but that immediately halts when another lets out a mortified gasp and points to something on the ground behind them.
It's Altman, or what's left of him. The upper half of his body is missing. All that's left are two legs in jeans and socks in a bloody pool. His boots sit neatly paired a few feet away. What in the hell just ripped him in half like paper?
Later, as the disheartened group reemerges from dark forest on their way back to camp, several dirty, determined faces watch from the brush. They're men who don't belong at their camp and don't look like they can be any good.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
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