Episode 47: Warning: Graphic Content
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Leo really guns it. It's not as if there's any money-grubbing po po speed traps anymore. Who the hell is in that big plane? Those people, where did they come from? Leo's need to get to it fast is visceral. For god sake, whatever you do, don't crash, whoever you are!
Dropping the can of soda onto the floor, a skittish Vic rebukes "don't get us killed" several times. The dude laughs him off, of course, countering, "You want to live forever or something?"
"Uh, ya, live to be an old fart," answer Vic, holding onto the dashboard.
"The older I get, the younger I was," shrugs Leo, forgetting where he ripped off that pearl of wisdom.
In no time they meet up with the vintage transport aircraft that made a relatively smooth landing on a cracking patch of empty road. Leo jumps out just as the plane's door opens and passengers disembark.
He stands almost dumfounded watching the silent newcomers who are clearly surprised they’ve already got a welcome party. The buses soon arrive as someone familiar to Leo gets off the plane - the computer geek Andrew. The geek smiles and lets out a sigh of relief upon seeing Leo.
Standing next to the dude, Vic isn't sure what to say but is thrilled to know their numbers have instantaneously grown.
Then, a miracle, a gift from the universe. As the bus passengers also get out to greet the strangers, Patricia Myer, carrying one tired young boy and holding hands with his twin, is the last to get off the plane.
Leo is floored. This can't be. How can this be? His mouth wide open, the dude gasps and tears begin streaming down his face. Is he dreaming?
The grizzled Leo backs up and looks side to side momentarily in an attempt to process this gift. He then runs like an Olympic sprinter straight for Pat and the boys who both shout "Daddy!" On his knees, they hug wonderfully tight.
How is this possible? Doesn't matter, nothing else at this moment matters for Leo who looks up at the sky and cries. No longer easily persuadable, the grumpy warrior worked hard at making himself purposefully detached. Now he sobs but nobody minds.
Yup, it's the unlikeliest of reunions. Standing over them, Pat smiles and can't help but get teary as well. This is that Leo guy? Donny was so right, life has never ending miracles unfolding at every moment.
The poor guy wasn't able to articulate it properly, but Patricia is sure what Donny was trying to say is that coincidences, which are little and big miracles that happen every day in your life, are hints the universe has bigger plans for you.
The thirty-seven newcomers and over one hundred from Leo's group quietly form a circle around him, many choked up at the incredible scene they're witnessing.
Knowing Patricia must have been guardian of his boys, his angels, Leo finally looks up at her, his cracking voice offering a repeated "thank you". She isn't sure how to respond and just smiles. Both boys are also crying. What everyone feels in the air is love and, yes, hope - if it can only stay like this forever. Soon, Leo will be back to his measured tones, though.
Tim is the first to approach the other group and shakes hands with Big Mac Mike. He's quickly followed others from both sides in a radiant mass greeting. A teary Keron gives crazy-haired Beth a big-time hug, telling her he's glad he'll be able to get to know them, while Jack and son Eric get semi-hugs from Andrew. Seth also joins in on the hug session.
Also keen to meet the friendly strangers from the buses is Jules, a tattoo-clad, sharp-witted leader of the bush group that came to Patricia's rescue.
All the while Leo remains on his knees and holds his sons. He doesn't want to let go and risk losing them again. No, never again.
One of the other kids from Patricia's group points at the irredeemable Vic, enthusiastically proclaiming, "Hey, I know you mister. I know you. You're on TV!"
Even in the apocalypse Vic Lemay remains a celebrity.
Patricia shakes Vic's hand before picking up one of Leo's boys. "I'm Patricia. It's great to meet you. Your boys, they've been so good, so brave. They always talked about you, Leo."
"Good to meet you too. Small world, eh? How about you guys get your stuff and join us. We're going to a safe place, a special place. We'll all be OK there," the jubilant dude offers.
It doesn't take long to load up the new comers and resume the trek to the dome. Leo, opting to ride a bus with both boys in his lap, has Keron drive the lead van with Vic. This is a really big group now and it will get even bigger, becoming an honest-to-goodness colony once they add the doofuses in that dome.
As both exhausted boys drift into secure slumber Leo resolves to ramp it up a few more notches when it comes to doing whatever it takes not to lose anyone else. There's probably going to be nothing of him left when all is said and done, he concludes, but these people, especially his boys, will still be breathing. No way those blood suckers will get then...nope!
He looks back to see Patricia enjoy the tender scene. Good grief, Fred the driver turns on the CD player and the Monkees tune Day Dream Believer starts. Heck, why not?
They eventually reach the logging road and find the funky, cool dome facility located in the middle of nowhere.
"What if they don't want us, not let us in?" one of the newcomers asks Leo.
His steely gaze returning, the dude assures, "We're getting in. I'm taking this place. It's mine....I mean, ours. Next question?"
The group files out of their rides and quickly converge at the locked front gate. It's exactly like Vic described - a thirty-foot tall, and quite thick, concrete wall surrounding three massive dome structures and a pair of brick buildings, all connected by a series of tubed walkways enclosed in sturdy steel. Our tax dollars well spent, huh? The young wavy-haired Canadian prime minister who approved this outlandish project was assured of being the butt of endless jokes, but who's laughing now?
Leo doesn't waste time using Vic's key card to enter the compound. Dusty vehicles are still in the parking lot which is adjacent to an extensive solar panel array.
Fred and Avril look around in awe - this place is incredible. Best part....there's not a dead creeper in sight!
The woman running the show in the dome, and gave Vic the boot, is a granola-cruncher named Olivia. Her stunned look is priceless as Leo, Vic and their scruffy, gun-toting gang meet her in a spotless hallway. Yes, the fools in here had no idea what the hell was going on outside, giving the mercurial Vic morbid satisfaction.
The TV crew, believe it or not, films the entire scene even though the audience no longer exists. Leo ushers the quarrelsome Olivia and the other confused dome residents to a central garden area where he gets straight to the ghastly point, breaking the bad news, as well as letting everyone know he's in charge. They've had a pitifully mundane existence in here but that's about to change.
The current inhabitants are stranded in a panic, trying to wrap their heads around the end of the world thing. They get a crash course on everything from the plague, hungry corpses and blood suckers that control them, and how they’re converging at the monastery. This place could be a paradise but the path to paradise must indeed begin in hell by destroying the monastery.
Meanwhile, the survivors from the airplane are perturbed by Leo's power play. Eager to show his allegiance to the self-proclaimed protector, Jack Burrows pumps his fist in the air while shouting "right on!" His lanky son and a few others follow suit but that doesn't stop several to begin to openly grumble.
Standing on a table, Leo looks around to once again size up potential competition, knowing these suckers need his help whether they want it or not. Yes, he's also ready to pull the little pickaxe from his belt and slice a head open.
Agent White then steps forward, agreeing that Leo is correct in that they may be safe for now but the blood suckers remain a threat. If they find this place and unleash their undead army, there's no way of stopping them from busting inside.
Not impressed with Leo's provocative style, Jules steps forward, demanding to know where the hell Leo gets the balls to start ordering him around. The dude sighs and casually climbs off the table to approach with a stern glare. Fortunately, Patricia gets between them before something nasty occurs.
"Wait, just wait, Jules. Look at what he's done for all those people. He may be rough around the edges but he seems to know what he's doing. I say we do it his way for a while. OK?"
Jules isn't sure what to make of all this but surprisingly decides to relent, mumbling, "All right, we'll try it your way." He turns to his people who nod in agreement. Things will likely take a turn for the worse before they get any better anyway, he concludes with chilling foresight.
Also nodding is Andrew, putting aside his high-strung persona for a while. He's amazed this man putting himself in charge was formerly a lazy weed dealer.
This guy lived a care-free haze of an existence, spending summer days sunbathing stoned on a mattress on his mother's roof, but they will soon learn he's now a hyper-macho, cold-hearted warrior entitled to savagery. Heraclitus once said no man can step into the same river twice, for he is always a different man and it’s always a different river.
Leo puts his hand on Andrew's shoulder, telling him they'll need to do some catching up. Also, Leo informs the nerd that he already can't stand his pleated slacks. Mr. Pleats doesn't know how to respond other than clear his throat.
After gently pushing Jules back, it's Patricia's turn, filling in the rest of the group on the other danger out there, the beasts that rule the forests. The dude doesn't seem fazed.
"Just another hassle," Leo says.
Jules is impressed with the dude's cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor.
"No, no, no, this is not real, no? You, you are serious? The world is gone? A plague? Nobody told us anything!" cries a reeling Olivia, hoping the sleazy Vic is playing a cruel joke. Vic shakes his head and tells his adversary to get a grip.
"My family, my parents, no, I have to get to them," one of the polyester-clad dome-heads shouts.
"Get it through your thick skulls you idiots, there's nothing out there. Your family is probably dead. You go out there, you won't last an hour," Vic yells gleefully.
The dejected cameramen, typical hipsters wearing mac jackets, girl’s jeans and ironic t-shirts, finally stop filming and lower their equipment.
There's much to discuss and do, especially with those animal things potentially roaming around these woods. A gun turret or two need to be established and guards assigned. More importantly, planning needs to get underway for a strike against the monastery.
Of course, Leo needs to find out how this place works. The distribution of food, living arrangements, recreation - he'll assign Jules and White to handle those details.
Before Leo does anything more, however, he’ll spend time with his boys. These brief, gentle moments will be the antithesis of everything Leo has become.
A few days later there's a creepy scene taking place elsewhere in the province. Yes, it’s the monastery.
You want to talk about pretty freaky and intense? Things have changed as they were meant to at this den of inequity, where dreams of mere mortals come to die. The gate opens for new arrivals. Wearing a purple hooded cape, the imposing cardinal walks out to greet Hagstrom and Kate, who are followed by an obedient army of dripping corpses.
Boy, talk about an entrance! Standing behind the cardinal, and also wearing ridiculous hooded outfits, are several more chosen including Archie, who's feeling invincible. Their sickening bond is instant.
Adding to the mood is a melancholy medieval tune someone is playing on an organ in one of the old buildings. It's a song both sad and sweet. Little does Leo nor the other survivors realize is that there's a whole lot more to the cardinal and his kind.
Not only do they have the uncanny power to control the dead, as well as influence the minds of the living, they also perceive time on a completely different level, seeing the past, present and future unfold simultaneously.
It means they know Leo is not only still alive somewhere out there but also about to attack them. They may not know the exact details but sense enough to begin preparations for the upcoming war. Too bad the dude doesn't have the element of surprise, but even if he knew this little wrinkle that wouldn't stop him for giving it the old college try. The freaks are convinced that for Leo it'll all be over very soon.
A few hundred miles away, meantime, inside a small, grimy building behind a fruit stand on the side of the highway, someone is enjoying a tasty meaty meal. All right, it's not someone but a something. A rotting plague monster, yellow pustules bursting on its forehead and its grey skin dripping off the bones, chomps down on the leg of a man.
It’s a fresh kill who couldn't find a good enough hiding spot. The undead's face smeared in dark red, it acts entirely on instinct, the need to feed...and this is one fine meal indeed.
Suddenly, a large bowie knife plunges into the back of its skull and the plague monster drops on top of its ravaged brunch. Doing the stabbing is man wearing a brown leather bomber jacket and a baseball cap. The meal was a former comrade.
The two had ventured from the monastery a few days earlier but got separated when they were forced off the road by a bunch of ravenous corpses blocking their path. Now this lone survivor, named Rodney, meanders in the middle of nowhere. You can easily say nowhere is now everywhere in this destroyed world.
"Oh Trent, I'm so sorry. I was too late. I didn't think you of all people would die," a morose Rodney laments. Having a British accent, he sounds very much like actor Jeromy Irons.
Ironically, just a few days earlier he had given his now dead friend a quote from the famous actor, "We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams."
Almost getting used to that burning hair smell that's now seemingly everywhere, Rodney grabs his friend's back pack and begins walking eastward on the lonely highway. Yup, that wind that makes it seem as if he's in a spaghetti western commences. The monastery is too far, and not an option anyway, but the other direction might hold a whole lot of nothing.
Hunkered down in an abandoned bungalow later that evening, he hears strange howling off in the distance. He knows all about those mutant animals lurking in the woods, so it's best to stay super quiet and hope they've moved on by morning. Luckily, they do. Maybe, just maybe, for Rodney it won't be over very soon after all.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati