The New Group

Episode 14: Warning: Graphic Content

 

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The new ally slams the door shut and begins to berate poor old Leo.

“What are you doing out there? You’re nuts man! The dead things are everywhere, everywhere around here, they would have killed you!”

Leo acknowledges the point and feels perplexed why he’s still in the world of the living.

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The guy who let him in introduces himself as Gregg, but his friends refer to him as Big Gregg, all six-foot-eight of him.

The lanky fellow seems like a decent enough guy – just saved Leo’s life for crying out loud!

 

Wearing a blue sweat jacket with Gonzaga written across the front (obviously a fan), Big Gregg seems to have a continual smile, reminding lucky Leo of the now late jovial Ned.

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Where in the hell is this? A sex shop? Oh brother. It’s a pretty big place and the air is stale and musty.

If they needed to stock up on lingerie, dirty paraphernalia and XXX movies and mags, they got it all right here.

 

“Come on, the door is locked but they can’t see or hear us or they won’t go away. Stay out of view…come on to the back, all right…let’s get out of here,” Gregg urges his guest in a hushed voice as the two head for the back rooms.

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Owning a deep, self-assured voice, Big Gregg introduces the rest of his ragtag group: a quiet young guy in a plaid shirt they call Silent Dave, and he is indeed silent and cerebral. He never tried to control his life and just rode its waves.

There’s also another Dave, this one with a beard and wearing a baseball cap they call Brother Dave, an ill-tempered, hard-nosed, no nonsense guy whose voice uncannily sounds like actor Denis Leary. Every group trying to survive the end of days needs one of those, right? He's also the type of guy who would warm up a big, stinky bowl of fish head soup at work just to stick it to co-workers.

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There’s also Julia, a stunning doe-eyed youngish red head with long hair. She possess a smooth Irish accent and smells like orange blossoms - sweet!

 

Also on hand is George, whom they call Georgie Boy, a middle-aged class clown-type wearing a tank top and basketball shorts. He's the type who's faster than a speeding bullet, getting off work at five but being home by four. Many used to find him irresistible, including himself.

 

There's also Vinny, a mild-mannered Fijian man with a thin mustache.

Finally, there’s Bert and Edna, a senior couple who made here from Swift Current. Bert, always wearing a spiffy fedora and bow tie, has his arm around his wife, and both looking extra anxious. They had seen several people torn apart since they fled Swift Current. Yup, a real tire fire!

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Guess Gregg is the leader of this bunch.

 

Brother Dave complains about the opening of the door and drawing attention to their hideout, but is quickly put in his place when the big guy asks whether they should have allowed Leo to be shredded.

The others don’t say much as they try to figure out what Leo is all about and whether he can be trusted.

Finally, George, who keeps his hands in his pockets and jingles a bunch of toonies (the now useless Canadian two dollar coin) welcomes the dude to their fold.

Sounds like a stadium full of plague monsters are roaming around outside, hungry.

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Soon, the seniors are seated on office chairs in the storage room while the rest are sitting in a circle on the floor for a good old pow wow and a little kumbaya…surrounded by porn.

They’ve turned on a lantern in the middle and talk, even though Leo doesn’t want to share too many details about his misadventures, not just yet anyway.

 

Silent Dave and Brother Dave both seem to be sizing up the dude, although Leo realizes that could be nothing more than paranoia due to a lack of weed. Turns out they all went through hell to get to this point, some being in different groups that faced grisly deaths.

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A former life coach, Big Gregg was staying at a farm just outside of Kamloops, hoping to ride out the pandemic, when people started arriving, lots of them. At first they were locals but soon people from as far as Price George, Price Rupert, Vancouver, Banff and even Medicine Hat arrived looking for refuge.

 

The farm was filled with motorhomes and tents and, much to Gregg’s chagrin, all were welcomed. Then, a couple of newcomers arrived already sick with the big nasty. As soon as they showed up, others got sick including Gregg’s entire family, resulting in panic, violence and gore.

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Gregg and a few others escaped but soon everyone in that group either got sick or were mutilated. A few days ago he hooked up with Silent Dave, who had seen his own family eaten alive, and the rest of this group, which isn’t a very tough looking bunch.

 

“Ya well, ummm, ya…anyway we were staying from place to place waiting for the army or something to take care of things, but it got worse. So many people kept getting sick and nobody, ummm, knows what it is,” Silent Dave tells Leo.

Big Gregg nods.

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“There was a bunch of people staying down at the port, you know, in Delta, but they wouldn’t let us in. We ended up staying, like, in an elementary school for a while and it was pretty good because the doors were locked and shutters were down. Maybe we shouldn’t have left there…I dunno. We just want to make it out of the city. We got a minivan in the back, so…..ya, that’s good,” the placid silent one adds.

 

Gregg continues to nod approvingly. “That’s right. Silent Dave is our driver extraordinaire!”

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It's not safe anywhere, especially the city. Their plan is to make it to the Southern Gulf Islands somehow, get away from the crappy end of the world stuff.

That’s it? Leo isn’t impressed, so he tells them about Archie’s island, an alternative that has them quickly excited. They only have a few knives and a baseball bat, as well as only a little food and a few juice boxes. This new group would have to start from scratch gathering provisions. Hopefully, this time, it will work.

 

Julia doesn’t leave a good first impression with Leo, who thinks she’s a bit stuck up, but Vinny seems nice.

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Leo also doesn’t care much for old Bert calling him “young man”. The dude knows he’s in for a long fifteen minutes when Bert's contribution to the conversation starts with "I remember during the Nuremberg trials...."

 

Finishing off a bottle of cheap fruit flavoured rum, and not sharing a damn drop, Georgie Boy, tells his story of catastrophe, how plague monsters burst through the front door of where he was staying and tore apart a couple of little girls he had been protecting. He barely made it out, fighting off the monsters with pots and pans.

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When he finishes his sad tale, George, considering himself so wonderful that sometimes he can't stand himself, reaches back into a box of adult magazines and grabs a crisp new issue to flip through. He seems to get a kick out of making people just a little uncomfortable. Some vintage erotic novels then catch his eye. Time for a little light reading, eh Georgie Boy?

 

"I took Viagra once and broke my elbow," he laughs.

Nope, he’s not politically correct and if it annoys Julia, a dedicated Roman Catholic wearing a big silver crucifix....too bad, so sad.

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Big Gregg asks Leo, "So, Leo, what do you think? Do you think there's more like us out there? Should we try to find other people, groups, that kind of thing, or is it too risky?"

It's kind of a loaded question for the dude, who could have been left outside to become a disemboweled husk. On the other hand, there are killers like that Lillian woman.

 

"You know, I think that's a tough one. It's going to be hard. Let's just say, dude, I know there's some rotten, nasty jerks out there. How to figure out the good ones from those nasty ones, I guess that's what we're going to have to figure out, quick. You know, who to trust, that kind of thing. I'm kinda new to this stuff."

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Later, Brother Dave breaks out a deck of cards to showcase some amazing tricks. Afterward, Edna quietly and in a silky tone sings Oh Danny Boy - a cornball way to cap off an eventful day. They all wonder if anyone is still out there working to get on top of this whole thing, this nightmare, but know it's not bloody likely.

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A little later when everyone’s asleep, Leo stares into the darkness wondering about Kate and the boys. His sister, Archie and even the Rooster cross his mind. He then reaches into his overalls and takes out the bottle of eye drops. Clutching it, he closes his eyes but can't cry. At least the crowd of plague monsters outside has thinned, thankfully.

 

Later, while everyone is in snooze mode, Leo hears something, a familiar sound that’s several blocks away. Yes, it’s motorbikes. It only lasts a few seconds and is gone. Could it be the same ones he heard back at the house? Perhaps they don’t exist and it’s just his misfiring brain playing tricks on him, like the bad old days of childhood. Doesn’t matter. Reinvention is in order anyway.

 

A few miles away, a bloodied and beaten Johnny is staggering down a street. He managed to give the men who abducted him the slip and had to duck and hide as they cruised the area looking for him. Perhaps he's being punished for all the bad he took part in....perhaps. Looks like he won't get that chance to redeem after all.

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He knows he shouldn’t be out here at night and tries to open a few doors. Everything is locked. He tries a Little Caesars pizza joint, also locked but he desperately peers through the window and knocks, thinking he saw someone moving around inside. It's the haggard and scared middle-age couple hiding behind the counter, the husband arguing with his wife to be quiet.

 

They had already ditched the woman’s elderly mother in their house and weren't about to change their tactics

Yup, this disaster has brought out the worst in people, although these two were always shallow and selfish.

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Don't let the kid in because no one can be trusted, especially since the couple is in possession of a duffle bag stuffed with cash. She agrees not to let him in but also tells the husband to stop trying to order her around. As the couple continue to bicker in their hushed voices, Johnny makes a run for the Paradise Cafe, which also turns out to be locked.

 

He takes a minute, maybe less, to catch his breath. When he turns around he sees a dozen bleak, rotting faces just a few feet away, silent, having strangely snuck up on him without making a peep. No matter, they have him surrounded, determined to feast. Johnny knows he's done. It'll all be over very soon.

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Hundreds of miles away on a desolate stretch of highway between the British Columbia cities of Kelowna and Merritt, meanwhile, a large, dark coloured SUV moves slowly and cautiously westbound. It has to stop when it approaches a roadblock of several pickup trucks.

 

There, several bearded and disheveled men holding hunting rifles stand in a straight line and waste no time stepping forward into the dim glow of the headlights to order everyone to "put your skates on and get out!"

They shout the order again when there's no response. The second command seems to work when individuals begin exiting the vehicle, but it's hard to see them.

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Suddenly, booming machine gun and shotgun fire erupts from the SUV’s occupants and the bearded men are cut down quickly.

Emerging from the dark are four younger men holding some heavy firepower.....all priests. This is Canada, by the way, how did they get those kinds of weapons? Ya, more on them later.

                                 

 

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Story by Sandor Gyarmati

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