Episode 13: Warning: Graphic Content - Maple Leaf Zombies - A free zombie web novel
Let’s go back a few days to see what else is going on, eh?
"Heads-up, Gunther, I hear something coming," a hushed voice exclaims in a darkened, musky boarded-up farmhouse as night falls.
"Just shush, everyone be cool," another more authoritative voice counters.
Here’s a tired group of a dozen survivors, ordinary people from all walks of life thrown together through dire circumstances, hoping their chances will improve somewhat now that they have each other. They have useful supplies but their only weapons are a few knives and other stabbing objects. Their long-term odds of survival is less than getting ten out of ten numbers in keno. They're screwed.
In charge of this sad sack bunch is a celebrity chef, a tall, balding, baritone-voiced survivor who has brought articulate, but also somewhat snobbish, leadership to his group.
He continues to tell them to keep real quiet as he peeks through an opening to check the commotion outside.
There, on a cracking road beyond an overgrown field, a car is stopped in its tracks by what appears to be a hundred frenzied dead things eager to feed. Turning around is impossible since a hundred more emerge from the brush to surround the vehicle.
Exiting the car is a frantic man brandishing an axe and female partner with long dark hair who’s swinging a baseball bat. They whack away, downing a dozen with superb precision. They've obviously done this before. Problem is, there's way too many decomposing monsters to fight this time around.
"What's, wh-what's h- happening? What's going on out there?" another stuttering voice inquiries from the huddled farmhouse group.
The leader shakes his head, knowing it's too risky helping the couple, and reiterates his command to “button it.” He hates himself for saying it, and has been hating himself for having to make other gut-wrenching choices for his people to breathe a little longer, but there's no other choice, none at all.
The man outside is the first to go down as a dripping plague monster grabs him from behind and chomps into his head. Another vomitous attacker, its eyes oozing yellowish pus, bites into his cheek and quickly tears off the side of the man’s face, revealing a nice set of teeth.
The man screams momentarily as he’s taken down and ripped open. The rib cage is promptly pulled apart and the first thing the greedy diners take out is a lung.
Wearing a bright orange leather jacket with a Canadian Football League emblem, the woman screams for her partner but manages to keep the decomposing creeps off her just little longer. Sure enough, one of the ravenous dead things grabs her bat, allowing another to take a bloody chunk out of her forearm.
She gasps but somehow shakes free, dropping the bat and clutching her arm as she darts away, dodging several much slower plague monsters that reach out hoping to get a little taste. The woman in the loud jacket bolts into an adjoining field and into the woods. She may have gotten away but she’s a goner.
The man in the farmhouse, meanwhile, watches in disdain while continuing to order his troop to remain silent.
Then, an odd scratching sound from the other side of the house rattles the group, prompting the leader to scurry to another window.
Through a small opening he sees something unreal, something you’d only see in some high budget horror flick, but this is insanely real. Standing on a tractor with arms extended is a shirtless and muscular man, a bizarre anomaly who’s completely white.
Almost a hundred plague monsters standing obediently below him, swaying side-to-side, the malicious stranger is also sporting deep blue balls for eyes which stare back at the dumfounded celebrity chef. Yes, the stranger is so very thirsty.
His group also peer out windows at the horror and begin to scramble in futile panic, while the man looks down and can’t help but chuckle. “Sure, why not?”
He seats himself on an old, comfy chair and reaches into his pocket for a fat cigar.
The moaning plague monsters have the house surrounded and, under the albino weirdo’s direct, silent command, begin tearing off the planks covering the windows. The man tunes out the screams, looks up and smiles. He lights his stogie and takes a few nice puffs. It's over, thank god.
He won't have to hide like a rat anymore, nor have to constantly rebuke the narcissist know-it-alls he's been trying to protect. It's over.
A couple of days later, the survivors traveling in the light beige motorhome check out the vacated but blood soaked farmhouse, finding a few bone fragments but also some useful supplies.
Now let's get back to Leo.........................
Bruce the ever friendly bartender is bored and is more than pleased Leo showed up. He leans over to gab some more.
They go over some old material: how they hate tailgaters, driving behind someone who's smoking, how Leo is spending too much money at the casino, as well as their favourite keno numbers.
This isn't right.......how can this be normal? Are Bruce and these bar patrons insane? The camaraderie is great but the more Leo drinks, the more he feels this is ludicrous. He doesn't want to talk about Anna or the dead wandering the streets but this isn’t right either.
"You know, Leo, if you want...actually, might be better if maybe we do a little swapping, all right? Maybe you have some stuff I could use and you can have all the beer or hard stuff you need. I have a lot of stuff you'll like friend," Bruce suggests.
Now that's more like it. He's sounding more like he should. Still, this all doesn't seem real. Good thing Leo collected a lot of tools from that incineration place - his trunk is full of them. His marijuana was ripped off but at least he can get his hands on some liquor.
Bruce wants fuel, noting he has enough to keep the generator running maybe a few more days. Leo has none to offer but Bruce is happy with some tools. Perhaps not a wise trade for the dude.
After he returns from retrieving some stuff from the trunk, one of the other regulars, an old-timer sporting a big nose and intense whisky breath, decides to move to a seat near him. He's hammered as he holds up his stiff drink and laughingly sings Eve of Destruction.
An older woman sitting nearby isn't impressed with the drunkard with the big schnauzer, giving him a nasty glare. Leo chuckles when the man looks back and quotes Churchill, "I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly!"
Even in the end of the world, the Sunstone goes on in the Twighlight Zone. Same drunken faces. Same old stuff.
Always a good laugh to be had at the Sunstone.
My god, the insanity continues. Bruce somehow got a special musical act to entertain the customers. Elvis impersonator Aaron Wong, who's really quite good, hits the stage for a set. The patrons love it but it's all making good old Leo feel even more discombobulated. Whatever, he'll stick around to hear a little Blue Suede Shoes and work on his buzz.
During the show one of the other drunk old-timers taps the dude on the shoulder, noting, "Guess with the end of the world we won't have to see anymore man buns and yoga mats, eh?"
Later, an inebriated Leo makes the trade with Bruce, grabbing a six-pack and bottle of vodka, the good stuff, before taking off for the night. He's drinking and driving but chances are high he won't encounter police road checks anymore. Yup, this was one strange night.
He asks Bruce if he ever saw or heard of that Lillian woman, but the affable bartender just shrugs his shoulders.
When the dude is gone, Bruce paces behind the bar briefly before deciding it's last call.
"OK everyone, last call! Closing up! Put your skates on! Make sure you get home safe! Be careful! Please stay alive, all right? We’ll be open again as long as we can starting at one!"
He then asks Gare-Bear, also called Garry Poppins by some patrons, whether he wants to hang out a little longer - a rhetorical question indeed.
Leo takes the police car just a few blocks from the pub and ends up in the middle of an electronics super store parking lot. He notices there’s just half tank of gas left as he begins to swig the vodka. He doesn't know if he'll ever venture back to that bar.
He spends the rest of the day in the front seat trying to figure out what he should do…..kill Lillian, try to make it to Archie’s island, go down south to find his sister, go back to the cemetery? Does it really matter because he won’t survive any of those options?
He doesn't want to wallow, though. Man, he’d just love to hit the road right now and work his way north to Archie’s awesome island, avoiding the dead.
Leo gets good and hammered and falls asleep with his mouth open. Nothing is going to wake him. Later that evening the light beige motorhome pulls into the super store parking lot and with its headlights on pulls in front of the RCMP cruiser.
The RV driver wants to check this out. What he sees in the police car appears to be a dead body with its mouth open.
Just to be sure, he honks a couple of times but there's no response. It's dead, the driver tells the other occupants of the RV, survivors who come from a wide range of backgrounds including a journalist, an engineer, a school teacher and a pro hockey star and his young family. The driver, a scientist who came all the way from Seattle, takes off and clips an undead abomination while exiting the parking lot.
Less than an hour later, the conceited roar of Honda race bikes pass the sleeping dumbass in this land of frothing lunacy, its riders looking for a safe place to hold up for the night. Yes, it’s that same group of nomad bikers with samurai swords. Their leader, Head Snapper, soon spots something exciting – an unbelievable delight!
It’s the Sunstone Pub. Can this last vestige of a dead society be real? Who cares! The giddy leader raises his arm and points toward the tavern’s parking lot. Yes, he and his biker chicks are going to get the party started at this joint. Praise the lord and pass a cold one. Make that two! Before they knock on the door, he just has to take a photo of that sign and its welcoming, warm red glow.
The following morning provides Leo with the battle royal of hangovers. His brain is going through a meat grinder all right. Nice job man!
He’s not even startled when a groaning plague monster claws at his front passenger window. He just stares at the repulsive face for a few minutes before taking off.
He’s not even sure where he’s going at this point. Driving around abandoned vehicles and a few roaming dead, he reaches for a bottle of water.
Sure enough, he’s stopped in his tracks. “Damn it, not again!”
What looks like a thousand of those things are blocking his path. He backs up but is stopped by almost the same number that appear out of nowhere behind him.
A side road looks much better and it looks like he’s in the clear. Too bad the cruiser, just to screw the dude, starts to sputter before green fluid steams up the windshield.
Are you joking? A blown head gasket now of all times! He grabs his machete from the front seat and the supplies from the trunk to begin a perilous hike.
After a couple of minutes, and seemingly in the clear, he turns a corner and, yes, he meets more of those things that immediately take pursuit.
He trips over skeletal remains but gets right back onto his feet for an invigorating dash. Yup, he should have exercised, kept his body finely tuned instead of letting himself turn into a bowl of pudding.
Wait a minute……the radio station, he’s back here? Leo sprints to the front door and uses a crowbar to pry it open, then using the tool to wedge the door handles.
He then makes his way into the station as dozens of those dead things start pressing themselves against the glass. Leo isn’t concerned (but he should be) as he starts wandering the building where he stayed with his friends, comic books and empty bags of corn chips everywhere.
He finds himself in the lunchroom to see empty water bottles and something else. “There it is, I got it for you baby….I got it,” he says to himself with a tone of accomplishment after noticing Anna’s eye drops.
He grabs it and sticks it in his pocket. Just then, a shattering of glass prompts the dude to scatter. The plague monsters, hundreds of them, have busted through!
With machete and bag in hand, he somehow makes it down the back stairs and out a door before they can grab him......they just barely miss.
Down the back alley and onto another street and, sure enough, he encounters even more of them. An army of savage, dead things! How fitting, deafening thunder and super bright lightening begins, flashing so intense that it's like a camera flash going off on his eyeballs. Lightening but no rain, not a damn drop.
Leo drops his bag but doesn’t have time to panic. A few stand in his way…..big deal! He slashes a few heads while the horde of wretched creatures close in on their dinner.
Those foul ghouls aren't getting him, he vows, but he finds himself becoming encircled. He tries another side yard but finds himself blocked….rats!
A twelve-foot-high cinderblock wall between two these buildings. He tries to turn back but plague monsters with their vile aroma are approaching, forcing him to the dreary dead end. This is it, right?
He tries in vain to open a side door and then backs up with those things making their way closer, making those appalling sounds. Machete still in hand and ready for the final stand, Leo is more pissed than scared. How could he end up here? Stupid, stupid, stupid! Anna would be pissed too.
Suddenly, the door opens and a man peeks out, urging the trapped Leo to get inside – lucky bugger….again!
“Come on get in, what are you doing here, hurry!”
Leo charges inside just as the rotting grey hands with hanging skin reach for the door that’s slammed behind him. Saved!
Just a few blocks away, another desperate man is trying to run from a large grouping of disgusting plague monsters that have broken off from the same herd giving chase to Leo.
It’s the poor schnook wearing the green camouflage t-shirt and brandishing that thick piece of metal. He’s forced to drop his backpack on the sidewalk and screams for help as the tenacious dead surround him, cutting off every possible exit.
He also goes for a path between two buildings but is blocked by a large wall. He tries for a side door as the dead pour into the narrow pathway and shuffle toward him, all the while the blinding lightening continues.
He pounds and pounds for someone to open that damn thing but nobody is inside. He's still unlucky, not having drawn a high card since this apocalypse thing began. And now it'll all be over very soon.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
Comic art by House of Black Art (Jess Soares HouseofBlackArt.com)
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