Episode 38: Warning: Graphic Content
Maple Leaf Zombies - Free zombie web fiction
Greek music on cassette is playing at low volume in an old school ghetto blaster while an unfortunate scene unfolds in the offices of the Forest Pines Cemetery.
Damn, someone is going to die, a brooding Leo concludes as he runs his fingers through his coarse beard. Standing with a Colt Sheriffs model .45 LC calibre revolver in one hand and a child's colourful spinner toy in another, the dude's burning eyes are fixated on a nervously gulping target standing in front of him.
The goofy target is a shrimp of a man, a bug-eyed buck tooth weasel named Johnny Mah. He's just committed an unforgivable act....well, in Leo's mind anyway and that's all that counts. The other men stand a few feet away and wisely keep their distance as Leo holds out the toy, wanting to know why in the hell that shrimp had committed such a crime.
What did the little man, whom Leo doesn't trust anyway, do to deserve the punishment he's about to receive? Well....let's just tell ya.
After the gong show at the courthouse, Leo and his new heard-hearted followers made their way through the dangerous, dead infested Surrey streets to the safety of the cemetery. Leo's been here before with a previous group, as you know, so was able to warn these guys about the horrible scene in the chapel. You know, it's where the undead children circle around and around acting live real, live kids.
They looked normal enough the last time he was here but that's no longer the case.
They're rotting and have an unbelievable stink. They're also acting up, being real naughty little monsters. Time to put these little buggers out of their misery. All of them, though, would be treated with respect and have their own burial plots. The ceremony would be quite touching too.
Things got spoiled, however, when Leo discovered one of his followers, Johnny, had the nerve to rifle through the kids' pockets, removing a few trinkets including the spinner for himself. Nope, that's just not acceptable, not one bit.
Problem is, the little man has the nerve to give a fuming Leo a bit too much lip.
"What do you care? They're dead anyways. You can't tell me what to do, you. Mind your own........."
One shot through that fat, ugly forehead is all it takes and the little runt is down for the count. A perfect quarter-shaped hole. And guess what....the cassette finishes playing just as the bullet blows the little man's brains out - talk about timing! Bright pink chunks add vibrancy to the dull grey gravel.
There's a few raised eyebrows but the reaction is mostly nonchalant. Formerly underactive to an infuriating degree, disinterested in any unearthly higher callings, the dude's metamorphosis is rounding out nicely.
The scowl chiseled on his face, and voice stuck on gravely mode, Leo looks around, scratches his cheek and tells one of the men, Randy, the most withdrawn and introspective of the bunch, to dump the body outside. After tring to rub Leo then tells Seth and Michael to take a walk with him through the cemetery grounds, which had been already cleared of walking corpses.
"OK, tomorrow, I'm thinking, we head back. Ammo is almost out, so we'll play it real smart when we get in the mission gates, like everything is all right. Just like I planned. Then, we take out the cardinal's suck ups, his boys. The rest, they'll fall in line," he explains. "This is going to work. I'll kill the cardinal myself."
"Man, you sure this is going to work? I mean, I'll go along with whatever you say, but this could go sideways real fast on us," Seth responds. "Could be the end of the line."
"It'll work. We just have to move fast, Seth. Me and Randy will go straight to the armoury. You'll help keep the others away. Once we get that, it's over. There's only a dozen of us but it'll work if we move fast, real fast," Mike offers.
Leo grins and pats Michael on the shoulder. "That's it, you've got that right. Going to be a long ride back up there but when we're back we'll move like lightening. Zap!"
The dude then asks, finally, what Michael did before the apocalypse, being told he was a furniture design consultant. Hmmm, OK.
Seth interrupts, "Ya, and when this is over, I'm cutting your hair! Both of you!"
"Ummmmm, guys.....guys...." a nervous voice on the office rooftop shouts. The man assigned to keep watch points toward the street as the sound of what seems like a thousand growling plague monsters begin roaming outside the fence. Now what?
Leo, Seth, Michael and the others rush to the roof and are taken aback at what they see - a huge swarm of undead slowly shuffling outside, their greyish flesh dripping from their putrid carcasses. Leo crosses his arms and turns around to provide new orders.
"OK boys, looks like we've got to put our skates on and get inside fast, stay outta sight and be really quiet. They'll be gone in a day or two, move on. For now, we're stuck here." Leo continues, "Good thing there's a bunch of board games in here, pass the god damn time until it's clear."
A few hours later, the army of ghouls continue to drag their feet out there as Leo peers through a window. Everything is real dark so as to not encourage the hideous funk to stick around. The rest of the guys are downstairs playing Monopoly, Parcheesi and other fun family games. The dude is joined by the cowboy who wants to make sure Leo is in the right head space.
"Look at them, my god, what a bunch of suckers. They were already dead before they turned, Seth old boy. Now they're livin' the dream."
"Don't know about any of that. I'm just, wanna make sure we get out of all this in one piece. Not sure how that crap is going to end up," answers Seth. "But if this all works out, we put a period on that part of our life, we're going to have a good thing going. Ya, real good thing. We can start finding more people, families, start building all of it back up. You know, redeem ourselves. Cool, no?"
Leo does a double-take, puzzled. "You kiddin'? The mission, it's ours, not letting anyone else in. Can't trust anyone. The world is crap and we have to keep our heads above it. The new world, boy. It's just us now."
"Wait, just hold on!" Seth fires back. "OK, we're following you, you seem to know what you're doin'. But come on, we can't shut out the whole world....or what's left of it. You can't just let the rest to die. We gotta at least try, you know, to help some of the good ones. We can't be like that, you know, bunch of animals."
The loquacious cowboy seats himself on the couch and seems relaxed, at ease with what he's about to spill.
"You know we'll follow you're lead but, well, I'm hoping we could be part of something new, better. I've got a lot of regret," he confesses. "You know, when things first started going bad, when everyone was getting sick and turning into dead things, I was hold up with a couple of friends at my townhouse. Waiting for the cops or someone to do something. Then, guess what, this old bastard shows up at my door begging me to help him. He has some little girl with him, maybe granddaughter, dunno. I couldn't believe it. Same fart who was complaining to the strata about me....my truck....being loud..wanted to get me kicked out. Screw him, I told him to get his dirty ass out of my house and stuck a baseball bat in his face. He kept saying' sorry but I got rid of him. Now, I kind of wanna make up for being like that.....get what I'm saying?"
Seth knew darn well it wasn't safe out there and that the dead creeps were taking over, everywhere, but his guilt letting the old fart out to fend for himself is none of Leo's concern. Who gives a rat's behind about redemption? The colourful cowboy will simply have to cry himself to sleep, drink, or do whatever he has to when it comes to dealing with that baggage.
Leo chuckles. He considers the cowboy a self-parody but a nice enough guy, and he likes his style. "All right, maybe one or two good ones, but only who I gotta give the green light to, all right? You're all right cowboy."
Seth pauses, asking, “You think this disease things is over? Will they ever figure it out? The dude just curls his lips and shakes his head.
Leo wonders if Seth's willingness to be so helpful, to help perfect strangers who could bring down a whole lotta misery upon them, is just plain stupid. Hopefully he won't have to kill him. Who's going to cut Leo's hair if things go that far?
Anyways, who knows how long it will take for all those dead to clear out. Until then, they're not going to take the mission...they're not going anywhere.
Oh great, what the hell is this? Just as Seth leaves the room Leo spots something just beyond the cemetery gates. It looks like a little import car with a bunch of luggage strapped to the roof. It speeds down the street, slowly pursued by a bunch of filthy, crooked walking plague monsters, when it’s forced to stop by the large herd in front of the graveyard.
Oh that's nice, there's a family inside. Should Leo get the men to make a dash for the gates and pull them out of there? Nope. He can't risk losing any more of his own soldiers, nor his dwindling supply of bullets.
Good thing the moral Seth nor the others know about this carnage. They don't hear the father being pulled out and ripped into bloody pieces, nor how the rest of the family is quickly shredded. In the end, there's only one grotesque plague monster in the vehicle, its belly full of tasty raw human flesh.
The ill-prepared are getting their just deserts. The dad was probably one of those jackassess who cut people off in traffic. The dude is convinced he has to be harsh, cold, in order to prevent anyone in his group from being massacred. Nope, if you're not ready to think like that, then you don't deserve the luxury of life. Not only will he lead his new army in body, but also guide their minds and spirits. He’ll be the most profound of the mystics, sages, masters and philosophers since antiquity.
Time to join the guys downstairs for some board games.
As he heads downstairs, the dude reaches into his jacket pocket hoping to find a stick of gum. Instead, he pulls out a hastily written note, a dire warning, from his friend Fred Hall. Damn, he can't believe what he's reading here. It's an entirely different ballgame now…..maybe not.
Meanwhile, in the dead suburbs of Seattle things are about to get really, really ugly.
Ford and two soldiers are travelling down an eerie road in the Plymouth Volare searching for more survivors they can bring back to the "safety" of the medical centre. It's getting harder and harder to find people. The rotten rule the streets and if there's any normal people still around, they're deep in hiding. Or, is there nowhere left that's safe? Nowhere to hide? Are they all dead?
Ford, who hasn't been very talkative lately, is devising his own plan, one that involves putting a bullet between Hagstrom's eyes before taking off for a cabin near Supai, Arizona. It's far enough away from all this decay so the dead, and living, will never bother him ever again. He can finally live in peace. He just wants to be left alone. And.....well guess what....what do we have here? A survivor?
Yes, there on the overpass, a black man with a bushy beard standing next to a car, waving his arms. Looks like a good enough specimen for Hagstrom, but he'll likely be the last, concludes Ford as he exits the Volare to instruct the survivor to come to him.
"Hurry up old-timer, come to us! We've got a safe place! You'll be OK now!"
But, something is wrong, assesses Ford, who left his machine gun in the car. As the wind that makes you feel you're in a spaghetti western intensifies, the man with the beard begins to step back. Ford's two soldiers then hustle toward him but the man ducks for cover behind his vehicle.
Here we go!
Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Several figures, including Tim White and Jack Burrows, emerge from behind dust covered cars on the side of the road and begin firing. An ambush!
One soldier is shot in the face and goes down but the other fires his heavy-duty machine gun in return.
Bullets shred through the vehicles and into two of the attackers. Ford, meanwhile, makes a run for it, turning around briefly to unload his revolver, dropping two more attackers before jumping over a guard rail.
Holding a revolver of his own, White gives pursuit and also jumps over the railing, ending up tumbling onto a grassy hill. "Where, where did he go, where?"
An empty, lifeless street and buildings but no sign of Ford. The crackle of gunfire continues on the overpass as the second soldier blasts away a couple more Tim White's men. Some undead pour out of a delivery van to join the party and need prompt blasting as well.
Suddenly, the soldier is tackled from behind by Keron who quickly wrestles the machine gun away. On top of the soldier, an enraged Keron digs his thumbs into the soldier's eye sockets, gouging both balls out, prompting the young private the shriek in agony.
It was too easy for Keron, like digging his digits in a big plate of mash potatoes. Well, it was just like that except for the blood bubbling out. He hates that it's this easy.
His red covered hands then drag the soldier, who's in shock, by the ankles, but Burrows, the last of the other men, halts Keron, imploring him to leave the blinded fighter and help find agent White. "He went after that leader guy. Come on, Keron, we've got to get him!"
A familiar growling noise at one end of the overpass emerges, Yup, dozens of rotting undead, attracted by the commotion, shuffle toward them. Keron and Jack look at each other and know what to do, jumping into the Volare and turning the damn thing around to get out of there.
The dead things can have the wounded soldier.
A couple of blocks away, a frantic White, gun in hand, continues to dash down the street looking for Ford, who seems to have given them all the slip. Then, around a creepy corner White suddenly finds himself just a few feet from a couple of foul plague monsters that immediately reach their arms out to grab him. A couple of shots in their mushy heads and White can continue his search for Ford. How did he get away?
White then turns around to see a vehicle pull up behind him, the Volare driven by Jack with Keron riding shot gun.
"Tim, get in.....it's over, he got away! We've gotta go back to the temple!" White finally stops and bends down to catch his breath. He nods and gets in before any more plague monsters decide to show up.
Little do they know Ford is just a few feet away inside a looted coffee shop, hiding behind a counter and able to overhear every word thanks to front window being gone.
Temple, eh? Ford is sure he knows where these guys are hiding out and he's going to get them some payback. He'll go with some serious firepower and pull off a Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of his own. They're all going to die, he vows. The first thing, however, is to take that dangerous trek back to the medical centre. Then it dawns of the military man who these guys are….must be the same ones he got a sense were following him, watching him at the pit.
He has to dodge just a handful of slimy ghouls on the jog back, but his throat is chocking on the rancid haze parked permanently on the sorrowful landscape. By the time he's back and starts shaking the front gate for someone to let him in, he's decided to drop that whole revenge thing and make his own getaway. It's over. Yes, he's been followed by more hungry undead...time to get inside!
Inside the research centre, the condition ain't exactly pleasant....not one bit. The air conditioning isn't working anymore. Paper and garbage is strewn all over the place and many of the lights are no longer working. The few that are functioning are painfully buzzing and flickering. The place stinks like a plugged toilet in a skid row public washroom too. Abhi has been the only one dutifully working away lately and the only scientist the soldiers have seen.
Kate has been staying in her quarters, refusing to take part in any more experiments. No matter, things are about to end anyway. Unbeknownst to Kate and the others, Abhi is taking action, having let Bogdan out of his cell and now opening the door for Vance, the only other prisoner that hasn't been experimented on yet.
"Come now, while Ford is gone. I know where they keep the guns. I'll help you get there. Kill them, just kill them," urges Abhi. Vance slams the slender scientist against the wall, demanding to know what happened to his wife and daughter. "They're dead, dead....you will be too unless we act right away!" shouts Abhi.
"So what, trying to redeem yourself? Trying to make up everything that you did? Doesn't work like that!" fires Vance. Bogdan pulls the muscle man away, telling him to "take it easy" as they don't have much time.
Inside a dimly lit lab in a section of the complex that's off limits to all but Hagstrom, meantime, the arrogant head scientist is quite content, conducting his own private experiment. His test subject is strapped to a bed, her breathing shallow and body motionless. Well, what's left of her body. Hagstrom has her nicely drugged but not to the point of unconsciousness. He has made sure his subject is lucid, aware of what's happening.
"My dear lady.....I've made you so very beautiful now. You are perfect....." he gloats as he sips a lovely glass of red wine. What he's done to this woman is incomprehensible. Her arms and legs are amputated and both eyes have been carved out. The test subject is Lillian who doesn't look like she's in charge of anything anymore.
"So, so pretty now.....mmmm," Hagstrom says softly as he rests his red cheek against her face. She doesn't say a word or make a sound. No, this all mustn’t end. Yup, Moon River by Andy Williams continues to play over the speaker system.
There's suddenly a gentle knock at the door. What? Nobody is allowed here, he's not to be disturbed! "Go away, I'm busy!" yells a furious Hagstrom. "This is an outrage!"
Then there's another knock, more forceful.
No, the others mustn’t see this, it'll wreck everything! In a panic, Hagstrom slowly goes to the door and advises whomever is on the other side that he's not to be bothered. The response is surprising, for sure.
"It's all right Dr. Hagstrom, it's me, Kate.......I know what you're up to and it's OK. I have some wonderful news for you. I want to share something with you."
"Haven't see you in a while...thought...thought you were quitting on me....." Hagstrom nervously counters.
"I was feeling very strange but now I'm strong. I understand you.....let me share something with you..." the soft, inviting female voice says.
Hagstrom smiles but doesn't know why. It's as if something is going into his head, taking over, making him open that door. He finds a delightful site......it's Kate, all right....but not Kate anymore. Her hair gone, skin white as a sheet, and eyes transformed into haunting deep blue balls, Kate has turned into a blood sucking freak just like the cardinal.
"You can be like me....forever.....let me share my blood."
She holds Hagstrom's hand and leads him out the door. He gasps when there's company in the hallway - a plague monster, a young woman, standing there and clicking its teeth. But it doesn't attack, instead just watching Hagstrom intently.
"I let some of them in, my friends. Oh, don't worry, I control all of them. They do only what I want. They will never hurt you. Come, let me show you...."
They take a stroll with him down a pitch black hallway while the rotting dead thing just stands and continues to watch.
"Two drifters, off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see
We're after the same rainbow's end, waitin' 'round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me"