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Love Electric by Calvin Demmer

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Edith McCarthy liked to peep on potential clients before meeting them. She had parked her van near their Dutch Colonial-style home and was looking through her binoculars. What she saw through the kitchen window did not surprise her. Missus Collins, the lady who had phoned her, was getting fucked like a bargain priced prostitute found on a street corner with a broken light. She was bent over the kitchen table, panties down below her knees, as the broad shouldered man pounded her. Edith decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and presumed the man to be her husband.

Edith placed the binoculars on the seat next to her, rubbed her eyes, and started up the van. She had seen enough. The couple looked happy—they fucked like it at least—and added to this Missus Collins had said they had recently purchased the home. Edith had the inspiration required.

Back in her small apartment on the other side of town, she paced the living room as she counted down the time until she was meant to meet Missus Collins. She couldn’t stand waiting and decided to get through some training. As she never entertained guests she had set up her own little gym in her living room. Cash was tight, so it was mostly a bench and some free weights. Edith picked out her favorite CD, Classic love songs of the eighties, which she had managed to shoplift.

As her portable CD player pumped out the tunes, she did bicep curls, staring herself in a body length mirror. There was no denying the extra few pounds she had put on since getting out of prison—she had been convicted of assault—but she had also gained more muscle. Having just turned forty-two, standing five-foot eleven and weighing a hundred and sixty pounds, she felt good. She clenched tight on her next curl and grimaced, wanting the bicep to pop. The steroids she had purchased from a man riddled in acne at her gym had been worth it.

Prison had changed her. She had not learnt any rehabilitation, if anything she had discovered how to hate more and from a place deeper within. In fact, she had learned to love the hate, to turn into something beautiful. She had also learned how to take better care of herself in a fight and how to get away with certain things.

Edith finished up her set, wolfed down some food, and showered.

#

When Edith arrived for her meeting with Missus Collins, she found the lady dressed impeccably in a gray skirt and floral white shirt. She also found out Missus Collins first name was Tiffany. Tiffany’s heels clacked on the wooden passageway as she led Edith to the first room she wanted to have painted.

“I was so surprised to find a female painter” Tiffany said, entering the empty room. “Have you been in town long? We have just recently moved here, this is actually the first home we have ever purchased, we are so excited.”

“Nah, I move around a lot,” Edith said.

“Well, this is to be my office, I am a realtor, oh, remind me to give you a card before you go.”

Edith nodded.

“The other room, just down the hall to the left, will be my husband, Harold’s, entertainment area, mostly for him and his buddies to watch sports. You know how it is.” Tiffany smiled. “He was here earlier, but will only be getting home at four, has some or other meeting.”

Edith nodded. She was glad both rooms were on the bottom floor and that she now knew for sure she had already seen Harold that morning. Good, good, they’re in love, how sweet, Edith thought. She checked her wristwatch. It was only one o’clock. There was more than enough time until Harold arrived.

Edith took a notebook and pencil out from her back pocket. She pretended to start writing things down while looking over the empty room. “You have your color in mind already?” she said.

“Yes,” Tiffany said. “A pastel blue. I don’t want it to be too distracting.”

Edith frowned. “How do you feel about red? Bright red?”

Tiffany shook her head. “No, that would drive me mad. Definitely a light, soft blue.”

Edith took a step towards Tiffany. “No, I am afraid that is just not possible. It will have to be red.”

She reached for Tiffany’s wrist.

“What the fuck?” Tiffany said, pulling away.

Tiffany’s reaction speed surprised Edith, but Edith had natural close-combat skills ingrained in her from prison. She moved right up against Tiffany and stabbed her in the lower part of her neck with the pencil. Tiffany let out a shriek; Edith pulled her close and pressed the pencil in deeper. A stream of red blood shot out from Tiffany’s neck, landing on the light gray carpeting of the room. Edith released Tiffany, who fell to the floor and began crawling for the door.

“Look what you made me do,” Edith said. She reached for Tiffany’s legs and pulled her back. Tiffany tried to scream but all that came out was a gurgling sound. Edith turned her over and dodged a kick. Tiffany’s neck was bleeding profusely and even her mouth had become an exit point for some crimson blood. The sharp copper smell hit Edith like a slap to the face.

“Fuck woman,” she said. “You’re wasting the blood. We don’t waste the fucking blood.”

Tiffany tried to kick out but couldn’t lift her leg high enough. She attempted to roll over again. Edith figured Tiffany was trying to escape again and assisted her. When Tiffany was back on her stomach, crawling with less impetuous than a few moments ago, Edith brought her right boot down on Tiffany’s lower back.

There was a dull crack sound. Tiffany’s body writhed back and forth then stopped. Edith moved closer and brought her boot down on Tiffany’s neck.

Edith said, “Fucking blood wasting bitch.” She tensed, her arms became rigid on her sides, but she calmed and found focus. She made her way to her van, now she needed her equipment.

When Edith returned to the room, she stepped over Tiffany’s body and placed her portable CD player in the middle of the room. She pressed play. Her favorite CD immediately soothed her. She put her empty white five-gallon bucket near Tiffany and then lifted Tiffany’s neck over it. Edith removed the pencil and watched as the blood began pooling at the bottom of the bucket. Fortunately, she had a few techniques to extract a bit more blood, but she didn’t need too much. The room was small.

Satisfied with the amount of blood, she added her own special mix. This mix not only helped to thin out the blood but also helped it to dry faster. Edith poured some of the blood, now mixed, into her roller tray. She dipped her roller, which she had attached to a longer frame, into the tray.

Edith made sure she got a good amount of blood on the roller and then made her way to the wall. She began in the middle of the wall to the right and half a roller length from the corner. This would help against the blood getting too thick in the edges. She made sure not to force the blood out of the roller. It didn’t take long to find her groove. Edith painted the room with Tiffany’s blood. She couldn’t resist singing along to her favorite ballads.

#

Edith sat on the large, noisy, and uncomfortable black sofa in the living room. Tiffany’s body had been wrapped in plastic and had been placed her in the van. Her equipment stood in the other room that still required painting. She stared into the blackness of the flatscreen hanging on the wall before her, breathing in deep. Her body still rocked with energy that she had received when painting the room with Tiffany’s blood. Glancing down at her wristwatch, she saw it was four o’clock. She tensed different parts of her body and felt the current rocket there. Her muscles hardened. She was ready.

The front door opened.

A man, who she recognized from the morning’s spying, entered the living room. He wore a neat navy blue suit, and a soft yellow tie swung around his neck. The man was attractive and Edith had to force down the jealousy she felt towards Tiffany. Such emotions had to wait, as there was a job in the process.

The man’s eyes narrowed when he saw Edith. “Oh, hello.”

“Hello, Harold,” Edith said.

“Ah, okay, are you a friend of Tiffany’s?”

“I am the painter.”

“Oh I see,” Harold said. His face seemed to relax. “I thought she was meeting you earlier this morning?”

“She was,” Edith said. “But she wanted me to get your opinion on something.”

Harold removed his coat. “I don’t really have much time. I thought she would handle all this. We’re expecting my parents this evening.” He removed his tie and placed both it and the coat on the side of the single-seat chair next to him.

Edith smiled.

“Where is she?” Harold said. He started walking towards the staircase. “Tiffany,” he called.

Edith got up. “Oh, I will show you. She’s here on the bottom floor.”

She led him to the room she had painted, battling to keep the happiness spreading across her face in check. It was not often she got to show off her work to a client.

Harold looked all around the room, shaking his head. “What the fuck is this mess?”

“The paint job, you don’t like it?”

“Just tell me where my wife is?”

Edith smiled. “She’s here.”

Harold stepped towards her. “Listen, I don’t have time for nonsense. Just tell me where my wife is and what the hell is going on? And what the hell is on the walls? It doesn’t smell like paint.”

“It’s blood. Your wife’s. Do you like it?”

Harold reached for Edith’s throat. “Listen you steroid junkie, tell me where the fuck my wife is.”

Edith hit Harold in his ribs with a clean left jab. He winced and bent forward. She pulled her right arm back and launched a right hook aimed at his temple. The shot clean and Harold nearly toppled over.

“What the fuck?” he said, trying to regain equilibrium.

Edith kicked at his left knee. There was a sharp pop sound. Harold buckled and screamed. He fell forward onto the bloodstained carpeting.

“You fucking crazy bitch!”

Edith walked towards him and lifted her right boot. “I have to break your neck now. I can’t be wasting any more blood today.”

“Get the fuck away from me you freak. I am gonna put you in jail for—”

Edith brought her boot down on Harold’s neck. The dull snap made Edith smile. She stood over Harold and nodded, realizing he was dead. Edith looked over to the recently painted walls and smiled. The current it sent through her almost brought her to tears. She wanted to savor the moment a bit longer, but she had more work to do.

Edith grabbed Harold’s feet and began dragging him to his entertainment room. “What lovely work I am doing these days,” she said to the recently deceased Harold. “You see, once I have finished your room, your new home will be the talk of the neighborhood.”

Once Harold was in the center of the room, she placed her bucket next to him. She reached for her knife.

#

Edith sat in the front of her van staring at the house. Both bodies were wrapped and in the back of her van. She knew a river where she could dispose of them, along with any other items from the house that needed to join. The cellphone she had been using while staying in town could also go. She had stayed in town longer than usual and knew it was a risk, but she had enjoyed her time here. The place had so much love to give. Her operations had also begun to run smoother.

I really did some impressive work here. Both those rooms came out just perfect. Oh, his parents are going to be so impressed when they arrive this evening, she thought. She waved goodbye to the house, and was about to start up the van when the phone rang.

“Hello, this is Welcome Home Painting,” Edith said.

“Oh hello, I was wondering if I could make an appointment for tomorrow morning. My husband and I purchased a home a few months back, and we received some great news this week, we are expecting our first child.”

“Oh that’s wonderful, congratulations.

“Thank you. We’d like to have the room we want to convert into a nursery painted. My husband also mentioned doing the garage while we are at it. It’s our first real home, and we want it looking great.”

“That’s great; you two sound so in love.”

“Ah, yeah, we are. My husband will be at home for the meeting tomorrow. I’m out of town until next week, but I’d like the work done as soon as possible.”

Edith smiled. One more job, she thought. “Well, I just happen to be free, finished a lovely job today. I can even start tomorrow after your husband has told me what he wants. By the time you’re back, I will be long gone any room you need painted will look beautiful. I promise you my work is incomparable.”

“That’s great, thank you.”

When done with the conversation, Edith started up the van, humming the tunes to one of her favorite ballads. She made her way to her apartment. The energy from the day surged within.

Edith wondered if this was what it felt like to be loved.

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

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Hellfire Pass by L. L. Hill

 

“More rice. Please.” Stafford added the courtesy word as a reluctant and unwarranted afterthought as he held his dented empty tin bowl towards Sergeant Anzai. The stench of old sweat, outhouses, machinery grease, dust, and wet jungle lay in an unnoticed pall over the prison camp.

Lieutenant Stafford still covered his bald spot with his lank brown and greasy hair hand combed over. Unshaven, his uniform khaki shirt hung down from gaunt shoulders and covered a waist cinched with a belt three notches smaller than his prewar size. A dirty big toe showed in one of his sockless dress uniform shoes. A heavy brow ridge with long eyebrows shadowed his light brown eyes and their ring of crud. He looked down into the snapping brown eyes of the Japanese sergeant.

The sergeant did look rather like a snapping turtle he had observed on his uncle’s Ontario farm in a pond. Mean, vicious, and ready to bite. Stafford blinked his long lashed eyes and wished for enough water to wash the crusty build-up away. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he located a last grain of rice stuck in a tooth, worked it out and swallowed. A fly buzzed down and he jerked away.

Hands behind his back, Sergeant Anzai glared up at Lieutenant Stafford as if the black hatred emanating from him could vaporize the officer and all that he represented in opposition to the Japanese Empire on the spot. The fly dashed past him and landed on the rim of the rice pot with a dozen others. Silent spectators, the prisoners of war around the nearly empty pot watched the confrontation escalate like a tropical boil. One of them slipped away between flimsy bamboo huts to get the Major.

“No more rice,” Sergeant Anzai spat out.

“I need more rice, I am sick and hungry.” Stafford did not want to sound petulant but did. Rather like pleading for more birthday cake when he was ten, he thought.

“You think you get more food than me?” Clenched into tight fists, Anzai dropped his hands to his hips.

“I’m bigger than you. I need more.” No point in rationalizing with the dictatorial pricks, but dogged persistence occasionally produced results, and today Stafford was very hungry. Perhaps he really was sick, he thought. His stomach felt completely empty after eating a cup of rice and his bones ached.

“You bigger make you more man? You surrender! Disgrace self!” His spit landed on red soil and dissipated in the morning heat.

“I surrendered in Singapore on orders. Per the Geneva Convention…”

“You no even learn to speak Japanese! I have to speak English to you!” White spittle formed in the corners of his lips. “My uncle had his store stolen from him. He in jail for being Japanese. He no soldier. You man to put family in jail for being Japanese!? You man!?”

The half-ring of soldiers behind Anzai laughed at Stafford’s now red face even though they likely understood little but the emotion of the exchange. At a gesture from their sergeant or officer, they would beat any prisoner into submission. Some had never returned from beatings.

“I should like sufficient food to eat, per the Geneva…” As he spoke, Stafford thought that he felt a rat gnawing its way out from his empty stomach and then Sergeant Anzai interrupted with a virulent flood of Japanese that had his soldiers laughing.

“That’s enough then Stafford, old chap, you did your part,” said Major Jennings striding in as fast as his gimp leg allowed. “Stand down there, man. Have another go another day. Jolly good show,” he finally whispered. A young lad that pushed too hard, thought the veteran.

Jennings slapped Stafford’s back as Anzai’s tirade continued with the sergeant pointing to his groin and miming penis size. Behind the jeering guards, a black and gold hoopoe with a long, curved beak landed on a patch of grass. Transfixed, Stafford watched the bird find an insect and work it up the long bill to swallow.

Anzai, observing that he had lost the attention of the target of his audience, shifted his position so that he could see what Stafford was looking at. On seeing the bird, he rushed at it with a kamikaze yell. In a whirring blur the bird fled.

“You have time to watch bird, you no need food!” Anzai began miming an officer walking with a cane as his continued his Japanese oration on the evident evil of the British, bird watchers, and surrendering.

In a fugue of starvation, Stafford had been wondering if there were any small nets to catch birds available during the loud display. Jennings pulled him back and steered him back to the mess with a hand on his shoulders.

“Have a seat, old man,” Jennings said pushing him down onto a broken cane stool.

Sergeant Anzai’s eruption dissipated into the occasional flare of a magma laden comment as the prisoners of war pretended to focus on clean up and the Japanese withdrew to the scant shade of some trees.

“Did your part to get the Japs riled up there Stafford, old man. Now we need to get out and get some blasting done.” The blond hairs of Jennings stiff, thin moustache appeared to be glued onto his parchment yellow skin. A fly landed to drink in the tear dripping down the side of his nose and he waved it away with a flick of his long, tapered fingers. “Remember, push the limit, but don’t go over it,” he said in a tone just loud enough to carry around the mess.

Jennings was looking at the red and black dirt that had accumulated under Stafford’s ripped and torn fingernails, and worrying about his mental state when Stafford asked, “Do you know where I could get a fine mesh net?”

A tin mess cup dinged against the water pot in the silence that followed Stafford’s question. In a babble of jokes and laughter, Jennings gasped out of white lips, “Good God man, you’re not going to start collecting tropical birds are you? They’re just feather and bone man, not worth the effort.” He was now very worried about his junior officer and gazed at the other men for support.

“I think that three or four would be the size of a quail,” blinked back Stafford. He then closed his lips and pouted, feeling his idea as disregarded as that of a child.

Jennings knuckles were white on his cane. Another gone to battle fatigue, he thought. “Look man, plucking small feathers would take ages even if you could find a net to string between trees. And how would you stop the Japs from finding it and taking it away?” He stopped talking as he reflected that talking to a mule would be a more effective expenditure of energy. “Right then. You’ve already missed the morning medical so you’ll have to come out and help blasting that damn pass! Can’t think why the Japs had to put a line here. I’ll send you to the doc’ as soon as I can. Mess crew, carry on. Blasting crew, with me. Maybe we’ll find some fruit on the way.” He limped towards some Japanese guards followed by the blasting crew in loose formation.

Bloody waste of another good man, he thought as he marched through a mixed crew of Malays, Tamils, and island Chinese already at work carrying steel rails in 120 degrees before they became too hot to touch in the afternoon. Rain or shine, this railway was a killer; one rotted and the other cooked any laborers. The Asian slave labor all wore loin clothes, Jennings noted as he turned to look at his tattered crew. His lot looked like blast survivors in threadbare and ripped uniform remains, he thought. At least the natives were used to the heat, he thought as Stafford tripped on a loose rock at the tail end of the group. The hospital today for that officer, thought Jennings as he resumed his trek.

Stafford stopped and looked at the pale red blood that oozed from the scrape on his ankle. It should feel sore, he thought, but it felt numb. He looked up and saw that Jennings and the others had continued on.

One of the guards cracked a whip across the bare back of a coffee brown slave. The small man fell to the ground pleading and was whipped again. Then the guards began kicking him where he lay on the gravel rail bed. No other prisoners tried to help.

Stafford stepped back into the shadows of some drab olive leaved trees and looked down at the ichor that now welled out of a bone-like lump that appeared under the wound. With a bump he sat on the ground. He would have to go to the hospital, he thought. That was a blooming infection already yet bloody Jennings would have to clear it first. What a pest that man was, thought Stafford, forms and orders for everything. If there were an order for nets for birds, Stafford would have had them. At least his stomach had settled its demands to a throb.

With a ping-clang, sledges almost as tall as the men that heaved them began to hammer in nails around the rails. Stafford had just decided to get up before the guards found him when he saw a red patch peeking out from the cover of a branch of leaves in the crook of a tree.

His sluggish heart skipped a beat as he raised the branch to see a plump, juicy mango that had been placed there until someone had time to eat it. Saliva began to lubricate his mouth. Stafford jerked around looking back and forth and saw none of the slave crew nearby. ‘Wogs,’ he thought as he grabbed his red treasure as he scrambled away into the trees.

Used as a fence by the Japanese, the tangled jungle that clad the steep hills of Siam usually killed those that tried to escape into it. Snakes, spiders, scorpions, tigers, and mosquito born disease were additional deterrents to the rugged landscape to any attempted flight.

Stafford could still hear the slave crew when desperation drove him to sprawl heedless of venomous snakes and spiders on the ground. With shaking fingers and tartar coated teeth he peeled a strip of skin and sucked the fibrous orange interior. Not since Singapore had he had one and this one was sublime.

He had rolled onto his back to suck the juice more easily when a small brown man ran up and leaped down on him. Spitting and growling, they thrashed together into and around creepers and thin barked trees. Stafford whimpered as he pushed the thick, spice laden greasy hair away from his nose with a punch. Digging his knobbing fingers in around the large seed, he ripped the fingers of his other hand through the welts and bruises on the Malay. The heart thudding shock of the attack over, Stafford began to truly fight for the succulent fruit, blocking the blows of the shorter man while inflicting pain whenever possible. If he wanted the mango so badly, he should have held onto it, thought Stafford as he pressed his thumb into an eyeball and felt a pop. His assailant reeled away screaming with fluid dripping down between his stubby fingers. Stafford was aware that the Malay’s grimacing in pain displayed teeth filed to points at the same time both men realised that Sergeant Anzai and three soldiers with fixed bayonets had quietly become spectators.

Muted by quaking trees, a blast shook the ground – Jennings had blown a hole near completion last evening thought Stafford. Gazing at Anzai, he raised the mango to his gaping mouth almost as slowly as the fruit had grown. The clangor of the sledges continued below. As if drawn up by a string, Stafford’s arm lifted its treasure as he watched the slave and the soldiers, noting every sweat bead on Sergeant Anzai’s thin moustache, that his thick lips were open with curiosity and anticipated cruelty, aware of the whimpers of the desperate brown man who still protected a destroyed eye and ignored a toe nail hanging by a strip of skin. Even minor injuries killed as the Asian slaves had no hospital or access to medicine, but Stafford was indifferent to anything but the tasty fruit.

“Stop, you stop now,” barked Sergeant Anzai.

In reply, Stafford sank his teeth into the orange pulp as the Malay attacked him screaming and flailing uselessly with limbs that knew their lifespan was short. Curled up with his long boney back to the blows, Stafford continued to eat, stuffing his mouth with large bites. He heard Anzai snap an order and felt the soldiers pull the Malay away. Then he heard the thumps of boots and rifle butts breaking the man. Sergeant Anzai stepped on Stafford’s wrist with one foot and wrenched his sugar prize away with long nailed fingers as the prisoner cried out in desolation over the loss of his mango.

“Stan’ up!” ordered Anzai.

Awkward, Stafford lurched to his feet and swayed as dizziness assaulted his balance. The man on the ground had been silent though blows still rained down on his pulped, broken, and bloody body. Looking from Stafford to the Malay without moving his head, Anzai gave an order in Japanese and his men stood at attention.

Still holding the remnants of the mango, Anzai led the way back to the railway. None of the men looked back at the ruined wreck. On the embankment above the Malay crew, the sergeant stopped and waited for the sniffling Stafford to stumble to a stop. He flinched aside from a last push with a rifle butt by a blood spattered soldier.

Stafford looked down into a sea of black hair and bodies shaded yellow and brown. ‘Inscrutable’ was the word Jennings would use, thought Stafford as he swayed transfixed by the raised gaze of the men below. With ill yellow and red eyeballs, they looked just as desperate as their deceased comrade and he was alive, he thought. ‘I am British,’ he said to himself.

“Now,” Anzai said grinning. “Now you fight for mango,” and he tossed the fruit into a lunging, jumping, grabbing, punching, kicking melee of hunger and rage.

Stafford licked the dried syrup around his lips as the now grit filled fruit kicked into view in the scrum. He began to lean forward to assess his chances and stepped back when he realised that his shaky legs would not hold him from falling into the writhing pit below.

Stafford looked into the grin folds that held black eyes in a face whiter than his own. “I think that I must return to my work party now, Sergeant Anzai.” I will find another mango, he thought.

“Yes, I tink so to. An’ you no leave again or ‘accident’ happen you.” The sergeant continued to grin. “You no want to be fight again.”

On wobbly knees Stafford took short steps between the immobile soldiers and walked around the curve cut into grey and brown rock. A bamboo grove on the lower side had been logged for building supplies and material. Morning and night work parties cut the section they now called ‘Hellfire Pass’ into the side of a steep hill. Exhaustion and starvation pitted against solid rock and hatred had won due to British ingenuity and courage thought Stafford as he shuffled up to his fellow prisoners.

“Bloody hell! Stafford old man, where did you get to? You look like you’ve been in a fight,” said Jennings in concern.

“I think I was, can’t remember…” Stafford trailed off as he knew that he could not explain his actions, as Jennings would note that it was ‘not cricket’ to take a wog’s fruit.

“Was it one o’ the wogs, Lieut’nant?” asked a Scottish corporal.

“Well, I’ll make sure Sergeant Anzai knows…” Jennings began and was interrupted.

“Already knows, told me to stay with group, remember that…” Stafford fainted.

“…maybe we can trade with the Thais for a chicken,” suggested an American private as he waved a shirt over Stafford’s recumbent form. “Obviously we’re not getting enough to eat.”

“What do we ‘ave to trade, mate?” asked an Australian officer. “Japs keep takin’ our Red Cross parcels.”

“Right, he’s awake,” said Jennings.

Stafford’s eyelids fluttered as he woke to a babble of consternation. He winced as a shirt blew sand into an eye. As tears flooded the eye he covered his face with his hands and turned away. When he saw the Malay’s face again, he began to bawl in great gulps as if each breath that he took would bring the starving man back.

“Alright then, give Stafford a moment then,” called Jennings. “There’s four holes to be drilled. Let’s get at them, lads.” Tears were not shed or shed in private.

There was a scuffing, shuffling, muttering as the prisoners of war dragged themselves back to their tasks. Stafford wept on, thinking about the Malay’s eye and wondering how he found the fluid to weep. Jennings would decide to say nothing if he was told, Stafford thought as his bubbling dwindled, but then he would be excluded from officer’s duties.

A boot kicked him to writhing pain in a kidney. Then a flurry of kicks reminded him that he was as mortal as the brown Malay. He heard Sergeant Anzai order the beating stopped and lay choking and gasping for breath.

“Look, no cry Ingrishman, look what I give for you,” jeered Anzai with a plump red mango perched on his manicured fingertips. “Look, look, you go get.”

Stafford’s stomach growled and an arm betrayed him by reaching to bring the juicy fruit to his lips. He was kicked in his boney buttocks as the prize remained out of reach.

“Ger up! Ger up!” ordered the corporal.

“See, for you we find. Now you go get,” said the sergeant as he sidestepped to the recently blasted wall.

A cloud loosed a caul of rain that misted down on the cut as Stafford got up and took one small step. His tongue wiped the moisture from his lips with the taste of dust and cordite. He should call for Jennings, he thought.

“Come. I no tell. Come,” urged Anzai who ignored the fine rain.

Stafford stepped forward again, thinking that Jennings was a good sort but would not understand after all. He was really close to the fruit too, so close that if Anzai were careless then he could grab it. He thought to feint a half-step stumble but Anzai stayed put. In the shadow cast by the cloud and the wall, he could not see the miasma of hatred in Anzai’s eyes yet felt worry needle his brain.

A tremor began in his knees. By clenching his jaw, Stafford found that he could stop his knees from shaking. He felt the soldiers behind him step closer and stepped forward to get away. Their breath carried the odor of horseradish and Stafford wrinkled his nose as he again stepped forward.

“Come, come,” said Anzai, shaking the mango like a treat for a dog. “Come, come.”

Anger made Stafford stop. He swallowed and glared down at the shorter man. A rifle butt connected with a kidney. He groaned and sagged forward. Anzai had a plan to disgrace him, Stafford now knew in the fog of his starved thinking. How he planned to do so near the freshly blasted wall, Stafford could not see, so he decided to fight.

In the thin soles remaining to his shoes he rushed forward and smacked into the wall as Anzai called out in Japanese and the mango lifted in a net tied to a rope above his head. Almost had it, thought Stafford touching a bloody nose and listening to laughter. He had felt the net brush against his hair as it rose.

“You try again. Go, climb and get mango,” directed Anzai as three bayonet points connected with Stafford’s back.

Hungry, tired and with the tendrils of terror beginning to wrap his body, Stafford thought again of calling for help. The prisoners had heard the Japanese guards and were making more noise as they pretended to work harder.

“No call Jennings, you climb,” ordered Anzai as he observed Stafford’s head shift. “Now.”

The bayonets pushed and Stafford began to climb the sloping wall. He had half a mind to climb to a ledge and call for help, but he could just see the plump red fruit bounce up the wall. If he could get it, he could embarrass Anzai too. With that excuse to fortify himself, he climbed hard and fast on rain slicked rock watching the prize bob just ahead of him.

A foot slipped and he held on shaking. Anzai called from below, “You climb more,” and laughed.

It then occurred to Stafford that the rope itself, a thick hemp used to secure railway ties, was now the prize. If he could grab that then he would be away from Anzai and not clinging to a ledge. He shifted his weight and waited. Jeering Japanese voices announced the dropping of the prize.

Stafford watched it pass and eyed the rope for a spot that passed over a gap in the rock face so that his hands had space to grasp the rope. Someone shook the rope like a cat’s tail from side to side. Stafford shifted his weight one more time to the tips of his toes and jumped. His hands slid on the harsh fibres and held. Then pain spread in his arms and shoulders as his weight stressed his weak sinews and muscles. His feet scrabbled on the rock to take the load off.

Toes caught on a ledge, he leaned out with a smug smile at his achievement. The sun returned and showed him Japanese soldiers very close above and well below him on the glittering rock face. He was planning to climb up when Anzai called an order and the rope was loosed from the top. Stafford fell with the rope and landed on the rough cut rail bed. Next to his sightless eyes, the mango had split open.

Anzai barked an order and the rope whipped upwards. His giggles were shrill cackles.

“What happened?” asked Jennings drawn down finally by the thud. “Stafford!” he exclaimed.

“Most unfortunate accident. He fall from rope while checking rock wall. Write report.” Anzai walked away from the shocked officer giggling.

“You bastard!” spat Jennings, enraged.

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

 

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors

Featuring ten horror stories crafted specifically to terrorize, frighten, and horrify, this brand-new anthology is a solid beast. Any and every horror fiend should have a copy of this chilling collection of short stories!

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Deadman’s Tome is a growing horror zine that publishes short stories and flash fiction whether it’s ghost stories, zombie invasions, bigfoot sightings, slasher sprees, bizarre fiction, classic horror literature or erotica. The darker the tale the better. If you enjoyed the story, or even if you didn’t, leave a comment below as it helps the authors.

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The Four of July by Shawn M Riddle

 

I wake with a jolt, dreaming of being lowered steadily into a thumping cement mixer.  As I struggle back to the waking world, I realize that the sound isn’t only in my dream; it’s resonating throughout the whole cabin. Damn! Those helicopters again. They’ve been flying around here at all hours of the day and night for the past two days. Helicopters in Washington D.C. were common enough, but not all the way out here.

“I’m gonna find those flyboys and tear ’em a new one,” grumbles Jack as he sits up in his cot and rubs his eyes.

“I don’t know man. Something doesn’t seem right,” I say.

“We’re in the middle of the Shenandoah Mountains, for Christ’s sake! I expect this kind of crap at home, but I came out here to get some peace and quiet!” Jack’s voice gets louder with every word.

“I don’t know which is louder; you two or the damn helicopters! Will you shut the hell up? I’m trying to sleep over here!” Mike yells from his bed.

“This is starting to freak me out a bit,” I say. “Maybe there’s something wrong.”

“We can ask at a gas station on the way back, if you like,” Jack says with a shrug.

Since there’s no cell phone reception out here, and the local radio stations aren’t much better, it’s about our only option. I nod in his direction.

“Why are you worrying about a few helicopters anyway? They’re probably just on an exercise or something,” Mike says.

“Well thanks to those damn choppers, we’re already up, so we might as well get goin’,” I say. “Let’s get something to eat and pack up.”

Jack and Mike mutter a few unhappy remarks, but finally get out of bed. We get the coffee pot going and load the car. We finish up, lock the cabin and head down the road. After an hour or so of hairpin turns and narrow mountain roads, we finally turn onto the paved road that leads to the Interstate. Jack turns on the satellite radio. The speakers remain silent.  

“Did you pay your bill this month, Einstein?” Jack asks me with a smirk.

“Yeah, I did. It should be working. Try the regular radio.”

He switches the receiver to AM/FM and thumbs through about a dozen stations; nothing but a soft hiss. I lean back in my seat and light up a cigarette. I must be looking grim because Jack turns around and tells me, “You worry too much, man. It’s probably just the antenna. I’ll check it when we get to the gas station.” Deciding that Jack is probably right, I hand him my MP3 player and he kills the quiet with some music.

There are no cars on the road, but that’s not unusual for this remote area. Along the way, we pass a couple of people walking in the road, staggering back and forth. One of them is limping. “Looks like they’ve started nipping at the Kentucky sipping medicine a little early today,” Jack chuckles as we pass them by.

We reach the gas station and hope to pick up a snack and fill the tank, as well as hopefully get a few answers. The lights aren’t on inside and neither is the electronic display on the pump.

“Well, this sucks,” Mike says as we get out. “Ten thirty in the morning and the place is still closed? What the hell’s up with that?”

“Closed or not, I gotta take a leak,” says Jack.

Jack walks around the side of the station toward the restroom. When he turns the corner, he stops.

“Hey man, what’s up?” I ask. “Didn’t make it to the can? Should we bring you some dry clothes?”  

Mike and I chuckle, but instead of the expected sarcastic remark, Jack says nothing and still doesn’t move. We start to walk over to him. Before we reach him, an acrid stench catches in our nostrils. Mike turns his head and retches and I gag and swallow back bile. With eyes watering, Mike and I turn the corner of the building and see what’s rendered Jack speechless.  

A few feet from the restroom entrance, a man is sprawled on the ground, his skull split wide open, pinkish gray remains of his brain smeared on the sidewalk. On the wall, next to the body, there is a reddish brown stain. Maggots are crawling over the rotting flesh of his skull.  

“Holy shit!” I gasp.

Mike gapes at the corpse. “What the hell?”

Jack’s face is deathly white. He turns around, falls to his knees and throws up. I struggle to contain the contents of my stomach. Covering my nose and turning my head, I take a few deep breaths to compose myself.

“You OK, bud?” I manage to ask, as Jack regains some composure. He slowly nods his head, but says nothing. I help him to his feet.

“I’m OK man,” he says finally.

Mike pulls out his cell and stares at the display. “No Service. Hey, either of you got a signal?” he asks as he flips his phone closed.  

Jack and I check our phones. “No dice,” I say as Jack shakes his head.  

“Well, let’s not just stand here with our dicks in our hands.  Let’s get inside and call the cops,” says Mike.

“What if the guy who did this is still here?” I ask, glancing around nervously.

Mike turns and heads towards the shop. “You gotta be pretty stupid to hang around after doing something like this.” Jack and Mike, despite being the best friends a guy could have, can be impulsive and reckless at times. As if to prove this point, Jack follows Mike without a word.

“At least keep your eyes open, guys,” I say as I hurry to catch up.

The shop is unlocked and the interior has been trashed. Packages of candy, chips and cans litter the floor. I go behind the counter and pick up the phone. It’s dead.

I take a long look at the mess. “What the fuck is going on?” I ask. Neither one of them say a word.

I light up a cigarette and inhale deeply. Mike follows suit.

“Hey man, hand one over,” Jack says.

“I thought you quit?” Mike asks.

“Just give me a damn cigarette!”  

I toss Jack my pack and lighter. He lights up and inhales half the cigarette in one drag.

“What do you think happened?” I ask finally.

“Who gives a shit?” says Mike. Motioning in the direction of the corpse, he says, “All I know is someone popped that guy’s head like a zit and we need to get the hell out of here!”

“You’re right,” I say. “Let’s just go.”

Before we get to the front door, Jack says, “First things first. Hold up.” He heads to the cooler in the back and opens it. Pulling out a twelve-pack of beer, he frowns and then says, “Well, warm beer is better than no beer!” He opens up a bottle and downs it in seconds.

“What are you doing?” Mike asks, incredulous. “Isn’t this is a fucking crime scene?”

After belching, Jack says, “Do you think the cops are gonna give a shit about a twelve-pack of beer? Are they gonna come in and take inventory? No, they’re gonna walk straight over to dead Fred or whatever the hell his name is, stick a meat thermometer in his ass and vacuum up what’s left of his brains.”

Mike and I glance at one another then, despite the situation, we start chuckling and it doesn’t take long before we’re out right laughing.

“Fair point,” I say and head for the door.

As I open the door, something grabs me by the arm and pulls me toward it. I stare into my attacker’s face and nearly piss myself. The thing looks like a man, with pale greenish, bloodshot eyes, but half of the left side of its head has been torn away; its left eye bulging from its socket and dripping with thick yellow pus. The bones of its jaw protrude through the torn skin. It moans as it tackles me to the ground, opens its mouth and lunges forward. I lash out, yelling, “Get this fucking thing off me man!”

Mike kicks the creature in the head, sending it reeling across the floor. It stands up as I scramble away. Jack stares into its rotting face, his eyes wide with shock. Mike is fixed to the spot, staring in horror.

It begins to move toward him. Jack reacts first. He punches the thing in what’s left of its face, knocking it back to the ground. Breaking the empty beer bottle against the wall, he jumps on its chest and jabs it straight down into its left eye. Thick yellow-brown fluid shoots out the top of the bottle, splattering his shirt. It twitches, and then lays motionless.

Mike helps me up. I stand there, shaking, staring open mouthed at the bloody corpse on the ground. My heart is pounding in my chest; every beat sounds like an earthquake. I’m sick to my stomach, sweat pouring off me. My friends look first at me, then at the body on the ground.

“Thanks, guys.” Neither respond, just nod numbly. They’re dazed, almost like they’re moving in slow motion.

“What the blue fuck is going on?” Jack asks. “We’re in the middle of a bad horror movie! That thing was a zom–” “Don’t even say it,” Mike interrupts. “We all know what that thing was.”

“We have to go. Now! Maybe we can find some help.” Jack looks around and walks over to the service island to grab a few paper towels. After wiping some of the blood and pus from his shirt, he comes over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Come on man. Let’s get out of here.”

A moan sounds from across the road. One of those things is running from the rear of a house, heading right for us. Its moan becomes an ecstatic howl.

“Get in the fuckin’ car!” Mike yells.

As we race away from the station, tyres squealing, I look out the rear window and see the creature chasing the car. It falls behind quickly and then disappears out of sight.  

Mike lights up another cigarette and, offering me one, says, “You gonna be OK bud?”

“Yeah.” I take a cigarette from him, my hand trembling slightly.

“I don’t know about you two, but I need to get to my parents’ house and check on them. I hope they’re OK,” Jack mutters, staring ahead.

“Me too,” says Mike.

My family is Jack, Mike, and Jack’s parents. I’ve known these guys since grade school. They’re the closest things I have to brothers. Jack’s parents sort of adopted me after my parents died. I spend holidays, weekends, and most of my spare time with them. I’m just as worried about them as he is. If something’s happened to them while we’ve been off screwing around in the mountains, I don’t know if I could deal with it.

We drive for a long time. As we reach the outskirts of civilization, we see other vehicles, broken down and abandoned. At first there’s only one or two, but then more and more clog the roadside. On the other side of the highway, we see another vehicle heading our way. It shoots by at high speed. Several more pass us before we merge onto Interstate 66, east bound towards Washington D.C., and home.

We all live in Rosslyn, just outside D.C. proper. We see signs of further carnage as we drive. Burning vehicles and numerous bodies litter the highway. Many appear to have been torn to shreds. Jack has to swerve several times to miss creatures that are wandering in the road. Some chase after us as we pass them, but most of them continue to stagger aimlessly.

“What do you suppose started this shit in the first place?” Mike asks the question we have all been wondering.

“Don’t know and don’t care right now,” Jack says. “What I do care about is finding some gas for this heap before we end up walkin’. From what we’ve seen so far …” Jack pauses and points to one of the creatures stumbling in the road, “walkin’ ain’t exactly my preferred choice and we’re damn near empty.”

“We also need to start thinking about where we are gonna get supplies too,” Mike adds. Jack and I nod in agreement.

Jack takes another look at the gas gauge. “Keep your eyes open, and let me know if you see anyplace we can stop.”

A little further down the road, just outside the City of Manassas, we come to a rest area and coast into the parking lot, out of gas. Two other vehicles are here, one SUV and a large van with the markings of the Virginia State Police on the side.

The SUV’s driver’s side window is smashed; the half eaten corpse of a woman hanging out the door. Bite marks cover her torso and arms, and her severed head is lying on the ground a few feet from the vehicle, cheeks and eyes gouged away. The van appears to be intact, with the exception of one flat tyre.

The rest stop is a small single level building, with two separated sections for public restrooms and a lobby in between. There’s a small picnic area and a pet rest area at the side of the structure. Scanning the area, we see no signs of life or movement. Dismembered bodies are littered everywhere.

“Fuck me,” Jack says as he takes in the scene. “It’s a war zone.”

A man, – or what used to be one, – staggers out from behind the building near the pet rest area. Its left arm is missing from the elbow and its torn business suit is covered in blood and gore.

“Shut up and get down,” I whisper, pointing to the creature. We kneel down behind the car, out of the creature’s line of sight. We and wait for a few minutes. The creature shambles on aimlessly.  

Jack scans the area. “We can’t sit out here all day, man. There’s got to be more of those things creeping around.”

“Well, we can’t just walk by that thing,” I say.

“I’ve got a plan.” Mike leans into the open door of the car and takes out a long metal flashlight. “I’m gonna go around the other side of the building, sneak up behind that thing and crown its ass.”

“Are you on drugs?” I ask him. “What if there are more of those things around back? They’ll rip you to pieces!”

“What choice do we have?” Mike replies fiercely.

Jack and I look at one another and then nod to Mike. I don’t like the idea at all, but it’s all we’ve got. He is small and fast, so he has the best chance of the three of us.

He inches around the side of the car and takes a peek. The creature is standing motionless in the pet rest area, looking in the opposite direction. He takes his chance and darts around the side of the building and out of sight.

Several tense minutes pass before I see Mike appear around the other side. He crouches low and creeps up behind the creature.  It seems oblivious. Once close enough, he swings the flashlight over his head and brings it down onto the back of the thing’s skull.  Blood spurts upwards and it falls to the ground with barely a sound. He jogs back with a big smile on his face. “Fucker never saw it coming.”

“Don’t bust your arm patting yourself on the back man,” Jack says, but manages a smile.  

We head for the building, stepping over bodies along the way. We see dozens of empty bullet and shotgun casings amongst the dead. I reach the front door first; it’s locked and chained from the inside.

“Stop right there and put your hands up!”

Looking up, I see a woman on the roof with a machine gun pointing at us.

“Hold it lady, we’re not armed! We just want to get inside,” I say, putting my hands in the air.

“Are you bitten?” she asks.

Jack looks to me and Mike then to the woman on the roof. “What?”

“Are you bitten?” she snaps.

“No,” Jack says. “We’re not! Will you put that thing down before someone gets hurt?”

She stares at us down the barrel of her weapon. “I give the orders here. If you want in, you’re gonna have to strip!”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I ask.

“Strip, now, or get the hell out of here!” As if to emphasize her point, she pulls back the charging handle of her weapon, chambering a round with a series of dry clicks.

We strip fast. We’re standing there naked, in front of a rest stop off Interstate 66. Under different circumstances it would all seem pretty funny. “Turn around nice and slow; now!”

After we’ve turned a full circle, her tone more relaxed, she says, “OK, put ’em back on and get over to the front door. I’m coming down.” We nod, getting dressed even faster than we stripped.”

A short time later, she appears at the door, wearing the uniform of the Virginia State Police. She fumbles with her keys, unlocks the chains and gestures at us to come in.  Keeping her eyes on us, she chains the door once more.

“Look, lady, if you wanted a date, there are certainly better ways to ask than that,” Jack says with a smirk. Leave it to Jack to make a smart ass remark to someone who just threatened to shoot us.

She ignores his comment. “I’m sorry. You can’t be too careful; I let some folks in here a few days after I got here and one of them had been bitten. In a couple of hours, she turned and chewed up her family and two of my men before I put the bitch down. You three are the first living people I’ve seen since then. My name is Sergeant Diana Ortiz.”

After somewhat shell-shocked introductions, she leads us into an office and hands us some bottled water. A table in the centre of the room is cluttered with a variety of shotguns, pistols and ammunition.

“That’s a nice piece!” I say, gesturing to the machine gun in her hands. “I didn’t know cops were allowed to carry those.”  

“I’m a trooper; it took me a lot of hard work to earn this uniform.” She scowled at us to emphasize the point then added, “It’s an MGA MK46LE SAW; very useful as an attitude adjuster. We had a few back at the barracks.  They’re issued on a limited basis – crisis situations, terrorist attacks, that sort of thing.”

“OK, sorry,” I say. “Can you please tell us what the hell is going on?”

“Where the hell have you three been?” Sgt. Ortiz gapes at the three of us in astonishment.

“For the last three weeks we’ve been out at Jack’s cabin.” I gesture with my thumb toward Jack. “Out Shenandoah way. We went up there for the Fourth of July weekend … and our yearly vacation. We heard helicopters flying around the past couple days, but besides that, we don’t know a damn thing about what’s going on. We come down from the cabin this morning and find the world has gone to hell.”

Sgt. Ortiz nods at this and says, “About two weeks ago we started getting calls in like you wouldn’t believe. Out of the blue, we were getting hundreds of them an hour. It gets busy at times, but never like that. Murders, attacks, looting, you name it.  When people started describing the attacks, we thought we weren’t hearing things right, thought maybe they meant dog attacks, an outbreak of rabies or something.”

“Dog attacks?” Mike asks.

She takes a drink from her water bottle. “Yeah, we kept hearing about people being bitten. But it didn’t take long to figure out it wasn’t dogs doing the biting.”

“Jesus Christ,” Mike mutters, shaking his head.

“He has nothing to do with it. Within hours, all the law enforcement agencies in the Washington D.C. area were completely overwhelmed and simply couldn’t respond to every call. It spread so quickly, there wasn’t even time for the National Guard to be properly mobilized. A few units here and there were rumoured to have gotten moving, but we never saw any kind of help from them.”

“Did anyone have any clue what was causing these things to walk around?” Mike asks.

“The same bullshit you always hear on the radio and TV, people talking like they knew what was going on, but no one had a fucking clue. After I lost my partner on a call, I decided not to ask any more questions. Before long I couldn’t raise anyone on the radio anymore to ask. All the channels had gone dead. The few times I was actually able to raise someone; they were just as clueless as everyone else. Some were begging for help that I was no longer in a position to give. What’s the point of knowing why or what anyway? The only thing we can do is deal with it! Those things have taken enough, they’re not gonna take any more away from me!” She gestures to the table next to us, pointing out the small collection of guns and giving a curt nod.

“What happened to your partner?” Jack asks.

Sgt. Ortiz takes another drink from her water bottle, brushes her hair away from her eyes, and continues. “I was on duty in the Fairfax area with my partner. The call came through as a domestic dispute. We normally don’t answer calls to residences, but the shit was hitting the fan and the local cops needed our assistance. When we arrived at the house, the lights were off and the curtains drawn. Knocking on the front door didn’t elicit any response. My partner David and I kicked in the front door and went in. What we found there …” She trailed off, her eyes glistening brightly.  

I pull out my water bottle and say, “Maybe something to drink?”

She takes it. “Thanks.”

Jack grabs a cigarette from the pack I had left on the table and lights up. “So you just walk up to the house and kick in the door? Not too bright if you ask me with those things running around.”

“At that point we didn’t know those things were the cause of this shit! Perhaps I wasn’t clear on that point. Can I continue now?” Sgt. Ortiz snaps.

“Sorry,” Jack says, looking as if he has just been slapped in the face.

“We saw the woman of the house – neighbours said her name was Wilma Simmons – dead on the kitchen floor. No, not dead, worse than dead. When I looked at her I thought she’d been torn apart by a wild animal. Blood was still oozing from her wounds, she hadn’t been dead long. Nothing left of her face – it had been bitten … ripped off. Blood was everywhere. Then like that,” she snaps her fingers,” a loud crash and David was screaming. I turned around and saw a man on top of him. It must have been Mr. Simmons; he had his mouth around David’s throat and was tearing at him like a wild dog. When he pulled away … well a mouthful of blood and David was dead.  I shot the fucker in the chest. He jerked but he didn’t fall. Then he ran right at me. I shot him right between the eyes, which put him down for good.”

“Talk about fucked up!” I say.

She ignores me and continues. “I didn’t even have time to take more than a couple breaths, and then the old lady … just got up off the floor and came at me. I never thought an old lady could move that damn fast! I shot the bitch in the head before she got too far. I looked over at David lying on the floor. His eyes were wide open, blood still oozing from his neck. I checked for a pulse, I got nothing. Then he started to stir; I stood up and put my foot on his chest to keep him down. He began to moan and thrash, jaws snapping at the air, trying desperately to bite me. His eyes were a milky greenish colour, all bloodshot and cloudy … I put a round in his head, there was nothing else I could have done. I’d known David Brown for ten years, and I put him down like a rabid dog.” Tears roll from her eyes.

“I … I’m really sorry,” Mike says, putting his hand on her shoulder.

She shrugs off Mike’s hand. “It’s done, and I can’t change what happened.” She wipes the tears from her face and takes another drink. “Shortly after that is when things just went to shit. Buildings were burning out of control, people in the streets with guns, shooting those things and each other. All order broke down, it was anarchy. I came back to my barracks and loaded up the van with as many guns and men as I could. I lost five men in the few hours after we left, two were torn apart by those things, and the other three were killed in a shootout with some looters. The whole world was coming to an end and these motherfuckers were out looting DVD players and shooting people? When it’s all said and done, people will never change. It makes me sick. There were only three of us left when I decided to get us the hell out of the war zone. The situation had escalated far beyond anyone’s ability to control. We heard reports on the radio of several local towns completely engulfed in flames. Other reports stated that the President had ordered non nuclear bombing runs on major cities. We were driving on Route 66 West, trying to get as far away from D.C. as we could when we saw a formation of bombers in the air, headed for D.C. It didn’t take long for the city to be reduced to a steaming pile of rubble. The explosions and flames were incredible. Did it do anything but kill thousands of people? No, those things are still everywhere. What a waste.”

I feel as if someone has just hit me in the chest with a sledgehammer. I stare at my friends and a look of absolute horror is etched on both of their faces.

“D.C. is gone? No … I don’t believe … Mom? Dad? No! I’ve got to find them!” Jack shoots out of his chair. Sgt. Ortiz gets up, firmly puts her hands on Jacks’ shoulders and forces him back into his chair. She brings her face up to his, so they’re staring nose to nose. Speaking very clearly and firmly, as if to a child, she says, “I’m telling you … D.C. is gone, there’s nothing left. All you’re likely to find are those creatures.” Jack begins to sob, slamming his head on the table.

Mike’s eyes are wide with shock. He slams a fist down on the table. “I don’t believe this shit!” I put my hand on Jack’s shoulder, trying to offer him comfort; I do the same for Mike. I feel a burning hatred welling inside me. These creatures, they’ve taken everything from us, I want to kill every last one of them with my bare hands!

After a few long minutes of silent sobbing, Mike wipes tears from his eyes and looks at Sgt. Ortiz. “Excuse me offi–”

“Trooper,” she corrects.

“Sorry, there’s something bugging me about those things,” Mike says.

Jack lifts his head from the table and glares at Mike, “You mean besides the fact our families are most likely dead because of those motherfuckers?” His eyes are filled with a rage you only see in movies.

“As I was saying,” Mike continues, a little stunned. “The thing that kind of bothers me here is the one that attacked him.”  He pauses and gestures to me. “It didn’t move very fast, but the other one we ran into at the gas station moved faster than a redneck seeing a ‘free beer’ sign. If these things are dead, they shouldn’t be walking at all, but since they can obviously walk, shouldn’t they be stumbling around, you know rigor mortis making them all stiff or something?”

“Didn’t move all that fast? Try being at the receiving end of that bear hug and tell me it didn’t move fast!” I snap.

Sgt. Ortiz puts up her hand. “From what I’ve seen and heard in the initial reports, the ‘fresher’ they are, the better they seem to be able to function. I’ve seen people get up and run, climb ladders, jump over barriers, and even use some basic fighting skills just seconds after they were killed. The ones that are a little older move pretty slowly, with no real co-ordination. You can almost walk past them. So it’s the fresh ones you have really to worry more about. I wouldn’t want to get caught with my pants down in even a small group of the slow ones though. I don’t really know how long it takes for them to slow down, probably a few days or so.”

His voice still rather weak, Jack looks at us and says, “I think it’s time we all thought about what the hell we’re gonna to do. We still need supplies and we sure as hell can’t stay here forever.”

I nod. “Man’s got a point.”

Just then I hear a ‘whoop whoop’ noise in the distance that can’t be mistaken; a helicopter. “You hear that?” I ask.

Sgt. Ortiz bolts from her chair and yells at all of us to follow her to the roof. She runs out of the room and down the hallway that leads to the roof hatch. We follow her as quickly as we can. We climb the ladder and open the hatch to the roof. “There!” Sgt. Ortiz points to the helicopter. It’s swaying back and forth and I see smoke coming out the back.

“Oh man, they’re fucked,” Mike says. Another larger puff of smoke erupts from the passenger compartment and flames become visible. It auto rotates to the ground about a quarter mile from the rest stop. We watch as it circles around and around, trying to keep some measure of control in its descent. It hits the ground hard, landing on its runners just on our side of the highway, near the edge of the woods fifty yards or so from the rest stop. Two people jump out before the chopper explodes, sending shards of metal and debris everywhere. We duck down behind the parapet wall for cover. The sound of the explosion is almost deafening.

The people who escaped from the chopper are on the ground, not too far from the building. They’re barely moving. “They need our help! I’m going out there!” Sgt. Ortiz snaps.

“Me too,” Jack and Mike say simultaneously. I hesitate for a moment, frozen with fear. I’ve spotted dozens of those things coming out of the tree line – about 100 yards or so from the downed chopper.

“Holy shit! Look at all of ’em!” Jack yells.

“Downstairs in the office, there’s more guns. Get down there, grab something to fight with and let’s get out to those men before those fuckers do!” Sgt. Ortiz commands.

“Come on man, these guys need our help!” Mike shouts to me as he heads down the ladder.

I slide down the ladder and run to the office. I grab a 12 gauge shotgun, as many shells as I can manage to stick in my pockets and a 9mm pistol from the table. Jack and Mike grab some shotguns and pistols as well. Sgt. Ortiz holsters her pistol, grabs her SAW and leads us to the front door. After she unchains the door, we run as fast as we can toward the crash site and the injured people. It’s an Army chopper; the men who made it out are wearing digital camouflage fatigues. They’re on the ground, blood covering their uniforms. We bolt into the field as fast as we can, but it’s too late. We hear the men scream as the things reach them first, tearing them to pieces. There’s nothing we can do. Several creatures notice us and start to run toward us.

“Move it! Get your asses back inside!” Jack screams. The four of us turn and run towards the rest stop.  Twenty more of the creatures have appeared as if out of nowhere, blocking our retreat. They’re runners, explains how they closed the gap so quickly. Sgt. Ortiz opens fire. She cuts the first few of the things down in mid stride. The chatter of her SAW is deafening enough; the addition of our three shotguns in the mix makes my ears scream. The blasts keeps coming and coming. The creatures in front of us are falling – blood, bone, tissue, and every type of matter possible in the human body are being ripped apart by the hail of bullets and buckshot.

Once the last of the runners are down, we continue back to the building. “They’re down, let’s go!” Sgt. Ortiz yells to us. I’m surprised that I can hear anything at all with the ringing in my ears.

Before we get to the front door of the building several of the runners come around the opposite side of the building and grab Mike who’s a few feet behind the rest of us. We hear him scream; all of us turn around at the same time. They have him down on the ground, sharp broken teeth sinking into his limbs and torso. He screams again and again as he lashes out, trying to fight them off.

Jack shoots two of them, but it’s too late to save him. As Mike is being torn apart, I raise my pistol and shoot my friend in the head – his screaming brought to a sudden, brutal stop.

We enter the building and chain the doors behind us, barely making it inside ahead of the creatures. Looking through the glass doors, we see the area is now teeming with them. Some of them are the runners, but many of the ones that move slowly, making their way methodically toward the building, and us. They’re everywhere, the sound of the crash and resulting explosion must have brought them.

I begin to panic. “Those things killed Mike! They’re everywhere! We’re fucked! There’s no way out of here!” My vision flashes white and I feel a white hot sting on the side of my head as Jack slaps me hard across the face. I fall to my knees, stunned and sobbing.

“Get yourself together man! There’s nothing we could have done for him. We have to stay cool!” Jack growls at me. Shocked, but gathering my senses, I rub my throbbing cheek and jaw, stand up and nod silently.

There’s loud banging on the service entrance door in the back. More of the creatures have made their way behind the building. Sgt. Ortiz rushes towards the noise and yells, “Cover the front!” The back door begins to shake and buckle under the onslaught of the creatures.

After reloading, Jack and I look to the front and see twenty or thirty creatures pounding on the safety glass, desperate to claw their way in. Bloody handprints stain the glass. A loud crash signals the demise of the back door. Sgt. Ortiz’s SAW begins to chatter. Another crash and the creatures break the safety glass and start surging into the lobby. Jack and I dive behind the information desks. We raise our shotguns and start shooting. A heady cocktail of rage and terror are burning through my veins; hate for these things, these murderous God damn things. I bellow and scream as the blasts tear apart the rotting corpses.

As I glance at Jack, his shotgun clicks empty. He raises it like a club and runs at the remaining creatures.

“You pus-brained motherfuckers! You want some, come and get it!” Jack screams as he charges them. He hits one in the side of the head, shattering its skull. He continues to wade into them as I fire into the crowd. Still hearing the chatter of the SAW in the back of the building, we continue to fight. One creature manages to get behind Jack and grabs him.

I aim at it and pull the trigger, but instead of a recoil, I hear a dry click. It sinks its teeth into Jack, tearing a chunk of flesh from his arm. Howling, Jack discards the shotgun and lifts the creature off the ground.  As it snaps at him, he twists it and slams it head first into the ground with a sickening crunch.

An arm tears away from its socket in his powerful grip and he uses it as a club; adrenaline lending him extra strength. He uses his improvised meat club and beats several others back before he’s overwhelmed by them; they take him to the ground. As the things rip him apart, he yells “Hope you choke on it you fucks!” They tear him to pieces in front of my eyes.  It takes less than ten seconds.

Screaming, I take out the remaining creatures near me using the butt of my shotgun, crushing skulls.  The ones who have just murdered my friend get extra treatment, smashing their heads into mush. I turn to face another one; it lunges at me and sinks its teeth into my throat. I manage to throw it off and cave in its rotting skull with one final swing. I fall to the ground, choking on the blood pouring from my neck and into what’s left of my throat. As the world begins to blur, I hear pistol shots coming from the back of the building. My final thoughts before all goes dark are of my friends …

Blackness …

I feel … Strong … powerful. I don’t hurt.

I hear loud noises close by … What are they?

My eyelids feel like lead, but I force them open.

Where am I? How did I get here?

I look around and see someone at the back of the building. Loud noises and screams are coming from her.

She looks familiar … but … I can’t … remember …

She’s holding something in her hand … a gunshe’s shooting the others.

Rage … searing, blinding rage … and hunger, a burning, uncontrollable hunger. What’s happening to me?

I stand up and run toward the woman in the room.  She doesn’t see me, her back is turned. All I can think about is this woman’s flesh. So alive, so warm. I want to rip it from her body, tear her to pieces … hungry … this hunger’s unbearable! I must have her! I’m so close, I can smell her, even taste her in the pungent air. She turns around, raising her pistol. I see a flash of bright white light and the sound of thunder roars through my head …

 

THE END

 

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Cult Benefits: Patron and Exclusive Content

Deadman’s Tome is proud to announce that an audio reading of A Hero’s Welcome by Peter Indiana is now available. A Hero’s Welcome is a brutal horror tale of an American soldier, demoralized by what America has become, struggling with PTSD as his sanity slips away into a murderous darkness. A solid horror short story that is worthy of a read. Too lazy to read? Want to enjoy the story while on the go? Then download the MP3.

The audio version of A Hero’s Welcome is only available to Patrons! Go to https://www.patreon.com/deadmanstome and become a patron and join the Deadman’s Tome cult!

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Support the Greatest Horror Zine Ever!

 

When you wear the Deadman’s Tome shirt, you show to the world that you’re a supporter of something different, a fan of anything dark, and possibly a member of a really cool cult. But, you know what’s up. you know that by wearing this shirt, you show to the world that you support a really cool horror zine.

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Summer Drought – Call for Submissions

Having been in the publishing business for a few years now, I’ve learned that submissions tend to slow down to a crawl in the summer time. I’m not sure if it’s because of the family gatherings, travel, socializing, beach parties, and youth sports stuff, but what I do know is that summer is a time of many distractions.

It appears that Deadman’s Tome is ONE of those distractions! Take a look! Readership has spiked.Capture

 

The flow of submissions, however, has dwindled this week. I have a few that I’m sitting on, not too impressed with them.

Authors and writers of horror and dark fiction, submit your work to Deadman’s Tome. No, I’m not the biggest and most established horror magazine out there, but the audience is growing, because the zine encourages community engagement. Your story will be read, it will be shared, and you will receive ego-inflating attention!

Much more, Deadman’s Tome pays! I pay based on the number of views, comments, and likes your story receives for a year’s time.

What about longevity? How is the zine going to pay YOU if it doesn’t receive money? Well, readers can support the site in a number of different ways. They could become a patron, buy our awesome T-Shirt, and buy our Anthologies!

 
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Check out the submission page for guidelines and submit your work!

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Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors

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Lost but not forgotten, the ancient tome that madmen rambled about has finally been unearthed!

Behold the Book of Horrors: Pages of flesh, bound by bone, contains passages inked in blood of murderous desires, demonic cultic practices, nagging old hags, and long forgotten ancient cities. And while the original document had a nasty habit of crippling and maiming the reader, you get the benefit of a safe electronic copy.

Get a copy of Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors today! Don’t have the money for it, but want to support horror and give recognition to the authors? Send me a tweet at @MrDeadmanDT for your chance to receive a free or discounted copy.

Follow this link to go to the Amazon page. Deadman’s Tome Book of Horrors