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Night of the Living Dead

By: Robert H. Gordon Jr.


I
Lucius hurried about his apartment looking for his rucksack. It was almost six in the morning. He was
supposed to meet Lance and Turtle at quarter after and there was no way he was going to make it on
time if he did not leave soon. If he were late, he would be subjected to the typical ribbing and jokes
about Black people and tardiness. The joking was annoying more than offensive, and he did have a
problem with being prompt, still he would like to be on time for once.
Emerging from the hallway into the living room, he found his rucksack sitting next to the door with the
rest of the gear in a pile of black canvass he had packed for their excursion. Exasperated with himself,
Lucius slapped himself on the forehead. “Sometimes I am too smart for my own good,” he mumbled
to no one. He turned back to the hallway and went into his study to make sure his computer was off.
He would be gone for a couple of days and did not need his energy bill to be higher than it already
was.
After shutting off the computer, he looked around the study, where he packed all of his gear, to make
sure he was not leaving anything behind. Satisfied, he turned to leave the study and swore loudly
when he realized that something was missing. Along one of the walls was his collection of swords and
other primitive weaponry from history, movies, and fantasy. There was a space where his newest
acquisitions would hang. The delivery service had not arrived yet. It was one more thing to hold him
up. “I should load the car,” he said.
Shouldering his rucksack and hefting the military-style duffel bag, Lucius ran out to his aging Dodge
Stratus using his finicky key fob to pop the trunk after several tries. He tossed the rucksack in first
and then the duffel before running back into the house. He emerged carrying a large cardboard box.
Inside the box was, newly purchased, a leather riding suit with matching helmet gloves and boots.
Lance was a four-wheeling enthusiast and wanted his friends to share in his frenzied insanity. Lucius
was the newest victim to be sucked in.
The car loaded, Lucius checked his watch. It was five after. Damn! The delivery person was not there
yet. He paid the extra money for the early delivery so that he would not have to worry about his stuff.
His parcels would have to sit in the leasing office for the next three days. Lucius went to his apartment
and locked everything up. He climbed into his car and pulled out of his driveway. He looked at his
watch and figured that he could still be on time if he drove as if the rules of the road did not apply to
him. As he prepared to turn the corner, he spotted a white delivery truck pulling to a stop in front of
his door.
Slamming on the brakes, Lucius looked back at the truck and then at his watch. He could still make it
if he just kept going. His stuff would be fine in the leasing office. The assistant manager was a friend
of his. She would keep his packages safe until he came back. He saw the driver step out of the back
holding his box. “Ah well, you know niggers can’t be anywhere on time,” he said, slamming the car
into reverse gear and tromping on the accelerator.
The driver of the delivery truck paused at the steps and stared at the blue car streaking towards him
stopping in front of his truck with just inches to spare. Lucius popped his trunk open and hopped out
of his car. “You’re delivering to number 87?”
The driver checked his form. “Yeah, is that you?”
Lucius walked over brandishing a pen. “Yeah, is that everything?”
The driver nodded handing over his clipboard. “This stuff is from Blader’s Row.”
“Yeah, it’s been on backorder for two weeks,” Lucius said.
“You’re into swords and stuff?” the driver asked.
“Got a pretty good collection going,” Lucius replied. He paused in the middle of signing. “Why do you
ask?”
“Well I just didn’t think that… Never mind, here you go.” The driver handed over the box and took his
clipboard. “Take it easy.”
Lucius cocked an eyebrow at the retreating driver before turning to his car and loading the large box
into the trunk next to his riding gear. He shut the trunk and hopped inside. It was ten after three.
Lucius pulled away from his driveway for the second time. He looked into his rearview mirror at the
delivery truck receding in the distance. What was it about the color of his skin that made it so easy for
others to understand him?
For as long as he could remember, Lucius had felt the pressure that every individualistic Black person
felt when trying to make their way in the world. There was a certain standard and stereotype that he
was supposed to live up to, regardless of his upbringing and experience. Any deviation from that
stereotype earned him surprise from White people and the disdain from his fellow Blacks. White
people seemed to assume that he was ashamed of his ethnicity while Blacks just labeled him as a sell-
out. The constant struggle to prove his identity was something that annoyed and offended him.
Turning the corner, Lucius shook the thoughts from his head. He was off work for the next four days
and would spend three of those four days among friends. The trip to the campgrounds had not been
his idea. He had been coaxed by Turtle to go. In truth, he sided with the stereotype that Black people
did not do camping, but Turtle claimed that it was a good time and he needed to get away for a while.
On the seat next to him was the brochure for the mountain lake resort where he would be staying with
his friends. The script on the front featured the name of the resort and the tagline, “The mountain air,
so clear and pristine it is the place for new beginnings”. Lucius hoped so.
II
Turtle lugged Lance’s backpack over to the rear of the trailer and tucked it in next to one of the four-
wheelers. He turned back to Lance, who was standing next to the open cab of the truck checking his
portable GPS to make sure it was working. A slender bare leg with freckled creamy skin and red
painted toes slid from the driver’s seat of the truck and traced a line down the leg of his khaki shorts
to his crotch. Lance smiled and gave the leg a pat on the calf before tucking the device into a fanny
pack and stepping away from the truck.
Turtle sighed. “You guys aren’t going to do that the entire time we’re up there, are you?”
Lance turned as if just remembering Turtle was there. “Don’t worry about it, Nathaniel; we’ll behave
during the day. No promises after sundown, though.”
Turtle frowned, his bushy black eyebrows scrunching together over his wire frame eyeglasses. “I
invited Lucius to get his mind off of Samantha. If you two get to canoodling then that completely ruins
the point, does it not?”
Lance smiled and set his hands on his hips, thrusting out his chest. “That is where this blond haired,
blue-eyed deviant fuck has come to the rescue. You invited Lucius and I invited Vicki.”
“You did not?” the owner of the leg asked. Lance went to grab her leg and she kicked at him. “This red
haired, green-eyed goddess is not amused. She’s a total skank, completely beneath Lucius and not
exactly the outdoorsy type.”
Lance’s smile became injected with playful menace. “Come on, Lucy, that’s precisely the point. She’s
the perfect rebound. When there’s nothing left for her to do, she does what she does best; and while
she enjoying the darker side of life I can enjoy the pinker side of you. Lucius doesn’t know her. We
can tell him she’s one of your friends or something. He’ll be none the wiser.” He saw that Lucy was not
on board with his idea. “Back me up, Nate,” he said out of the corner of his mouth.
Turtle walked over to the cab and punched Lance on the shoulder. “I have repeatedly asked you to call
me ‘turtle’. And, Lucy, Lance is right, for once. Vicki is the perfect rebound.”
“Actually, both you guys are wrong.” A shorter woman walked past the others going to the trailer
carrying two backpacks and a cooler bag. She was heavier than Lucy was but her body was well
toned. She had light brown skin and long, straight, black hair with red highlights. She tossed the bags
into the trailer and dusted off her black tank top and denim shorts.
Turtle folded his arms across his chest. “All right, Sabine my love, care to back up your opinion?”
“Lucius will see through your ruse,” Sabine said, pulling up her hair. She tied it into a ponytail and
pulled a blue bandana from her back pocket. “He’s very perceptive. Plus, Vicki is completely superficial
and only sniffs after one type of guy. Lucius is the complete opposite of that type of guy. They’ll end
up sleeping on opposite ends of his tent.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Lance said.
Sabine finished tying her bandana but paused in lowering her arms when she asked, “Why is that?”
“Because I was there when Lucius bought his tent,” Lance said smiling. “It’s only built for two. Trust
me, Vicki can’t get that close to any man and not sleep with him.”
“And you know this, how?” Lucy asked.
Lance stepped back and held up his hands. “Sworn testimony from those who have been there.” He
looked back to Sabine. “Chances are, Lucius will hem and haw for most of today but end up rocking
her world tonight.”
Turtle narrowed his eyes at his girlfriend and grinned. “I don’t know, Lance, Sabine is pretty good
about these things. Care to make a wager?”
Sabine rolled her eyes. “You guys are sick.”
“A score of bills,” Lance said. “A score of bills says that Vicki turns to the dark side and gets
swallowed, or the other way around.”
Sabine headed back towards the house. “‘A score of bills says that Vicki spends the weekend hitting
on Lance and ends up getting pounded by Lucy.”
Turtle turned as Sabine went past. “Why wouldn’t she spend the weekend hitting on me?”
“Because she knows I would kill her,” Sabine said as she disappeared inside.
“That’s some woman you got there,” Lance said.
“Don’t I know it,” Turtle replied. He looked at his watch. “Lucius is late.”
“Big surprise,” Lance said, earning a kick from Lucy. “What?”
Turtle was still looking at his watch. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six.” He pointed at the end of the street
just as Lucius’ car turned the corner. “Five, four, three, two, one, and here he is.” He smiled, his white
teeth a direct contrast to his dark brown skin.
Lucius pulled into a spot near Lance’s house. He saw the others milling around Lance’s truck. He
looked at his watch. It was twenty after. He was five minutes late, not too bad. He jumped out of the
car after popping the trunk. Turtle was running over. “Sorry, the delivery guy waited until the last
minute.”
“It’s okay, we’re getting a sixth for this trip and they’re not here yet,” Turtle said. “You’re riding up
with me and Sabine. I’ll load your stuff in the back of the jeep.”
“It’s the duffel, rucksack, and box. I gotta utilize the facilities,” Lucius said trotting towards the house.
He reached the rear of the trailer as Sabine was loading a cooler into it. She bumped him with her hips
as he ran past. “Hey there, Lu.”
“Oy, Sabeenie, back in a flash.” Lucius passed the cab. “Madam Lucy, Lance.”
“Christ, Lucius, you feel you’re not black enough?” Lance asked remarking about Lucius’ black khaki
shirt and pants. Lucy kicked him in the back.
Not stopping, Lucius said, “Just in case you forget. I hope you don’t mind, I’m going into your
bathroom to make fluid shoot out of my penis.”
Lance turned to Lucy after Lucius had disappeared into the house. “What?”
“Quit being a douche,” Lucy said.
“He doesn’t mind,” Lance said.
Sabine walked past. “Yes, he does.”
Lucy stuck her head out of the cab of the truck when she heard pop music blaring from the car
belonging to the last member of the group. A pink Volkswagen Jetta pulled to a stop two houses
down. The driver was a brunette with long hair tied in pigtails under a pink bandana. She was wearing
a khaki-brown short-sleeved shirt that was covered with campy patches and tied underneath her
breasts with her belly showing. Her skin was tanned almost to a bronze color and she wore fashion
sunglasses that covered most of her face. Her shorts were the same color and style as her shirt
although they were tight enough to have been sprayed on and featured a pink plastic belt that was a
permanent addition to the shorts. On her legs, she wore gold ankle bracelets. On her feet, she had
low-top canvass sneakers with white ankle socks.
Leaving her car, she walked over to Lance. “Hi Lance. Sorry I’m late, couldn’t find anything to wear.”
She leaned against the bed of Lance’s truck and fiddled with one of her pigtails. “Can you forgive me?”
Lucy leaned out of the truck. “You’re forgiven. Where’s your stuff?”
Vicki quit her pose. “In the trunk of my car.”
“Well hop to, missy, we’re leaving as soon as you’re loaded,” Lucy said.
Vicki pressed a button on her key fob and her trunk popped open. Lance sighed. “I’ll get it.”
Vicki smiled. “Thanks, Lance.” She turned to watch him walk to her car.
Sabine arrived, shaking her head. “Hi, you must be Vicki, you’re riding with Turtle and I in the Jeep.”
Vicki looked at the Jeep and barely suppressed a face. She saw Lance heading that way holding a
rolling suitcase and smiled before following him. “Thanks.”
Sabine kept her eye on Vicki but nodded to Lucy when she said, “I figured with the way you guys
described this chick, that she’d be a blonde.”
Lucy nodded. “She is. She dyed her hair brown so that people would take her seriously. Problem is;
skank is skank regardless of hair color. I’ll tell you one thing. If she spends the weekend ogling
Lance’s ass like that, your prediction will come true.”
Lance returned to the truck, interrupting the female powwow. He saw that claws were extended and
quickly moved past them to Lucius who had emerged from the house. He threw an arm over the
smaller man’s shoulder and patted him on the chest. “Hey man, I know I’ve been a bit of a douche.”
“Lucy climbed in your ass, didn’t she?” Lucius asked.
Lance looked away. “That aside, I want to apologize and offer a gift of restitution.” He pointed to Vicki,
who was bent over inside the backseat of Turtle’s jeep. “I know you were hesitant to come up with us
with everything, so I arranged for a little something to make your time in the woods a bit more
comfortable. Her name is Vicki and she’s real adventurous.” He saw the hesitance on Lucius’ face.
“Come on, she’s the perfect addition to ‘the mountain air, so clear and pristine it is the place for new
beginnings’.”
Lucius turned to Lance. “You’re quoting the brochure for the lake.” Lance nodded. Lucius watched as
Vicki stood back up and adjusted her eye makeup before lowering her glasses. “Vicki, you say?” Lance
nodded. “Aw, Lance, you shouldn’t have, but thanks.” He gave Lance a rap on the chest with his
knuckles and walked down to Turtle’s jeep.
Lance smiled, unsure if Lucius was being sarcastic and rubbed at the sore spot on his chest. “Okay
people, let’s load up and head out.”
Lucius walked over to Turtle’s jeep where Sabine was waiting for him. “I’m sorry, Lu, it wasn’t Turtle’s
idea.”
“She does know she’s going into the woods, right?” Lucius asked. “Like tents, fires and lack of
plumbing?”
Sabine turned and watched Vicki check her cell phone battery. “I don’t think so.”
“Her sneakers match her outfit,” Lucius said. He laughed and looked at the ground. “Wonderful.”
Turtle came up behind them and took Lucius by the shoulders. “Vicki, I want you to meet a friend of
mine. Vicki, this is Lucius, Lucius this is Vicki.”
“Yo, what’s up?” Vicki said extending a hand.
Lucius smiled a tight smile and took the hand. His smile getting tighter as Vicki attempted a
complicated handshake and failed miserably. “Nice to meet you.” She went back to checking her cell
phone Lucius leaned back to Turtle and whispered, “Trying to work that ole’ brown magic?”
Turtle smiled. “Sim sim salabim, my friend,” he whispered back imitating an Eastern Indian accent.
Then he said in at normal volume, “You kids are in the back. Ready to go?”
III
Cruising along the highway, the two-vehicle convoy quickly left the civilization of the city behind in
favor of the wide-open spaces of the country. Quickly the concrete sides of the highway gave way to
expanses of trees. Inside Turtle’s jeep, three out of the four passengers sang to classic rock tunes.
Every so often, Turtle would interject either an obscure fact about the band on the radio or a lame
joke. Vicki spent most of the trip on her phone talking to someone named Tracy about someone
named Brad.
Finally, the music ended and Sabine reached over and took control of the radio. “Sorry boys, but now
it is ladies’ choice.” She changed the radio to a country station where she found a song she liked.
“There we are.”
Lucius winced. “Aw, come on, Sabine, have some consideration for those of us who are redneck
impaired.”
Sabine turned around. “Lucius, you are one of the most cultured men I know, but you can stand to
expose yourself to newer things.”
“I already have exposed myself to country music,” Lucius said. “That’s how I know I don’t like it.”
“Shut your ears, then,” Sabine said.
Lucius stuck his tongue out at her and crossed his arms, pouting. He turned to Vicki who hung up her
phone in disgust. “Welcome back.”
“The country sucks,” Vicki said. “I have like, no signal.”
“Totally,” Lucius said with a masterful imitation of a “valley girl” accent.
“I know,” Vicki said, not getting the jab. She looked at Lucius as if seeing him for the first time. “So,
like, where do you live?”
“On the edge of the city, not too far from Lance,” Lucius said. “I used to live on the south side but
moved to avoid dying violently.”
Vicki leaned against her car door and began playing with her hair, letting her eyes rove over Lucius’
body. “That’s cool. You know I’ve been studying you. There’s something about you.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow. “I bet I know what it is.” Up front, Turtle looked as if he was going to turn
around and warn Vicki, but Sabine quickly squeezed his hand.
Vicki inched closer to Lucius. “Do you, now? You want to guess?”
Lucius leaned back in his seat. “What do I get if I’m right?”
Vicki’s hand left her hair and fingered the charm on the necklace between her breasts. “That all
depends on how close you get.”
“You were thinking, I don’t act Black,” Lucius said.
“Oh my God,” Vicki said, eliciting barely suppressed laughter from Sabine. “You are so right. I mean,
like, how many Black people know Black Sabbath songs?”
Lucius smiled a winningly fake smile. “You’d be surprised.”
“I think that’s cool,” Vicki said. She playfully tapped his chest and put the fingers of that hand
between her teeth. “Totally cool.”
“Totally,” Turtle muttered. Sabine pinched his arm.
IV
It was half past ten when they arrived at the resort. Lance pulled in first and parked in the dirt lot
outside of the campground’s main lodge. The one-story building, set in the shadow of a tall ridge, was
brick with a log cabin type façade in the front and partway down the sides. There was a wooden porch
outside with rocking chairs and assorted knickknacks to give it a rustic country feel. A small restaurant
attached to the side of the lodge that featured an outdoor counter where guests could walk up and
order food.
Lance hopped out of his truck with Lucy and walked around to Turtle and the others. “Everybody
stretch their legs, we still have another couple of miles before we reach the campgrounds. It’s that
time of year here so I put us up a bit away from the lake near the grotto. With all the families and the
subsequent children, I figured us adults would value some alone time. Lucy and I will check in and
stuff. We shouldn’t be long.”
Lucy grabbed the back of his shirt and began pulling him towards the lodge. She had added a set of
brown hiking boots to her t-shirt and shorts ensemble during the trip up. “Come on, so we can get set
up. We don’t have that much time until dark and we still have to set up camp.” Lance turned and
followed his woman towards the lodge, smoothing the blue fabric of his short-sleeved polo shirt and
tucking it back into his expensive khaki shorts.
Turtle headed towards the restaurant’s outside counter. “I’m getting something to drink. Anyone want
anything?”
“I’ll come with you,” Sabine said. “They might have those cookies I like. Lu, Vicki?”
Lucius shook his head. “Nah, I’m okay.” He looked over at Vicki who was still trying to get a signal
with her cell phone. “She looks busy.” Sabine made a wry face at him and fell in step behind Turtle.
Lucius looked after the pair for a moment and then went to the back of Turtle’s jeep to check on his
gear.
He opened the rear tailgate and found his rucksack and duffel bag propped neatly next to Turtle and
Sabine’s things. He found the box with his riding gear inside but there was another box, his box from
Blader’s Row. Why was that in there? A frustrated huff stole his concentration. Vicki had joined him.
Her phone call had not gone through.
“You’ve got a better chance of having a quiet chat with the Almighty before you get a signal out here,”
Lucius said. He replaced his gear and shut the tailgate. “It’s the trees.”
Vicki made a face at her phone and tucked it into the holder on her belt. She looked down at her
shoes, saw the dirt on them, and made an even more disgusted face. “I just bought these.” She
huffed again. “At least I’m not the only one out of their element.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow, resentful of the assumption but not angry because she was partly correct.
“I wouldn’t say I’m out of my element, but I don’t frequent the woods.”
“I wouldn’t think so,” Vicki said.
“You look like you spend about as much time traipsing through the bush as I do, what are you doing
here?” Lucius asked.
“Lance invited me. He said there was a bunch of people going up to the mountains to mellow out and
party. I figured ‘why not’ and junk.” Vicki crossed her arms across her chest. “He neglected to
mention that Lucy would be coming.”
“Why would he go on a trip and not bring Lucy?” Lucius asked.
“I don’t know.” Vicki sighed. She turned to Lucius covertly moving her folded arms below her breasts.
“Why are you up here?”
“Guilt,” Lucius answered bluntly. “Your space was occupied by my former girlfriend. They thought it
would be in bad taste to rule me out for the vacation. Turtle says the mountain air would do me good.
Clear my head. I was hesitant.”
“Oh you were hesitant?” Vicki asked. She looked him up and down. “What changed your mind?”
“Lucius?”
Lucius looked up at Lance who was waving him over. He looked back to Vicki and said, “Wouldn’t you
like to know. Excuse me, miss.”
Lance looked past him to Vicki who had resumed her quest for a cell phone signal and regretted
calling him over. “Aw, I’m sorry bro.”
“Don’t worry, Lancelot, I haven’t made up my mind about her yet,” Lucius said.
Lance shrugged. “You’ll have all the time in the world tonight. We gotta motor. If we get camp set up
fast enough, there might be time to hit the trails before the families show up. Where’s Turtle and
Sabine?”
“Here we come to save the day!” Turtle sang. He was carrying two large Styrofoam cups “Everything
good?”
Lance handed Turtle a parking pass. “Peachy, let’s get moving.”
The group continued up the mountain. The bulk of the resort was set up around a large lake. The
more expensive campsites were nearest the lake. Those were taken with families and vacationers that
opted to come up early to secure their spot. There were campsites further in the woods to
accommodate the more rustic types that preferred to rough it rather than enjoy the comfort of RV
living. The lake was five miles around and two miles across. The campground’s management
maintained horse stables, outhouses with sun warmed showers, several boathouses, three smaller
satellite lodges with first-aid stations, and a multitude of dirt trails and tracks for the campers that
came equipped with dirt bikes and ATVs. The trees were thick but paths were maintained where
guests could easily navigate from one site to the next, and all of the larger paths led to the main road
that would take one back down to the main lodge. To complete the feel that the campers were
roughing it regardless of whether they would reside in tents or RVs, personal vehicle parking was
centrally located requiring that campers hike to their reserved sites.
The convoy pulled into their parking lot and quickly disembarked. Turtle and Sabine donned their
rucksacks and their bags. Lance and Lucy suited up equally. Lucius pulled his rucksack on backwards
before putting his duffel bag on his back. He tied a black bandana onto his head, his short hair making
it simple enough, and walked around to the rear of the jeep where Vicki seemed to be having trouble
removing her suitcase. Lucius reached over her and grabbed the suitcase by the handle. She smiled
and stepped back. Lucius pulled the suitcase from the trunk with no effort and set it at her feet. “Here,
ya go.” He turned and walked away knowing that there was a confused look aimed at his back.
Sabine gave Lucius a playful punch on the arm when he reached her and whispered, “I thought you
were going to fall for that.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow. “Do I look like Kunta?” He smiled and moved past.
Sabine looked to Vicki. “Come on, Vicki, we’re moving out. You might want to pick that up. It’s not
going to roll very well out here.”
The sextet moved into the woods. They walked for about ten minutes before coming to a clearing.
Lance set his gear down and the others did the same. Vicki emerged from the woods a moment later,
sweating and huffing and puffing, swatting at any insect that dared come near her. She looked around
at the others and a confused look came over her face. “What are we doing?” she asked.
“We’re here,” Lance replied. “Ladies, you get started with the shelters. We’ll go back, load the
remainder of the gear onto the ATVs, and ride it up here.”
“A half-decent idea, honey,” Lucy said. “Lucius has never ridden an ATV before. He should stay with
Vicki and Sabine while you Turtle and I get the rest of the gear.”
“Hang on,” Vicki said holding up her hand. “Where is the cabin?”
Sabine and Lucy each found something interesting to look at while they suppressed laughter. Turtle
pulled a fanny pack on and took a swig from a water bottle to mask his amusement. Lucius laughed
outright. Lance pointed to the gear. “The tents are in the bags. Sabine knows where they are. They’re
pretty easy to set up.”
“I didn’t bring a tent,” Vicki said.
Lance almost lost it. “Really? Well that could be a problem. Wait Lucius, how many people does your
tent sleep?”
Lucius stopped laughing. “Two.”
Lance looked back at Vicki and pointed at Lucius. “Problem solved. Now, let’s get this started.”
While the others were gone, Sabine and Lucius went to work. They both started with their own tents,
setting them up across camp from one another. The site was large enough to accommodate two
families of eight. The six people occupying it would enjoy the extra space. Lance’s tent they set up in
the center, their tents creating an exaggerated triangle. Once that was complete, Lucius dug a fire pit
in the center of the triangle using an entrenching tool he had purchased a few weeks ago. At his
request, Sabine went around gathering rocks to place around the pit. She returned with six large rocks
that Lucius placed, packing the gaps with dirt.
Sabine wiped the dirt from her hands onto her shorts and then the sweat from her brow. She looked
over at Vicki who had not so much as lifted a finger since Lance and the others had left. “The diva is
still trying to get a cell signal. We need to give her something constructive to do.”
Lucius looked up from where he knelt at the fire pit. “Go into my duffel and get the axe out of there.”
Sabine went to Lucius’ duffel bag tried to lift it, and was surprised at how heavy it was. “What have
you got in here?” Among his sleeping bag, bedroll and toiletry bag, she found the axe, a medium sized
knife, and a machete. “These look new.”
“I was going to attempt to wow someone with my willingness to try new things,” Lucius said. “Give
Vicki the axe and tell her to… no bad idea. You take the axe and get some fire wood. I’ll take Vicki and
see if I can’t teach her how to get tinder.”
Sabine hefted the hand axe, testing the weight. “Good luck.” She walked past Vicki. “Lucius wants
you.”
Vicki looked over as Lucius removed his shirt revealing a ribbed black tank top underneath. Although
not the bulked up he-man Lance was trying to be, Lucius was not a slouch either. Vicki liked what she
saw. Maybe being stuck shacked up with the brokenhearted brother would not be so bad. She tucked
her cell phone away and trotted over. “What is it?”
“Come on, I want to show you something.” Lucius attached his knife to his belt and led her out of the
campsite into a grove of trees. He walked around the trees feeling their trunks and testing their bark
until he found a group he liked. “These will do nicely.”
Vicki found a tree next to him and leaned back against it, arching her back. “What is it you, like,
wanted to show me?”
“How to help out,” Lucius said, deflating her mood and her posture. He paused and stepped in close to
her. “Don’t worry, I’m not blind. However, there are things that need to be done before we can be
done.”
Vicki folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow. “What makes you think ‘we’ are doing
anything?”
Lucius drew his knife and began scraping at the bark of the tree in front of him. “The way you stand
when you talk to me. You’re shorter than I am but you constantly arch your back, which has to hurt
by the way, I can assume that this is because you want me to notice your boobs. You also get on
tiptoe a lot and walk with a heavy footfall despite the fact that you have to be a size zero. My guess is
to make your boobs bounce; and you can’t seem to stop fingering the pendant on your necklace.” He
stopped scraping and handed her the scrapings. “Don’t drop those.” He moved on to another tree and
started scraping again. “Now none of this means you are attracted to me at all. It could just be your
way, but you have been steadily closing the personal space between us during the ride up and since
our arrival here. Finally, just a few moments ago, you chose to pose on the tree immediately next to
me, getting as close as you have ever been. I think you’ve made up your mind.”
“And what is it that I have decided?” Vicki asked. She grimaced when he placed more scrapings into
her hands. She followed him to the next tree.
“That I am worthy,” Lucius said. He paused in scraping. “Don’t be offended, I am deeply honored and
am more than intrigued at the prospect. I just want to get all this grunt work done so that we can eat
and relax.” He handed her the next bit of scrapings. “Now what I wanted to show you out here was
how to make a tinder bundle. When you build a fire, you have to start small before you can start
throwing logs on it. Crush all of that together like in a ball.”
“My hands are filthy,” Vicki whined.
“That’s why the Good Lord gave us the brains and wherewithal to invent soap,” Lucius said. “Good job.
Now, put your thumbs in the middle of it and spread it out like a bowl almost. No, like this.” Lucius
stepped in close and took her hands in his. He moved her hands with his own showing her how to
knead the shavings of bark and wood into a shape. He looked up into the blue pools of her eyes. “It
also seems that your manipulative skills are those of a master.”
“You are very perceptive,” Vicki said. She stretched up and planted a lingering kiss on his lips. Then
she broke contact and flounced away. “Come on, we have work to do.” Lucius let out a quick breath
and followed. Vicki turned back to him and held up the tinder bundle. “How does someone like you
know how to do this?”
“I watch a lot of survivor shows,” Lucius said. They returned to the campsite. Sabine had been and
gone out for more firewood. There was a pile of small sticks and a pile of larger pieces of wood. Lucius
knelt next to the fire pit after going into his duffel bag and removing two small metal rectangles object
on a metal chain. He placed the one end of the metal pieces just next to the tinder bundle.
Vicki squatted next to him. “What is that?”
“It’s a flint and striker,” Lucius said. He gestured for her to move back. “What I’ll do is scrape the
striker against the flint and it will draw sparks.” He demonstrated the action. “The sparks will land in
the tinder bundle and get it burning.” Three strikes later, a shower of sparks started an ember in the
middle of the tinder bundle. Lucius picked up the bundle in his hands and began blowing into it. The
bundle began to smoke and soon a flame appeared. Lucius placed the bundle into the fire pit and
began adding twigs. “Start with small twigs and gradually feed it larger pieces of wood.”
Vicki looked genuinely impressed. “Those shows must be full of good information,” she said.
Lucius added a few more pieces of wood and stood. “We’ll give it a minute.” He looked down when he
noticed that Vicki did not join him in standing. She was still squatting in front of him, looking up.
“Knees stuck?”
Vicki shuffled closer to him. “Nope, they work just fine.” She was looking straight up at him, and he
straight down at her.
“I take it you two wish to be alone?”
Lucius turned around and saw Sabine standing at the edge of the camp holding two armloads of
firewood. Surprisingly he felt guilty. Stuck, he just shrugged, “Guess I got caught with my pants
down.”
Sabine walked over to the pile of firewood and dropped her load. “Not yet.”
Vicki stood. “Easy sister, you’ve already got your own. You can’t take them both.” She turned to
Lucius. “Where’s the outhouse?”
“Down the path toward the lake,” Sabine said. “Women’s is the one on the left.” She watched as Vicki
flounced away callously shaking her hips as she left. She glared at Lucius for a moment. “Come on Lu,
I didn’t think you’d get taken in by her.”
Lucius smiled. “Do you honestly think I don’t know what she is? Trust me, I may not like basketball
but a Black man knows a rebound when he sees one.” Lucius looked back at the fire. “Since Samantha
left, I don’t know. It’s nice to be lusted after again.” He looked back to Sabine and kissed her on her
forehead. “Don’t worry; I’m in no danger of falling in love with her.”
Sabine lingered close to him for a moment before stepping away. “You’d better not. I’d lose all respect
for you.”
“And we wouldn’t want that,” Lucius said. The sound of ATV engines reached their ears and, moments
later, Lucy, Turtle, and Lance showed up. “What did you do, get lost?”
Lance stopped his ATV and shook his head. “Oh, no sir, you do not ask the questions here.” He
pointed to a large box on the front rack of his ATV. “What did you bring that for?”
“I didn’t, Turtle did,” Lucius said.
“Hold on there, friend,” Turtle began, dismounting his ATV. “, you told me that your gear consisted of
your ruck, duffle, and those boxes. So I loaded your ruck, that heavy assed duffel, and those two
boxes. I figured the second box was camping tools but I see that you already have those.”
“So the question that we have been pondering the whole ride up here is what’s in the box?” Lucy
asked. “Now do you all remember when he said that the delivery man held him up? What useless
trinket did the man in the white truck bring you?”
“And speaking of which, where is Vicki?” Lance asked.
“She’s down in the crapper,” Sabine said.
“And don’t worry about what is in this box,” Lucius said hauling the Blader’s Row box over to his tent.
“The only thing that matters is what is in this box here.” He removed his helmet and gloves from the
other box.
“Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about,” Lance said. “What do you say, guys? The family folk will be just
waking up. We can be on the trails and christen them the right way before the first weekend
enthusiasts arrive.”
“What about the girls?” Turtle asked.
“They can stay here and cook lunch,” Lance said.
Lucy put her hands on her hips. “Oh we can?”
“You’re hungry, we’re hungry,” Lance said. “We need to teach Lucius how to ride and you can make
lunch while we do. We can all have lunch together and then maybe hit the grotto while the families
are playing in the woods.”
“The sexism aside, he has a point,” Lucy said. “You all get going. We’ll meet up in one hour, not one
second later. Have fun.”
V
After Lucius donned his brand new riding suit with matching gloves and boots and received the
customary ball breaking from Turtle and Lance, they took him out to the nearby track and put him
through his paces. Lucius was hesitant to try the breakneck speeds that Lance and Turtle seemed to
enjoy but before long, he was keeping pace with them and even out-cornering them in some of the
tighter turns. Long before their hour was up, the trio of testosterone-driven testicle owners were
zooming off the track down the trails that were large enough for their ATVs and a few that were not.
They met the girls in an open meadow, cleaning up with some canteen water and enjoying a steak
and potato lunch. Vicki proudly proclaimed that she showed Sabine and Lucy how to bake potatoes on
a grill and with reluctance; Sabine and Lucy verified her story. After that the boys rode the girls back
to camp on the ATVs and they all changed and headed down the small stone path to the grotto, a spot
where the lake flowed into an inlet bordered on two sides by thirty-foot rock walls and featured a
small sandy beach.
The day was more than warm enough, and the water was inviting. The sun bathed the grotto and its
beach. Vicki was content to lie upon the sand and soak up the rays while the others leaped from rocky
outcroppings and swim in the cool, clear water. Turtle swam along the bottom, looking among the
rocks for curiosities. Lance and Lucy swam together, trying not to let the others see that they were
fondling each other under the water. Lucius was content to float on the surface swimming only when
the natural current threatened to take him out into the lake.
Lucius stared into the blue cloudless sky lost in thought. His mind raced around with thoughts of
Samantha, and how things had progressed to that point. An old pain crept into his chest as his mind
wandered and came back with feelings that he was all too familiar with but did not own. He shook his
head to clear his mind and turned towards the beach. There he saw Sabine gingerly stepping among
the rocks. He watched how her body moved wrapped in a dark bikini; the way the sun played off her
skin and shined off her wet hair. The cheesy slogan on the lake brochure crept into his mind: the
mountain air, so clear and pristine it is the place for new beginnings. Sabine saw him looking and sent
him a smile and wave before jumping into the water. She started swimming towards him.
Apparently, Turtle got bored looking for treasure and swam up to Sabine from underneath and
dragged her under water. The lovers began a bit of horseplay, shattering Lucius’ flight of fancy. He
chose to swim to shore where he sat next to Vicki propped up against a rock. He looked out over the
lake while Vicki snuck glances at the crotch of his swimming trunks. The sun was beginning its slow
descent towards the western horizon. The reflection from the sky on the water threw a dazzling array
of lights off the grotto around them. It was a beautiful sight.
“You really should focus on the present,” Vicki said. “You’ll never be able to heal if you continue to
revisit the past.”
Lucius looked down at Vicki, who turned over onto her back. “I’m sorry?”
Vicki raised her glasses and looked at him. “What, you thought you were the only perceptive person
here?”
Lance and Turtle splashed out of the water and came over to Lucius. “Hey, the girls want to bake for a
while. You want to hit the trails again before it gets dark?” Lance asked. Lucius nodded. “Well let’s
go!”
VI
The sun set on what had been a glorious day leaving the moon to rise with the comfortable laughter
born when good friends share each other’s company. The boys had returned to find a fire burning and
food freshly prepared. Although Lance and Turtle were able to simply wash their hands and sit down
to eat, Lucius had to go down to the lake and wash off his suit. During their twilight ride, he had run
afoul of a steep incline and gravity. His ATV had flipped and he ended up deep in a mud puddle. The
group had mostly changed from their breezy attire to pants and long-sleeved shirts as the weather
had turned from seasonal to cool with the fading daylight.
After a bout of laughter, Vicki took a sip from a can of beer and gestured to Turtle. “How did you get
your name?”
Turtle frowned. “My mother gave it to me of course.” His joke sparked another fit of laughter. “No,
when I was a kid my favorite kind of shirt was turtlenecks. I wore them all the time. It wasn’t until I
wore one with the sleeves cut off on the hottest day of the year that the name stuck.” He held up a
hand and Lance tossed him another beer. “Actually it was Lucius that gave me the name.”
“Where is he?” Lance asked. “It doesn’t take that long to wash off a suit.”
“Why don’t you go find him?” Sabine asked Vicki.
“Then we’ll never see him again,” Lance chuckled.
Vicki turned around and looked into the darkness that formed a wall beyond the light of their
campfire. “Not going to happen. I don’t remember the way.”
Sabine looked at Lance and Turtle. “Either one of you want to make sure that he hasn’t fallen in or
something?”
“The man got himself into the puddle, he can clean up his own mess,” Lance said.
“I’m just sorry we didn’t get pictures,” Turtle added. “That would have been great.” Lance murmured
an agreement through his can of beer.
Sabine sighed and put down her drink. “Fine, I’ll find him.”
“Come on, Sabine, he’ll be fine,” Turtle said. “He’ll come stepping from the shadows in a minute or
so.”
“He’s probably in the shadows right now and just not smiling,” Lance said with a laugh.
“You want me to come with you?” Lucy asked after glaring at her boyfriend. She glared at Lance.
“Especially since our stalwart men have better things to do than look for their friend.”
“No, I know the way.” Sabine stood. She turned and walked into the darkness.
Moving by memory, she picked her way down the trail towards the lake. The path was mostly lined
with trees, but as she approached a turn, she emerged into the moonlight. She looked up and saw a
figure standing on one of the rocky ledges overlooking the grotto. Knowing that it was Lucius, she
altered her course arriving there a minute later. She stood back a moment, wanting to speak but
unsure how to broach a conversation.
“You haven’t been there long, have you Sabine?” Lucius asked. His words, quiet still startled her and
she felt guilty for intruding.
“The others are asking where you got off to,” Sabine said. She walked over and stood next to him.
“What are you doing up here?”
“Drying off and thinking,” Lucius said. He looked down at the black and silver leather wrapping his
body. “I finished washing off a couple of minutes ago. I just walked into the lake. I don’t want the suit
and gloves to shrink.”
“What are you thinking about?” Sabine asked. “Who are you thinking about?”
“This was supposed to be our weekend,” Lucius said of Samantha. “It was supposed to cement things
for us, maybe provide the evidence that we could go the distance.”
“She’s a dunce for walking away, Lu,” Sabine said. “Just be glad she did it now as opposed to much
later on.”
Lucius smiled and looked at the ground. “I’ve thought of that. Strangely enough, it provides little
comfort.” He looked back up at the sky and the full moon blazing in the heavens.
Sabine put her hand on his shoulder. “Lucius, about earlier with Vicki, I want to apologize. It’s not my
place to intrude like that. I must have sounded like a total bitch.”
Keeping his eyes on the lake and the sky Lucius said, “I don’t know, it was kind of nice.” He smiled
and turned towards her. For a moment, he was struck dumb by the way her face looked in the
moonlight. “Sabine, I understand you’re trying to protect me. I’m hurting, but not desperate. I know
what she is and why she’s here. I’m not leaving this place in love with her.”
“You’ve told me that once already,” Sabine said. “Who are you trying to convince?”
“You,” Lucius said. He kissed her forehead. “And I’ll keep saying it until you believe it. That said;
would it be all right if I had sex with her?”
Sabine made an exaggerated face as if considering his request. “I think I can allow it.” She turned
toward the lake. “The night is beautiful.”
“And the air so clear and pristine it is the place for new beginnings,” Lucius said dramatically. He was
rewarded by Sabine’s giggles. He turned and stepped away from the edge. “Come, our friends are
waiting.”
VII
“At last, he returns,” said Lance. “And he’s clean or at least I think he is.”
Lucius gave him a wry smile and flipped Lance the bird. “Go fuck yourself, boy-whore.”
“That aside, my melanin enriched friend, there is one mystery left in this camp and it falls to you to
solve it,” Lance said. He looked to Turtle who held up the box from Blader’s Row. “What is in the box?”
Lucius shook his head. “Turtle, hand me the box. Lance, be a good White boy and get daddy a beer
and a steak.” He took the box from Turtle and sat down. Lance had not moved. “Now.”
Lance put his beer down and stood. He spread his arms and bowed at the waist. “I’s be getting’ yo
beer and steak fo’ you suh.”
“Good boy,” Lucius said. He opened the box. “The first item from Blader’s Row is this.” He removed a
foot long spade-shaped metal object from the box and brandished it for the others to see. “This is a
spearhead, no jokes please, partially sharpened, by the time we get home; I’ll have this thing able to
slice air. The other item is the opposite end.” He drew and showed off a large spike; also a foot in
length. “Like the head, able to be sharpened to a fine point.”
“What’s the heavy thing?” Turtle asked. He pulled Sabine onto his lap. “Hello, my love.”
“Ah, that.” Lucius dug into the box and picked up a large elongated diamond-shaped piece of metal
that had straps on one side. It was artificially darkened to give it an ancient appearance. “This is
commonly called a shield.” Lucius put his left arm through the straps and holding onto the one
furthest down. When he hefted the shield, the longer point was leading. He held up the shield in a
defensive posture. It protected him from his hip to his face.
Turtle clapped his hands once. “I get it, now, Defiant One.”
“That’s right,” said Lance pointing. “You loved that movie.”
“I thought the guys were hot,” Vicki said. “All those rippling muscles and those loincloths… my God.”
She began fanning herself with her hand.
“You don’t have one of those in there, do you?” Lucy asked.
Lucius smiled, “Don’t you wish, babe.”
“Are those for show?” Sabine asked.
Lucius plunged the shield into the ground and pulled his arm free. He went into the box and pulled out
a rectangular stone. “I thought you knew me better than that. I don’t own a single bladed weapon
that cannot be used for what it’s for.” He began drawing the spearhead across the stone. He did five
passes for each side. He used one side to slice through the paper invoice inside the box. “See?” He set
the spearhead aside and began working on the butt cap.
“I thought spears had sticks and whatnot?” Lance asked.
“They do,” said Lucius finishing up and stuffing the spearhead and butt cap into his rucksack along
with the sharpening stone. “But The Row gives you the option of creating a shaft out of whatever
material you like. I know they used ash in the film but I think I’ll go with a rattan, harder wood.”
Lance stood up en route to the cooler for another beer. “And if there’s anything he knows about, it’s
hard wood.”
With a guttural screech being the only warning, a massive shape streaked from the darkness and
ploughed into Lance, knocking him over. The group started, leaping to their feet. The shape, a large,
middle-aged man, growled fiercely and scrabbled atop Lance clawing at him. Lance got his arms up
and gripped the man’s shoulders. The man spat and snapped at Lance, trying to bite his face.
“What the fuck? Get this fuck off me! What are you doing man?” Lance yelled.
Turtle grabbed the man from behind and pulled with all of his strength. The man came up but ripped
Lance’s shirt in the process and would not let go. Turtle threw punch after punch into the back of the
man’s head with no effect. “What the hell?”
Lucius grabbed his shield and moved over. “One side, Turtle!” He swung a backhand blow that saw the
shield crack off the side of the man’s head. The man fell to the ground but quickly snapped to his
knees and turned to Lucius. That is when Lucius saw it. There was something missing in the man’s
eyes. It was a lack of humanity, or maybe a lack of a soul. The man snarled at Lucius, baring his
teeth. The act sparked something in Lucius, a primal instinct. Lucius swung his shield again. The
sound of bone meeting metal rang out along with the wrenching snap of the man’s neck. The man fell
over again but did not move.
“What the fuck was that?” Lance said, scrambling to his feet. He wiped at himself, trying to get the
crawling sensation off his skin. He looked at the tatters that used to be his shirt. “What the fuck was
that? I mean come on!” He looked up as Lucy ran over and checked him for injury.
Lucius stood over the man clutching the shield in his hand. “I don’t… I don’t know.” Turtle joined him.
“I hit him with everything I had.” Turtle looked at his hands. His knuckles were beginning to swell.
“Did you see? I hit him with everything I had.” He looked at Lucius. “That first hit you laid into him
should have knocked him cold. He just bounced back up.”
“I… I don’t think he’s breathing,” Vicki said. She shuffled over and knelt next to the man. She placed a
trembling hand on his chest. She looked up. “He’s not breathing.” She went to his neck and felt for a
pulse but the man’s head flopped to one side unnaturally. She turned to Lucius. “You… broke his neck.
You killed him.”
Lucy looked over from helping Lance. “He what?”
Sabine rushed over and saw for herself. “She’s right. Lu, what have you done?”
“He saved me is what he did,” Lance said. “That guy was trying to eat my fucking face! Turtle couldn’t
get him off and he was pounding the hell out of that guy’s head. Lucius did what he had to do. We all
saw it.”
“So what do we do?” Lucy asked.
“We call the cops and get them up here,” Lucius said.
“Whoa, whoa, let’s think about this!” Vicki said. “We can’t even call the cops.”
“Think about what?” Sabine asked. “We go to one of the aid stations. It’s got a payphone we dial 911
and get someone up here.”
“No, Vicki’s right,” said Lucy. “If they come up here and see us all together they’ll think we’re covering
or something. I think that some of us should meet the cops and then bring them up here.”
“So, who meets the cops?” Turtle asked.
“You should go and I should go,” Lucy said. “The others should leave here and go to the lake in case
this guy has got friends.”
“Okay, that’s the plan,” Lance said.
The group left the campsite and headed down a path leading to the lake campsites. Before long, they
came to a fork in the path. After cursory good-byes, Lucy and Turtle disappeared around the bend to
the left leaving Lucius and the others going down the right. The group heading to the lake was quiet
for most of the walk. The sounds of their shoes crunching on the grass and the leaves underfoot made
their silence only slightly less awkward.
Finally, Lance caught up to Lucius and tapped him on the shoulder. “Listen man, I just wanted to
thank you for what you did up there. I mean, if you’re feeling any kind of way about taking that guy
out, don’t. He was trying to kill me. I could see it in his eyes.” Lucius nodded thinking that murderous
rage was just a portion of the evil he saw in their attacker’s eyes.
Lance went on, “I don’t care what anybody says, you’re a fucking hero.”
“Hero?” Vicki asked. “Hero? What are you nuts? He murdered that guy. I hope you and Lucy are into
threesomes because if you think I’m sleeping next to him you’re cracked.”
“Vicki, shut up,” Sabine said. “Don’t listen, Lucius, you did what you had to do.”
“No,” Lucius said. He walked ahead of the group. Something was wrong. He was listening, but not to
the others. They were nearing the campsites at the lake and he could hear what sounded like
screaming. “What is that?”
Lance stopped and listened. “Sounds like a bunch of families pooled their resources and are having a
party. Man they are going to be pissed when we bring the cops up here and kill the buzz.”
“That doesn’t sound like party noise,” Vicki said. She and the others jumped when a bloodcurdling
scream split the air.
Lucius crouched and held up a hand. “You guys stay here, I’m going to go see what’s going on.”
“I’ll go,” Lance said. “No offense but if you come skulking out of the woods, someone is liable to get
the wrong idea.”
“One, fuck you, two, I have no intention of revealing myself,” Lucius said. Your shirt is in tatters and,
no offense, you tend to stand out.”
Lance looked down and shrugged. “You have a point. Hurry up.”
Lucius nodded and trotted down the path. The noise from the lake grew louder and soon the screams
could no longer be mistaken for what they were, a mixture of panic and pure fear. There were also
screams of pain. Accenting the cacophony of noise were primal shrieks and roars of the same kind
heard in the not too distant past. Lucius left the path and moved through a copse of trees. He
emerged behind a large camper and, staying to the shadows, moved around to where he could see
the campsites.
Peeking around the edge his breath caught in his throat. The lakeshore was the scene of absolute
chaos. People were running everywhere. A few of the RVs were on fire. Among the shrieking campers,
there were mobs of people attacking them. Lucius did not know where they had come from. Men
women and children were fleeing from their attackers in a total panic. Groups of the mob pounded at
camper doors, ripped into tents, and broke through the thin plastic and glass windows getting to
screaming occupants seeking safety.
Outside, those unable to escape were murdered. Lucius watched in horror and disbelief as members of
the mob fell upon their victims and tore at their flesh with their mouths. One man fell atop a writhing
woman and buried his face into her back. With a sickening twist of his head along with a piercing
scream from his victim, he ripped a wad of flesh from her back, chewed it up and swallowed it. Lucius
turned away from the scene, losing sight of the chaos, but still able to hear the screams of the
damned. The camper he was leaning against suddenly pitched to one side and he heard the ear-
splitting cry of a child.
Lucius scrambled to a window where he saw a woman inside the bedroom area of the camper pressed
against the locked door holding bloody hands to her ears trying to drown out the noise coming from
the other room. Lucius moved to the next window and saw a man, his shirt covered in blood and
ragged wounds all over his arms and on his neck holding down a writhing girl of about seven. He was
biting into her arms and shoulders as she tried futilely to fend him off. When she curled into a ball in a
last desperate effort to protect herself, the man clamped down on her neck and, as the window did not
spare him from the sight of the girl’s final moments, so too did it not spare him the sound of the
child’s neck breaking. A spurt of blood splashed across the window in front of Lucius turning his view
of the carnage red.
In shock, his breath came in ragged gasps and his heart pounded in his chest. The sound of the
woman screaming from the bedroom only partially snapped him back to reality. The man’s head
snapped up and he turned to the bedroom door. Pouncing to his feet, he sprinted the three feet to the
door and smashed through it falling clumsily. Lucius went to go to the other window, knowing the fate
of the woman on the other side, already hearing her screams as the man, probably her husband, killed
her. He paused when the girl on the floor suddenly moved.
Hope stirred in him. If he could get through the window, maybe he could get the girl and get her to a
doctor. He looked down on the ground and snatched up a rock. He reared back, ready to smash
through but paused when he saw the girl standing. Her head was canted oddly to one side on her
shoulders and there was no mistaking that her neck was broken. Hearing the commotion coming from
the other room, the girl turned toward the bedroom and limped inside. Lucius dropped the rock and
went to the other window. He watched as the girl knelt next to the man and began feasting on the
twitching body of the woman. As before, something primal stirred in him and he backed away staying
out of sight.
Once he made it through the trees back to the path, Lucius began to run. Constantly looking back to
make sure he was not being followed; he sprinted up the path running into Lance and the girls. He
waved them back and went by them pointing up into the woods. “We need to go!”
Lance kept going down the path. “Why? What’s going on? What did you see?”
“There’s more people like that guy down there,” Lucius said. “A lot more; we need to go.”
Lance took a few more steps and saw signs of the carnage through the trees. “What the hell?” He
edged down to the end of the path and got a full view of the massacre.
“Lance, come on!” Lucius said, running down and grabbing Lance’s arm pulling him back up the path.
“We need to go, now!”
Lance barely heard his friend. His eyes roved over the blood and death, the imagery holding his mind
transfixed. He watched people like the one that attacked him sprinting around the campgrounds.
Looking ahead, he saw a camper door open and a girl stick out her head for a moment before taking
off towards him. Someone in the camper shouted for her to stop but from behind the door. The girl did
not make it more than twenty steps before she was brutally tackled by three members of the mob.
Though she had to be more than fifty yards away, her screams of terror and pain had no trouble
making it to Lance’s ears. Though Lucius had a firm grip on his arm, Lance was able to pull free. He
sprinted towards the girl.
“Lance, no!” Lucius yelled. The girls ran up behind him. He turned and stopped them. “Stay here out
of sight.” He turned back in time to see Lance pounced on by two of the mob. Lance ducked out of the
way and kicked one of his attackers to the ground. Four more attacked and easily overpowered him.
“Shit!” Lucius yelled. He took off running. In the distance, he saw that the girl Lance had hoped to
save was dead and being consumed.
Lucius looked back to Lance as he approached and chose a target. Lowering his shoulder, he plowed
into the attacker sitting atop Lance’s chest. He rolled along the ground for a few feet, his gambit
succeeding. He rolled onto his stomach and tried to get to his feet but was hit from behind. A woman
covered in bite wounds with blood smeared across her mouth screeched in his face and snapped at his
nose. Lucius turned his face at the last moment and brought his arm up as she swooped in for another
attempt.
Her mouth clamped down on his forearm, her teeth clasping onto the armor of his riding suit. Still she
bit down with all her force whipping her head from side to side trying to tear through his suit. Lucius
tried to push her off him but could not break her grip. Thrashing on the ground, he felt something
press into his hip and realized that he still had his knife. His fingers scrabbling, he drew the knife and
stabbed the woman in the side. He looked into the emptiness of her eyes and saw that she did not
even feel the blade. He stabbed again, and again. Over and over, until the wound was a ragged hole
that no human being could ignore. Still, she attacked, even trying to chew through the suit to his flesh
underneath. Lucius forced his arm further into her mouth, exposing her throat. Screaming, he plunged
his knife into the underside of her jaw. The blade met surprisingly little resistance as it speared
through her skull. With that insult, the woman went limp, finally dead.
Lucius pushed out from underneath her, yanking his knife free. He turned to Lance and saw that he
was too late. His friend had stopped fighting the ghouls feasting on his flesh. Lucius took a step
toward his friend but stopped short when Lance’s eyes snapped open and the soulless orbs focused on
him. Coming to his senses, Lucius took off towards the woods. He looked around and saw that the
lakeshore had descended fully into some hellish dimension. The screams came less from the grounds
around him and more from the campers and RVs.
Breaking through the tree line, Lucius collapsed to his knees and retched violently. He sat back on his
heels and looked at the knife and his gloved hands. He saw the blood caking them and nearly
vomited. Tears fell involuntarily as he looked around for Sabine and Vicki. He looked up the path and
saw Sabine emerge from behind a tree with Vicki trailing behind her. Sabine saw him and relief
flooded her face.
“Lucius!” She nearly cried. She rushed over and went to touch him but he shied away from her.
“Lucius, are you all right?”
“They got him, Sabine,” Lucius said vacantly. “They got Lance.”
“I know,” Sabine said, fighting tears. “We saw. We saw everything. What are we going to do now?”
Lucius looked at Sabine as if seeing her for the first time. He nodded. “We need to get back to camp.
The others might be there and they need to know what’s going on. From there we’ll head down to the
main lodge and wait for help.” He stood up still holding the knife. Sabine backed away eyeing the
blade. Lucius looked at the knife and quickly tucked it back in its sheath. “Come on.”
They moved back up the path leaving the carnage of the lakeside campground behind. They did not
run into trouble along the way, but Lucius made the girls stop at the edge of their campsite before
making sure that the man he had supposedly killed was actually dead. When he was sure, he waved
them in. It was obvious Turtle and Lucy had not come back. He went to his rucksack and started
stuffing it with supplies.
“What are we going to do now?” Vicki asked.
“Turtle and Lucy aren’t here so that means they’re down at the aid station,” Lucius said. “That’s where
we’ll go next.”
“We should stay here,” Vicki said. “They’ll be back.”
“We’re kind of exposed here, Vicki,” Lucius said. “If we get a bunch of those things up here, we’re
fucked.”
“What’s wrong with those people?” Sabine asked.
“Those are not people,” Lucius said. “I stabbed that bitch a hundred times and she didn’t even flinch. I
don’t know what they are, but people they are not.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Vicki said, her voice rising.
“Vicki, dammit be quiet,” Lucius said. He looked at the machete sitting next to the fire and picked it
up. He fastened its sheath to his belt and tied the lanyard around his leg.
“Oh that’s what we need, the killer nigger to have more weapons,” Vicki said, her voice rising even
higher still. Her emotions finally broke. “This is great! We’re stuck on this fucking mountain in the
middle of nowhere where you can’t even make a phone call surrounded by psycho cannibals and
Shaka-fucking-Zulu here! What the fuck!”
“Vicki, shut the fuck up!” Sabine shouted.
A piercing shriek shattered the split second’s silence. A woman, clothes shredded and torn, covered in
blood burst from the darkness and hurled herself at Vicki. Running backward, Vicki fell to the ground
as the woman pounced, avoiding death for a few moments. The woman turned, her bare feet skidding
on the rocky ground. She started for Vicki but her trajectory was thrown off as Lucius slammed into
her with his shield.
The woman tumbled along the ground and skidded into the base of a tree. She jumped to her feet but
Lucius pinned her to the tree with his shield. She growled and spat at him. Drawing the machete,
Lucius swung it down on her head, cleaving it from her body. Like a marionette with its strings cut,
the body crumpled to the ground.
Lucius turned to Vicki. “It is most important that you keep that cum-receptacle you call a mouth
closed so that those things don’t come after us. Do you think you can do that?” Vicki nodded. “Good.
Let’s go.” Sabine looked at the ground and saw the small axe that Lucius had brought with him.
Snatching it up, she hurried off after the others.
Moving with haste but stopping every few yards to listen, Lucius led the girls back down the path,
taking the bend to the left to avoid the lake. Coming to the final bend before the aid station, he
paused for a moment and decided to leave the path when he saw a body lying up against a tree. It
was not moving, but that was no guarantee. They moved through the bush and trees coming to the
edge where there was a clearing. They could see the station and four of the creatures shambling
about outside of it. The lights in the station were dark making it impossible to see through the
windows.
The aid station was made of brick like the main lodge with the same false log-cabin front. It was only
one story and was small, as it was not manned at all hours. A payphone was outside on the wall but
the connecting telephone pole told that there was also a landline inside the station. With any luck,
whomever was inside had called for help. While not a bunker, it would be a fitting refuge. All they had
to do was get past the sentries.
Lucius turned to the girls and motioned for them to be quiet. He pointed at the creatures and then at
the station. He drew the machete and nodded. Sabine nodded that she understood. Lucius turned and
ran from the bushes towards two of the creatures. He bashed one aside with his shield and beheaded
the other. His actions drew the attention of the others who whooped after him. Vicki and Sabine tore
from the bushes sprinting for the aid station. They reached the door, Vicki pounding and screaming to
be let in.
Lucius scrambled after the fallen creature, a man dressed in a torn polo shirt and bloody khaki shorts.
He swung his machete down but the creature spun and the machete sank into its arm rather than its
head. There was a moment of struggle before Lucius could free the weapon. In that moment, the
other two creatures arrived knocking him over. Lucius kept his grip on the machete and rolled as he
fell coming back to his feet.
He lunged shield first, meeting the charge of one the creatures, a teenaged girl with half of her right
bicep missing. His weight won out and he launched her backward to the ground. He swung his
machete at the face of the next in line, sidestepping as he did. Its head flipped from its shoulders and
rolled along the ground. He turned as the girl-creature got back to its feet and charged again, mouth
agape. Lucius swung his shield in a backhand blow that sent it sprawling. The man-creature, from
before, ploughed into Lucius from behind sprawling them on the ground.
Lucius managed to get to his back and wedge the shield between them but could not use his machete.
A growling noise from behind him told him that the girl-creature had gotten back to her feet and was
coming to make a meal out of his head. He tried pushing the man-creature off with his shield but
could not. Risking a glance back, he saw the girl-creature running toward them. He heard the sound of
shuffling feet and closed his eyes fearing the end. There was a hollow thud and the girl-creature
collapsed to the ground. Lucius looked up and saw Sabine swinging his axe at the creature attacking
him. It took the top of its head off.
Lucius pushed the body off to the side and got to his feet. “Jesus, thank you.”
“Hey, come on there’s more coming!” someone shouted from the station.
Lucius and Sabine sprinted toward the station disappearing inside. The door was slammed behind
them. Five more creatures burst from the trees and from the path howling and screaming. Not finding
live prey, they fell upon the bodies outside tearing into the flesh with mindless gluttony. Sabine and
Lucius moved aside as two men pushed a heavy piece of furniture in front of the door and braced it
with doorstops.
One of the men patted Lucius on the shoulder. “Hey, you all right?”
Lucius nodded. “I almost got myself killed, though.” He turned to Sabine tucking his machete back
into its sheath. “Thanks again for saving my ass.”
“I’m not letting anything happen to you,” Sabine said.
“Sabine, baby?”
Sabine turned and saw Turtle emerge from behind a cluster of people. She burst into tears, pushed
her way past a couple of people and flew into his arms. “Nathan!” She clutched onto him as if she
would never let go. From behind them, Lucy appeared.
“Sabine, Lucius,” she said. “Where’s Lance?” Her voice was so small, almost child-like. “Where’s
Lance?” Lucius tried to speak but the words failed him. At a loss, he let his expression deliver the
news. Lucy saw this and her trembling hands slowly moved to her mouth as the last rays of hope fled
from her replaced by despair and grief. She began to fold, sinking down to the floor. Sabine let go of
Turtle and grabbed onto Lucy holding her and rocking gently back and forth.
“Oh shit,” Turtle said, tears beginning to well up in his eyes as well. “Jesus, fucking Christ what the
hell?” He moved past the girls to Lucius. “What happened?”
“We went down to the lake and there were more of those things,” Lucius said. “Lance saw a couple of
them attacking this girl. He tried to stop them. I tried to stop him. I saw what they were doing, but…
They killed him.”
Turtle saw the guilt in Lucius’ eyes. “Hey, I’m sure you did what you could.”
Sabine looked up. “He did. He almost got killed trying to save him.”
Turtle turned away from Sabine as tears for Lance fell. He wiped at his eyes and looked out the
window at the creatures feasting on their former brethren outside. “What the hell is are those things?”
“I don’t know, man,” Lucius said. “What all happened with you?”
“We got down here and a huge crowd of people came running up the path with a few of those things
chasing after them,” Turtle said. “We barricaded ourselves inside and braced the door. They pounded
on it and we thought they were going to get in.” Turtle shivered. “I’ve never heard anything like it.
Unfortunately, a few more people came up the path and drew them off. I hope they got away.”
“How many of you are in here?” Lucius asked turning. He squinted, trying to see in the darkness.
“You guys make an even twenty,” a man said, stepping from the shadows. He was in his forties with
graying hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a blue t-shirt and shorts with sandals. Blood stained his
shirt and shorts. “We were all down at the lake when the first wave of those things came out of the
trees. They started over at the far end so it was a few minutes before we realized what was
happening. I gathered everyone up and we started to run. Those of us that made it, ended up here.
My name is Jeremy.”
“Lucius,” Lucius shook Jeremy’s hand. He looked at a telephone sitting on a shelf not too far away. “I
know this is a stupid question but has anyone called for help?”
Jeremy shook his head. “The phone doesn’t work. I’m not even sure of the line is dead. It just makes
this God-awful noise. No one has a cell signal either.”
“So what’s the plan?” someone asked. A man in his early twenties wearing a confederate flag t-shirt
and makeshift camouflage shorts. “When are we gonna strike back at those bastards?”
“Whoa now, Carter, let’s not get stupid,” Jeremy said.
“Stupid hell,” Carter said, anger and fear in his gray eyes. “My girl’s out there, my family too. I gotta
get to them. They need me. We ain’t all spineless like you. That boy there’s got the right idea; take
the fight to the enemy.”
Lucius took a step forward. “First, I’m probably older than you so watch that ‘boy’ shit. Second, the
number one rule of survival is ‘get to a secure place and stay put’.”
“Third, son, I am not spineless,” said Jeremy.
“You sure as hell took off leaving yours to fend for themselves,” Carter said.
“As did you,” someone else chimed in from the darkness. “As did we all.”
“Quiet, all of you!” Turtle hissed. “There’s more of those things outside.”
“Turtle’s right,” Lucius said quietly. He looked around at all the windows. “This isn’t the greatest place
to hole up, but if we’re quiet and stay away from the windows, they won’t know we’re here. We can be
safe until help arrives.”
“Fuck that!” Carter whispered fiercely. “I say we get out there and start taking heads. Our folks need
us. Maybe ya’ll done went and forgot about that, but not me.”
“And just how do you intend to wreak your vengeful retribution against those things?” Jeremy asked.
“Well if that boy won’t use those weapons of his, he won’t mind if I do,” Carter said.
“You are wrong in your assumption,” Lucius said.
“I don’t assume anything,” Carter said. “I also wasn’t asking.” Lucius turned from the window and
found Carter on his feet. “Why don’t you give those to me and save yourself some trouble?”
“Why don’t you come and get them, redneck?” Lucius asked. He stepped forward as Carter started
toward him.
“I wouldn’t do that.” All heads turned as Vicki emerged from the darkness. She was looking square at
Carter. “So far, he’s the only one in here that’s killed anything tonight. I’ve seen him do it. You don’t
have what it takes to take those weapons from him, and I would sooner feed you to those things
outside than let you try.”
Turtle took a step between Carter and Lucius. “As would I.”
Jeremy joined them. “As would all of us. Besides, the noise would bring them in here and we don’t
need that. Lucius has the right idea. We don’t know what’s going on out there. If we stay quiet and
stay hidden, we can last until help comes.”
Carter looked around and saw that the group was against his sudden bid for power. He reluctantly
took a seat, glaring at Jeremy. “We got a word for folk like you where I’m from; nigger-lovin’ traitor.”
“Actually, boy, that’s three words,” Jeremy said. “And we got a word for folk like you where I’m from;
stupid.”
Turtle patted Lucius on the shoulder and went over to where Sabine, Lucy, and Vicki were huddled.
Lucius turned to Jeremy and nodded. “Thank you for that.”
“You’re welcome,” Jeremy said. “Just how did you come by a shield up here anyway?”
Lucius smiled. “It’s a long story. Is your family really out there?”
Jeremy turned to the window and slowly nodded. “I was at the port-a-johns when it all happened. I
started back to our site but got cut off. I came across someone who was hurt and helped them here.
My wife and our two kids with their kids are still out there somewhere. We had a truck. Maybe they
made it and are on their way for help. I’m sure they are.”
“They’re probably safe and just as worried about you as you are about them,” Lucius said. In his
heart, he suspected different. “Thanks again.” He left Jeremy by the window and went to the others.
The four of them were seated beneath a window up against the wall. Lucy was still crying quietly in
Sabine’s arms. Turtle had his arms around Sabine. Vicki sat by herself, hugging her knees. Lucius sat
in front of her. “Thank you for the vote of confidence back there.”
Vicki looked at him and smiled. “It was nothing. That guy’s an asshole. Listen; up at the camp I said
things out of emotion. I’m sorry if I offended you. I was out of line.”
Lucius looked down at the floor. “That ‘cum receptacle’ remark was not in good taste either. We were
both stressing pretty good. We still are. How about we start over?” He took off his glove and extended
his hand. “My name is Lucius.”
Vicki took his hand and shook it. “I’m Vicki; it is nice to meet you. I see you’re into killing monsters?”
Lucius smiled. “I’m kind of new at it but I seem to have a knack.”
“Is it okay if I join the apology party?” Carter asked, startling them. “Listen, Lucius? I’m worried about
my girl and about my mom and stuff. I didn’t mean what I said back there.”
“Sure you did, Carter,” Lucius said. “Have a seat. Apology accepted, by the way.”
Carter shook Lucius’ hand. “Thank you.”
“I’m amazed you don’t have the rifle you brought with you,” Lucius said. “You know the one you keep
on the rack inside the cab of your pick-up?”
“It’s back at the camp,” Carter said with a smile. “Probably the same place you left the cooler of fried
chicken and watermelon.”
“Touché,” Lucius said.
VIII
The hours crawled by. The survivors huddled inside their makeshift refuge listening to the moans and
growls of the demons outside and the screams of the damned that seemed to come from everywhere
and nowhere. Those with others still lost in the carnage shut their eyes and a few wept as they
wondered if the last scream heard was someone they loved. Sitting there, in the darkness with only
small shafts of moonlight spearing through the windows the night bore down on the fortunate few like
a crushing weight.
Unable to sit still and wait any longer, Lucius had moved to the rear room of the station where he
found a closet full of tools. Among the tools, he found a hatchet, a fire axe, a few axe handles and a
metal bar about four feet long. Looking at it, he saw that holes had been drilled into the ends. He
looked at the holes and got an idea. Going into his rucksack, he found his spearhead and butt cap. He
checked and saw that they fit onto the ends. Lucius went into a dusty toolbox and found a few nuts
and bolts. “Thank God for small favors.” He went about affixing the spearhead and butt cap. He held
up his new complete spear. He switched hands to his left and had to put the spear down, grabbing his
left forearm and wincing as Sabine appeared.
“Lu, are you all right?” She asked a hint of frantic in her voice.
“Yeah,” Lucius said. He moved over as she sat beside him. “When I tried to help Lance, one of those
things chomped down on my arm. She didn’t get through the suit, but that didn’t stop her from trying.
Human beings can bite pretty hard.” He removed the glove from his hand, drew back the zipper at his
wrist, and peeled back the suit. His forearm underneath was swollen and bruised, but the skin was not
broken. Lucius ran a finger along his arm. “I should be fine. I don’t think anything’s broken. Where are
the others?”
“They’re still over there,” Sabine said pointing to a window. “Vicki and Turtle are talking. Lucy is finally
asleep. I’m worried about her.”
“And what about you?” Lucius asked. “How are you holding up?”
“Surprisingly well, actually,” Sabine said with a lopsided smile. “Not as good as you, though. You
should have seen yourself. The guy in that movie should take lessons from you. Swinging that
machete and that shield with your suit…”
“Turn you on a bit, did it?” Lucius asked playfully.
Sabine snickered, trying not to laugh too loud. “Not at the time, but if a girl considers the imagery,
maybe.”
“Well, when we get out of here, tell Turtle I said, ‘you’re welcome’,” Lucius said.
“Do you really think we’re getting out of here?” Sabine asked, her veneer beginning to crack.
Lucius could see hopelessness taking root in her eyes. He set aside the spear, moved in close to her,
and pulled her into his arms. She shuddered and clung to him. “Yes, Sabine, I really think we’re
getting out of here.” He kissed the top of her head and began to rock her back and forth, as he knew
that she was sobbing, her emotions winning out finally. He hushed her and rubbed her back as if he
had done it all his life.
“Is she all right?”
Lucius looked up and saw Turtle standing over them. He suddenly felt intrusive and slid out from
Sabine’s grasp. “It’s getting to her is all. I believe this is your territory.” He stood up and moved out of
the way.
Turtle placed a hand on Lucius’ shoulder. “Hey, I never thanked you for getting her to me. She’s my
life, man. You’re my hero.”
Lucius gave Turtle a half-smile and nodded before turning back to the front room and heading towards
Vicki and Lucy. It took a conscious effort not to look back as Turtle sat down. He had decided to go
check on Vicki and Lucy, but paused as he passed what appeared to be a poster. He looked closer and
realized that it was a map of the entire resort. He took it down and brought it with him. He found Vicki
talking with Carter with Lucy curled up off to one side. He took a seat with them, placing the spear
down next to him.
Carter picked up the spear and examined it. “Well, it ain’t a rifle, but I guess it’ll do. No good for
chuckin’, though.”
“Now you know crackers can’t use no spear,” Lucius said taking the spear back. “There’s an axe in the
closet in the back.”
Carter laughed and stood up. “Don’t mind if I help myself to that. Be right back.”
Lucius drew his machete and used the edge of a curtain to wipe the blood and gore off the blade.
Going into his rucksack, he found his sharpening stone and began to sharpen the blade. “How’re you
holding up, Vicki?”
Vicki drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “Well enough, I guess.” She
watched Lucius work. “You are handy. Turtle told me about your ex-girlfriend, Samantha. From what I
can see, you’re a good man. Why’d she leave you? Not Black enough for her?”
Lucius smiled. “I’ve often wondered what comments like meant, but I suppose what it was, was that I
was too Black in a certain sense. She thought I was complacent. I did not like to try new things.
Things like this trip, for instance.”
“You’re a natural out here,” Vicki said.
“I learned all of that this week,” Lucius said. “I’ve never been camping ever. I wanted to show
Samantha that I could try new things. She didn’t want to listen. It seems silly now.” He finished
sharpening the machete and returned it to its sheath. He picked up the map of the resort and
removed it from its frame.
“What’s that?” Carter asked as he sat down. He had the fire axe cradled in his lap. He saw the
sharpening stone. “You mind, firefighters don’t sharpen these things.” He caught the stone and set to
work. “Is that a map of this place?”
Lucius pored over the map and nodded. “Yeah, I want to take a look at something.” He traced a line
with his finger while looking over the landmarks. “I didn’t know this place was so big.”
“What happened to staying put and waiting for rescue?” Carter asked.
“Just being prepared,” Lucius replied. “The lake is here, then we’re here.”
“What’s this here?” Carter asked pointing to a line going past the rear of the station. “It goes all the
way down to the main lodge.”
“It’s an emergency access road for fire trucks and ambulances,” Lucius said. “It looks like it’s blocked
off from regular traffic. It’s probably paved and everything. If we have to, we can get out that way.
It’s only three miles or so to the main lodge.”
“It’s our way out,” Carter said.
“If we have to,” Lucius added. “The former plan is still a good one.”
“Paul?” a woman called. “Paul? Oh God.”
There was some shuffling of feet and then quiet crying. Those in the area respectfully looked away or
found somewhere else to be. One of the people over by the source of the crying stood up and moved
away. It was Jeremy. He walked over to Lucius and the others and sat down. “He was the guy I ran
into. His arm was ripped open by one of those things. We had some trouble stopping the bleeding as
you can see.” He pointed to his shirt. “I thought we had it stopped.”
Lucius put a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder. “You did what you could.”
“Paul?” the woman said. “Paul. Paul!”
There was a bloodcurdling screech and suddenly, chaos. Paul came off the floor grabbing at the
woman who was frantically trying to get away. People nearby dove, crawled, and ran out of the way
screaming. Lucius and the others got to their feet and watched as Paul pulled the woman’s head back
with her hair and sank his teeth into her neck chewing viciously. Her scream was deafening. Blood
jetted across the room spraying on anyone nearby.
There was a blur at Lucius’ side. Carter leaped forward swinging his axe. It sank into Paul’s side,
knocking him off the woman to the floor. Paul struggled against the axe, howling and screeching.
Carter pulled the axe free and swung it down again. It clove into Paul’s face. Paul screeched once and
fell to the floor, finally still.
“Jesus Christ,” Jeremy said. He knelt at the woman’s head not sure how to help her. “Somebody help
me!”
“There’s nothing you can do, Jeremy,” someone said. “He took her head off.”
A terrible screeching yell came from outside and ended all conversation inside the station. There were
a few frightened gasps followed by people hushing everyone else. Lucius and Jeremy turned toward
the barricaded door as the yell was answered by a cacophony of howls and screeches. The noises got
closer. A wave of fear broke over the aid station refugees.
“They’re coming,” breathed Jeremy.
“In the back there’s a closet with all kinds of construction stuff in there, get whatever you can and get
back here,” Lucius said. Jeremy disappeared and took a few of the others with him. Lucius went over
to Vicki and Lucy, who had been startled awake by the noise. He zipped up the forearms on his suit
and donned his gloves. “Move to the other room at the back of the station and tell Turtle and Sabine
what’s going on and about the access road.” He picked up his shield.
“Are those things really coming?” Lucy asked. She looked past Lucius as Jeremy and a few others
arrived, carrying axe handles and pieces of fence. “Oh sweet Jesus.”
“Get to the back,” Lucius said. He went to the front of the room with the others. He found Turtle
standing there holding a metal bar with a screw sticking out the top. “What are you doing?”
“Helping,” Turtle said. “You guys are going to need all the help you can get.”
“He’s right,” Carter said. The howls and roars got closer still. Carter hefted his axe. “How do you want
to do this?”
“Keep everyone away from the windows and keep those things from coming through the door,” Lucius
said. “Everyone, swing for their heads.” The sound of many running feet could be heard on the other
side of the door.
There was a snarling growl and the door shook violently. Everyone inside jumped and a few people
screamed in fear. More and more creatures arrived and the door vibrated as they pounded and
bellowed as if they could smell the fear of their prey on the other side of the door. The desk shook
against the doorstops as it moved away from the door. Hands appeared as the door was pushed open.
The hands were followed by arms.
Lucius hefted his spear and lifted his shield up to further hide his face. At the door, he could make out
one of the creatures pushing at the door with its back. The creature turned and stuck its head in the
door. It locked eyes with him and snarled its mouth, a blood-filled maw. Lucius stepped forward and
thrust the spear. It sank into the creature’s head just below its nose. The creature went limp. Lucius
pulled the blade free and stepped back as three more ghouls took its place.
As if spurred on by some memory, they pushed at once, the desk gave more room, and one of them
got halfway inside. Lucius stepped in again and took it just under the chin. The demon fell inside the
cabin making room for others. Lucius pulled his spear free and stepped back as three more pushed
their way inside. Carter yelled and sunk the blade of his axe into one of the ghouls’ heads. Jeremy
stepped forward as well and the hollow sound of wood meeting skull rang out. In both cases, the
defeated ghouls fell to the floor; Jeremy’s foe finally stopped moving after three more blows.
Lucius sidestepped an attack and shoved his spear into the creature’s gut. Using both hands, he
levered the creature to the ground, stood over it and stabbed the point of his shield into its face.
There was a thud and the door moved two feet inside. More of the creatures tried to fight their way in,
held up only by their fellow demons. Lucius turned and watched Carter take another with Jeremy and
even Turtle, a murderous look in his usually placid eyes bring his weapon down on the head of a
creature crawling across the floor.
“Let’s get some guys on that desk, push it back!” Lucius yelled. Three men and a girl jumped to the
task and started pushing. “Carter!” Lucius shoved his spear into the chest of a fallen creature and
drew his machete. “We need to clear the door!”
As they started for the door, one of the creatures broke through. It snarled and sprinted towards
them. Lucius raised his shield and charged it with a yell. Putting his weight and shield into the
collision, he knocked the creature to the floor. Drawing back with the shield, he speared the point into
the creature’s left eye as Carter swung his axe over his head, into the face of another attacking
creature.
Lucius stood up and took the head of a third with his machete. Carter wheeled the axe around and
drove the pick-end into the head of a fourth. They reached the door, the people on the desk were
managing to push the desk back and the door shut. Carter and Lucius swung at anything protruding
through the door just trying to clear space. With nothing else in the way, Carter and Lucius put their
weight into the door. It door was almost shut.
Five creatures came sprinting down the path towards the station alerted by the howls of the others.
They reached the door together, colliding with it. The force of the blow knocked the desk back along
with the people pushing it. Carter and Lucius were tossed back, Lucius bumping into Vicki on his way
to the floor. Vicki stutter-stepped backward, colliding with the window. It did not break, but the noise
captured the attention of the evil outside.
A shadow eclipsed the light pouring in from outside and there was the shattering of glass as one of the
creatures destroyed the window as it wrapped its arms around Vicki and yanked her, screaming
through the broken window. Lucius yelled for Vicki and scrambled to his feet running for the window,
not knowing what he was going to do. He made it to the window at the same time one of the
creatures hurled itself through the new opening. Lucius managed to get his shield up in time and only
felt the creature’s fetid, blood-soaked breath on his face as he fell backward and rolled it from on top
of him.
He spun around and got to his knees at the same time the creature got to its feet. Swinging his shield
edgewise, he connected with the creature’s temple. The weight of the shield and the force of the swing
caused the edge of the weapon to crack the creature’s skull but not take off its head. It fell to the floor
twitching as if having a seizure. Lucius got to his feet and turned towards the window as more
creatures poured in. He looked back to the front just as the others managed to get it closed at last. He
turned back as one of the creatures was scrabbling for his legs. Lucius brought the point of his shield
down through the back of its head and pinned it to the floor.
Jeremy stepped over and brought his axe handle down on the head of the twitching creature on the
floor. The skull gave with a sickening crunch and the creature went limp. “The door’s braced we just
got to clear these out and shore up that window and we’re fine!” He turned and bashed one of the
creatures aside then straddled it to finish the job.
Lucius turned and saw one of the creatures had a woman by the shirt and was trying to get hold of
her. He stepped over, severed its clutching hand with his machete, and knocked it aside with a blow
from its shield. The creature caromed off the wall and came at him again with rage in its soulless
eyes. Lucius swung his machete and its head rolled off its shoulders onto the floor. He gestured for all
the people not fighting to take refuge in the back. Another creature came running at him, Lucius met
it halfway and bashed it to the ground with his shield. He went to finish it but it knocked the blow
aside and the spear sank into its belly. Lucius kept his weight on the weapon and the creature pinned,
writhing and kicking, on the floor. He reached over to his spear, pulled it free from its resting place,
and drove it into the spitting mouth of the creature on the floor.
Jeremy pounded the unnatural life from a creature that used to be a teenaged boy. Blood soaked his
shirt, hands, and his face. He heard the thud of another creature breaching the destroyed window and
turned, ready to destroy it. Rising to its feet was a creature that had been a little girl about ten years
old. She was wearing a ruined set of pink pajamas featuring a cartoon princess. Her blond pigtails
were matted and coated in blood, as was her once angelic face. Her eyes focused on Jeremy and she
started toward him, her arms outstretched.
Jeremy lowered his weapon; tears began pouring down his face. “Jamie? Oh God, Jamie, is that you?
Oh, baby?”
Lucius looked over. “Jeremy no!”
The thing that was Jamie lunged at Jeremy with a sudden feral ferocity. Though her weight was
considerably less than his was, she still managed to knock him to the floor. With strength no child
should have, she ripped through his shirt and sank her teeth into his chest. Jeremy got his arms under
her and pushed her up away from him. She writhed in his grasp, a flap of his flesh still trapped
between her jaws.
Jeremy rolled over so that he was straddling the thing that used to be his granddaughter. He grabbed
a shovel from where someone had dropped it and raised it over his head. “I’m sorry, baby.” With tears
flowing through clenched eyes, he brought the blade down on the creature’s snarling face. Its clawing
fingers tensed and went still. He put a hand to his bleeding chest and turned as more creatures found
the open window. The desk at the door was being pushed aside again. The battle was obviously lost
He looked at Lucius. “You should be running.”
Turtle stood in the doorway leading into the rear of the station his hand on the handle of the door.
“Lucius, come on!” One of the creatures, crawling along the ground lunged at him and sank its teeth
into his forearm. Turtle cursed loudly and bashed its head in with his piece of fence, the blow bending
the metal, making it useless. He tossed the bar aside. “Lucius!” Lucius turned. “Come on, man!”
Lucius nodded. He picked up his machete and tucked it back inside its sheath before grabbing up his
rucksack. “Everyone, let’s go!” He ran towards the back of the station.
One of the creatures saw him trying to make his escape and went after him. Jeremy tackled it from
behind suffering several claws and bites in the process. Wielding the shovel like a man possessed, he
bashed in its skull. He heard the slam of the door and turned to find it wide open and creatures
stepping in. Their eyes, wide and filled with hungry lust for his flesh focused on him and the blood
coming from him. More creatures poured in from the window. With a shout, Jeremy charged, swinging
the shovel.
At the back of the station, Carter used a couple of metal bars to brace the door as the others worked
at quietly opening the windows. Lucius stared at the closed door hearing the sounds of Jeremy’s battle
on the other side. Carter pulled at his arm. “Come on, man, he’s keeping them busy so we can get
out.”
Lucius turned and headed towards the windows as they were now open and people were climbing
through. He made it to the sill and turned back as the sound of the shovel striking bone had stopped
and only the snarls and growls of the creatures could be heard. He said a quick prayer in his mind for
Jeremy and climbed through the window. Outside he found Turtle and the girls waiting for him with
Carter and a few others. With Lucius in the lead, they headed off into the woods.
A few minutes later, they emerged from the trees where they found a paved road. Inclined, it
disappeared around a bend to the left and ascended into a mist to the right. The group, now ten in all
stepped onto the road. From the woods, they could hear the few others from the station fleeing
through the forest and the sounds of the creatures giving chase. The moon had disappeared behind
some clouds casting the forest into darkness still; the group crouched and spoke quietly.
“Is everybody okay?” Lucius whispered.
“Yeah, we’re fine,” said Turtle. He tore a piece of cloth from his shirt and used it to dress the bite
wound in his arm. “Are you okay?”
Lucius shrugged as he donned his ruck, “As well as can be expected. Carter?”
Carter leaned on his axe and nodded his head. “Out of breath but okay otherwise.”
“Hey does this go back to the lake?” a man asked. He was dressed in a black t-shirt and blue jeans
with cowboy boots. He was standing with the new arrivals.
Lucius nodded. “Yeah, but we’re taking it down to the main lodge. The phones are out up here but
they might be working down there, and there’s bound to be more people down there.”
Carter pointed, “Lucius, this is Michael, and the girl over there in the pink top is Cindy. Why are you
asking about the lake?”
“Because, if those things are down here, then there ain’t nothing going on at the lake,” Michael said.
“We might be able to get to our truck and drive out of here.” A few others nodded in agreement.
“The lake is not the place you want to be, man,” Lucius said. “There were at least a hundred of those
things up there when I went past.”
“There were at least a hundred of those things attacking the station,” Michael said. “Hey the lake’s
where we’re going. You wanna run around the woods playin’ hero, boy, you welcome to it. Carter, let’s
go.”
“I’m going with Lucius,” Carter said.
Michael frowned at him. “What? What about your family, man? You gonna run out on them to traipse
around with a…”
Carter held up his axe, silencing Michael. “Before we run out of that station I put the blade of this
thing into my mother’s head.” His face contorted and tears flowed. “My family ain’t up there no more.
There ain’t nothing up there except for death. I’m going with Lucius. You should come too.”
“Carter, I’m sorry,” Michael said. “But I gotta do what I gotta do.” He turned as Cindy grabbed his arm
and pulled him up the hill with three other people. “Look, we’ll bring the truck back this way. If’n we
run into you down at the bottom, we’ll pick you up. We got plenty of space for all of you. Good luck.”
IX
The group, now five, moved quickly and quietly along the dark road, careful to pause every so often to
listen for the sounds of pursuers or even survivors. The woods were completely silent. There was not
even natural sound. It was as if the wildlife had abandoned the woods fearing the new creatures
roaming the trails. After about forty-five minutes, Turtle suggested a rest. Lucius and Carter led them
off the road and up to a spot where the rock of the mountain pushed through the soil of the forest and
protected them from view of the road.
Turtle sat down heavily against a boulder and leaned his head back. Sweat poured off his body and he
felt sick to his stomach. Sabine sat down next to him and noted his condition. “Baby, are you all
right?”
Turtle smiled. “Yeah, I’m just tired. It’s got to be almost three in the morning, and we haven’t gotten
an ounce of sleep yet.”
“It’s almost four in the morning,” Carter said. “What do you think, Lucius, fifteen minutes?”
Lucius nodded. “There’s a bit of a path up here. I’ll scout ahead as far as I can and see what’s next.”
Carter nodded. “I’ll keep watch here. Michael and the others might come past soon.”
Sabine looked up from Turtle. “You be careful, Lu.”
Lucius nodded. “I’ll see you soon.”
Sabine gave him a tight smile before turning back to Turtle’s arm. “Let me take a look.” She removed
the piece of shirt. “The bleeding’s stopped. It looks infected.”
“Well they say that a human bite is more toxic than most poisonous snakes,” Turtle said with a grin.
“Inhuman bites have got to be worse.”
“All because you had to play the hero,” Sabine said.
“I suppose that role is just fit for Lucius, then?” Turtle asked.
“Yes,” Sabine said. “I need for you to be safe.”
“I was trying to keep you safe,” Turtle said.
“As long as you’re here with me, I am safe,” Sabine said. She kissed his forehead. “You’re sweating
like a pig.” She removed her shirt and used it to wipe his forehead.
“And me without a dollar,” Turtle joked.
X
Lucius moved through the trees, walking low so as not to disturb the branches. The path he had found
took him well beyond their resting spot, but he could still look back and make out Carter standing atop
the rock like a sentinel. He hoped that he was not visible from the road. Lucius moved further along
and then up a bit until he could climb no further. He turned and got the first good news of the night.
He could see the main lodge. It was dark inside but the vending machines outside were lit. The
building had power. It was more than likely that there were people there and they were using the lit
vending machines as a beacon. Looking down though, he found the price of his good news.
There were people, nearly twenty in all, moving toward the main lodge. They were shambling about
the woods, some on paths and some in the bush, but none of them was moving with any kind of
purpose. Lucius doubted they would move with a purpose until they found one, then they would focus
on nothing else. They had to get to the lodge before the creatures did. Lucius started back down to
the path.
XI
Sabine moved from Turtle over to Lucy, who had yet to say a single word since fleeing the aid station.
The stress of the attacks and losing Lance might have proven too much for her to handle. Sabine
moved her tousled hair from her face and looked into the vacant green pools that held so much life
and happiness only hours before. “Lucy. Hey girl, how’re you holding up?” Lucy seemed to be staring
though her. “Come on, Lucy, you’re scaring me.”
Lucy’s eyes focused on Sabine and she started to cry. “Lance asked me to marry him.” She blinked
and tears flowed. “We were swimming and you and Turtle were swimming and then he pulled me
close and asked me to marry him. I never answered him. I just played it off to tease him. Now he’s
gone.”
Sabine gathered Lucy up into her arms. “It’s going to be okay, Lucy.” She rocked her back and forth.
“I should’ve just told him ‘yes’,” Lucy said. “I was going to tell him tonight when we were alone. I
should’ve said it right then. Maybe then, he would still be alive. He wouldn’t have tried to save that
lady if he knew I wanted to marry him, right?”
Sabine pulled back and took Lucy’s face in her hands. “Look at me, you knew him. Would he have
done something that selfish, or would he have done the right thing?” Behind her Turtle lurched over
and vomited. Sabine turned to him. “Nathan, are you all right?” She looked back at Lucy. “Hang on,
girl, I’ll be right back.” She went over to him.
Carter turned when he heard footsteps and saw Lucius appear from behind a copse of trees. “Hey,
man, what’s it look like?”
“The main lodge is not far,” Lucius said.
“Does it look like there’s anybody there?” Carter asked.
“The lights are off, but the vending machines are on,” answered Lucius.
“That’s a good way to get a signal out to anyone running around out here,” Carter said.
Lucius nodded. “I was thinking the same thing. We’re going to have to use this path though. There’s a
few of those things in the woods down there making for the lodge. We’ll have to hurry. Ten minutes
and we’re there.” He looked over at Turtle who had finished another bout of vomiting. “Hey, man, you
all right?”
Turtle nodded. “Just a little sick to my stomach, bro. I haven’t eaten in almost twelve hours, not to
mention the disgusting shit we’ve seen. I’ll be fine.”
“Good, get your fine ass up. We’ve got about another half-mile to go and we’re home free.” Lucius
threw a smile at Sabine and looked around. “Where’s Lucy?”
Sabine looked at where Lucy had been and then beyond. She saw Lucy stepping onto the road. “Oh
Jesus, Lucy!”
Lucius started down towards the road. “I’ll get her.” He made it down to the road just as Lucy was
stepping into the woods on the other side. “Lucy, where are you going?”
“You lied to me, Lucius,” Lucy said groggily. “He’s not dead. He survived. He was always stronger than
you all thought.” She moved through a strand of trees until coming to a small clearing.
Walking slowly through the center of the clearing was Lance. His shirt was completely gone leaving
him bare-chested. His sandals were missing too, though his feet were hidden in the underbrush. His
shorts were tattered and torn and blood was smeared all over his body. He stumbled slightly stepping
over a fallen tree.
Lucy saw none of this, the shock at seeing Lance alive consuming her. She sprinted toward him and
took him into her arms. “Lance, baby, oh God. They said you were dead. Yes, baby, I’ll marry you,
yes.”
Lucius skidded to a stop when he saw them. “Lucy, come back!” He watched Lance turn around and
look down at Lucy through the eyes of the damned.
In an instant, the thing that was Lance roared in Lucy’s face, breaking the spell. Lucy tried to push
away, but Lance’s arms wrapped around her in an iron grip. He pulled her back to him and sank his
teeth into her shoulder. She screamed as he pushed her down to the ground, and kept screaming until
he chewed through her neck. Her screams became wet gurgling sounds before becoming the sound of
flesh being torn from bone.
Lucius cried quietly, hidden behind a tree. He opened his eyes when he heard the answering howls of
the other damned ones. Keeping low, he sprinted back towards the road. He found the others waiting
for him. Not saying a word, he pointed frantically back up the hill the others turned and ran back up to
their elevated refuge. They hid behind the rocks. Lucius repeatedly jabbed the butt end of his spear
into the dirt in anger. Sabine slid in beside him.
“Oh, God,” Lucius croaked and began to cry uncontrollably. He curled up in Sabine’s arms, his body
racked with sobs.
Turtle leaned back against the ground and stared up into the night sky, slightly delirious, and said,
“And then there were four.”
Carter cast a curious glance Turtle’s way but his attention became focused on the road below as
howling creatures seemed to appear from nowhere. They ran into the woods seeking to join in the
feast, taking place nearby. They were coming from further down the hill. Carter looked back up the
road hoping for headlights or the sign of a truck. There was none. He turned back to the others and
pulled Sabine off Lucius. “Hey, I need you to focus,” he whispered. “How many of those things did you
see when you were ahead?”
Lucius sniffled and wiped at his face. “Twenty or so.”
“Well at least that many have already come from that direction,” Carter said. “I think we can make it
to the lodge if we go now.”
Lucius sat up and looked at the road. After a moment, he nodded. “Yeah, but we can’t use the road. I
didn’t follow the path the whole way, but I think we can take it down to the lodge. If we’re quiet, we
should be able to make it without running into any of them.”
Sabine went to Turtle and wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked much worse than before. “You
think you can make it, baby?”
Turtle looked at her through vacant eyes for a moment before they focused. “For you, my love, I’d
walk through hell barefoot and doused in gasoline.” He sat up with her help.
Lucius picked up his shield, spear, and started up the path. He looked down at the woods where they
lost Lucy but turned back to the path before his emotions took hold again. There were still three
others to consider. The lodge was the goal. Salvation was less than a mile away, all they had to do
was tread quietly, and they would be safe… hopefully.
Carter brought up the rear. Though he had yet to regret his decision to come with Lucius rather than
go with Michael and the others, he wondered where his other choice would have led him. Michael said
that he would bring the truck down the emergency access road, but that was not to say that he could
not. Maybe he tried and found the road impassable. Maybe there was a locked gate and Michael was
forced to travel the public road. Carter looked down as one of the creatures emerged from the woods,
onto the road. Maybe they were killed and cannibalized by the undead hell-spawn. Either way, the
options left him with Lucius and the others. At this point, it was not worth thinking about.
XII
It was nearly a half-hour later when they came to the lodge. The path Lucius had followed, led them
directly over the building. Keeping to the trees, they looked down at the lodge for any signs of life.
The vending machines were still lit but there were no activity seen inside the windows. There also was
no activity outside either. The place looked deserted. There was a pickup truck parked next to the
vending machines that looked in good working order.
“What do you think?” Carter asked. “There’s no sign of those things. I don’t think they made it down
from the mountain yet.”
Lucius nodded. “We’ll go down. Turtle and Sabine can check out that truck while you and I can take a
look at the lodge. Worse case, there’s no one there and we can hole up inside and wait for daylight.”
Carter looked up at the sky and saw that it was beginning to lighten. “Not much time. We’d better
move, gonna lose the cover of darkness bit soon.”
Lucius turned and found Sabine next to him. “How’s Turtle doing?”
“He’s getting worse,” Sabine said. “I don’t think it’s just him being tired. His color is bad and he won’t
stop sweating. We need to get him some help.”
“You and he are going to check out the truck,” Lucius said. “You find keys or anything to get it started
and we are out of here, understood?” Sabine gave him a weak smile in response. “All right, let’s go.”
They moved down the hill checking their steps, trying not to disturb too much debris and give away
their location. Just because they could not see any dangers, did not mean there was none to be found.
Turtle had the worst of it, weakness beginning to show, as his legs almost did not want to hold his
weight. Sabine and then Carter had to help him most of the way down and even then the going was
tough. Finally, they came out of the trees behind the lodge. Lucius and Carter led the way, weapons
and senses at the ready. When they were reasonably certain nothing was going to come screeching
from the relative darkness, Lucius nodded. He and Carter went to the right, Sabine and Turtle, to the
left.
Walking with Turtle leaning heavily on her shoulder, Sabine moved around the side of the lodge to the
truck. She left Turtle leaning against one of the vending machines, and drew Lucius’ hatchet from the
waistband of her pants. Crouching low and taking measured steps, she moved toward the bed of the
truck. A quick look inside revealed a toolbox and a few loose tools sprawled around. Among them was
a larger axe. Sabine quickly tucked her inadequate weapon back into her waistband and carefully
picked up the larger implement. Next, she moved to the cab, which was empty. Looking around, she
slipped her fingers into the door latch and prayed that the truck was not equipped with an alarm. The
door clicked open and nothing happened. The light inside came on but there was no obnoxious blaring
to chime the dinner bell.
Sabine closed her eyes and let out a sigh of relief. The truck suddenly shifted and she spun in place,
axe at the ready. Another relief as it was only Turtle, who had decided to join her. “Baby, you scared
the piss out of me.”
“Sabine.” Turtle looked up at her with pleading eyes before sliding down the side of the bed and
collapsing onto the ground.
“Nathan?” Sabine called. She dropped the axe and rushed to his side. She rolled him over onto his
back. “Nathan, no, no please don’t do this. We’re almost home, baby, we’re almost there. Lucius and
Carter are going to find the keys to the truck and we’ll be gone from here. We won’t ever have to
come back. Don’t go now.”
Turtle smiled. “I’m sorry, my love. I’m afraid this place has gotten the best of me. I can’t go
anymore.”
Tears blurred her vision as Sabine pounded on his chest. “You can’t do this! I need you, don’t leave
me.”
XIII
Carter slowly slid up the wall until he could see inside the window. The lodge’s inside was completely
dark. The rising sun was giving them some light to see by, but not much. “I don’t think anyone’s in
there, man.”
“Any sign of those things?” Lucius asked.
“Doesn’t look it,” Carter answered. “What do you think?”
“Well the lodge opens up after seven,” Lucius said. “That’s in an hour and a half or so. Someone
should be coming in. We can hole up in here and wait for them.”
“That sounds like a definite plan,” Carter said. “There’ll be food in there, and beer.”
“You’re talking my language,” Lucius said.
“I didn’t know ‘beer’ was a word in Ebonics,” Carter said smiling.
“It’s universal, my melanin-challenged brother,” Lucius joked. “Although, Sabine and Turtle might
have lucked out and found a set of keys for that truck, we should go check.” They turned towards the
other side of the lodge when they heard the all-too familiar screeching howl of one of the damned.
Lucius and Carter sprinted around the front of the lodge and cleared around the truck just as Sabine
came sliding into view on her back. Stalking towards her was Turtle. The lack of soul in his eyes was
evident as his mouth slowly hung open exposing his teeth in a snarl that, otherwise, would be comical
if not for the genuine cannibalistic malice behind it. Spreading his arms, his fingers hooked like claws,
the thing that was Turtle took a step towards Sabine. Lucius threw himself in the way. He collided with
Turtle using his shield as a ram.
The thing that was Turtle hit the ground, snarling angrily. Lucius raised his spear and went to thrust
but emotion stole the reality from his eyes and all he could see was the caring friend that was long
gone from this place. He lowered his spear slightly. “Turtle,” he whispered. The creature before him
narrowed its eyes, let out a loud screech, and started for him. Lucius raised his shield and stepped
into the attack, thrusting his spear. It sank into Turtle’s face, shearing his eyeglasses at the bridge.
They fell to the ground along with Turtle’s body.
“I don’t get it,” Carter said, holding Sabine. “He didn’t get killed by one of those things. Why did he
turn into one?” Carter looked up from the corpse, at Lucius’ back. “Lucius?”
Lucius could not hear Carter calling to him. He was lost in the image of his friend lying on the ground
with his spear sticking out of his face. Stepping forward, he took hold of the weapon and yanked it
free. He held it at his side, still staring at Turtle’s body. He almost looked peaceful.
Carter looked up, hearing something coming from the forest. A primal instinct took hold and his heart
began to hammer. He felt danger coming. “Lucius, I need you to focus, man. Sabine needs you to
focus.” A flock of birds took flight from the trees, into the pre-dawn sky, screeching as they went.
“Lucius?”
“I hear you,” Lucius replied.
Carter nodded. “Good, man.” He looked at Sabine. “Sabine, did you guys find any keys in that truck?”
She shook her head. “Shit!”
Lucius took a step back from Turtle’s corpse. His head along with everyone else’s snapped up at the
sound of a howling screech coming from the trees. It was answered by several others. “We need to
get inside.” He turned towards the lodge but stopped when he saw a face in one of the windows. It
was marred with blood and had one soulless eye that stared at them with evil intent. “Oh, Christ!”
Behind them the woods erupted as creatures emerged, sprinting, from the wood line. “Up the hill,
now!”
The trio took off, Sabine casting one last look at Turtle’s body before falling in step. She snatched up
the axe from where she had dropped it and ran around the side of the lodge, the creatures closing
fast. Lucius threw a glance over his shoulder and knew that they were not going to make it before the
first of the creatures caught up. He stopped as one of them closed the gap. Throwing his weight
behind his shield, he struck the creature in the face. It vaulted to the ground at his feet. Lucius
finished it off with a thrust from his spear. Another creature closed fast behind it; thrusting his shield
as if he punching, he stabbed it in the face and drove it to the ground. Turning, he scrambled up the
steep embankment towards the top with the others.
The climb down was treacherous, the climb up was punishing, especially considering that, their
pursuers would never tire and cared nothing for injury. Three-fourths of the way up, a hand closed
around Lucius’ ankle and held fast. Lucius turned and stared into the half-eaten face of a man he knew
from the aid station. He swung his shield, the edge breaking through the weakened skull and
destroying the brain inside. He kicked his foot free but not before a woman, naked and covered with
bites from the waist up pounced atop him. He held her at bay with his shield trying to push her off.
An axe wheeled past and took off her head. Lucius pushed the headless corpse off and got to his feet
next to Carter. He looked down at the number of creatures chasing them. “We’re not going to get
away.”
“Then we fight as we climb,” said Carter.
They ran up the hill, Sabine in the lead. Carter and Lucius slowed every few feet to dispatch those
soulless ghouls that had gotten close enough to attack them. Their progress up the hill was slowed by
this but they began to see the light at the end of the tunnel as more and more of the creatures fell
than appeared. Nearly pulled back down the hill by a hand grasping his rucksack, Lucius fought for his
footing deciding to jump backward and surrender distance as opposed to risking a deadly fall. He
landed below the grasping ghoul.
Before it could mount another attack, he speared it, growling a bit himself. Another creature attacked
from his right. Lucius swung his spear like a quarter staff rocking the side of the creature’s head with
the metal shaft. It rolled down the hill, screeching and snarling, tripping up several of its damned
brethren. A trio of demons approached. Lucius backed up the hill drawing one away from the others.
He speared it as the others arrived. Lucius rammed the shaft into their faces simultaneously, putting
his entire weight into the blow. They fell to their backs. Lucius landed between them and took the one
on his right with the spearhead, the other with the butt cap.
More creatures arrived. Lucius drew his machete. Their blood splashed across his body and his face as
he felled them. Incensed by the carnage and grief of losing his friends, Lucius surrendered to the
bloodlust. He cut them down with his machete or bashed them down with his shield. Roaring with
every swing and reveling in every blow, he felled one undead monster after the other.
Sabine was further up the hill when she realized that she was alone. She turned and saw Lucius and
Carter facing down the horde. “Lucius!” she screamed.
Lucius could not hear her. His world had shrunk down to blood, screams, violence, and death. Sweat
poured from his face in pink rivulets as he bashed and hacked down every creature that came his way.
Making full use of his elevated position, he cut down creature after creature. Their humanity was
gone, stolen by both unknown forces and his sudden dive into homicidal madness. Lucius saw them
for what they were. He became them, soulless, merciless, relentless, and deadly. Leaping over the
grasping hand of what used to be a young boy he smashed it with his heel, crushing the bones.
Reaching behind him, he grabbed his spear and put the butt cap through its face. Suddenly and finally
without creatures to kill, he looked over and saw Carter holding his own.
Carter’s fight had not allowed him to climb as fast as Lucius and he was a bit behind. His shirt ripped
down the center by a flailing ghoul, he swung his axe with seemingly inhuman speed. The creatures
around him fell before they could get close. Taking two with a single swing, Carter turned and started
up again. One of the creatures dove over its fallen comrades and managed to hook its fingers into the
trailing edge of his shirt. Carter turned and struck the creature in the face with the butt of his axe
twice before pulling away, ripping his shirt off but getting the room he needed. He raised the axe over
his head to end the creature’s cruel mockery of life. He did not see the creature that had managed to
climb above him. Once a toddler of about five, it fell upon his back and sank its teeth into his neck.
Lucius heard Carter’s scream and saw him fall down into an approaching gaggle of undead demons.
Yelling wordlessly, he leaped down the hill shield first. He slammed into the horde, bowling most of
them over. As he got to his feet one of them got behind him and chomped into his shoulder with
amazing force. Lucius yelled out in pain. He pointed the spear over his shoulder and put it through the
monster’s eye. Ripping it out, he shoved the butt end through the face of another. The pain in his
shoulder gave him the moment’s clarity to realize that Carter was lost. He could barely make out his
body below. Somewhere above he heard Sabine screaming his name. He turned and sprinted up the
hill.
As he neared the path, he saw Sabine fending off several creatures with an axe. Roaring with enough
force to make himself hoarse, he lowered his spear and charged one of them. It turned as he made it
to the path, not even attempting to avoid the spear aimed at its gut. Lucius gutted the creature and
drove it into the ground. Swinging his machete, he took off the top of its head. Hearing the sound of
axe meeting skull, Lucius went to the next one in line, thrusting his shield forward into the chest of an
attacking ghoul and using it to halt its advance long enough to behead it. He stepped past the falling
body bashing another creature to the ground. Bringing the edge of his shield down with all of his
strength, he clove its face in two.
Sabine managed to knock down the creature attacking her. Feeling the anguish of friends lost, she
brought the blade of the axe down. It went through the creature’s skull and into the ground behind it.
Though it was dead, she was not satisfied and struck it again. The hurt still there she hit it again.
Blood spattered across her shirt as her axe came down again.
“Sabine!” Lucius yelled, halting her barrage. “You got him.”
Panting heavily, she nodded. “Where’s Carter?”
Lucius shook his head. He looked down the hill and saw a few more creatures coming for them. He
turned towards the top of the ridge and saw that they were standing in front of a rock wall. At its top,
there was an outcropping that looked like it also had an overhang. The wall would be easy to climb for
them, not so much for their pursuers. Still, he would take no chances. “Get up the wall and stay put
no matter what happens.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Sabine said.
“Get up the fucking wall, now, Sabine,” Lucius said softly.
Sabine looked down at the death coming and her resolve broke. “You’d better be behind me. I don’t
want to be stuck here alone.” She turned and started up the wall.
Lucius looked down and counted. There was only five. He could deal with five. He raised his shield as
the first closed the gap. Rearing back, he brought his shield around in a vicious backhand that cracked
the jaw of the first creature and sent it hurtling back down the hill. He took two steps to his right,
brought his machete across, and took the top of the head and the life of a second.
The next two arrived too quickly to be easily dispatched. Lucius backed up quickly as they reached the
path and snatched up his spear. The first lunged at him and he pushed it back with his shield while
taking its compatriot with a thrust to the neck that deflected up into its skull. Dropping the spear, he
swung his machete at the second. It sunk into the creature’s skull, dropping it but not going all the
way through. Glancing past, Lucius saw the last of them reaching the path. He dropped the machete
with the corpse. Moving back quickly he made it to his spear having to tug on it twice to free it. He
raised his shield and looked up. He lowered his shield.
Reaching the path was the creature that he used to call Lance. It looked worse for wear, its entire face
and body smeared in blood and covered with cuts and other non-healing injuries. Lance’s shorts were
in tatters and caked stiff with blood. His shoes were gone and most of his toes were broken and at odd
angles. His eyes wide and focused, he stalked forward, his fingers hooked into claws. His mouth
opened unleashing a torrent of blood-tainted drool.
Lucius stared blankly at what was once a friend. He blinked and raised his shield and spear. He got
low, and kept his weight even in case the creature decided to charge. The Lance-creature closed the
distance and got within range. Lucius waited for the right opening. The creature howled at him. Lucius
stepped in and thrust his spear. He missed. The blade glanced off the side of the creature’s face,
opening a huge gash and ripping the cheek away from the skull. Completely committed to the blow,
Lucius stumbled forward. The creature grabbed hold of Lucius’ rucksack and hauled him backward.
Lucius left his feet for the briefest of moments before slamming into the rock wall with his shoulder
and falling to his back. He looked up and saw the creature dropping down to feast on his face.
Whipping his shield up and back, he scored a desperate direct hit, the blow knocking the ghoul
backward. He spun to his stomach and barely got to his feet before the creature set upon him again.
Lucius brought his spear up just as the creature’s jaws snapped inches from his face. Instead of
sinking into his flesh, they clamped down on the shaft of the spear.
The creature tried to bite through the metal shaft, breaking most of its teeth. Lucius pushed back and
down, using the spear as a bit to gain room. He tried to pull the weapon back to use it but the
creature grabbed it. Lucius attempted to rip it from its grasp but like its focus, its hold was absolute.
Seemingly enraged by his audacity, it roared at him. Lucius hollered back and shoved the point of his
shield into its stomach beneath its chest. It was perhaps some leftover instinct from its former life that
made the creature release the spear in favor of the shield. Despite the fact that it obviously would not
recognize the danger, Lucius held up the spear for an instant before thrusting it into the creature’s
face. The spearhead burst out the back of the creature’s head. It went limp.
Lucius pulled his shield free first and then his spear. He looked down at the corpse on the ground.
Though gruesome in death and the twisted perversion of life, Lucius began to see the friend of
memory. His emotional reserves gone, he could not shed tears in spite of the grief racking his body.
“Rest in peace, buddy,” he said quietly.
Noises from below called him to the edge of the path. More creatures were arriving, feasting on the
fallen ghouls and searching for live prey. Lucius moved away from the edge before he could be
spotted. He trotted over to the felled ghoul with his machete wedged in its head and wrenched it free.
He tucked it back into its sheath and started his climb up the rock wall.
In short order, he reached the top. He pulled himself up onto the ledge but nearly fell off coming face
to face with a ghoul. A woman who might have been twenty. An instant later, he saw the axe buried in
the back of its head and knew that the death he was looking at was final. Looking around, he saw
bloody handprints on the ground. His chosen refuge was inaccessible for their enemies below. The
ledge went further into the ridge than it appeared from below, it and the outcropping covered a
portion of it making a shallow cave.
Lucius looked at the handprints on the ground and saw that they led inside the cave. The sun had yet
to rise. The cave, cast in shadow, was too dark to see inside. Lucius went to raise his shield and spear
but the strength abandoned him. He sank to his knees and sobbed without the release of tears.
“Sabine.”
“Lucius,” the answer came.
Lucius looked up as Sabine slowly emerged from the darkness. Her arms and chest were caked with
blood and her hair was tousled but she was truly alive. She dropped to her knees in front of him.
Lucius took her by the shoulders. He looked her over, his mouth open but only wordless sounds
escaping. He yanked her into his arms and clutched her to his chest as if afraid she would disappear.
XIV
After Lucius retrieved the axe from the dead ghoul, he kicked its corpse down to the path below. Then
he joined Sabine inside the cave. The cave was shallow but big enough for him to stand in. He found
her at the back of the cave. Easing down to the ground, he set his shield and spear aside but within
easy reach. Sabine curled up next to him and placed her head in his lap. Lucius took off his gloves and
stroked her hair. “We’ll rest a bit and let the sun rise. Then we’ll see about heading down and finding
the keys to that truck. Until then, sleep if you can.” He looked down and saw that his instructions were
useless. Exhausted in every way, Sabine was already asleep.
Lucius looked out of the cave at the sky. The purple-black of night had been banished and the sky was
turning lighter and lighter shades of blue. White puffy clouds with reddish pink bottoms floated past.
Moving his right arm, he winced at the pain in his shoulder. Lucius opened his suit at the collar and
unzipped it enough to snake his left hand underneath. He felt gingerly under the leather and armor
and winced at the tenderness.
He looked back outside and began stroking Sabine’s hair again. He moved her hair aside and gazed at
her sleeping face. She had suffered so much. They all had suffered so much. It was supposed to be a
relaxing vacation for everyone. Tears began filling his vision and spilled down his cheeks. He quickly
wiped them away before they could fall on her. He clamped a hand over his mouth to muffle his sobs
lest he wake her.
XV
A few hours later, the sun bathed the ledge of the small cave with its light. Both the occupants were
still cast in darkness. Lucius had moved to the mouth of the cave along with his weapons. His open
rucksack lay nearby along with his sharpening stone. All of the weapons had been cared for and were
ready for use.
Lucius was sitting with his back against the wall, his knees drawn up to his chest. He looked up upon
hearing Sabine stir. He looked outside at the sky. There was no putting it off any longer. He zipped up
his suit and donned his gloves. Moving his arm, he felt the pain and stiffness. It did not matter
anymore. He packed his ruck but left it on the ground, picking up his spear.
He walked toward Sabine pausing when her leg moved. He looked down at her. She was lying on her
side, facing away from the mouth of the cave. She looked at peace. In her dreams, none of the night’s
horrors had come to pass. Everyone had enjoyed a night of too much laughter and beer followed by
the closeness of companionship. The new dawn would bring more fun and laughter spawning fond
memories lasting forever.
Tears threatened but Lucius fought them off. It was time to go. Lucius raised his right foot and used it
to roll Sabine onto her back. With closed eyes, a sob escaped him as he drove his spear into the
underside of her chin. Freshly sharpened, it passed through her mouth and up into her brain. Her body
spasmed for a brief second before going still.
Lucius opened his eyes and immediately shut them at the sight of his spear sticking out of Sabine’s
head. He pulled the weapon free and tossed it aside, the metal ringing off the stone floor with almost
deafening noise. Lucius gasped, tears on his face, and turned towards the mouth of the cave
expecting to see the hands and arms of the undead appear. After a moment, when death did not
arrive, he looked back at the body on the ground. As peaceful as she had looked moments before so
did she then.
Lucius dropped to his knees and gathered her body into his arms crying through clenched lips. He
buried his face in her hair holding her tighter and tighter to him. Pulling away, he looked at the bite
wound on her right shoulder, his tears falling into it. Carter had nailed it when Turtle died. The
creatures did not have to kill to pass on their curse. A bite was enough. “I’m sorry, baby.” He
whispered. “Tell Turtle and the others, I’m sorry.”
XVI
Lucius finished cinching his rucksack, tightening the straps. He picked up his shield and inspected the
point, admiring his work of sharpening the edges. His knife, machete and hatchet hung from his belt.
He left the edge and looked down at the path, the hillside and the lodge below. There were no
creatures on the path but there were a few roaming around by the lodge. Lucius looked up towards
the top of the ridge. From there he could get a look at his surroundings and a better idea of his
situation. He went to continue his climb, pausing to take one last look inside the cave.
He made the climb easily enough, pausing before reaching the top to listen for any sign of the
creatures. Hearing none, he stuck his head up first, waited a moment then finished the climb. The sun
was above him, it was about noon and he would be extremely visible to anything with eyes in its head.
Remembering what he saw when they arrived yesterday, Lucius moved to the edge of the ridge. He
took measured steps through the trees, avoiding stepping on any branches that would give him away.
Coming out of the trees, he found a series of tall boulders that formed the crest of the ridge. He
climbed to the top of those and was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the valley beyond. Before
him, there was nothing but trees for miles around. Lucius turned and looked down at the road that led
from the resort. If memory served him right, there was a rest stop about ten miles from there. That
could be his next goal. Looking down at the lodge, he could see some of the creatures moving on
making the remaining number more manageable. He knelt atop the boulder and leaned on his spear
as a breeze kicked up.
The mountain air, so clear and pristine that it carried sound for miles. Lucius’ ears twitched as he
picked up the sound of faint screaming. He looked up and saw the highway five miles in the distance.
There was a line of unmoving vehicles with people looking smaller than ants scurrying about. He could
hear screams coming on the breeze. He could smell the traces of the smoke coming from the burning
cars. Lucius stood slowly, his gaze following the line of cars until they disappeared behind the terrain.
The mountain air so clear and pristine that he could see for miles. He could make out the skyline of
the city in the distance. Smoke billowed from the buildings. Buzzing around like gnats were
helicopters. The mountain was the perfect place for new beginnings, even if that beginning was the
end.
The
End

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