Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thirty-Second Entry: Shelving the Competition

December 26th

Sharon saved my life, and while I wish I could say that this means that she is all better now, I can't. It doesn't, it may mean that things are worse than I feared.

The noises I heard outside were not Maria and the others, as it turned out. After putting away my journal, I grabbed the Mossberg they left me just in case it was the undead I was hearing, and went to the back of the store.

I looked out the peephole in the back door, but didn't see anyone. I unlocked the door like an idiot, and as I started to push it open it was yanked out of my hands. What greeted me was a pair of Mallville security officers. They were identifiable as having been recruited in the last few months since they were wearing the white polo shirts of Hashmir's recruits instead of the button-up shirts like Beth wears.

One of the officers, a thin blond man with rough leathery skin, was pointing as handgun at my face with his right hand, and he grabbed the collar of my t-shirt with his left.

“Nice van you got here,” he said as he pulled me out of the doorway, and then slammed my back against the painted brick wall next to the metal door frame, “Why don't you give me the keys?”

The shotgun was yanked out of my right hand by the other guard, a short woman with black hair. She held it by the barrel in her left hand while pointing a handgun identical to her partner's at me with her right.

“I don't have the keys.” I said cautiously.

“Well it didn't drive itself here, who has the keys?”

“My friends, they left, but they'll be back soon.”

“And they left you all alone?” asked the woman, “Who's in there with you?”

“No one, I'm by myself. They wanted to make sure that we would still have a place to sleep when they came back; that no one would take it over.”

“Too bad they left that job to an idiot,” commented the guy, now pushing his left arm against my neck, and the barrel of his gun against my forehead.

Yeah, no arguments with that statement really.

“Cass, go inside and make sure he's not lying,” the man ordered.

“'Kay, Vince”

I panicked, she was going to find Sharon. She was going to kill her. I was supposed to protect her and I'd failed utterly. It's times like these when I wish I was a Spike Speigel or a Vash The Stampede who could have easily slipped out of this bastard's grasp, snatch away his gun, and incapacitate him before he even realized that I had moved. It's unfortunate for me that I am, at best, the comic relief.

“You look familiar.” grumbled the man.

“I'm from Mallville, same as you. You've probably seen me there,” I answered as best I could with his arm cutting off my air.

“No, it's something more,” he pushed the barrel of his gun harder into my forehead as he thought, “I know! You're one of the-”

He was interrupted by a muffled crashing noise from inside the store, followed quickly by another. There was a startled cry in a woman's voice. The man loosened his grip on my throat, and looked in the direction of the door.

“Cassie, you okay in there? “ he called, “What's goin' on?”

I was terrified that the woman, Cassie, was doing something to Sharon, so I took the only opening I thought I would get, and pushed against the leathery faced man. I brought my left arm up, knocking his arm off of my throat, and up into his gun hand. The end of the pistol slid roughly up my forehead, just skirting the edge of the scar over my eye.

Vince's finger tightened on the trigger, and he fired a shot just as the end of the gun cleared my head. I felt bits of brick rain down on my head as the bullet harmlessly bounced off of the wall, and ricocheted away from me.

I brought my right hand up, and grabbed his wrist, trying to force the gun to stay pointed above me, and keep him from getting me in front of it again. I wished desperately that I had a machete, or a hatchet, or even a well sharpened pencil, but all I had was my own skills and brute strength; so basically I was pretty fucked.

I feel that I should point out that the sum total of my lifetime fighting experience is a couple of fights in junior high school where I essentially stood there and got pummeled until the bully tired himself out and gave up, and a couple of tussles with the undead. One thing that the living do that the undead don't? The living take cheap shots.

Had I more fighting experience, this move probably would have occurred to me sooner, allowing me to at least try and deflect it, if not pull it off myself. The leathery security officer brought his knee up into my groin, and I went down like a house of cards, that is if houses of cards could curl into the fetal position.

Vince aimed his gun back towards my head as I slid down the wall, to end up sitting on the ground, “You're one of the ones Kaur warned us about!” he yelled, “You helped to kill us all.”

I wanted to say something witty like “Kaur did that for me,” or “Maybe some of us deserve to die,” but I was too busy being in pain and contemplating how the last thing I was ever going to feel was a kick to the balls. This is where Sharon saved me.

There was another noise from inside the store, sort of a metallic impact noise, and Cassie staggered out the door. Her face was a mask of blood, her nose was flattened against her face, and it looked like her left eye was gone. She was gripping her right arm in her left, as if it were broken or otherwise badly injured.

Vince was distracted again, but I was still in too much pain to take advantage of this. This is probably a good thing though, as I would have just gotten in the way.

There was a blur of beige and crimson from inside the doorway that impacted with the back of Cassie's head, sending her falling to her knees. Sharon stepped out of the doorway, and I could see what the beige object had been; Sharon was holding a three foot by two foot metal shelf in both hands; the metal tab where it hooks into the gondola, and in fact a good portion of the end of the shelf not in Sharon's hands, was covered in blood.

She hadn't put her shoes on; she had come out to the alley in just her socks armed with only a shelf, and she was there to save my life.

I sat there too stunned to move; Sharon looked terrifying to me. It's not that she looked to be in a rage, or tthat here was any sort of malice on her face, because there wasn't; quite the opposite in fact. Sharon's face was as pale and expressionless as it had been when I was reading to her. Her eyes were glassy and blank, as if she were looking through the world instead of at it, and her cheeks were still wet with tears. She wielded the shelf like some sort of weird warrior, but her face betrayed nothing.

In the time it took Vince to realize what he was seeing, and even begin to move the gun from me to her, Sharon had released the shelf with her left hand, and swung in backwards, and up. She swung the shelf in an arc above her head, and brought it down on the man's arm, the edge of the shelf connecting with his forearm. I could heard the bones in his arm crack as the shelf hit him; the gun was knocked from his hand, and clattered on to the ground.

“My arm!” Vince howled, “You fucking b-”

Sharon cut the man's insult off by gripping the shelf in both hands again, and jabbing it forward into his face. The bloody end of the shelf impacted with his mouth, destroying his teeth, and probably breaking his jaw.

Vince staggered back, but not fast enough, as Sharon jabbed out with the end of the shelf again, this time catching him in the forehead, and opening a wound that started pouring blood down over his face.

“No! Fuhg!” gasped Vince, and blood and pieces of teeth spilled from his mouth as he tried to talk.

Sharon raised the shelf up over her right should like an oddly shaped baseball bat, and swung, the metal tab towards her victim. The impact made me cringe, as the tab embedded itself in the side of Vince's skull. Sharon had to yank on the shelf so hard that the man staggered towards her a couple of steps before the shelf pulled free. Sharon showed no signs of exertion on her face, just that same vacant stare.

By this time Cassie had found her footing again, and I don't know if she was trying to help her friend (or if she could even see out of her one remaining eye), or if she just happened to stagger in the wrong direction, but Sharon seemed to sense her coming up from behind.

Sharon swung the shelf around as if it were an extension of her own body, and caught Cassie in the right side of the head with the edge. Cassie made a nauseating gurgling sound, and fell to the ground. Sharon kept swinging the shelf around in an arc, letting the momentum turn her whole body as the shelf sliced through the air. It was beautiful and graceful, like a ballet dancer, or a gymnast, but utterly terrifying at the same time. I could see fine droplets of blood spray off of the end of the shelf as she swung it.

Blood was practically pouring out of the side of Vince's head where the shelf pierced it; is there an artery in there or something? It wasn't stopping him though as he was struggling to stay upright, and move on Sharon.

Sharon continued her turn with the shelf, and caught my attacker right next to his right eye. That was the last straw; I don't know if it was the amount of blood loss he was suffering, or just one blow to the head too many, but he went down hard.

Sharon kept turning back around towards Cassie, raising the shelf up into the air and bringing it down with all of her strength onto Cassie's skull. The impact was so hard that I heard Cassie's skull crack, blood spatter coated the front of Sharon's t-shirt and jeans. The shelf slipped out of Sharon's hands as it rebounded off of Cassie's head, and it crashed to the ground with a hollow clatter.

Cassie's body twitched spasmodically as the brain misfired its final damaged instructions. Sharon paid her no more attention, and instead stepped over to retrieve the shelf, which now had a large dent in the corner where the shelf had made contact with Cassie's skull and the ground beneath it.

Sharon scooped the shelf up in her hands, and stalked over to Vince, who had less than a minute earlier held a gun to my head. She gripped the shelf in both hands, raised it up in front of her face, and drove it down onto the man's head. The she raised it up and did it again.

Over and over Sharon hit the man with the shelf. After the fifth or sixth blow, blood started to splash up, droplets flying off of the shelf as his head collapsed. I remained sitting on the surface of the alley, watching her do this again and again.

I realized then that her face had changed. Her lips were moving, and her eyes showed pain. I got to my feet and came closer to her, close enough that I could barely hear what she was saying between the impacts of the shelf.

In a voice just above a whisper, she was saying “No!” over and over.

“No!”

Crunch

“No!”

Crunch

“No!”

Crunch

The blood was flying up onto her clothes and face, and onto me as I put a hand on her shoulder.

“Sharon?” I asked

“No!”

Crunch

“No!”

Crunch

Vince's head was no longer recognizable as human, her repeated blows had caved the skull in, and mangled the flesh.

“Sharon, it's okay, you can stop now.”

“No!”

Crunch

“No!”

Squelch

I was scared; more scared than when I thought I was going to be shot, more scared than I saw Jimmy with the thermite bomb, even more scared than being trapped in a hallway with a cemetery of zombies. Sharon was broken, and it seemed like she wasn't coming back.

“Sharon, stop!” I yelled.

“No!”

Squelch

“No!”

Squelch

I grabbed her shoulders and shook her. Part of me was afraid that she would turn on me with that shelf, but I needed her to stop or I was going to break too. Better than she kill me than for me to stand there and keep watching her.

“Dammit, stop!”

My shaking her did nothing but cause a couple of her strikes to hit the ground instead of the pile of hamburger that lay at the top of Vince's neck.

“No!”

Clank

“No!”

Squelch

I heard a noise then, and engine approaching. I tried to pull Sharon towards the door, but it was as if she had been riveted to the ground, she wouldn't budge. I couldn't muster up enough strength to move her even an inch. I prayed that it was Gerry and the others coming, although part of me did not want them to see this.

The sound of the engine seemed to snap Sharon out of it. She released the shelf, and it fell over with a clang. She then dropped to her knees into the pool of blood around her victim's head, and started sobbing.

The van rounded the corner, and pulled up about ten feet away from us. Without turning off the engine, Gerry opened the driver's side door, and climbed down as I turned to look at him. I realized that I had gone down to my knees as well, and I had my arms around Sharon, holding her to me as she bawled.

I can only imagine how this must have looked to Gerry. There I was cradling a sobbing Sharon, both of us covered in blood, whilst kneeling in a pool of blood next to a body whose head had been reduced to a literal pulp. A few yards away from us lay a woman who looked like she may have been in a boxing match with Jason Voorhees. Just thinking about it makes me feel quesy.

Gerry took a couple of cautious steps towards us, even in the fading light I could see his eyes moving back and forth between Me and Sharon, and the two dead bodies, “What the fuck, man?” was all he managed to say.

“Help me get her inside,” I said, my voice shaking, “Please!”. I realized that I wasn't just shaking in time with Sharon's sobs, but I was shaking myself. Madness danced at the edge of my thoughts, and for a couple of seconds I think I fully understood what happened to Ash to make him into who he is.

Ash climbed out of the back of the van, shotgun in hand, “Did we miss a party?” he asked, not afraid, but without the usual humor his voice tends to carry.

“Please help me.” I said. I know that I sounded weak when I said it, but I didn't know what else to say. I wanted to get Sharon away from what she had done.

Eventually they did help me get her inside, and Beth and Maria took Sharon into the women's restroom to clean her up, Maria handling her very cautiously. She had a couple of changes of clothes in her backpack, which is good since pretty much everything she was wearing needed to be thrown out.

Unfortunately for me I did not have any clothes in my satchel, which in hindsight was pretty stupid of me. Luckily I didn't get too much crap on me, so I guess I'll just deal with it until I can find somewhere with clothes in my size.

What I really would like right now is a hot shower, but at least I was able to wash up in the sink. I don't know why it is, but the water still works, and I thank God for it. Of course the electric water heater doesn't work, so I had to wash up by candlelight in a cold room with cold water, but it's better than having dried blood and bits of corpse stuck to my face.

When I came out of the restroom, the women were still I theirs. Someone had lit some more candles and placed them on the cash-wrap counter. I found that Gerry had gotten out the butane stove (you know, the kind you see at omelet bars sometimes), and was heating some water on it. He made some of the instant coffee that was in our supplies, and that helped to warm me back up a bit.

I had wrapped myself in a blanket, and was sipping my coffee when the women brought Sharon out of the restroom, now wearing a light blue pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. She was still crying, but silently, and she was back to just staring off into space. Gerry tried to force a cup off coffee into her hand, and she accepted it, drinking it without ever really looking at it or Gerry, but still looking off into whatever it is she sees in the distance.

Just the fact that Sharon was willing to take and drink from the cup is a massive improvement over a couple of days ago. She's started walking around a bit, going to the bathroom and stuff, but she still isn't talking or even acknowledging that any of us are here for the most part.

After her coffee cup was empty, I led Sharon back over to her sleeping bag, tucked her into it, and gave her a kiss on the forehead. She didn't give any response but to close her eyes. I think she went right to sleep, but I can't really be sure.

Once Sharon was settled, I rejoined the group and they wanted me to tell them what had gone on here. I gave them a much less detailed version of what I have written here; trying to emphasize more of the Sharon saving my life and less of the Sharon going dangerously off the rails and beating a man to a bloody pulp.

They also filled me in on what Ash had wanted them to see, which was the police station.

“Remember how I warned you to stay away from the police station last time we met?” Ash asked me.

“Yeah, you said that they were crazier than you.” I replied.

“Well not anymore they aren't,” spoke Gerry.

“They're gone,” said Ash

“Gone like they packed up and left?” I asked.

“No, gone like they're dead,” answered Maria.

“ I first realized it a couple of months ago, “explained Ash, “I was patrolling, looking for deadites, when I realized that one of their roadblocks had been moved. You know how they had blocked all of the roads around them, right?”

“Yeah, I've seen one of them,” I replied

“Well they have those set up all around the station to dissuade people from coming in. It certainly kept the Postmen away, not that they're an issue anymore, eh?” Ash chuckled.

“Anyway, “ Ash continued, “I noticed that one of the roadblocks had been pushed aside enough that someone could drive through it, so I decided to go check it out. Imagine my surprise when I found a couple of dead cops lying on the steps of the police station instead of finding someone trying to shoot me?”

“The attackers had been thorough. Everyone in the station was dead, and all had been head shot to keep them from rising, “Ash explained, “ I looked around a bit, and found that the place had been stripped of weapons and armor. Every handgun, shotgun, rifle, box of ammo, and all of the SWAT and riot gear were gone.”

“So who did that?” I asked, already suspecting the answer.

“We did, “answered Beth, “A couple of months back Kaur sent out a big group of his most loyal officers and a bunch of the newbies, as I do not fall into either category, I was not on that run. Anyway, they came back with a truckload of weapons and supplies.”

“At the time when I asked about where they had found all of this, I was told that they went to the National Guard armory. I accepted that, never really wondering why the National Guard would have police riot armor.” Beth explained.

“You couldn't have just told us that?” I asked.

“It was more fun to show you, well them,” Ash answered with a grin.

“Yeah, he wanted to make sure we saw what Kaur did,” explained Beth a little bitterly, “There were some civilians in there too, probably the families of some of the officers.... There were children in there.”

“Yeah, that was pleasant to see,” added Gerry.

“Hey, if you guys are going to make it now that you're outside of your ivory castle, you need to know what to expect to see out here, “explained Ash, “ Plus you need to know what you are indirectly guilty of before you start making judgments of anyone else.” he looked at Beth as he spoke these final words.

“I stand by my my initial judgment of you. You are insane, insensitive, and an asshole,” stated Beth in an even tone.

“You say those like they are bad things,” Ash laughed.

“You're also arrogant well beyond your years, little boy, and that's going to cost you eventually.”

“There's nothing anyone can take from me except for my life, and we're all going to lose that eventually. Besides, I gave you guys some stuff that might come in handy.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Yeah, he gave us a couple of the solar chargers that he uses for his chainsaw batteries, and a backup power supply that can be charged up using one of them,” said Maria.

“It can jump start a car, has an air compressor, and you can plug shit into it; it's pretty cool.” added Gerry.

“Too bad it'll probably take a week to fully charge with that little solar mat,” contributed Beth, “Even if we get a sunny enough day for it to do any good.”

“You're welcome!” Ash almost shouted, still smiling, “I didn't want you to go present-less on the first Christmas since the end of the world.”

“Oh yeah, “said Gerry, thinking, “That's today, huh? Thanks, Santa.”

Ash laughed, then yawned, “Well, it's getting late, and I had better be going; don't want to miss the Charlie Brown Christmas special.”

“Do you want something to eat before you go?” offered Gerry, earning him a dirty look from Beth.

“Oh no, “Ash answered quickly, “I don't want to take from whatever supplies you may have. Unless you're planing on leaving town, you're going to find that there's not too much left in the stores. You guys were like a fucking plague, devouring everything in your path.”

“We had a lot of people to feed,” answered Beth.

“It's not a criticism, honey, you guys did what you had to do. If you are planning to stick around Covenant, I would suggest trying some of the more residential areas. Neither you, the Postmen, no the cops ever seemed to really go through there. Just be careful about occupied homes; anyone living there might not take kindly to your stealing, and anyplace that you can get into easily, so can the deadites.”

Ash walked to the door, and Gerry followed, unlocking it for him.

“We're probably not going to see each other again if you guys are planning to leave town,” Ash said as he stood in the open doorway, slightly colder air flowing in around him.

“I think we are, “answered Gerry, “but we haven't talked about it too much yet.”

Ash looked almost a little sad, “Well, good luck to you. Keep your guard up, and never hesitate to act in your own best interests. It may be hard to live with a mistake, but it's a lot harder to live with being killed.”

Ash looked at me, “Or losing more people that you love. I hope your girl gets better. You two make a cute couple.”

“We're not a couple, “ I said, thinking about Tara. Ash's words stung hard. Could I have forced Tara to come?

“Well you should be,” Ash turned and walked out into the dark parking lot. At the edge of the lot, he turned and waved to us before continuing.

I heard him exclaim as he walked out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” He laughed loudly, and disappeared into the gloom.

3 comments:

VoltRabbit said...

A crushing good read. Sad spot there with the police station. Sounds like the party has a long uncertain road in front of them.

Void Munashii said...

Well, I will say that their story is far from over at this point.

T O'H said...

Void, you're really making an awesome job here.

Seriously I've been reading this every day, 3 or 4 chapters daily...

If you publish a book, I would totally buy it man...