Black Friday Massacre

The cool air bristled across the wide open space of the dimly lit parking lot.  The sun was still a long way away.  It was just a very faded light blue haze on the distant horizon.  Most nights, it would be the dead time of night, with the world still asleep, but that night, that morning, it was far from still and asleep.  Not the early pre-dawn morning after Thanksgiving.

Cars and trucks filled with holiday travelled shoppers roamed in the early morning streets.  Coffee shops were already opened to the morning participants and filled with many people getting their refills.  Family members would be switching out from the long lines as many would be tucked away in their vehicles while one member would brave the cold.  Solitary shoppers would be heavily bundled with hunter hand warmers placed strategically throughout their body to attempt to keep them warm.

Winter was coming, and so was Christmas.

Tim stood there.  He was one of the many shoppers getting ready to storm the doors into the closed department store.  The store itself still had an hour before they would open to the onslaught of customers and the line outside was already stretched around to the side of the building, it’s end lost out of sight.  He was glad that he was one of the few people closest to the door, but then he had also been camping there since before the store had even closed the night before.

“I’m going back to the car.”

Tim looked over his shoulder.  Michelle was shivering behind him.  Her face, the little he could see exposed as most of it was hidden behind her pink scarf, was pale white from the cold.  Even her normally bright blue eyes seemed to be iced over with a sheen of frost.   He had warned her beforehand about coming with him that it wasn’t easy to stand in the lines for hours on end.  She had thought it would be fun.  She could play on her phone and text people, she had told him.  That had lasted fifteen minutes.  By midnight, she had already been complaining about wanting to go home and come back later.

She didn’t understand.

“Okay hun.  You go get yourself warmed up.”  He said to her.  She hadn’t even waited for him.  She had already turned and was bouncing back to their little Ford Escort.  The heat wouldn’t kick on for a couple minutes if it did at all, but she had blankets in there and it would get her out of the wind.

The couple next to him really came prepared.  They were seated in lawn chairs, large, thick blankets pulled up to their faces, and full head gear to keep them warm.  They had long since fallen asleep, and were statues to the God of greed.

Others nearby had set up tents.  Those were the fanatics.  They had been camped out there for two days.  When Tim first showed up, he couldn’t help but find out more, like what they were there for.  One of them was just there for the event of it.  He just planned on picking up a couple of new DVD’s.

Michelle was shocked by the madness of it all.  She was furious as first.  “Didn’t any of these people have families they should be with?  It’s Thanksgiving!?”

Tim just smiled.  She was cute.

That she was, in her tight blue jeans that sometimes looked like they were just painted on.  A wiggle fit, he called them, as he knew she had to shake her booty viciously to fit them into the small space of the pants.  Then there was her slim fitting sweater that was thick enough to be warm, but still tight to her shape.

Damn he felt lucky having her there with him, even if she did spend most the time in the car.

Tim looked back behind him.  People were still pulling into the parking lot and crossing over towards the distant end of the line.  The stream was becoming larger, more cars were driving on the roads, and the morning was waking up in greater force.

He loved being out there for it.  Just the feeling of being a part of the morning as it was waking up.  The air smelled different.  The cool breeze felt different.  Like it was electric, pulsating intensely in preparation to what was to come.

Tim scanned the parking lot, at how the morning was coming alive, and stopped when his gaze fell upon his car.  He watched as the exhaust created a small poisonous fog spitting out from the rusted tailpipe.

Maybe he should think about getting a new car instead of waiting in line for a television.

That exhaust had to be filtering into the heat.  He didn’t know how she could stand to just sit in there.  Then again, it was either that or out here in the cold.  Just like her good looks, she would nearly die if it meant to keep herself comfortable or looking good.

Tim shifted as he noticed that she wasn’t alone in the car.  She was sitting behind the wheel, but Tim could just make out another shape sitting there with her.  He couldn’t see it too well, but there was definitely a dark shape moving around in the front seat of the car.  It was making the whole car shake rocking back and forth.  If Tim hadn’t known better, he would have thought that there was sexual feeling going on, but Michelle would never, and it was too soon after she had left.

Tim didn’t stop to think about his place in line when the driver’s side door opened and he could hear her screaming.  Michelle’s scream could be heard loudly throughout the parking lot and it chilled him even deeper.  He tried to run as fast as he could, but his legs had long since gone numb from standing and being out there in the cold.  They burned and pulled against him.

He neared the car, as Michelle was trying to pull herself out.  Her hands just reaching over the top of the door were covered in blood, and she struggled against the dark shape, trying to pull herself away.  He could hear her, struggling, sounding like she was trying to kick herself away, but with the windows fogged, and the angle he had ran towards her, he still couldn’t see much more than the streaks of blood coming down the driver’s side door.

“Michelle!” Tim yelled.  He could see in greater detail how the passenger side window had been broken in, and the dark shape was reaching through from the other side, chasing after his girlfriend.

She was staring at him through the window as some of the fog had started to fade, making her face just a haze.  Her expression was of desperation, and he knew that tears were streaming down her face.  He tried to push himself even faster, to get around the door to get to her.

“Michelle!”

He rounded around the open door, quickly reaching in to grab for her hand.

“Take my hand!” Tim said.  He reached for hers, but she wouldn’t grab it.  Her grip remained tight on the door, fingers locked into their grasp.  Her skin was covered in blood and he grabbed at her hands to pull them away.  Her fingers stayed locked.  She refused to look at him, and a lump was beginning to form in the pit of his stomach.  There was a lot of blood.  He hoped like hell that it wasn’t hers.  He silently prayed to himself that it wasn’t.

He finally was able to break away her fingers from the frame, and took her hands into his.  The blood was wet and sticky, and he had to fight to keep hold of her as he started pulling her out of the front seat of the car.  She wrenched back, pulled away from him when her hand broke free from the door frame.

He had to pull harder.  A tug of war occurred with Michelle being used as rope.  He pulled with all of his strength coursing through his legs to dig into the blacktop of the parking lot.  The shape, hidden in the darkness of the car, Tim couldn’t see who, or what had her, he just knew he wanted to get Michelle away from it.  He pulled, harder, feeling as she was starting to come farther from the front seat of the car.  Then with a sudden snap, she was broken free and lunged forward towards him.

He fell back, and Michelle came crashing down on top of him.  Blood was dripping from her, and he could see the large chunk of flesh taken out of her neck.  He could also see her collar bone right where skin and muscle should have been through a large rip in her sweater.  Around the tear, a massive amount of red crimson already drenched her sweater around the gaping hole and it was quickly getting worse.

Tim looked to her eyes, turning her face so that she was looking at him.  Her face turned, but her eyes were barely open, and looked at him with a blank gaze.  Her mouth was open, but inside, her tongue flopped with the motion as Tim was jerking her around, trying to get her to snap out of it.  She was gone.

He let her go, and started to pull himself out from under her.  His eyes stayed locked into her lifeless orbs as the black dots continued to look back at him.  She had just been there with him.  Just minutes ago, she had been in line with him, talking to him.

He could already start to hear the commotion from the crowd, and some that had family members holding their place were already running over.  Tim didn’t turn to look.  He just wanted his Michelle, to have her eyes snap out of their daze and to stare back at him, not through him.

He didn’t even notice as the dark shape started to crawl over Michelle and continue towards him.

 

* * * *

 

Brett yawned, his eyes moist in the corner as they fought to stay open.  His mouth pulled tight, and he could feel the muscles in his neck tense.  His whole body was feeling like it wasn’t awake, and there wasn’t a single part of him that wanted to be there.

He couldn’t remember the last time he had woken up that early.  Had he ever?

He didn’t want to be up that early now.  It wasn’t even five in the morning yet.  It was unnatural, uncalled for to be there, and to make it worse, he had to listen to that man just drone on and on.  He was babbling something about lines and flow of traffic.         Brett really didn’t care.  Like he really wanted to spend his day after thanksgiving listening to some windbag who thought he could just shout out orders and that they were like sheep that would follow.

“Ha,” Brett had to fight from laughing out loud.  Sheep.  That was like the pack forming outside, sheep being lead to the slaughter.

Just yesterday, he had been dragged with his parents to his grandparents.  Over the river and through the woods to their cramped little house somewhere lost in the corn fields of Illinois to endure a long day of his uncles screaming children.  His parents didn’t want to leave until it was well past eight, which meant they hadn’t crossed back into Wisconsin until it neared midnight.

Then he had to be there to listening to this man, who on a normal day, he would consider to be a pretty cool boss.  However, any man inflicting the early morning torture was no longer considered to be a nice man.

“So Brett, where are you going to be?”

Brett blinked and looked through the blue clad men and women around him to the man standing at the middle; the man who now called him out for not paying attention.

“Um, walking the line?” Brett said, thankful that Sullivan had told him the plans before Thanksgiving.

“Okay, so, grab your jacket and the item tickets and get out there.  Remember one ticket per customer and make sure to pitch our services.  I don’t want any computers going out without any setups.  If they get to register and you haven’t sold them, you failed.”

“Failed!  What the hell did he know?” Brett thought to himself.  He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen the old man on the sales floor.

Brett grabbed his large heavy winter coat that he had sitting on one of the front displays, made a check for the hand warmers he had kept in the left front pocket and started to walk towards the front door.  Behind him, he could hear Jim ramble on to the rest of his troops.

“Troops preparing for war, and this were the battlefield,” he thought as he reached the large front metal gate.  It clattered loudly in the busy morning, and he wanted to cover his ears against the screeching metal sound.  Instead he just clinched his teeth until the metal was pulled far enough to the side, and rested there in its guided path.

He stepped over the metal rail that was the guide for the gate and stood just before the large glass double door and looked out into the darkness of the morning.  He could have sworn that the street lights had been on when he had pulled in to the parking lot, but now, as he looked out there, it was dark.  Almost completely dark, where usually, he could see the cars parked in the lot.

The employees’ cars were always parked towards the back, and a stab of concern spawned that he couldn’t see his own car.

He reached for the lock and heard the click as it unlatched with a dead thud.  Something was growing in stomach, something wasn’t right, and he had a feeling starting to twist in his insides.  The hairs along his arms started to rise, and a sudden shock of what felt like electricity started to dance in the air.

Maybe it was just his fear?

“What the hell was there to be afraid of?  Come on, man, wake yourself up and get out there.  What the hell is there to be afraid of?”  He knew he was saying it in his mind more to himself to calm his nerves, but there was still that unnerving feeling that there was something there.

There was something out there that there was to be afraid of.  Why else wouldn’t he just go out there, and starting working up the line of customers.  He was one hell of a salesman.  He could walk that line and sell warranties to the most cranky of them and that was all commission money coming straight to his pocket.  Who said it didn’t pay to be sleazy?

He started to pull on the doors, working to pull them apart.  They caught at first, and then started to pull apart with ease, and Brett was met with the cold November chill that was feasting its way through the morning.  It was hungry, that cold and it wanted to make him apart of it.

A shiver ran through him.

He took a step out into the darkness and was met with cold stiff plastic assaulting his face, and he instantly remembered why he hadn’t been able to see the parking lot from inside.

Jim and in infinite genius to protect the bargains, had covered the front door with that damn black plastic so no one could see into the store.  Heaven forbid that anyone could see in and see that we only carried maybe two of some ultra-low priced deal.  No, let’s keep the customers not knowing so they stand in line for three hours and still were not be able to get what they were waiting for.

It was no wonder why all his managers hated the damn holidays.  Brett had only been working there for seven months, and he was already starting to hate them.  They ruined his Fourth of July, his Labor Day, and every other single holiday since he had made the mistake of starting there.

Brett closed the door behind him and started to beat against the plastic, working his way to find its end.

“Fuck this.” He muttered under his breath.

The cold wet plastic seemed to fight against him, the darkness a small maze he was trying to push his way through.  He could almost imagine how fish felt when they were trapped in the net.  The damn plastic just wouldn’t seem to let him go.  The wind just seemed to catch it whenever he would try to push it away from himself, and whip it back into him.  It was like there were hands reaching through the plastic trying to grab him.

A sudden strong draft finally pushed the plastic away, allowing him to break free.  The wind, a slice of cold air that burned his skin rushed at him and the light from the parking lot revealed itself.  He felt a brief relieving sensation of being free and inhaled deeply the clean cool air.

Brett had just a second to enjoy being released from the plastic before he realized that it hadn’t been the wind that had been pushing it in against him.

 

* * * *

 

Cynthia was rushing, nearly running to reach the break room where she could already hear Jim talking about how they were all going to survive the morning.  It was his same speech that he gave every year.  The one about what everyone was expected to do, and how certain people were sharks walking the line, while others were given directions on how to do the quick pitch on selling at the register.

Jim could sell, she definitely felt that way about him.  He had no soul and would sell a warranty to his dying grandmother even if it cost her last dollar she had.  He would still make the sale.

Listen to him and a person could make some money in commissions, and that she did.

But she didn’t like being late.  She was never late.  Her damn alarmed clock, why hadn’t it gone off.  She was never late.

She knew they were already upset with her, she could tell it from the tone of Aaron’s voice when he had called wondering where she was.  Thank goodness he had called.  She never would have made it otherwise.

She eased her way in to the already crowded room, sneaking her way into the back of the crowd.  Jim didn’t seem to notice, but Aaron did.  It was probably for the best though, so that way he knew that she was there, and wouldn’t be trying to call her again.  She wondered if anyone else had been late.

“Okay, everyone ready?  Everyone know what they are supposed to do?” Jim called out to the crowd.

Cynthia looked over to the new guy.  His name was Rick, or Randy, something with an “R”.  Damn she felt sorry for him.  This was never what you wanted to do for your first day.  Only a sadistic SOB would put a man on his first day against the morning rush.

She looked back to Jim who was walking over with Randy or Rick or whatever his name was, and was starting to lead him out of the room.  Cynthia had to step to the side to let them past, and she caught the evil stare that Jim gave her, then he turned his attention back to “R” and they were heading toward the door.

The rest of the half-awake zombies of the morning employees moved to follow, but Cynthia, her pulse racing from having to hurry, had a quicker step to her walk and was able to follow Jim out the door before anyone else started to really move.

They were all making their way from the back break area, Jim in his long quick manager’s stride, “R” eager to please on his first day and Cynthia, with her just being her normal chipper self.  However, Cynthia slowed as they were making their way to the front door.  She slowed, as the hairs on the back of her neck stood and she realized that something just didn’t feel right.

The front of the store was dark.  Darker than normal, but that was to be expected with the plastic over the front door.  Still that wasn’t it.  There was something else, something that hung in the air.  It was like there was a bad smell of meat gone rank, but it was so faint that she could feel it more than smell it.  Then there was also that tickle of a sound.  There was a thumping, like something dull being repeatedly knocked against glass.

“Holy shit, is that them beating against the glass?” “R” said as him and Jim headed toward the front door.

Jim stopped just before they both reached it.

Cynthia thought she knew why, too.  It was the same reason why she slowed.  He felt it too, or he heard it.  After all, “R” was right.  It did sound like the customers outside were hitting against the glass doors.  That is, if they were hitting it in slow motion and no energy.

The repetitive pumps did make it sound like there were many of them, and they wanted in.

“It’s time,” Jim said as he checked his watch.

“Yeah, but time for what?”  Cynthia thought as she watch Jim move to unlock and power on the inner doors.  It was time for what?

Cynthia could hear as the other employees started to stop and stand at various spots around her.  She took a glimpse at them, and she could so see them all as the walking dead as they all looked so tired and half alive.

She turned back from the crowd of employees behind her in time to watch as the inner doors glided loudly open and Jim strutted his way to the outer doors.  The inner doors started to squeak back close, the loud high pitch squeal cutting through the mysterious thumping with its own horror movie soundtrack.

Jim an “R” were cut off from the rest of them as they stood enclosed in the vestibule.  Each one taking sides as Jim guided “R” in how the front iron gates folded back away into the sides of the door.

Cynthia stopped watching them and looked to the black tarp still hanging outside the doors.  She could see different shapes at different points of the black tarp, pushing through and then hitting into the front glass door.

She could hear the loud “clank” as Jim secured the gate on the left side of the door.  The pounding on the door intensified.

Jim, without waiting for “R” to finish with his side, came rushing back into the front part of the store.

“Where are all my tech guys!” Jim said as he scanned through his sleeping audience.  No one responded.

Jim turned back around.

“Where were they?” Cynthia had the fleeting thought as she watched Jim unlock the door and “R” flipped the power switch.

As the door slowly squealed open, even louder than the inner door, no one expected what was about to happen.  The door didn’t make it halfway and Jim was just about to give his morning “get in line” speech to the customers while reaching to pull down the black tarp when all hell broke loose.

A hand reached through the tarp, grabbing Jim’s hand just after he grabbed the tarp.  He barely had time to call out, “What th-” when the weight shift on the other side from pulling Jim’s arm, to pushing it forward.  In a rush of flying black darker than the moonless sky, the tarp rushed forward.  The first shapes, falling forward caught in it like it was a fishing tarp.

“R,” who had just kept himself a little off to the right, just missed being caught by the falling tarp.  Not that it helped him much.  The mass crowd, still not seen too well in the darkened vestibule from where Cynthia stood, was quickly stumbling over the first wave of the fallen and their hands quickly were grabbing “R”.  Their grasp ripped and pulled at his clothes as he started to stumble back.  He might have made it away from them as well, had he not backed up against the glass stationary part of the gliding front door.

It was then, as “R” was trying to push against glass that would not move that Cynthia saw what was there.  At first she could only see all the pairs of hands, and disembodied arms.  The hands themselves were mostly all covered in crimson and dripping, but what they belonged to?  It was something like out of a horror flick, the ones that her ex-boyfriend, Kenny, used to always try to get her to watch.

Zombies?  Zombies!?  She could see the disfigured faces, the blank stare, and the stumbling lurches as they made their way forward.  She could tell, though she had tried to never watch those films as there was too much of people getting torn apart, their intestines strewn around like bloody Christmas lights.

She had a passing reminder of having to help her mom put up Christmas lights tomorrow as she started to back up.  The zombies had already reached “R” and were starting to pull him apart.  They were tearing off limbs, but they were eating into him, pulling his flesh away in large strips.  He was screaming in ways that Cynthia didn’t know a man could.  The loud sound, not sounding like it came from human vocal cords.  Then the scream seemed to fill with liquid, gurgling before it was cut off.

Cynthia hadn’t stayed around long enough to find out what caused the scream to quit.  She had turned tail and run, and she hadn’t even waited to see if anyone was following.  She cared about them, many of them were her friends, but right now it was survival.  She was a four foot petite eighteen year old girl, nothing but a snack to those things.  She didn’t plan to have herself become an easy snack.

She made it to the back of the center row when she stopped running.  She was panting a little, but nowhere near yet worked up.  No.  Those weekly workouts she had with that hot instructor that she had been continuing to flirt with had kept her in shape.

Behind her she could hear others coming her way, running.  The breath caught in her throat as she turned to see who was coming.  She kept her body turned, ready to run.   All her senses were alive and she felt like she was a deer who had just heard the snap of a twig.

With her head turned back, she saw shapes running towards her.  Shadows dancing in the dark, nothing more than outlines running away from the lights surrounding the front.

Cynthia felt her breath catch and her chest seized.  The shapes were running and images of running zombies flashed through her head.  She tried to think of where to go and where to hide.  Where could she go?

“Go!  Go go go go GO!” the larger shape yelled.  Cynthia recognized his voice.  Ryan was yelling at her, and she turned back to run as they neared reaching her.

“Come on!  Receiving!” Ryan yelled at her, waving his arm for her to follow.  She did quickly.  She wasn’t sure how many or if anyone else was following.  Sure, she hoped there was, but she could only afford to think about herself and get herself safe.

Cynthia heard a loud scream behind her.  It wasn’t all the way to the front so the Zombies must have been getting closer.  She wanted to turn and look to see how far away they were, but no, it wasn’t safe.

Ahead, Cynthia could see the light disappear where the sales floor ended and the receiving department began.  Her pace faltered as she could imagine once crossing that threshold, it was going to be harder to see what was around the corner.  It was too dark in there; they shouldn’t be going in.  Just what the hell was Ryan thinking?

“Ryan!  Wait”

Ryan didn’t wait.  He kept running and when he reached the corner to turn into receiving, he disappeared into the darkness.

Cynthia didn’t linger any longer.  She pushed herself harder to catch back up with them, still not sure who the second running figure was.  She assumed it was Tommy.  The figure was about his size and she couldn’t imagine Ryan being there without his twin.

The shadows kept bouncing around her, and she felt like she had entered into one of those fun houses that tried to scare her.  She entered into the darkness and all sight was lost.  The world around her felt like it was gone and the night was taking over.  Like it was its own essence, it was enveloping around her and she was losing herself into some bad horror film.  It was the one where everything was coming after her, everything from her nightmares.

Ryan yelled back to her, telling her to hurry.  As her eyes adjusted to the little light, she could see him starting to climb his way up the roof access stairs.  His boots echoing off the metal stairs as he climbed, she worried that they would be heard if any of those things were nearby.

Tommy was right behind Ryan, and she hurried over to follow them.

“Come on!” he yelled to her, urging her on.

She started to climb, looking up to Ryan as she did so.  He was getting near to roof access door.  She was afraid they might freeze to death once they got out there, but for the time being, she just wanted to get somewhere safe.  Being on a roof where none of those things could get to her was at least one step in the right direction.

Ryan reached the top of the ladder and started to push on the door.  She could hear him grunting and then a frustrated cry out.

“Shit!  It’s locked!”

She kept climbing, though she already feared that they were going to be stuck there.

She heard another kind of grunt.  It was one that she had already learned and dreaded recognizing.

The lights of the store turned on.  The automatic timer must have finally recognized that it was time to open the store.

Cynthia could see as the first wave of zombies made their way around the corner.  They moved slowly.  Some of them limping, those it looked like because part of their legs had been eaten through.  Most of them just stumbled, walking slowly like they didn’t remember how.  It was like they were mindless to the point of not knowing who or what they used to be, but that they were moving with a purpose and a desire to do something.  Like they wanted something, but didn’t know what it was that they wanted?

A sick part of Cynthia that she never knew existed until that very moment said to her, “What separated these shoppers from any of their other customers?” She suppressed the small insane laughter that had been building.  The answer wasn’t all that funny after all.  These shoppers wanted her flesh.

“What are we going to do?” Ryan asked.  Cynthia looked back up to him.  She was glad to see that she was right, and that it was Tommy there with him.  She always liked it when she was right.  She just smiled at herself and to them.

She was beginning to realize that she was about to die.  It was strange, knowing that it was about to happen, but she was done fighting it.  She looked around her.  There was no place to go.  The large receiving bay doors already had pounding from the other side and the familiar grunts from more zombies.  So they were trapped.  The only way out was up, and with the freezing cold, even that would have been a death sentence.

She watched as the zombies started to gather below her feet.  They were far enough below her, that as they reached up to try and pull her back down, she was still safe.

Above her, Ryan and Tommy were working together to try and break the door open.  She just watched them for a brief time.  The fear that had her previously gripped her, seemed to have left her as now a strange calm seemed to have washed over her.

She felt her hand release on the cool metal, and she could feel herself falling back.  Then the hands, there were many of them, and they all started to tear into her.  They grabbed and they clawed, and while she could hear herself screaming she knew that her body was filled with the pain of being ripped apart.  She also didn’t feel it.  Like her mind was already away from it all.

And then everything she had known before was gone.  She was gone, and just becoming another one of the many.  One of the many cravers, mindlessly craving what they don’t even know what they are craving for.  She was lost to become a part of the mass.

****

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Into Darkness is now available!

Into Darkness now available!

Currently exclusive to Amazon, my fourth novel, INTO DARKNESS is now able to be downloaded to your kindle or shipped straight to your door! Get your copy today!

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INTO DARKNESS

A creature, part of the darkness before God created the heavens and earth, has awakened. It had slumbered, hibernating from the light. Now, it is hungry and wanting to feed…

Bobby, a local kid, and the police chief have gone missing. Everyone in the small town turns to former Chicago cop Rob Alletto to find them, but as he starts his search, more people disappear. Rob is quickly overwhelmed. The night seems to come alive, taking these people. Alletto must find out why and discover a way to stop it before the whole town slips…Into Darkness.


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Into Darkness featured on Weird Darkness with a special artist rendering, you can watch as the story comes alive!

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Darren Marlar has done an amazing job and has agreed to narrate the rest of the audiobook.

Into Darkness

A creature, part of the darkness before God created the heavens and earth, has awakened. It had slumbered, hibernating from the light. Now, it is hungry and wanting to feed…

Bobby, a local kid, and the police chief have gone missing. Everyone in the small town turns to former Chicago cop Rob Alletto to find them, but as he starts his search, more people disappear. Rob is quickly overwhelmed. The night seems to come alive, taking these people. Alletto must find out why and discover a way to stop it before the whole town slips…Into Darkness.

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Death at Germantown

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This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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“Death at Germantown” is available for purchase as a Kindle Single and in Audio
“Death at Germantown” is also featured in the Last Exit anthology.

Edited by Kim Young
Cover Art & Design by Jason R. Davis
Copyright © 2017

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“The general don’t know what he’s doin’,” Adam whispered to the man next to him. They were supposed to be as quiet as the night around them, but as his frustration grew, he couldn’t contain his mouth.

“I can’t see nuttin’,” Tom said under his breath from behind him. Through the long night and into the pre-dawn, as the sun should have been lighting the sky, there was nothing except the gray expanse of fog. He could barely see the man in front of him.

“Adam?” Tom said after a moment. He hadn’t heard the man’s steps. Actually, most of the steps around him had quieted. Had a call to halt the march been sent out and he had missed it?

The night was cool, the air harsh on what was left of his clothes. His boots had long since worn away, so he was now barefoot in the brisk October night.

Looking around, Tom saw the fog getting worse, making it hard to follow the soldiers in front of him. Now he couldn’t see his friend, Adam, who had joined the militia with him. They had kept close as the column of troops moved in. Everyone was under strict orders to be silent so as not to alert any enemy patrols, but who could hear a whisper if they were right next to one another? If someone were that close, they would be able to hear the marching men anyway.

“Adam?” Tom tried to whisper, but fear crept into his voice.

They had made it this far. As hungry and tired as they were, they were still alive. Since joining the revolution, they had suffered through many hardships, but Tom and Adam had held their heads high. They all fought for their independence…not that their country made it easy for them.

He tried to deny what he had seen when they marched through towns and farms. While the army barely had bread to eat, their clothing becoming torn rags, those they fought for had food every day. They had to march in bare feet to fight battles against British soldiers who had uniforms and boots. They had to use bayonets against a force that had muskets, gunpowder, and more ammunition than their mere nine shots.

But it was for freedom, pay, and the opportunity to own land, something Tom had never thought he would be able to attain. He couldn’t read. He knew how to use a hammer and an axe, but no matter how hard he worked, he never had a way to support a family. He barely made enough to cover the cost of his drink and tobacco, let alone somewhere to sleep. If he were to find a woman, how would he pay for her?

Joining the militia was Tom’s way to make due. He was determined to change his circumstances. This country was his home. He would own a part of it. He just needed to live until January, then he would have served his enlistment time of one year. He would be a land owner, rich with opportunity.

But while he knew he had to fight, he never thought he would die from hunger. So many of those around him had fallen to disease, frostbite, or starvation. His own stomach called out, the pain of hunger cramps as familiar as his own right hand, and his feet had grown numb an hour into their march. Tom was thankful he couldn’t see them, fearing they would be black. That would be just his luck. He’d get a piece of land and not be able to work it.

The fog was so think, he didn’t see something in his path until he tripped over it, falling. Looking over his shoulder, he barely made out the outline of a man. He rolled out of the way, knowing it wouldn’t be long before another soldier would come upon him. Once he was out of the path, Tom grabbed the man’s shirt and pulled him to the side. He heard more troops marching closer as he tugged the thin body, the man’s skin cold, the clothes covering him stained with dirt and grime. He got him off to the side before the next soldier lumbered by. Tom couldn’t see who it was, but saw the dark feet shuffling along, moving with barely enough energy to lift them over the uneven terrain.

He gasped as he settled back, the corpse he had pulled from the path lying across his legs. Now that he was close, Tom could see the face and the unblinking eyes of the boy he grew up with. Adam was the latest to fall in this war, another casualty of the lack of help from the country he fought to protect.

“Oh, Adam.” Tom’s voice was lost in the fog as he fought to hold back tears. There was no time for them.

He continued to hear more soldiers walk by. Occasionally, he heard another one fall, not being able to take any more, pushed past his limits.

“Come on, Adam. Get up.”

He shook his friend, as though he were just asleep, caught in some dream.

This war was going to be the death of them all. They had to fight, but was it ever going to do any good? The British were going to win. What did it matter if they died out there? They were just farmers against an army that had greater numbers and men who knew how to kill.

They were all going to die out there. In the fog that surrounded them, they wouldn’t even be able to see the enemy. Maybe they were already dead and this was hell’s battlefield, their souls lost in the endless torment.

The gray swirled as a soldier collapsed next to him. The man was still breathing, but barely. Each breath sounded like a struggle as he fought to find the strength to pull air into his lungs.

Tom could feel the cold getting worse, making him numb. If he didn’t move, he’d join the men collapsing around him. He had to get up or he’d be one of the lost. Who was he kidding? He was already lost, pulled deeper into the endless gray mist around him.

He pushed himself up, but not because he thought he could struggle, fight, and live through another day. If he were going to die today, he was going to take a few of those evil cretins with him. A soldier passing by saw him and startled, bayonet at the ready. Tom was certain the young man, who looked like he wasn’t over the age of sixteen, was going to run him through. Letting out a breath when he recognized Tom, the man reached out a hand and he grabbed it.

“Thanks,” Tom whispered.

“No problem. We gotta keep moving or we’re going to be dead in the dirt like these poor saps.” The kid nodded at Adam, Tom biting back his anger as he fell in line behind him.

“How much longer until we reach the Brit’s camp?” Tom asked.

“In this soup, we might end up in Philly before we ever find them red-coated devils.”

“Quiet down!” a voice barked from behind them, a ghost in the mist.

Tom kept marching. Not being able to see anything around them, the woods made its presence known only when he stumbled over a root or when the kid moved a branch and it swung down at him. It was impossible to know how far they had come. Even a man familiar with these woods would be lost in the fog. Familiarity was lost, a shadow to be taken away with the absence of light and dark.

When there was a sudden explosion all around them, Tom covered his head. Glancing up, he saw lights screaming through the woods, roaring with a sound like he had never heard before. They swam through the mist, one nearly striking him as it went by at a speed faster than he could fathom. He could feel it, the wind swirling around him.

For the briefest moment, he saw it. It made him think of a carriage, but he saw no horses. They were loud and vicious monsters, supernatural demons that took to the night like ravenous beasts. Just as he knew the Devil was the master of lies, he knew these things were his creation there to tear them down. Lucifer himself wanted them to die, taking the British for his pleasure.

It passed him quickly. Just as fast as the lights had come, they were gone. The swirls of mist calmed, the soldiers around him screaming out, the silence erupting in chaos. Men yelled for help, some claiming they had been hit. Fallen soldiers around him cried out in pain from broken limbs. Then there were the sounds of the dying gasping for breath, men who couldn’t scream trying to do so.

He turned away from them, spinning around, no longer sure which way he should be facing. No one seemed to know. He kept spinning, not able to stop. If he didn’t, he knew he would flash the hash all around him, but the moment he did stop, he had a feeling he’d be hunched over, dry heaving.

Then a hand caught him, turning him around. Adam stood before him. He knew it was him, but not from what he could see in the face. What stood before him was the dried remains of a rotted corpse. his clothes hung in rags, the eyes pure white, the rotten teeth exposed. Parts of his skull were missing, and worms crawled out of holes in different parts of his body.

Tom took an involuntary step back as the stench of the creature struck him. The rotted flesh smelled worse than the refuse-filled ditches at camp, pushing him farther back. Within a few steps, he lost sight of the thing. He spun around, his feet getting caught in tangles of weeds as he scrambled to get away.

“Move forward. March! March!” he heard someone yell from horseback as they raced by. How the officer could ride through this muck at such speed would have usually impressed Tom, but he fought not to fall as more weeds grabbed at him. He didn’t know if that thing were still behind him, but he wanted to get some distance.

Bushes clawed at his flesh, the thorns pulling at his rags. His dead friend was out there somewhere, and there were probably more. Each tug caused him to swirl, expecting to see those dead eyes staring into his own.

“Quiet down. We’re getting close!” another officer yelled in the distance, his voice barely able to be heard. In the thickness of the mist, Tom didn’t know how far away the officer was.

How were the officers oblivious to the chaos around them? Did they not hear the other soldiers? Tom could tell he wasn’t the only one scrambling through the woods. The trees had the life of the scared running through them.

Maybe the officers thought it was the enemy? Tom couldn’t see them, which meant they couldn’t see him. They might not know about the dead around them, the ghost faces haunting their troops.

It didn’t matter, though. Tom had seen them, and he didn’t want any part of it. He wanted his independence, he wanted that land, but it was not worth losing his soul for. If it were the dead fighting them, they had already lost. This battle was cursed, and damn that Washington for bringing them out there.

He just had to get to the top of this hill. That would take him far enough from the path, then he could double back. He just had to fight his way up through the dark, the mist, the bushes and trees he couldn’t see until their branches had hold of him. He had to fight through all that and get away.

He felt it before he knew what had happened. The pain as something snapped in his foot when it slammed into a root or stump, making him stumble forward, the thorns of bushes cutting into his face and arms as he fell. It was excruciating. His vision went blurry as wetness mixed with the dirt around him ran into his eyes.

“Over there!” someone from below yelled. They must think he was deserting. Washington’s orders rang through his head, remembering how the general called the deserters “cowards”, saying that anyone caught doing so during battle would be shot.

Would they waste the gunpowder?

The dirt he felt kick up a few feet away from him answered his question. He heard more reports as firing broke out. The woods became a cacophony of noise around him, shots seeming to come from everywhere. The ground around him rose and fell as musket balls slammed into the leaf-covered dirt, some of the remnants showering him, mixing with the flowing blood getting into his eyes.

It seemed the world was now fixated on making him one of the many ghosts in the mist. The sound felt like an echo of insanity inside his head. His eyes burned as he clenched his teeth, fighting to keep from screaming in pain, trying to wipe away the moisture on his face. Each time he brought up his muddy fingers, it just made the mess worse.

“Ah!” It was more of a cry than a scream as he felt his coarse fingers digging into him. He could feel the throbbing in his foot getting worse, hurting like nothing he had ever felt before. As he thrashed around, it felt like hot needles up to his toes, then he felt nothing. When he pulled his foot back, there was only numbness.

“Over here. I think I got one,” he heard someone yell above him.

He had to wonder if they weren’t only going for him. The army must have spotted the British and were now trying to send them all straight to hell. He wished to God he were there with them. He wanted to make them pay for Adam. If they weren’t ruthless bastards, his friend might not have died. Why didn’t they just go back to their own country and leave them alone? They had no right to think they could tell them what to do.

He tried pulling the faded rag that had once been a shirt up over his head. He ignored the smell of the cloth, feeling it rip more, the fabric long since worn to the point that it was falling apart. His fingers having lost feeling to the cold long ago, he struggled with it. He was finally able to pull it free and wrapped it around his hands, then rubbed it along his face, removing the muck. He ran it along his forehead, feeling where it had hit the ground. The pain caused him to clench his jaw harder, feeling as his teeth began to crack.

Some of the shooting had tapered off. He could now hear boots coming nearer.

He held his breath and stayed still. Why was he even trying to wipe the blood from his eyes? He couldn’t see anything in the mist anyway. He needed to focus, listen. Someone was getting closer. There weren’t shots near him anymore, and it sounded like much of the fighting had moved farther down the line. He was able to get a sense of where the British soldier was as he made his way toward him.

No, there were two of them. He heard another set of boots a little farther away. They walked in a line, though, spaced out next to each other. The leaves on the ground were dry and brittle, their footsteps loud. There might have even been a third and fourth one out there. The British loved their formations, and Tom could mentally see them stomping through the woods in a line as they hunted for his brothers.

They would be on him soon. What could he do? He didn’t remember dropping his musket, not that it would have been useful with him trampling through the woods and falling over himself. There was the bayonet, but that would require getting too close to the enemy. He would have had to sneak up on them…but he couldn’t even see them.

But that meant they couldn’t see him, either. Unless the fog had cleared out in the last minute, which he knew it hadn’t, they were just as blind as he was. He had to stay quiet and listen. He ground his teeth to hold in his pain-filled scream as they drew near.

He heard a boot come down near his head, unsure if he were about to feel the fire of a musket shot or the sharp blade of a bayonet. He knew he had to do something before that happened.

Using his good foot, he dug into the dirt, launching himself in the direction of the soldier. He guessed he hit him around the knee when he heard something pop, followed by a scream. Tom’s momentum caused them both to fall, Tom landing on top.

The man fought beneath him, his hands flailing, fishing around. Whenever he brought them down, he brought them as fists. Some blows hit the man’s body, and some came down on solid earth.

At first, the soldier had been shocked. Tom had probably looked like a corpse coming out of the mist below him. Now that the shock had worn off, though, the man squirmed, trying to pull himself away. When Tom landed a hit to something solid, the man started spitting. Good. He’d nailed the jaw. Damn British bastard deserved it. He hoped he had knocked out a few teeth.

Tom could hear other soldiers working their way toward them, but he was more focused on the one cursing below him. He brought down his fist a few more times, glad when the man started slowing down.

When the soldier stopped, Tom started to feel around the ground for the man’s rifle. Finally feeling metal beneath his hands, he felt along it until he found the end holding the bayonet. He brought the blade down into what he hoped was the black heart of the evilness below him.

He had gotten one. With the dead walking around him, and his own men dying, he had managed to kill one of those damn British bastards. It wasn’t much, but he would take it.

He heard more running toward him, getting closer. He knew he would die soon, but he had done his part. He’d take one of them down with him. And who knew? Maybe he would get lucky. Maybe the ghosts around him would take some more.

He wasn’t going to go down without a fight. With bayonet planted firmly in the body, he used the stock of the musket to pull himself up, pushing down the pain in his foot as he did so. Judging from the noise, there were two men coming from his left and one from his right. He pulled the musket up, having to fight to pull it free from the corpse below him, and turned to the one on his right.

They weren’t calling out like the others had. What if it weren’t the British? What if it were more of the dead? What if they were all around him, surrounding him, wanting to take him down to hell?

“You damn British, die!” he called as he fired.

Then he felt pain on the back of his head, his world fading.

* * * * *

“Captain, what happened?! I trusted you with two columns of troops, but you lost two-thirds of them!”

“We were attacked, sir. We were attacked and fought back.”

Tom heard the voices nearby as he felt himself wake up. His head and body hurt. He opened his eyes, knowing all he would see would be the fog, all he would feel would be mud and drying blood caked over him. He was surprised to find that he was back at camp, lying with others as their wounds were tended to.

He was alive. Somehow, he had survived.

He saw General Washington walking among the injured, his captains and aids around him. He didn’t look happy.

“You were attacked? How many British did you kill? How many!?”

The captain lowered his head as they walked by him.

“It was the dead, sir. The dead attacked us. We drove them back to hell,” Tom whispered, barely able to get his words out.

General Washington turned to look at him, a sorrowful look on his face. Tom had never been so close to the general before. He saw the haunted gaze of the troubled man, the pitted cheeks, the eyes that seemed to bore straight into his soul. But Tom had seen the dead walk, so this gaze could no longer make him turn away. It was Washington who looked away first as they continued down the line.

“Did you know it was your own men you were firing upon?” the general asked his captain, not acknowledging Tom.

Maybe he was dead, but just didn’t know it. He had seen walking corpses out there, but he’d also seen something else. What had been those lights, that loud noise? Something had been out there. Tom wasn’t sure what world it was from, but he was certain it wasn’t this one.

When sleep took him, he drifted into the nightmares that would never leave him. From now on, every time he closed his eyes, he would always see his friend, his corpse of rotted flesh smiling, calling for him to join him. Tom knew he would wake screaming…until the one time he didn’t wake at all.

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If you enjoyed reading this story, you can now also experience it in audio as featured in #WeirdDarkness

The Revolutionary’s War: Death at Germantown

“Death at Germantown” featured in a special holiday episode of Weird Darkness. Watch now as this historical horror fiction comes to life…

Let me start out by thanking Darren Marlar when he decided to do a special holiday episode of #WeirdDarkness. He contacted me yesterday as he was recording DEATH AT GERMANTOWN for the upcoming Last Exit audiobook release and fell in love with the story. He wanted to know if it would be okay to include it in this special holiday episode commemorating the birth of the United States. How could I say no to that?

I hope that everyone enjoys this short story, which I will be including in the library of this site later this weekend if you find the audio version too intense. This title is available at a part of Last Exit, now for sale in Print and Kindle and soon to be available in audiobook.

Death at Germantown is now available as a Kindle Single if you would just like the short story by itself to be a part of your Kindle Library.