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Max_Writer

Basic Roleplaying System: Deadworld Session Seven - The Weirdos of Wickwold

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Friday, July 15, 2016

(After playing the Basic Roleplaying System original setting “Deadworld” with Ashton LeBlanc, Collin Townsend, James Brown, Katie Gallant, and Leigh Ann Philbee Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.)

Manuela “Manny” Rodriguez and Jonathan Franks decided to stay at Simon Smith’s farm for a week while Manny recuperated. Jaiqwan Jayshawn Skadooter, Dani Bateman, and Elizabeth Tolini had taken the two vehicles and left them. After a week, on August 8, 2015, they left the Smith farm, which had still had a few incursions by the creatures from the woods, but they had further barricaded the house and none of them wandered very closely. The two continued east towards the coast in hopes of finding the others.

They eventually reached Interstate 40 again and found an old Dodge Ram with an extended cab that had the keys in it and gas. It was also very heavy duty. Though Manny wanted to return to her own car, she sadly admitted they probably couldn’t make it safely there.

They headed east.

* * *

Dr. Mikil Wolfgang and Courtney Dean, the cheerleader, had been travelling with a group when the first meteors had struck in July. They had soon gotten separated from the others when Courtney Dean found an injured young man and dragged Dr. Wolfgang to help him. The boy was beyond help but they had to hole up in a house when nightfall came. When they returned to where they had left the others, somewhere in the foothills of North Carolina, they had already moved on. However, they remembered the plan to head east and get to an island on the coast. The two managed to find a relatively new Honda Pilot and some supplies and headed east.

Unfortunately, due to the weather and a malfunctioning GPS in the Pilot, they ended up going further south than they had actually planned.

* * *

Lindsay Munghan Fang had been on the way home from one of her excursions. An explorer by trade, she traveled often but was home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when the whole “zombie apocalypse” apparently caused by the falling meteors struck. She didn’t worry too much due to her proximity to the army base but when Fort Bragg was reportedly hit by one of the meteors, she decided to stay home and stay safe. She started to run out of supplies after about a week and then travelled as she could in the city, which seemed to have been abandoned.

She was a tall and athletic Asian woman with long, black hair she usually pulled back into a pony tail. She wore a tank top and polo with shorts and good shoes. She had a Glock in the holster on her belt and a marine magnum shotgun with a foldable stock and several shells she’d gotten on one of her forays to the base.

It was August 5 when she was scrounging for supplies that she found out why most parts of Fayetteville had been abandoned. There were a lot of zombies in the city. It seemed like the virus or plague or whatever it was had spread through Fayetteville like wildfire. She found herself pursued by at least a dozen dead men and women with blank eyes and rotting skin.

One of them ran ahead of the rest.

She ran out of an alley and saw a white SUV driving slowly down the road. It pulled to a stop and the window rolled down.

“Qvickly!” Dr. Wolfgang called. “Get in!”

He was an older gentleman in a rugged-looking suit. He had a strong German accent and sat in the driver’s seat of the Pilot. In the passenger seat, a German shepherd puppy in her lap, was a young girl in pink camouflage.

“Hey, you wanna ride?” Courtney called cheerfully.

Lindsay ran to the back door and pulled on it, finding it locked. They quickly unlocked it and she leapt in as a man ran around the corner, sprinting at the vehicle. Dr. Wolfgang thought it might be another survivor. Courtney noticed he ran strangely and had his mouth open. He didn’t look like he was alive.

“Go go go!” she screamed.

Dr. Wolfgang floored it and they drove away. The running man kept up with them for only a little while before they finally lost him. After a short discussion, they decided to make a more northerly course as Lindsay told them the zombies were worse to the south of the city. They planned to head northeast as best they could with the malfunctioning GPS.

“Mikil Wolfgang,” the doctor said by way of introduction.

“I’m Courtney!” she said. “This is Killer.”

The German shepherd puppy wagged her tail.

* * *

On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, they had just stopped and filled up at an abandoned farm with a gas tank on U.S. Route 17 near Hertford, North Carolina. They had spotted several large arrows painting along the highway and the sides of buildings the last few miles with captions like “Skadooter was here!” and “Going to the beach! Love, Skadooter” or “ASU rocks!” or “Football Forever!” or “Enjoy coke!” or just “Doot! Doot!” so they had been following them. The arrows were all very straight and well drawn but the captions were always very messy, as if two people had done them. As they headed down the road, they spotted a white truck ahead, moving slower than they were. Dr. Wolfgang started flashing his lights at the vehicle.

Courtney rolled down the window and hung out.

“Hey!” she called, waving.

The white truck slowed and pulled over. They pulled up as the window of the Dodge Ram rolled down. Manuela “Manny” Rodriguez looked out. She wore a plaid shirt and a baseball cap facing backwards. She wore her black hair in a ponytail and was Hispanic. Jonathan Franks, in the passenger seat, had sandy-brown hair and was very good-looking.

They were in the middle of nowhere with farmland all around them.

“Hey!” Courtney said when she saw him. “You wanna come join our group?”

Manny looked at the pilot - the interior was much larger than the pickup truck and it probably got better gas mileage.

“Ve have a lot of seats,” Dr. Wolfgang called. “Lots of gas.”

Manny looked down and saw their Dodge Ram had three quarters of a tank of gas.

“Did you all see signs?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“What?” Manny replied. “The Skadooter signs?”

“Yes!”

“You know Skadooter!?!” Courtney said.

“Yeah,” Manny said.

“Omigod, that guy is awesome!” Courtney replied.

“Ze black guy with ze drugs?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Yeah,” Manny said.

“Oh, he’s black?” Courtney said. “Do you want to come with us to find Skadooter?”

“I mean … yeah,” Manny said. “The more the merrier, right?”

“Yeah,” John said.

“Probably a good idea to ditch this gas guzzler,” Manny said.

“Do you have lots of supplies?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“We’ve got some food,” Manny said. “And with more people we could get more supplies probably.”

“All right, cool,” Courtney said. “Well, let’s find Skadooter and go to the beach!”

“That is vhere we’re going,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“You want to sit in the back with me?” Courtney called to John.

He rolled his eyes.

Whatever, he thought.

Lindsay just watched from the back seat, cleaning her Glock.

It had been overcast and darker clouds rolled in. Though it was mid-afternoon, the clouds made it dark. None of the GPS were working very well with the overcast and cloudy signs and they could see lightning in the distance. They guessed they were over an hour from the beach at their present speed. According to signs, the next town was Woodville, a few miles on down Route 17. They knew Elizabeth City was beyond that.

They talked about camping in the nearby fields.

“Okay!” Courtney said. “Killer, I think, needs to go potty.”

“Get ze dog out of car!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

Courtney took the dog out by the road. Killer peed and pooped and was very happy about it. The storm continued to roll in, getting closer. They could see lightning in the distance and hear thunder. Lindsay was of the opinion they should move on to a town where they could find shelter.

“It does look like a thunderstorm,” she said. “I don’t want to be in the middle of a field.”

They quickly transferred everything from the Dodge Ram into the Honda Pilot and the other two piled in as well, Manny getting in the back by herself as Lindsay took shotgun. It started raining, gently at first, but soon the water was coming down so hard it was like buckets were being dumped onto the car. It made it very hard to see and they had not gone very far when they saw a sign at an exit that read “Wickwold” and beyond that “Waterville - 5 miles.” There was a small exit.

“Good thing ve didn’t do field,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

As they approached the Wickwold exit, they saw there were lights in the area. The place looked like one of those little towns that used to pop up on the highway with places to eat, get gasoline, and sleep. The entire strip looked like it had grown along the side road. A McDonald’s was lit up but appeared empty, as was the Burger King. A Sunoco station was also lit up though an Exxon station was dark. A motel stood across the street from the Exxon station. It probably had about 20 rooms and a small office at the end. A vacancy sign glowed from the window.

“We’re good on gas,” Lindsay said. “We don’t need to go to the gas station. You want to go to McDonalds?”

“We could get some extra gas though,” Manny said from the back. “I’m sure the gas station has gas canisters.”

“Ve vill pull over,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Exxon!” Courtney said.

“Sunoco,” Dr. Wolfgang said, pulling into the station.

“No, you always go for the dark one!” Courtney said. “Less people around.”

He had already pulled in.

“Oh! I want to go see if they have any Red Vines!” Courtney said.

As they pulled up, a man walked out of the side of the building that looked like a convenience store. The building was pretty old and there were a couple of bays for repairs on the other side, closed up. Courtney cried out as the man stepped out of the building.

“Uh … hi,” the man said. “Hi. Hi.”

His face twitched and he walked very strangely, as if he was having trouble controlling his own body.

“Do you need gas?” he asked.

“Do you have any Red Vines?” she asked.

“Uh … you can … go look,” the man said, his head and face twitching.

“Kay,” she said, going inside.

The man walked towards the car, his gait jerking and twitching, as Courtney ran into the convenience store.

“I vould like gas, sir?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Yeah yeah yeah,” the man said, apparently eager to please as he continued to twitch and jerk. “We still got gas. Not many people been … been stoppin’ by.”

He sniffed the air and then laughed.

“Wow!” he said with an idiotic grin. “You guys smell funny.”

He laughed oddly.

* * *

The interior of the convenience store was well-lit if quite small and somewhat claustrophobic. The aisles were narrow and the shelves, for the most part, stuffed with candy and snacks. She found the narrow candy aisle and saw there were several packages of Red Vines near the back. As she picked them up, she saw an old woman sitting in a rocking chair in the back corner of the store, knitting. The old woman twitched and her face screwed up in a strange tic. She looked right at Courtney, who turned to walk away.

“Come over here,” the old woman said. “Come on.”

“No, that’s okay,” Courtney said.

“Come on over here.”

“What … what do you want?”

“Just come over here so I can see you better.”

Courtney looked at Killer, in her arms, who wagged her tail and licked her face. Then she inched closer to the old woman.

“Wha-what?” she said. “What?”

“Oh!” the old woman said. “Oh!”

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you want?”

“Are y’all stayin’?”

“I don’t know!”

“We ain’t had many people … stayin’ here.”

The old woman twitched again. Courtney turned and ran. The rocking chair squeaked as the old woman stood up but Courtney had fled by then.

* * *

“Could you pull the thing?” the man outside said as he went to the gas pump.

He nearly stumbled as a spasm wracked his body.

“The thing?” the man called again as he took the nozzle from the pump. “You gotta pull the thing so the gas tank will open.”

“No,” Manny said, leaning out of the passenger side window. “The tank’s full. We want extra gas.”

“Do you have canister to hold gas?” Dr. Wolfgang asked.

“There might be some in the store … you could buy,” the man said. “You could buy in there. There might be some.”

Courtney ran out of the convenience store and flung open the back door, climbing quickly in.

“We’re ready to leave!” she cried. “We’re ready to leave.”

“I’ll look for gas cans,” the man said with another twitch in his face.

He stumbled and jerked his way back to the convenience store. They saw him looking around in the place for a moment and then he left the lit part of the building for the repair bays, which were dark.

“So, what are we doing after this?” Manny asked. “Going to the motel?”

“Yes,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Does anyone have a gun? He looks suspicious?”

“I got a shotgun,” Manny said.

“I’ve got a Glock,” John said.

“She’s got a shotgun and a Glock,” Manny said, pointing at Lindsay.

“Do you like sharing?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“No,” Lindsay said. “You come at me again, you gonna see this up your face.”

“Okay,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

The man came back with a couple of old five gallon cans. Dr. Wolfgang climbed out to help him fill them.

“Thank you sir,” he said.

“You folks … have any problems comin’ here?” the man said.

“Just a few. People seem to want to eat other people …”

“They’re dead!” Courtney cried out. “Everyone’s dead!”

“Heh,” the man said, another spasm crossing his face. “We don’t got no problems with them around here.”

“Why not?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“‘Cause we’re protected,” the man said, his head jerking to one side.

“By?” Manny asked.

“How?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“By … by them,” the man said. “They’re protectin’ us. Here ya go.”

He handed the doctor the cans.

“We’re not really takin money anymore,” the man said. “Ya got anything to trade?”

“Oh no,” Courtney muttered. “I don’t like this.”

“What do you want?” John asked.

“Ve have some food,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Well, we usually … food’ll be good,” the man said, his eye snapping shut for a moment. “Your friends took some Red Vines, I saw. Some food for them. We don’t have … candy ain’t as good any more. That’s the only bad thing.”

“So … what do think is appropriate trade?”

“I dunno. You got, like, fresh fruit, or, ah, meat?”

They didn’t.

“Well, we can settle up,” the man said with yet another jerk. “You stayin’?”

No, Courtney thought

“Ask him if he’s seen Skadooter?” Manny said.

“Uh …have you seen ze black man waving things around, snorting various substances?” Dr. Wolfgang asked.

“Skadooter!” Courtney said. “He’s talking about Skadooter!”

“Uh … no, no,” the man struggled to say, his body shaking again. “Ain’t had many people … people pass through here lately. Not ma-many.”

“But …” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Cars go by once in a while. Not many. Not many.”

“If … ze other people zhat valk funny and try to eat you come by?”

“Nope. I mean, they come. They don’t care. We’re protected!”

“Protected by what?” John said.

“Henry, you get back in here!” the old woman, twitching and spasming like the man, said. She stood in the doorway. “You talked enough to those strangers.”

Courtney ducked down in the back seat.

“Oh!” Henry said. “That’s my mom. Okay, maw! Okay. Are you staying at the motel? Clem. Clem owns it now. So, good-night.”

“Good night, sir,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

Moving with twitches and tics, Henry stumbled back into the convenience store after the old woman.

“Guys, I don’t want to stay here!” Courtney said after Dr. Wolfgang got back into the car.

“Zhis place is strange,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Apparently ze retardation grants immunity from ze … monsters.”

“Well, if that was true, Courtney would be fine,” Manny quipped.

“Oh!” John said.

“What?” Courtney said. “I’m immune? So cool.”

She smiled.

“Seriously though, I don’t want to stay here,” she said. “That lady gave me the creeps, you know?”

“Uh …” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Did you see her? In her rocking chair? The little needles?”

“Zhis is strange. I am exhausted though.”

“Can we just find another motel?”

“This rain doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up,” Manny said.

“Does anyone else like to drive?” Dr. Wolfgang said. “I need a … break.”

“Manny will drive!” Courtney said.

“If you can take ze vheel, I need to lay down,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Vatch yourself though.”

“I’m fine to drive but this storm seems pretty bad,” Manny said.

“We need to stay somewhere until it lets up,” Lindsay said.

“Okay, well, I’m sleeping with Johnny then,” Courtney said.

Manny rolled her eyes.

“I also say zhat ve should stay on our second floor,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “It seems safer.”

“Are you French and German?” John said, having a hard time understanding his accent. “Against my better judgment, I guess we should stay.”

“At least at the motel,” Lindsay said. “We can get one on the second floor.”

“Does … you not understand me?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Yes, I understand you,” Lindsay said. “I speak French!”

“I mean, I wanna keep driving but if we’re going to go to sleep, let’s just do it already,” Courtney said.

“Zhen ve should stay at Red Inn Motel?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

He put the car in gear and they crossed the highway. The sign out front of the motel read “Happy Valley Motel” and it looked like there were two stories with rooms in the front. A staircase went up on both ends of the building and a balcony ran across the second floor, where the doors opened from the rooms. He parked nearer the road than the building.

Dr. Wolfgang, John, and Lindsay went into the office. The man at the front desk also proved to have a strange twitch.

“You must be Clem?” Dr. Wolfgang asked.

“Yeah, that’s right, I’m Clem,” the man said.

He had a very thick southern accent and blinked his eyes very quickly. He also twitched occasionally.

“I need two rooms,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Preferably two beds each.”

“Whatchu got to trade?” Clem said. “We ain’t had nobody with money.”

“I … I have money. I could give you food.”

“You ain’t protected, are yeh?”

“Uh … I do not believe zo. People have chased me before.”

“Aw. That’s a shame. That’s a shame.”

“It is.”

“Well, you gonna have to take the second floor and be careful. If you ain’t protected. Yeah.”

“Yes.”

“What you got to trade?”

“Ve have canned goods.”

“Aw … that’s not bad. That’s not bad. Or you could join us. We got church in the mornin’. You get protected there.”

“Ve could see ‘bout ze church.”

“Sleep in the church?”

“Sleep at ze church?”

“Isn’t that what you just said there, Frenchy?”

“No,” John said. “No, he didn’t.”

“Ve could ask at the church, there, tomorrow,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Meet the church. Come to the church,” Clem said. “Get protected. That way you’re protected from them fellas. The fellas that … the dead guys.”

He looked at them and his head twitched again.

“Okay … how many of you are there?” he asked.

“It seems … I see two rooms,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Two beds each?”

“So, four’ve yah?”

“Uh …”

“You married?”

“No, dear, we’re not married,” Lindsay said.

“You’re in a separate room, then,” Clem said with another blink. “Okay.”

He thought on it a moment.

“How about a dozen cans of food?” Clem said. “You got any fresh meat? Love some fresh meat!”

“Uh … not fresh meat,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Dammit! So hungry.”

“But the canned food is good too.”

“All right. Dozen cans for the night?”

They discussed it and, though John tried to get the price down, Clem would not budge. They only had 14 cans of food and were loath to give up so much of it. Lindsay tried to persuade the man to lower the price but he wouldn’t come down.

“Ve have enough,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Ve have dozen cans.”

“Well, bring ‘em in!” Clem said. “You got any peaches?”

“No peaches, but we have creamed berries, asparagus …”

“Asparagus? Ugh. Awful. Just bring me 12 cans and you can have two rooms. Bring ‘em in, I’ll give you keys. Keep your doors locked.”

They brought in 12 cans of food and he handed over the two keys.

The motel had electricity and they had noticed the water tower during a break in the pouring rain. They climbed to the second floor where they had rooms 11 and 12, close to the office. John went into one of the rooms to investigate it. Dr. Wolfgang went into the other while Lindsay kept watch outside. The rooms proved to be relatively clean and, though the air conditioning was off and the rooms were stuffy at first, when they turned on the units, they worked.

Courtney, having seen John go into one room and Dr. Wolfgang another, left the car, ran through the pouring rain and up the steps, to enter room 12.

“How does it … how does it look in here?” Courtney asked John.

“It looks fine,” John said. “I haven’t finished checking it yet. Why don’t you wait outside for a bit?”

“Oh …well that suits me,” she said. “That’s fine.”

She left the room.

Each hotel room was typical, with a bathroom in the back with a toilet and bathtub/shower. The sink was outside of the bathroom on the far wall with a wide mirror. Two double beds were in each room, as well as a television and clock. A few pieces of mediocre hotel art were on the walls and a small table and two chairs were in each room as well.

Dr. Wolfgang went into the bathroom of room 11, locked it, and took a long, hot shower.

Courtney waited outside.

“So, Lindsay,” she said. “What do you think about … John?”

“He’s cute but he’s too skinny for me,” Lindsay said.

“Oh, thank God. ‘Cause you’re way prettier than I am.”

“Thanks.”

John came out of room 12.

“Can me and Killer go in yet?” Courtney asked. “It’s kind of weird out here.”

“Yes, you can go in,” John said. “I would suggest that, since our host seems to be a little … cultish … that the ladies stay in one room and the gentlemen stay in another.”

“We don’t get a protector with us!?!” Courtney said. “We’re just ladies.”

“You’ve got Lindsay with you,” John said. “She looks like she could take down a … small army. You’ll be fine. You’ve got Killer too.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Courtney said. “Well, thanks for checking the room.”

She went into the room, which was cooling off quickly due to the air conditioning. She played with Killer with her bunny toy.

Lindsay headed down to the car to check on Manny and to tell ask if she wanted to take a shower.

“Hot shower?” Manny said.

“Yeah, the shower works and everything,” Lindsay said.

Manny quickly climbed out of the car and went up to the room, where she went to the bathroom of room 12 and got into the shower.

“Hey Manny,” Courtney said to her as she went by, disappointment in her eyes.

A few moments later, Courtney knocked on the door.

“Manny?” she called.

“Yeah?” Manny called from inside the shower.

“Can I come in and talk? It’s scary out here.”

“Yeah.”

Courtney went in and saw the steam coming from the shower. She sat down on the toilet and chatted inanely to the other woman through the shower curtain. Once Manny was done showering, she washed her clothes in the bath water she’d collected as they were still bloody and disgustingly dirty. Courtney continued to tell stories.

“Okay, and this one time, Mandy took two Jell-O shots before we even went out to dinner,” she said. “And then she took six more she had in her purse. Like, six!”

John was finally able to get into the shower once Dr. Wolfgang finished a half hour later. The water felt magnificent.

* * *

Outside, Lindsay saw a couple of men stumbled slowly down the road, just like zombies always did. She suspected the people were not really alive. She watched them carefully as they moved through the pouring rain. There wasn’t much light on the balconies - those lights were out - but the office was lit up. The two dead men in ragged clothing headed towards where she knew Clem was and she watched them very carefully. She went to the top of the steps, trying to stay hidden in the shadows of the balcony.

As they approached the office, Clem came out and walked to them fearlessly. When they saw him, they opened their mouths and started to move towards him but, when they got close they slowed and came to a stop. Clem took each of them by the shoulders and turned them around, giving each of them a gentle shove. They started to wander back down the road. Clem twitched and jerked, as he always seemed to do. Then he walked slowly back to the office with his clumsy gait, disappearing within.

She had never seen anything like that before. She returned to her position between the two rooms.

* * *

A short time later, John came out of his room and crept down the balcony, trying to peek into the other rooms. They all had their curtains pulled and it was dark in each. He returned to his room and cleaned his Glock.

“Do you have more zan one?” Dr. Wolfgang asked when he returned.

“What?” he said. “More than one what?”

“Ze guns?”

“No, just the one.”

“Drat?”

After he was done with the cleaning, John settled into the bed, watching the door, gun in hand. Dr. Wolfgang told him to wake him up if anything happened, climbed under the covers, and quickly went to sleep.

* * *

Courtney had climbed into one of the beds and lay there with Killer, petting her. Manny looked towards the motel clock. It was only about 7 p.m. but was so dark outside it seemed like it was much later. She went out to the balcony and told Lindsay to wake her up when her shift was over. She was glad she could see the car from the balcony. Then she went back to the room and went to bed.

Courtney went back out onto the balcony to talk to Lindsay.

“Hey, how’s it going out here?” she asked.

“Good,” Lindsay said.

“You see anything weird?”

“Uh … no, not really. Just a lot of thunder and lightning. And rain.”

“That’s cool. Isn’t Killer so cute?”

“Cute puppy.”

“So … have you seen the guys? What are they up to?”

“No clue right now. I heard a lot of banging in there. I think someone was trying to clean their gun.”

“All right. So, wasn’t it weird how all those local people were, like, …”

She pantomimed her head at an angle and made a face.

“… and stuff?”

“Yeah, I noticed it,” Lindsay said. “It just looks like a town with a bunch of insane people.”

“You think they’re going to come in and, like, murder us and stuff?”

“Uh … not at the moment. I mean, I’m keeping watch out here and, probably in another few hours, I’ll wake Manny up and she’ll take another watch.”

“That’s cool. So … do you get your hair done somewhere … because it looks really good.”

“No … it’s just a lot of dirt …”

“Oh, is that like a spa treatment? Like a scrub or something?”

“No … it’s self-American scrub from Brazil.”

“Oh, cool. Cool. Okay.”

“I mean, if you want to, you should probably go back in and see if you can get at least a little bit of sleep.”

“Oh, I can’t sleep right now. I’m, like, so, like, awake right now, it’s ridiculous. Don’t you want to talk to me?”

Killer started to growl.

“Killer, what’s wrong?” Courtney asked.

The dog was looking down towards the other end of the building and growling.

“What’s up, Killer?” Courtney said. “My goodness.”

She grabbed Lindsay’s arm.

“Lindsay, what’s going on?” she said.

The dog kept growling and, when they looked down towards where the dog looked, Lindsay saw a man standing by the side of the building. She guessed it was another zombie. He just stood there.

“What is it, Lindsay?” Courtney asked. “You see something?”

Killer continued to growl and bark.

“Uh …” Lindsay said. “Go back inside real quick and wake Mandy up and we’ll check it out.”

“Okay!” Courtney said.

She ran into the hotel room and flung Killer onto Manny.

“Mandy!” she cried. “Mandy! Wake up!”

“It’s Manny, God damn it!” Manny said. “Leave me alone!”

She pushed the dog off of her as she tried to lick her face.

“Lindsay says she needs you to check something out,” Courtney said.

“With the car?” Manny said groggily.

“I don’t know. What do I look like, a mathematician?”

Manny just looked at the girl. Then she got out of bed, all business, grabbing her shotgun and heading for the door. She found Lindsay out on the balcony, watching the far end of the hotel.

“What’s up?” Manny said.

“I saw what I believe to be a zombie down there at the other end of the balcony,” Lindsay said.

“Why didn’t you shoot it? You have two gun.”

Lindsay pointed out the man.

“Why didn’t you shoot it?” Manny asked again. “You have two guns!”

“I didn’t want to disturb the rest of them,” Lindsay said. “Especially if there’s one, there’s probably more somewhere nearby. And he’s not being aggressive right now. He’s just kind of standing there.”

“Yeah. You know, I’ve got my crowbar. Maybe I can take care of it real quick.”

Lindsay nodded.

“I’ll be real quiet,” Manny said.

She retrieved the crowbar from her room. Courtney had laid down on the other bed and was asleep, cuddled up with Killer. The puppy didn’t get up when she came in but her tail thumped against the bed. Manny looked at the clock and saw it had only been about 15 minutes since she laid down. She groaned and left the room.

The zombie hadn’t moved so she crept down the balcony and then down the stairs at the far end of the hotel near it. The metal stairs had concrete steps and she was able to slip down fairly quietly.

* * *

Lindsay, meanwhile, pushed open the other hotel door. It stopped only a few inches in, banging against the short table John had shoved up against the unlocked door.

“Who’s there?” John called.

“John, it’s Lindsay,” Lindsay said through the slightly opened door. “We might have a situation out here. Just be apprised in case I yell for you to run.”

“Uh … okay,” John said.

Dr. Wolfgang sat up and looked around sleepily.

“Is there anything we should be worried about?” John said. “What’s going on?”

“Not at the moment,” Lindsay said. “But if you hear gunshots, just go ahead and start running.”

“Gunshots at what?”

“Uh … I’ll let you know in a little bit.”

She pulled the door shut. John leapt out of the bed as Dr. Wolfgang shrugged and lay back down.

* * *

Manny made it down the steps without, apparently, alerting the zombie, who stood by the edge of the building, facing partially away from her, swaying slightly in the wind and blowing rain. She crept up to the man, trying to keep as much behind him as she could.

* * *

The door behind Lindsay flew open and she spun around, a little startled. John peeked out, Glock in one hand and baseball bat in the other. Lindsay shushed him.

“What the hell’s going on down there?” John whispered.

“She’s going to kill a zombie,” she whispered. “Shut up!”

“Oh, is that all? You could’ve just told me it was a freaking zombie!”

* * *

Manny struck the man in the back of the head with the curved end of the crowbar with a loud crack. He went down like a sack of potatoes, the crowbar lodged in his skull. He twitched for a few seconds and then stopped moving. She jerked the crowbar out of the man’s head, blood and brain matter splattering into the parking lot. She looked around but didn’t see anyone.

“Man, now I gotta wash my crowbar,” she muttered. “Just finished washing my pants …”

She returned to the others and then went back to bed after washing off her crowbar. John went back to his room as well, shoving the low table in front of the door once again. He had looked for something to steal but there really wasn’t anything in the place.

Lindsay kept watch until about midnight, some four or five hours later. She checked to make sure no one was around and then went into the women’s room and woke Manny up. Manny look at the clock and saw it was around midnight, which seemed all right. She got up, took her shotgun and her crowbar, and took the other woman’s place. Lindsay climbed into the bed and went to sleep.

At one point, the lights in the office went out but Manny didn’t see Clem leave the building. She guessed there might have been a room or two behind the office where he lived.

Around 4 a.m., Manny knocked on the door to the men’s room, waking John up. He had meant to stay awake but had fallen asleep sitting up in the bed.

“What?” he said, glancing at the clock.

He had probably fallen asleep between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

“It’s your turn for watch,” she said.

“Uh … oh,” he said.

He moved the table he’d used to block the door and went out onto the balcony. Manny went to the other room, where the light was still lit. Killer obviously heard her. Her eyes opened and she looked at the woman, though didn’t move except to wag her tail. She climbed into the bed with Lindsay and fell quickly asleep.

* * *

The storm was worse in the morning of Wednesday, August 12, 2015, when they all got up. John was tired but had gotten several hours sleep. The lightning and thunder had stopped but the rain continued to come steadily down. Manny was the last to get up. They stood on the balcony by the rooms and talked.

“So, should ve see the secret of how ze are protected by ze undead?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“What are you talking about?” Courtney said. “What secret?”

“I think they’re just too dumb,” Manny said.

“They could be too dumb,” Dr. Wolfgang admitted. “But, in zhat case, ve should probably steal some of the canned food back, right? Ve won’t be back here.”

“You know how they say zombies won’t eat brains, so …” Manny said.

“Oh!” Courtney said. “What?”

“Vhat!?!” Dr. Wolfgang said. “So, who cares about ze zombies? We’re stealing from them!”

“I don’t want to go near those people anymore,” Courtney said. “Can we just get on the road?”

They heard someone come up the steps. It was Clem.

“Who’s that!?!” Courtney said.

“Clementine,” Manny quipped.

The man walked in the same strange gait the gas station owner had, his neck twitching and his hands gripping and opening. Courtney moved behind John and put her hand on his shoulder. John took a ready position with his baseball bat.

“I’m going to go get the car ready,” Manny said.

“Are y’all comin’ to church?” Clem asked them as he blinked and twitched.

“What day is it?”

“Sunday.”

“Sunday? What-what time is the service?”

“It’s - it’s in an hour.”

“In an hour?”

“In the church down there.”

Clem pointed down the road to what looked like some building that had been converted into a church. Manny looked but couldn’t tell what kind of church it might be.

“Is it a Baptist church?” she asked.

“No,” Clem said, stuttering and starting. “No, not Baptist. Methodist.”

“Well, I mean, I’m Catholic so, I can’t. Not my cup of tea.”

“You’re missin’ out. Anybody comin’? It’s in an hour.”

“Uh … no, unfortunately, we have to─” John started to say.

“Ve might be zhere,” Dr. Wolfgang said, interrupting him.

“You should come,” Clem said. “Get protected.”

“No, we’ve got to get on the road,” John said, elbowing Dr. Wolfgang. “We’re looking for a friend of ours. Have you seen a man named Skadooter? You would definitely know you’ve seen him.”

“Doot-doot,” Manny said.

“Nope,” Clem said.

Courtney showed him a selfie she’d taken with Skadooter when they first met.

“He don’t look familiar,” Clem said. “Well, if you’re going back out there not protected, that’s a bad thing. It’s a bad thing.”

“Uh, we were unprotected before,” Manny said.

She headed for the car.

“We got protection from a fella comin’ through,” Clem went on. “He was a real nice fella.”

“How does he give you ze protection?” Dr. Wolfgang asked.

“What?” Clem said. “I can’t understand yer French there, fella.”

“What kind of fellow would offer you protection?” Courtney asked.

“French!?!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Does he have any more?” Courtney said.

“He was comin’ down the road and he said ‘This’ll protect ye’ and-and-and Pastor John, he said he would try … and it worked, so we should try, and we tried,” Clem said, twitching and stuttering, seemingly having difficulty sometimes even forming words. “And it worked. Protection.”

Manny had gone down the steps on the opposite side of the building. The zombie she’d destroyed the night before was still there on the ground.

“I don’t really know that we should, but maybe we should go to this church,” Courtney said.

“Well, come if you want,” Clem said, starting to move towards the nearby stairs in a creeping, jerking walk. “It’s safer that way. Them fellas don’t getcha then.”

“I wanna find Skadooter but … safety, right?” Courtney said. “Doctor? Right?”

“Yes,” Dr. Wolfgang said, watching the man walk away. “Safety.”

“Right John?” Courtney said.

“Vell, because it is survival of the fittest, ve are more fit zhen Mr. Clinton …” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“True,” Courtney said.

“Maybe ve should grab zhe food before we make way east,” Dr. Wolfgang continued.

“We can pick up food in the next town,” Lindsay said.

They walked down to the Honda Pilot where Manny was looking it over as if she was preparing an aircraft for takeoff.

“Ve should make note of zhis place,” Dr. Wolfgang said. “Just in case.”

“Just in case they were right about everything,” Courtney said.

Everything was still in the car and it appeared to be in good working order. There was not much food left. Perhaps enough for maybe a day for the five of them.

“The next town will probably have food that has no people guarding it, so let’s go,” Manny said.

They drove out in the pouring rain though the weather began to break by the time they got back onto U.S. 17. As they left, they saw people leaving the various buildings to head towards the church. There were maybe a couple of dozen people and all of them seemed to be twitchy, having trouble walking.

They continued on east, passing an exit with a small sign noting Woodville lay to the right five miles past Wickwold. They also passed Bypass 17, which went further north. They started passing more cars on the sides of the road. It looked like they had crashed off the highway.

They were some five miles beyond the Woodville exit when they came over a rise in the road and were surprised to see numerous cars and trucks blocking the entirety of both lanes of the highway. The highway had been smashed about a half mile ahead and a crater sat in the median between the two roads of the highway where one of the meteors had struck. A lot of people stood there, all of them turning their way. They started walking slowly in their direction. Many of them were clustered around the center of the crater.

Manny, who was driving, slammed on the brakes and brought the Honda Pilot to a stop. Lindsay was riding shotgun with John and Courtney in the back seat, Killer on Courtney’s lap, and Dr. Wolfgang napping in the third row. He rolled off the seat and crashed to the floor with a grunt. Manny turned the car around.

“What’s going on?” Courtney said.

“I saw an exit back there,” Manny said.

“Well, what’s going on over there?” Courtney said.

They drove back down the highway to the last exit, which actually was one of the rare overpasses in the area. As they drove the wrong way down the exit ramp, something slapped against the windshield of the car, leaving a swath of strange green liquid. Courtney let out a cry.

“What is that!?!” she yelled.

Manny slammed on the brakes again, bringing the Pilot to a halt. Dr. Wolfgang, napping again, rolled off the seat once again and woke up when he crashed into the floor of the vehicle.

“What’s going on?” Courtney said.

“Aw, this crap just got on my windshield,” Manny said.

“What is that?” Courtney said. “Ew.”

“Your first instinct is to stop?” John said, looking out the windows nervously.

“Vhere is ze homeless man when you need him?” Dr. Wolfgang quipped.

No one laughed.

“Wipe it off!” Courtney said.

Manny engaged the windshield wipers, which just smeared the greenish stuff across the windshield. She used the sprayers and it cleaned mostly off the glass. They noticed several tall plants they didn’t recognize on the side of the road. Each of them was tall, topping probably six feet easily, and had a straight stem springing from a round and circular woody bole. Three small, bare sticks grew straight up beside the stem. Leathery green leaves and shaggy rootlet hairs grew from the sides of the bole. The top of the stem had a curious, funnel-like formation.

“Is this The Happening?” Courtney said. “Oh, those are pretty.”

She looked around.

“Why aren’t we still moving?” she said. “Why have we stopped?”

“Ignore flora!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“What about fauna?” Courtney said.

Just then the small sticks protruding up from the bole started to rattle against the stem. Then things began to strike the car over and over again. They saw that from the funnel-like formation at the top of each plant, long vines lashed out and whipping at the side of the car. Where they struck, they left more of the greenish liquid.

“Oh my God, this is just like that movie with Marky Mark!” Courtney said.

“Step on gas!” Dr. Wolfgang cried.

There were only five or six of the things and Manny floored it. They tore down the exit lane to the intersection below, where she pulled the car to a stop. The two-lane road at the bottom went to the left and right but the sign at the bottom was missing. Only the metal poles still jutted out of the ground there. One of the poles was bent as if someone had hit it. The area was lightly wooded and the road disappeared out of sight around a curve in either direction.

Manny tried the built-in GPS but there was no signal. It was still cloudy and overcast.

“Let’s go!” Courtney said. “Which way did Skadooter go?”

“The problem is, we can’t keep following the highway because of the crater,” Manny said. “There must be some way around.”

“So, let’s take it,” Courtney said. “What’s the way around?”

They only had a state map so they weren’t sure of the smaller roads in the area.

“Can we just go down a little bit and cut around the crater?” Courtney said in a moment of, for her, sheer genius.

Manny and John just looked at her.

“Yeah,” Manny finally said.

“It’s like that one time when, we were out late, and we all wanted to get drunk, and there were cops because we weren’t 21 yet,” Courtney said. “So we just had to keep going.”

Manny finally pulled forward, turning left. She planned to look for the next left that was going somewhere. About a half-mile down was another country road that was paved at a four-way stop. They turned left and immediately started seeing a chain-link fence on the left. It looked like perhaps the land for a factory farm - no trees were within the chain link. Then they started passing more of those unusual-looking plants.

“The Happening!” Courtney said. “I’m telling you! This is just like Marky Mark and that movie The Happening. He’s so hot, by the way.”

Signs on the chain-link fence noted “Danger” or “Keep Out” or “Protected Environment.” There were no signs of Skadooter. They started seeing the strange plants off and on.

“Maybe this is like when the government tried to put fluoride in the water to make our teeth better and really it was to take over the world,” Courtney said.

They passed a dirt road to the left that didn’t look like a main road. Shortly after that, they saw the chain-link fence on the left again. A sign upon it read “East North Carolina Triffid Zone.” They had heard of triffids, and thought they were some kind of plants, but weren’t exactly sure what they were. After that, the road curved to the left again and as they drove down it, they saw the chain-link fence ahead had been knocked down, the poles holding it up fallen towards the road.

“Why can’t they just build straight fences?” Manny said.

Dozens, if not scores, of the plants were in the area. Some seemed to be growing up out of the asphalt of the road itself, which was strange. Manny braked. There was room between the plants to get by but they’d have to slow their vehicle considerably.

“What’s going on?” Courtney said. “Why did we stop?”

“So, there’s these plants,” Manny said. “And they’re kind of weird. And they kind of threw green stuff at us earlier.”

“Yeah, there were dead people and now there’s like dead … live plants. What does this mean.”

“So, I can move boldly forward or we can go back and try that country road that I saw.”

They started to hear a rattling noise that seemed to come from all around them.

“I vote for the country road, personally,” John said.

“Sounds like a good idea,” Manny said.

She turned the car to make a three-point turn. That’s when they noticed some of the plants were walking. Most of the plants around them were tapping the three short branches sticking up from the boles along their stems, making a strange, hollow, rattling noise. But some had actually stood up on three roots and started to move, almost like a man on crutches. Two of the roots slid forward and then the plant lurched as the rear one drew almost up to them before they slid forward again. Each step caused the long step to whip violently back and forth.

They closed in around the back of the car.

“Guys, I think those plants are coming after us,” Courtney said.

“Manny, I don’t mean to rush you, but … could you hurry it up?” John said.

Manny finished her three-point turn. There was a report as something struck the side of the car, leaving another swath of green liquid of some kind. As more and more of the plants came closer, more reports from the sides of the car came close after each other. Manny floored it again, running down the terrible plants. The windshield was getting covered in the goo and she turned the windshield wipers up to full and doused the windshield with water to try to clear it.

The driver’s side window suddenly shattered as a long vine tipped with a sharp-looking stinger burst into the car. The vine was just as suddenly whipped out of vehicle in a flash. Manny pushed the accelerator to the floor as they bounced over the plants and were finally past the mass of the horrible flora, leaving them behind. However, a light came up on the panel and Manny recognized it as a tire inflation warning. One of the tires was losing air. Manny thought either one of the stingers might have hit he tires or perhaps they damaged the tire when they ran over one of the heavy boles of the plants.

“What’s going on?” Courtney said. “Why are we just driving? Let’s get out of this place!”

“The hell is going on!?!” Dr. Wolfgang cried.

Manny drove back to U.S. 17 and went under the underpass, heading the opposite direction from the plants. Less than a half mile down the road, tucked into the trees, was a small town of perhaps a dozen older buildings. The sign on the road read “Craft, North Carolina.” There was a church and an old gas station, as well as several houses. The place might have been abandoned before everything went so terribly wrong as most of the houses had peeling paint and even the church looked worn out.

Manny pulled up by the gas pumps. The rain was letting up.

“Let’s get some food, guys,” she said.

She got out and started to examine the tire, quickly finding the low one.

“Oh!” Courtney said. “My daddy showed me how to fix a tire. I can help.”

Manny rolled her eyes but didn’t object. She got out the jack and working on replacing the tire. Courtney looked under the car for the spare while she told nonsensical stories about high school and college that vaguely had to do with cars.

* * *

Lindsay and Dr. Wolfgang went to the convenience store. The pumps didn’t appear to be work and were old, not even having credit card readers on them. The upper half of the front door was a window. While Dr. Wolfgang looked around for a rock or something to break it with, Lindsay smashed one of the panes with the butt of her shotgun. She reached in and worked the bolt.

The convenience store looked like it was probably in use in the last month or so. Unfortunately, several shelves that probably held bread and canned foods were bare. All that was left was snack food and candy bars. Someone had beat them to it for the actual healthy food. There was plenty of soda in the tall coolers towards the back of the store though there was no power. They would be warm. A door led to the back of the store.

* * *

John went to look at one of the houses that lined the street. All of them had peeling paint and appeared to be in pretty bad shape though the windows were intact. The front door of the first house he checked proved to be locked. He peeked into the window and could barely make out a living room through the partially drawn curtains. However, someone appeared to be lying on the couch. He decided to try the next house.

The curtains were open in the front of that house and he could see a neat little living room. An archway led to the back of the building and he guessed a kitchen might be there. He tried the front door and found it unlocked. It opened with a loud creak. There was a rotten smell in the house and it was terribly hot in the building. He could see the archway did lead to the kitchen. Two other doors were closed in the living room.

He went to the door to the left and cracked it open. The stench hit him and he closed the door again. The other door led to a small, neat bathroom. It was old with porcelain that had been kept clean probably for decades. Tiles covered the floor and walls and a bathtub sat in the back of the room on small, white feet. The sink and medicine cabinet were likewise quite old, the latter filled with some over the counter drugs and the like. He guessed a woman had lived in the house from the makeup he found. He took the aspirin and such.

He went to the other room. The smell was very bad like rotting meat. He saw someone lying on the bed. They were completely unmoving and there appeared to be a big stain near the person’s head. There was a small closet door and a dresser. He crept across the room to the closet and found some out-of-style woman’s clothing but little else. He thought he saw a moving shadow as he looked in the closet and spun around. No one was there. Perhaps it was the trees outside, blowing in the wind, casting their shadows into the room.

He nudged the form on the bed with his bat but it didn’t move. A pistol sat on the floor next to the bed. It looked very dark under the bed. He tapped the floor near the gun with his bat and, when nothing happened, he reached down and picked it up. It looked like a .38 revolver. He opened it up and found five bullets and a spent shell in the gun. He tucked it into his pocket.

The dresser had a mirror upon it and was filled with ladies clothes. A jewelry box was atop the dresser and he opened it and was amazed at the value of the jewelry within. He guessed the stones alone were probably worth thousands of dollars and he filled his pockets with everything in the box. He also found a box of .38 pistol rounds.

He finally went over and pulled the sheet off the body. The stain on the pillow and upper mattress was blood. The old woman appeared to have shot herself in the head with the gun he’d found. He was very disturbed by the terrible act and by the stink of the old woman.

He turned and left, hesitating at the door and looking back. He hadn’t looked under the bed. He leaned down and he could see a shadow there. He crept to the bed and used to his bat to sweep under it. He bumped it to one side and it appeared to be good-sized. Then a clown face fell into the light, grinning with empty, glassy eyes at the man. He jerked back and then smashed it with the bat. Something shattered under the bed and he looked again.

The face must have been made of some kind of china as it had shattered with the blow. The whole of the thing proved to be some kind of large clown doll, dressed in bright colors and with a brightly painted china head.

“Lady, what the hell were you into?” he said.

* * *

Dr. Wolfgang and Lindsay were disappointed to find no substantial food in the convenience store. There was just candy and melted ice cream and warm soda. However, they heard a scratching noise coming from the back of the store.

“Vhat vas that?” Dr. Wolfgang whispered.

He moved towards the back room and peeked in. There were several shelves filled with boxes of more candy and such, as well as a back door. A chest freezer stood against the back wall. Next to it was a large trapdoor, about the size of a normal door, in the floor. A bolt held it shut. The scratching seemed to be coming from there.

“Could be valuables,” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“I’m going to stand back,” Lindsay said. “If you want to open it, it’s on your ass.”

He tried to position himself to be behind the trapdoor but realized he wouldn’t be able to as it opened up so it could lean against the wall. He stood next to it and unbolted it and lifted it up. Kneeling on the steps that led down into the dark cellar was a man. His fingernails were cracked and torn, the ends of his fingers ripped and bloody. A wide hole was in the middle of his chest and he looked up and then lunged at Dr. Wolfgang with open mouth.

Lindsay put her shotgun to her shoulder and blasted the zombie in the head, blowing the man’s skull to pieces and spewing blood, brains, and bones all over Dr. Wolfgang, who had pulled his arm back to punch the zombie in the face. The body stumbled backwards and fell down the stairs, disappearing from sight. Dr. Wolfgang staggered back and bumped into the chest cooler, hurting his hip. He let out a shout.

* * *

John was getting ready to leave the house when he heard the shotgun blast.

“What hell was that?” he said to himself.

* * *

Manny scooped up her shotgun and ran into the building, followed closely by Courtney, who drew her machete. They saw Lindsay in the doorway and could smell the gun smoke. They stopped in the doorway behind the women.

“What happened?” Courtney said.

“What’s going on?” Manny said.

“Uh … he decided to open the cellar and there was a zombie down there,” Lindsay said.

She worked the action on the shotgun and a smoking shell flew out and clattered to the floor.

“Zhere could be supplies down zhere!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Oh!” Courtney said. “Well what was down there? Did y’all check it out?”

“No,” Lindsay said. “Dead zombie in the way right now, so …”

* * *

John left the house and glanced over towards the little gas station but there was no one out front at all. He turned and headed for the next house in the line. He found the front door unlocked so looked in through the window. Nothing moved within so he entered.

The house resembled the other one with a kitchen in the back and two bedrooms. What appeared to be one of the closets had been nailed shut with boards. That was unusual.

* * *

Manny left, heading back to the car to finish replacing the tire.

“Let’s go check out what’s down in the cellar,” Courtney said.

She pushed by Lindsay and headed down the stairs, pulling the flashlight from one of the many pockets on her pink camouflage clothing and shining it around. The steps were very steep and curved to the right. Killer was right behind her. The basement below appeared to be the same size as the building above, with bricks set into the foundation.

Dr. Wolfgang followed her down while Lindsay stopped at the top of the stairs.

The headless and now still corpse had fallen all the way down to the bottom of the stairs. The place smelled of rotten meat though it was not overpowering. Courtney’s light finally stopped on a little girl in a pretty white dress in the back corner of the room.

“Oh hey little─” Courtney said.

Killer started barking and growling.

“What is it, Killer?” Courtney said.

The little girl suddenly rushed towards her. Her dress was actually covered in blood. Dr. Wolfgang stepped forward and kicked the little girl, using his Tai Chi and slamming her in the face. The little girl stumbled backwards but stayed on her feet and moved forward again.

Lindsay took a few steps down the stairs and saw what was going on. She slung her shotgun over her shoulder and drew her Glock. Courtney hacked at the little zombie girl with her machete, cutting her right leg. The little girl didn’t make a sound but tried to bite her, her teeth coming together very close to Courtney’s midsection.

Lindsay headed down the stairs, aiming her Glock at the little girl, as Doctor Wolfgang tried to drop-kick the dead child in the face but landed short of the dead little girl with a scream.

“My hip!” he cried.

Killer barked and growled.

* * *

Manny heard Killer barking and picked up her shotgun for a second time, heading inside the gas station. She made it to the open trapdoor and thought she heard some kind of fight or scuffle going on below.

* * *

The little girl looked down at Dr. Wolfgang.

“Aha!” Courtney said.

She dropped her machete and slammed her fist into the little girl’s face. There was a snap as the girl’s nose broke and she stumbled back once again. Reddish black liquid squirted down out of her broken nose and onto her dress. The blood also sprayed the fallen Dr. Wolfgang.

“Ew!” Courtney cried.

The little girl opened her mouth and fell at Courtney’s feet, biting her in the left foot. Courtney screamed.

Lindsay fired at the little zombie but missed, the bullet smashing into the bricks behind the terrible little girl. Dr. Wolfgang kicked up and landed on his feet, coming down onto the little girl, landing on her neck. There was a terrible snap and the girl turned her head and glared at him, her neck obviously broken.

* * *

John heard screaming somewhere nearby and then heard the report of a pistol.

“They’ve got it in hand,” he said to himself. “They’re fine if they’re still shooting.”

* * *

“What’s going on?” Manny called from the top of the steps.

She went down a couple more steps and saw them clustered around a small, mostly white form on the floor.

“This ***** just bit me in the foot!” Courtney cried out.

Courtney slapped the little girl in the top of the head, causing it to flop to one side. The little girl put a hand on either side of her head and stood up between Dr. Wolfgang and Courtney. She opened her mouth and went for Courtney, holding her head in place, and bit at Courtney, tearing her clothes. Courtney cried out.

Lindsay moved for a better shot, firing at the little girl again. This time the bullet struck the little girl in the right hand, smashing the bones there. The little girl’s head flopped onto her shoulder. Dr. Wolfgang cried out and palm struck the little girl in the face, knocking her back against a protruding peg at exactly the right level. With a crunching noise, the little girl stopped moving, though she was held in place by the peg in the back of her skull.

Manny nodded and headed back to the car to finish with the tire.

“Dr. Wolfgang!” Courtney cried. “Look at my foot! What can we do?”

“Did her teeth pierce you or was it your shoe?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“I don’t know! You’re the doctor!”

He led her out of the cellar to the back room where there was more light. He sat her on the chest freezer and examined and cleaned the bite wound with alcohol and iodine. He wrapped it in gauze and gave the girl some of the antibiotics he’d gotten at the veterinarian in West Jefferson. The drugs were in a form of jelly that tasted like meat and was meant for dogs. He shoved the syringe without a needle into the girl’s mouth and pushed the plunger.

“Ew!” she cried.

“Pinch your nose!” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Thanks doc!” she said.

Courtney returned to the car as Manny lowered the jack. A doughnut tire was on one of the wheels.

* * *

John had searched the house but found nothing else of value or use. Only that nailed shut closet or whatever was there. He tapped on the door with the bat. He heard nothing. He looked more closely at the nails and found them driven in down to the head though he was unsure how long they were. He remembered Manny had a crowbar.

He left to check another house and spotted Manny just finishing up with car. When she touched the green goo from the plants, her hand started to go numb. She dropped the tire and wiped off her hand. He walked over to her.

* * *

Dr. Wolfgang returned to the basement with Courtney’s flashlight and looked around. Lindsay was still down there. It looked like the room was full of old junk and now he noticed the floor was simply dirt. There was nothing of real interest in the room and, at first, he thought the man might have gone into the basement with his daughter and shot himself. However, there was no sign of a shotgun, which had obviously been used at close range on the man at some point.

He was puzzled.

He examined the bodies and found no bite marks on either one of them. He decided to take samples Then he heard a strange noise from above.

* * *

Lindsay made the mistake of opening the chest freezer. The stench of the rotten meat within was overpowering and she bent over and violently vomited, the lid dropping back into place. She fled from the room, still vomiting, and ran out the front of the building.

* * *

“Is everything okay?” John said.

“Oh yeah,” Manny said. “It was just a little tiny zombie. Like a kid.”

Just then Lindsay ran out of the building, fell to one knee, and vomited onto the ground.

“Oh!” John said.

“Are you okay?” Manny said. “What’s wrong?”

Lindsay vomited again.

“She’s fine,” John said. “I found a door that was nailed shut. Do you still have your crowbar?”

“Yeah,” Manny said

It was tucked into her belt.

“Can I borrow it?” John said.

Manny said she’d go with him and they went to one of the houses.

* * *

Dr. Wolfgang had heard the puking and headed up. The stench was horrible and he immediately vomited, fleeing from the room towards the front of the building. He stopped at the door to the building and puked again.

“Ew, gross!” Courtney said. “What are you doing?”

Dr. Wolfgang got a few sample vials and covered his mouth and nose before heading back into the place.

* * *

Manny pulled out the boards holding the door shut. The hinges were on their side and when they opened the door, they saw steps going up, probably to some kind of attic. A dead man stood there and came at them. John panicked and punched the zombie in the face. The dead man stumbled back and Manny brought her crowbar down on the man, striking him in the head. Unfortunately, it was a glancing blow, merely knocking the man to one side. He stumbled but didn’t fall. Then the man lunged at Manny.

“Not again!” she screamed.

The man’s teeth snapped short of her face. She continued to scream.

* * *

The other three were all by the car when they heard a woman screaming.

“Vhat is it now?” Dr. Wolfgang said.

“Oh no!” Courtney said. “Mandy!”

Lindsay ran for the house, shotgun at ready. Dr. Wolfgang ran after her.

* * *

John swung his bat but only struck a glancing blow on the dead man’s arm. Manny dropped her crowbar and pulled her shotgun from her back. She shoved the barrel into the zombie’s mouth and blew the entire back of his head off. Blood and brain matter spewed everywhere as the man was flung backwards and crashed to the steep steps.

Lindsay and Dr. Wolfgang ran in a moment later. John and Manny climbed the steep steps and found an attic room that had been set up like a bunker. There was a cot and large bottles of water as well as tins of food, canned goods, bread and perishable food, most of which were moldy and rotten. There was still enough that was good to keep the five of them going for a week or two. It might even have been the food from the gas station across the street.

They loaded up the Honda Pilot with everything and headed off again.

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