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Zombie Me: Patchwork and Pieces

Chapter 1: Part 1, Litany of Rot

Chapter 1: Part 2, Shattered

Chapter 1: Part 3, Growling with Hunger

Chapter 1: Part 4, Vion Rising

Chapter 1: Part 5, Stand Off

Chapter 1: Part 6, The Call

Chapter 1: Part 7, Free Association

Chapter 1: Part 8, First Taste

Chapter 1: Part 9, Bert and Ernie

Chapter 1: Part 10, Starting to Rain

Chapter 2: Part 1, "Me!"

Chapter 2: Part 2, C.A.B.L.E.T.V.

Chapter 2: Part 3, Raining

Chapter 2: Part 4, Sheltered Hunger

Chapter 2: Part 5, Clouded Eye Open

New short story "The Awakening"

Chapter 2: Part 6, Everything Yet Nothing

Chapter 2: Part 7, The Cheshire Smile

Chapter 2: Part 8, Cacophony of Fists

Chapter 2: Part 9, Still Born

Chapter 2: Part 10, Empty Nest

Chapter 3: Part 1, False Rescue, Hidden Hope

Chapter 3: Part 2, The Process

Review of Brainchild... A collection of Artifacts

Chapter 3: Part 3, Psuedo Life

Chapter 3: Part 4, Wayward Derelicts

Chapter 3: Part 5, The Cleaners

Chapter 3: Part 6 The Corridor

Chapter 3: Part 7, Echoes of Death

Chapter 3: Part 8, The Road Kill Machine

Chapter 3: Part 9, Fixed Lividity

New short story "Alone in the Woods"

Chapter 3: Part 10, Fire Within

Chapter 4: Part 1, Eye of the Beholder

Chapter 4: Part 2, Home

New - Character Sketches

Chapter 4: Part 3, Dead Inside

Chapter 4: Part 4, Dead Soldiers

Chapter 4: Part 5, Kill Switch

Chapter 4: Part 6, The Call Part 2

Chapter 4: Part 7, The Key

Chapter 4: Part 8, Reunion

Chapter 4: Part 9, Unleashed


2006/12/01

Alone in the Woods

Note from the Author: Well here is the newest story. I am currently working on the final chapter for part 3 and hope to have it soon. Sorry for the delay but as many of you already know I have become a dad for the second time, and I sorely misjudged the amount of time infants require. Well, let me know what you think. I hope you like it! - William Zedalis


I used to go on long walks to clear my thoughts and get some exercise. After a week of hectically racing around with everyone to get to and from work I need to unwind with a good hike among the trees. The hilly terrain behind my house provided a great workout where I could escape from reality, at least temporarily. I guess you could say that alone in the woods is where I would go to find myself, that is until something found me.

It had been on one of these spiritual retreats when I noted an odd smell as I passed by a small ravine. It seemed to be coming from a dark thicket of thorny bushes, the kind that every child seems to get tangled in at least once in their life. Thinking that I had come across some poor animal's final resting place I continued on without a second thought of what lay hidden in that darkness.

Everything had gone silent as the woods took on a hauntingly serene state. Even the crows which seem to populate every nook of northern New England real estate were gone. I moved on in silence, the only sound was the crunch of forest debris under foot. It was finally the sound of a heavier footfall which pulled my attention back towards the briar patch. It had ceased when I stopped to listen. Through the thick foliage I caught glimpses of a dark form. Its slow lumbering motions were obscured by the remains of fallen trees. At first I thought that it might be an injured dear whose wounds had become gangrenous. Though I couldn't see it fully the smell it gave off was obscene, and the sounds it made scared me to the very foundation of my soul.

Afraid to face the unknown I chose to cut my trek short and head back the four miles or so to my house. I continued looking over my shoulder to be sure that whatever it was hiding in that thicket hadn't by chance decided to follow me. An hour later the white siding of my house winked at me through thinning trees in the fading daylight. I shook of the evening chill with a glass of whisky and tried to put the ordeal behind me...

The week rolled on as days blurred into each other, they often due when boredom creeps into daily existence. I sat on the train and commuted with faceless bodies. We all went onto the daily grind bumping into each other without apologies. Our eyes darted away from each other fearing contact and yet secretly longing for it. In the end we pretend not to notice because there was no time for such niceties. I longed for the solitude of my office but when I got there I would sit and watch the walls as they seemed to close in a little more each day.

I had all but forgotten the whole encounter until once again I felt the need to be outside under the naked sky, so I made my way home through mindless hordes of citizens that littered the subway. They shuffled to and fro aimlessly going about their business, eating, defecating and replicating chaos. Small clusters of them congregated and I tried to pay no attention to their wordless conversations as they moaned about their woes. I couldn’t escape from this reality fast enough.

An hour and a half later I could see the sanctity of my car through the scratched Plexiglas of the commuter rail window. The sun shone brightly down upon its metallic paint and my eyes winced slightly as they adjusted from the darkness of the rail car. Shortly I would be home, secluded away from the rest of the world, planning my next escape into the woods.

I sat in my living room with a glass of whiskey and went over my gear. It was all there, the walking stick that I had crafted when I was a child, a pair of rock climbing shoes (not typical for hiking but perfect for the steep granite terrain I would encounter), a map with a glow in the dark compass (not really needed, but helpful if it became too dark to navigate by landmarks), a field scope, trail mix with Wild Bill beef jerky, a six inch hunting knife, two twenty four ounce bottles of Poland springs water, and last but certainly not least, the newest addition, a Colt 45 standard army issue semi-automatic (for piece of mind). It was all there, I would leave at dawn...

I awoke slightly before sunrise and shook of the remnants of the whiskey from the previous night. Excitement and curiosity rose to the surface as I smiled packing the final amenities into my day pack.

My body breached the border of the forest and broke into the darkness as the sun brimmed from the east. I headed west up an old ox path that would carry me the first quarter of a mile into the forest. From there I cut north up the first of two granite gullies which had been a runoff for a larger body of water that had long ago dried up. Climbing up the steep sides of the gully the view before me opened up into a newer section of the forest. A large fire had decimated approximately one hundred acres of tree land a century earlier and now this area had a less congested feel to it. All the trees had a thin and tall appearance which gave one the impression of being very small. Walking through this was easy and quite enjoyable. It had teamed with dear due to the openness and far sightlines. Hunters liked it for the same reasons, but hunting here had been poor this year. The locals felt that something had spooked the deer and some had gone so far as to say that the forest was haunted. I had seen the effects long before I had heard the reports from my friends at the local rod and gun club. Not only had the deer been spooked but every other woodland creature for miles seemed to be lying low.

I hastened my pace through the sparse forest and kicked up leaves as I went to comfort myself with their rustling sounds. After about forty minutes the vegetation thickened and soon brush clawed at me as the older forest fought to keep me from penetrating her dark heart. I paused for a moment, marked my location on the map and banded the largest tree in the area with biodegradable neon tape. Sipping quickly from my water I moved on driven by the knowledge that my destination was only a mile and a half ahead of me.

Reaching the ravine where I had been a week earlier I noted nothing unusual, and soon I spied the copse where I had previously sensed the presence. Carefully pushing through the brambles I pressed into its center but stopped just short of its nucleus. A smell of decay drifted towards me from a body that lay motionless surrounded in a ring of autumn foliage. Two black holes stared up at me from beyond death, my assumption had been right. What lay there before me was, or what had been, a deer which was now well on its way to rot.

Slightly disappointed I started to back my way out when I noticed that it looked as if something had been recently feeding on the carcass. In fact it seemed that it hadn’t gone there to die but had been killed and dragged there. With my curiosity peaking I moved in for a closer look. The torso of the deer had been torn open and most of its roping intestines were pulled out like some macabre art project. Most of the musculature in its lower body had been eaten away. Only until its back and neck did it start to resemble a deer as its prior living form was fleshed out. It seemed that whatever had done this had need only for the vibrant muscle of the deer as the fur on its neck and head was fully intact. Its pelt still retained the teddy bear softness that it wore in life. I realized morbidly that I had been absentmindedly stroking its neck. As I pulled my hand away its eyes rolled up at me. For a moment I thought that I had imagined it but then its dark rotting lips pulled back in an unnatural grimace.

Shocked I stumbled backwards as thorns grabbed at my clothes. I continued pushing backwards as brambles slashed at my cheeks and hands. The image of a partially devoured half deer unsuccessfully trying to sit up propelled me faster. I tore through the woods even as the forest tore back at me.

Breaking free of the thicket I started to pick up speed and turn, as I did I was confronted with the intractable image of a large Oak. The crack of my head hitting its rough bark was the last sound I heard as I blacked out.

Broken images collided with rationality upon the mired surface of my unconsciousness. I was once again on the commuter rail heading towards Boston. I wasn’t going to work though, for in my hand I held an invitation which stated in blood red letters “Come One Come All to the Greatest Show in Hell” a macabre footer blankly stated “Your Life, a Reckoning.” The once comfortable imitation leather seating had been replaced with rusted steal grating that bit painfully at awkward angles. Dangerous gaps in the floor exposed rotting tracks as they raced below. I pulled my gaze from the danger below and tried to take in more of my surroundings. Whatever windows there were intact framed a blasted landscape in shattered spider webs.

The floor was slick with a dark oily fluid which seemed to bleed from every seam in the cracked decking. I found my footing treacherous as the cabin listed precariously from side to side. There were others beside myself in the rail car but they sat oblivious in death to the dreadful sway of the train. Their bodies rested motionless except for the limp lolling of a few heads as they rocked in unison with the train.

I made my way through what seemed miles of cars and at each juncture I was assaulted with a searing heat which cracked and blistered my skin. As I reached the front car I stared in horror at the terrible locomotion which drove us deeper into oblivion. In front of me, in a twisted parody of a childhood image, was a sleigh being pulled by ten rotting reindeer. Their barbed wire reins lay in an empty seat as they rushed onward uncontrolled and unrestrained. I wanted to stop this madness, to stop the inevitable train wreck.

I awoke with the bite of the reins still fresh on my nerves. My eyes opened to take in a starless sky obscured by branches which seemed to be reaching down at me. My back was tight from the stony ground that drained all the warmth from my body. I sat up and shook off the concussion which threatened to pull me back into unconsciousness. Then my prior situation came back to me as a rustling from behind called me to action. I grabbed my pack and hoped I was headed in the right direction as I quickly made my retreat. It felt as if I ran for hours before I saw the glowing marker of the tree which I had banded earlier. It lay ahead like beacon of hope.

It was a hope which quickly diminished as my pace was mirrored by another sound. It was the breaking of branches from a creature uncaring of the ever-present thorns. My mind raced faster than my legs below me. It can’t be the deer, could it? Then I pieced the rustling behind me and the half eaten immobile deer. The thing which followed me had trapped and killed the deer and now it hunted me. My frantic pace threatened to burst my heart as it alternated between pushing and pulling blood through my weakening frame.

I could finally hear the creature falling farther behind as I easily made my way down the rocky gulley into the sparse forest. By the time I reached my house only silence followed me. I opened the door and quickly realized that the heat hadn’t come and a chilled darkness had sunk deep into the house. I tried the lights and came to the conclusion that the power must’ve been out for at least a few hours. It didn’t matter, I was home. Crawling into my bed I closed my eyes and fell fast into a dreamless sleep.

The early morning light drifted through a fog laden sky and entered my bedroom from a partially pulled curtain. The room swam as my head reminded me of my concussion. I slowly sat and noted that the power was still out. “Damn!” no coffee this morning. In the bathroom my frustration was compounded by a trickle of water which bled from the faucet from a loss of pressure. I went into the living room and picked up the phone to call the utility company and hung up bewildered at the lack of tone. The last time the power and phone was down had been during a blizzard ten years earlier. The weather, although not spectacular, had been OK the last few days.

Outside the front window the fog had grown thicker and now obscured the view of the street. What was going on? I needed answers. In the driveway my car lay under a thick blanket of leaves. It seemed as if the whole forest had decided to drop their fading adornment in one grand gesture of contempt at the indolent weather. A flat black gave no reflection from my car as I cleared off the damp leaves, its once lustrous paint job now swallowed what little light there was. I wore my confusion unadulterated on my face as I mouthed wordless curses. My restored GTO had an aged, broken look to it. The engine, which I spent years getting to purr, now screamed to life as loosened fan belts squealed in anger. Finally the engine reluctantly turned over. I threw my day pack in the passenger seat, closed my door, and headed out.

The once smooth ride to town was now a porcelain tapestry of cracks and frost heaves. Some of these, inches in width and yards long, threatened a blow out at each jarring impact. The streets seemed long forgotten by a ghost road crew. Somehow the world around me had aged and gone dormant while I had been in the forest. The realization that the rolling fog might hide more unknown liver spots of this decaying world only made me feel more uneasy. What else could be out there? What could have done this? Then the nightmare I experienced while unconscious came back to me in stark clarity. My mind turned through its meaning and always ended colliding with the phrase “Come One Come All to the Greatest Show in Hell. Your Life, a Reckoning.” I shivered with fear.

As I neared the outskirts of town I could see movement within the pillowing grey mist. At first I saw the shadow of a dog darting into an alley and then a man within a doorway. As soon as I turned towards them they retreated further into the monotone obscurity. Reluctantly I continued on towards the center of town. I had no way of knowing what waited for me there. The one thing which I knew, was that at the heart of the town was the rail yard. I turned onto the road, mockingly named Hope Street, which housed the final rail station of the purple line. I could begin to see the entrance of the parking lot and as I closed in I could make out a few derelict cars that littered the otherwise abandoned pavement. I pulled alongside one of these, grabbed my day pack, exited my vehicle and headed out to explore.

Sitting on the tracks was the train. In a scorched parody of life its purpled metal was now charred black and a light smoke still drifted from its surface. As I approached I could feel it smoldering with a dark life, the heat of which barred entrance. A deep moan reverberated through its structure as the machine seethed with thermal differences. I walked slowly by the passenger car and repressed a feeling of deja-vu as blackened corpses stared sightlessly at me through its broken windows.

Another groan from the train caught my attention, it was different this time, and it had movement to it. As I turned my heart began to sink further into the pit of my roiling stomach. Scattered among the abandoned cars were a growing number of people moving slowly in random directions as if sleep walking. They reminded me of the scattered searching of ants after stepping on the entrance to their hole. It was then that the train let out another rolling growl of hot twisting metal that the crowd gained direction and moved ever faster towards the locomotive. At first it appeared that they were heading to the train in some macabre reenactment of boarding, but as they approached I could see them turning towards me.

The first of these wayward passengers was closing in on me and I could see it was a woman wearing a tattered dress. It was ripped all the way from its hem to an exposed breast which swayed unpleasantly as she staggered drunkenly. Uncaring of her nakedness she lifted her head and grinned childishly at me through blackened teeth. Her eyes stared vacantly at me, with no recognition of humanity at all in them. As she came into arms reach these eyes now narrowed and the childish grin turned into a contortion of rage and something else, was it hunger? I didn’t have time to tell as she quickly clawed at me with jagged nails and snapped her teeth as if intending to bite. Yes, yes it was hunger! I grabbed her outstretched hand and used her forward momentum to pull her to the ground. Unfazed she rolled on the boarding platform and swiped at my feet. By now others were beginning to gather. I retreated to the front of the train, but not before I saw who followed. Among the nameless bloodied faces was a conductor whom I knew. He was barely recognizable through a mask of deep scratches. One of his eyes bulged unblinking from a lidless socket. His conductors cap sat ridiculously cocked to one side. I pulled my Colt out of my day pack and fired into the air hoping to startle them back. Seeing no effect I fired indiscriminately into the crowd. They continued moving in union without the slightest hesitation. Whatever these people were, they were no longer human.

They came at me faster and faster. This dead world began to swallow me as I looked for an escape which wasn’t there. A new phrase entered my mind following its nightmare companion “Come One Come All to the Greatest Show in Hell. Your Life, a Reckoning.” It was one which kids repeat in the shadows of playgrounds. One used when coping with the futility of loss. If you can’t beat’em, join’em! It was then that I stopped running, put the Colt to my temple and pulled the trigger, Click!... it was empty. My mind reeled as I stared at the twisting tracks which led to Boston. This nightmare began while I was alone in the woods and now it seemed destined to finish alone in a concrete jungle. I closed my eyes and prayed for it all to end...

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a real "creeper". I have always had a phobia about being way out in the woods like that. Even when I used to go squirrel hunting with my husband in the local woods around home, it would creep me out when we were so far in that you couldn't hear traffic or other sounds of "civilization" around us.

I like the way you left us guessing about the time line from when he went unconcious, to when he found life as he knew it.....gone. It kinda gave you that feeling like the "last man on earth" movies give.

If only he had had one more bullet.....

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Linda

5:14 PM  

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