Episode 4: Warning: Graphic Content
Four days later and it doesn't look like Brandi is coming back. Leo smoked a lot of nice weed but has gut rot from all that peanut butter his nagging sister left behind. Darn, the water pressure is going low and what’s coming out is an unpleasant brown.
He wonders how many others are still hiding in houses, waiting for the army or cops to come by and evacuate them to safety. How much longer can he stay here blindly hoping things start getting back to normal?
He had one of his vigorous dreams last night, too. Details off this one having mostly evaporated, it had something to do with Leo standing on the roof of a broken down car - or was it an old school boogie van? He was holding a bible in one hand and a machete with the other. He was in fine voice, perhaps a bit horse, preaching to what seemed liked over a dozen men and women, all on one knee and looking down, humbled by the dude's Orwellian authority. Tantalizing, but what's it supposed to mean? Those damn, weirdo dream of his!
And, how much longer will he be willing to read his sister's entertainment and gossip mags? Late in the afternoon, as he doodles with pen and pad on the kitchen table, he notices something. His name written boldly on a piece of paper stuck onto the fridge with a hula girl magnet. Holy crap, he didn't notice the note from his sister until now!
"Leo. I just know you're alive. Probably high somewhere. I tried calling you. We got mom. She's with us. She is so worried about you. We can't get a hold of Richard. We were going to go to the evacuation place in Vernon but our friend Pete got through and said it's really bad up there. He says the soldiers all took off. Don't go there. So many people died. We are going down Lenny's place at Mount Rainier. You've been there. It is safe there. Please go there. Put your skates on. Love you. Please come. Please stay alive."
Ha, ha, that is the nicest she's ever talked to him. This is nuts. What? His brother is missing? Sister and family gone down to Washington State, like Vance, to a cabin? Leo's been there but that was a few years ago. Now what? Think Leo, don't be stupid.
The night he doesn't go to bed stoned turns out to be gut-wrenching, his bones turning inside out in magnificent fright.
Inhuman moans outside finally compel him to grab that gun, clinging to it like it was the most important object in the universe. "Oh ....my....crap, look at that."
Dozens of those plague monsters, some barley walking and some strolling briskly, move past the house. The full moon makes it easy to see the horror show. All the while, Adagio in G minor keeps playing over and over in Leo's head.
The days of being the laid back dude are over, Leo. He doesn't want to die but how can he stay here? Is it still safe? If he leaves, he's dead, right? There's either sickening silence or a putrid symphony of aggressive corpses. God, there's now like a hundred of them out there, making those horrible sounds. Gurgling, groaning, and searching for raw meat.
He has to be quiet. He feels all alone, as if it's just him and those unholy flesh eating monsters left on Earth. Suddenly, a scratching sound at the back window.
No! He scurries there like a panicked mouse, sweating buckets, and gasps when he sees the silhouettes through the thin curtain of a dozen of those suckers shuffling around the back porch. Those things, plague monsters, continue to scratch at the window.
How did they get past the fence? Can they get in? The buggers really want in. His whole life he just wanted to be left alone but now more than ever that's not happening.
He stumbles his way to the bathroom and locks the door as if that’s some kind of shield.
Sitting against the door and clutching the shotgun, Leo doesn't know what to do. Kill himself? Screw that business! But he doesn't want to end up a snack. What is he going to do? This is for real, this planet is ending.
"The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer."
Then, the dedicated procrastinator hears something even more peculiar…….crazy weird! What sounds like the rolling thunder of high-performance motorbikes booms not too far away and fades just as quickly. Someone out there? Riding motorbikes? No matter, he can’t bring himself to get off that damn floor. He's stuck, left to ponder.
He needs to keep smoking his damn weed to smother an unwelcome awareness. Inside that awareness resides a humbling and disquieting reminder the universe has been calling but he never bothered answering.
While the flustered Leo is huddled in the bathroom, meanwhile, his sister and family are with a handful of other survivors, sitting around a campfire outside Lenny’s cabin at Mount Rainier. They made it but sadly along the way drove past several desperate people waving their arms for help.
Lenny tried some fishing earlier in the day but it’s obvious he didn’t know what he’s doing. They don’t want to talk about what may be happening to the outside world but are acutely aware their own food and water is getting a low. Hunting? They haven’t got a clue how to live off the land. Nobody has a gun except for a cousin whose small rifle looks more like a child’s toy.
Brandi’s stressed about what may have happened to her brothers, having a feeling that Richard is dead but Leo, always the lucky one, is still around. Her gut is usually right. From the woods the silence is cracked by a bizarre roar.
What the heck is that? The group stands and looks around when another weird, prolonged animal-type sound echoes through the blackness. That’s no animal! Brandi picks up and tightly holds onto her precocious four-year-old daughter who senses the inevitable.
It might not be a good idea if they stay but the cities are death zones.
What do they do? Lenny convinces the group they’ll be all right as long as they stick together and make enough noise to frighten off any wild animals. Within a couple of days they’re all devoured.
Day 15 at Brandi’s house: All right, now there's absolute certainty the politicians and generals won't be getting things back to normal. Leo, having a nice beard now, is starting to accept that power won't be restored and some newsman on TV will describe this crises in past tense. It's not even a crises because a crises implies there's a remote possibility things could get back to the way they were. Vance was right. What kind of screwed up world has this become?
And the brief hope Archie would come for him flickered out as well. Water pressure: Gone. Bottled water: Gone. Food: Almost out. And, to top it all off, a bloody heatwave is making the dump a pizza oven.
At least there's two warm cans of orange pop and plenty of marijuana. Now that's cruel: An air conditioning switch on the wall.
Shall we get into the vile stench? It's not just the bathroom being a stinky mess, but probably some kind of sewage back up seeping into the house.
Leo popped his head out the door a few days ago to get a whiff of the entire neighbourhood smelling foul.
He hasn't heard or seen any of the dreaded monsters since that terrible night, at least. Funny thing, he'd rather hear them than put up with this insane silence.
The sky still has that piss coloured tinge too. And what about these corpses walking around?
They used to be regular people with hopes and dreams, you know.
He never cared much for his self-centred brother, though, and that hasn't changed. The bigshot businessman who loved to flash his cash and expensive golf clubs isn't such a big shot anymore. He also wonders if the world simply reset itself. Wow, the hideous magnificence of it all!
Leo knows it's time to take the risk and put his skates on. Just get the hell out of this woebegone house. It's deplorable. He's dying. It's a coffin. Please stay alive.....ya, right.
That night he decides he'll venture out the following morning. Not long after he falls asleep on the couch, and fortunately into a deep slumber, a massive herd of dead, so big it would have blown the dude's mind, begins to shuffle past the house. It's as if some devilish force is directing them from beyond the grave.
Strangely, most in this decomposing army are quiet, very few making any deathly sounds. At the same time at the other end of the street, and heading toward the house, is a light beige motorhome carrying several survivors.
The driver halts and is astounded to see within the headlights the lethal spectacle a short distance away. The RV backs away, of course, drawing the herd out of the neighbourhood.
What the survivors don’t realize after they escape is that they have drawn the plague monsters right into another grim neighourhood where more survivors are hiding. This group is in a large house, a tacky, cheap-looking pink job.
A bickering married couple is trying to lay low with the woman’s wheelchair-bound elderly mum, but ruin things by arguing so loud that the herd focus their attention on the home and begin pounding on the front door and window.
The terrorized couple stop only for a few seconds before beginning to blame each other for bringing the hoard to their door.
The old lady, having already surrendered to her circumstances, becomes the voice of reason and offers them a way out, telling them to head out the back but leave her behind. She doesn’t like the idea of being monster bait but she also wants to end it all.
The couple at first are seemingly appalled at the suggestion but within a couple of minutes oblige. They wheel the paragon of integrity to the kitchen where they grab a duffle back stuffed with cash and head out the back door, leaving it wide open.
The old woman begins singing Fred Astaire’s The Way You Look Tonight and it doesn’t take long for the flesh eaters to be drawn into the dark kitchen to her perfect pitch.
Inside, amazingly, they stop for a few moments and seem to want to listen to the lovely tune, perhaps out of curiosity. But you know what happens next....something that's got to happen, something meant to happen.
A hulking plague monster with bubbling pustules decides to lunge forward and sink its yellow and black teeth into the top of her skull, which sounds like a juicy, crunchy apple. It’ll all be over very soon.
Story by Sandor Gyarmati
Comic art by Jess Soares (HouseofBlackArt.com)
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