Episode 35: Warning: Graphic Content
Maple Leaf Zombies - For fans who enjoy free online zombie novels
To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.
Nothing can be truer, reflects our transformed man of action Leo McGregor, his muscles bulging thanks to the monastery’s gym. His eyes looking radioactive, and his face letting everyone know he's more than willing to go to-to-toe with anyone who wants to fill out their dance card, Leo's right fist seems permanently clenched these days.
He's fixated on killing Lillian himself, wrapping his powerful grip around her evil little throat and choking the life right out of her. He wants their eyes locked just as her last breath slips away into the cosmos.
As he looks over the machine gun that's been assigned to him, frustrated that the goofball Gareth has put in charge of the operation, the once righteous dude doesn't have time to wonder why his friend Fred would take off into the chaos of the wasteland. Nor does he have time to contemplate why several other recent newcomers decided to leave unexpectedly, apparently without saying a word.
Once Lillian dies, he'll leave the others and take a side trip to Seattle, get his Kate, then come back here and take this place, likely having to kill that freak cardinal in the process.
Something is wrong with him, something sinister, and something is seriously wrong with this place. He's not going to wait for the other shoe to drop. No siree, he’s going to put his shoe up their ass.
Some of these priests seem all right, but others who look extra cozy with the cardinal are acting a little too suspiciously. Fred saw this and tried to warn Leo. Did he decided it was no longer safe and escaped with his family or was it something else?
Leo tried to convince Fred to go along with a little plan for a coup d'état and maybe that was too much for Fred to handle. If it's someone to follow that these priest guys need, then why not Leo? None of this makes any sense, which is why it makes such perfect sense.
In a couple of hours they'll be rolling to the suburbs of Vancouver, to that courthouse for a surprise attack. They have the tactical advantage and will make full use of it. The woman will never have seen it coming. Problem is, what Leo doesn't know, just yet, is that there is a mission within the mission.
Another being like the cardinal, Lillian's husband, Thomas, is to be retrieved and brought back here. The cardinal also has plans to bring even more freaks to this place, as well plans for Leo, all part of a much bigger phantom scheme.
Seth and Michael join Leo in the armoury, both feeling a little tense every time they're around him lately. Leo had thrown them the same proposition he had given Fred and they couldn't believe they were seriously considering going along with it. Maybe it is time to take this place, both agree, also sensing all is not what is seems. But how many others feel the same way? Would they stand in the way of this connivance?
"You know, what you're asking, it's crazy. I mean, man, you gotta be outta your mind," Seth says. "I know something isn't right here, so do a couple of others, but you're talking about some big-time violence."
Leo smiles, "Come on, Seth, what's the worst that can happen?"
"We can get ourselves killed!" Michael interrupts.
"OK, what's the second worst thing?" chuckles Leo, cocking his gun while admitting his plan is crazy, which is why it's going to work.
"You know, we can try leaving, maybe further up into the Okanagan, maybe find a farm or ranch?" Michael suggests, knowing the idea is a non-starter. No matter where they go they'll likely come across the same dreary scene.
Outside they're greeted by Silent Dave and Sandlak, who will be part of the contingent of vehicles heading to the conflict. Leo tries to tune out Gareth who is busy barking orders. The light beige motorhome will be part of the convoy in the trip through the deadland.
Before Leo can get into the motorhome, however, a skittish Dale rushes to him, urgently informing that the cardinal wants to meet with him before they go.....very important….don't keep his eminence waiting.
As they walk to his living quarters, everyone seems fixated on what's happening, the only sound in the compound being Leo and Dale’s feet crunching the gravel walkway in this flawed utopia. Carrying his jean jacket with one hand and machine gun with the other, Leo finds it kind of funny they haven't been playing Greek music here lately. What in the hell does the blue-eyed albino want?
Dale paces outside the quarters nervously after Leo enters. A fine actor, the scruffy dude knows his role and plans to just nod like an idiot. The curtain is open, time to take his spot on centre stage.
It's dark in here, as usual, and in one corner of the room there's an old-school console TV with a VCR on top playing an episode of Fantasy Island, but the volume is turned off.
And there he is, seated comfortably in what looks like Archie Bunker's chair. Leo can barely make out the outline of the cardinal's enormous head as he takes a spot on the couch facing the strange figure. The cardinal seems morose and sympathetic, almost human.
"My son, you're looking so strong these days. I can’t tell you how happy I am that you've recovered. I prayed so much for you because......well, I foresee such an important future for you, for this place, this community. I know you'll return safe. There's so much we need to discuss, so much I'm ready to reveal now that you're ready."
Leo isn't sure what to make of this conversation. "Ummm, ya, thanks. It's all good. I appreciate you letting me stay here. Ummm, but it's time to start killing that woman and a lot of undead, while I'm at it."
"Aaah, but there's so much you're not telling me. You’re being here will have so much meaning, you can't hold anything back. I will tell you everything, but you must reveal your deepest self to me. It sounds a lot to take in, I know, but it will all be finally revealed," the cardinal assures. "But, my son, my brother and dearest friend, I have something that's so hard for me to tell you....."
WTF? OK, what's he got to say? Leo is a bit thrown off but is ready for an angle to come out of left field.
"My son....I, I can see things. You might think it's crazy, but you'll see, experience, soon enough what I can do. It's.....your children.....you have two boys, no?"
Now this has got the dude's attention. His back straightens and he lets out a gasp. What about his kids? What's he talking about?
"Your boys, I'm so sorry to tell you that they've been killed. Killed by bad people far away. Shot. They suffered. I know you hoped to see them one day, but I must tell you that they're gone. This is your family now, whatever you need. I'm here for you...care for you."
"What? What are you talking about? How do you know? What are you saying!" shouts Leo as he almost falls out of the sofa, his voice trembling. "How would you know this? How?"
The cardinal, his deep voice choking with emotion, tries to comfort Leo, getting out of his chair and standing next to the slumped dude. He puts his huge hand on Leo’s shoulder.
"Like I said, I am different now. You can be too. You will be. I don't know what this thing is I've become, it's god's will. But now I can see things, and see so clearly. I'm so sorry for what you've lost but you have this place now."
Leo can't breathe. The room momentarily spins. That fight or flight sensation comes back, but then, he's inexplicably calm. He's focused once more, convinced this freak is spewing prevarication.
Life was so good when he was numb, not having to deal with this kind of crap, but this is so much better. He holds the cardinal's hand and smiles, thanking him for his caring. All an act, a bizarre chess game, of course. If the cardinal is playing a game, he's already lost. Leo is no soft touch and the cardinal's divine prophecy is full of crap.
When Leo puts on his jean jacket and rejoins the others to get into the motorhome, nobody asks the nature of his conversation with the leader. Leo gets to drive and while he does, the cardinal's sleazy words twirl around and around his mind, like a pair of socks rapidly becoming separated in the washing machine, one disappearing forever.
What's that bugger trying to accomplish? He's lying, obviously, but Leo can't help but admit the savage brilliance of the cardinal’s scheme, making Leo believe he's lost everything but the cardinal will give him meaning and purpose. If the freak could somehow see Leo's little kids murdered in some place far away, then how could he not see what Leo has been up to right under his nose? Nice try.
The cardinal needs to die. Oh, and Leo will see his kids someday. Yup, there's providence but it won't be for our friend the cardinal.
The highway has a few abandoned cars the convoy has to navigate around but not a plague monster in sight. Leo and the armed contingent are making damn good time. After a while, Seth opens one of the drawers in the RV and pulls out a brown paper bag.
Inside, there's a nice bottle of homemade hooch. He shares it and a few laughs with Michael and even Silent Dave cracks a smile and takes swing or two. Also in the RV is Father Mel, a vacuous, skinny fellow who eagerly takes a drink as well. Sandlak, by the way, is in another car driven by Gareth. No loss, he probably wouldn't be drinking this stuff anyway.
Finally, Seth crouches next to Leo who's much too focused on driving. He pats the dude on the elbow and offers him the bottle. Leo may be off the pot but he's not one to turn down a nice stiff drink.
"Hey, you all right? What did the cardinal tell you? Did he spook you or something?" asks the cowboy priest.
"No, no, I'm fine. Couldn't be better, "answers Leo, looking back to see Mel dozing off. Lowering his voice, he then adds, "I'm grateful for my little chat with the cardinal. Now...now there's no doubt we have to do what we were talking about."
Seth sighs and nods, knowing things are going to get hairy.
“Ya, you’re right. Doesn’t mean I like it,” the cowboy responds.
Leo gives a warm smile, looking at the Seth momentarily before focusing on the road.
“So, what’s your story? I mean, you said you came from Calgary but were you a for-real cowboy? Did you see that movie Midnight Cowboy? Did ya hustle the ladies?
Seth shakes his head and laughs, admitting that he wasn’t a for-real cowboy but liked the look.
“No, I was just a nobody. Not a loser, mind you, just an average schnook. You know, wife, kids got sick, then tried to eat me. Made it out with a few others and along the way they all got picked off expect for me. What about you?
Leo smirks, “You can say the same about me. I didn’t realize I was a nobody until after all this happened. Funny, right?”
“You think things will get back to normal?” adds Seth.
“Nope,” replies the dude, shaking his head and not needing to go further with that response.
Seth then looks ahead and decides to answer Leo’s inquiry. “I used to be a barber. I cut hair. Yup. Still got my kit back at the mission. Maybe I’ll cut yours.”
The dude smiles and rubs his chin before pointing at the cowboy, "That's it, thought I knew what your voiced sounded like. It's like Morgan Freeman, gotta be."
As the parade of vehicles pass a cluster of empty houses on a hillside, the last house ends up not being so empty. A curious six-year-old boy peeks out the window to investigate the sound of vehicles.
His dad soon rushes into the living room to take a gander as well but they’re gone. Who were they? Were they from the monastery searching for him or somebody else?
By the way, guess what.....the dad is our scared rabbit Fred Hall, the one scurrying deep into the night after seeing a horror that still doesn't seem real. It looks like his note, his warning, to Leo never made it to the dude. Should he try to follow them? God, there’s literally nobody else around. It’s as if everyone else on the planet got flushed down the toilet.
Fred’s wife, Avril, joins him, accompanied by their two-year-old daughter. All four just stand there in the living room like idiots. No plan, almost no food, car almost out of gas, and, to top it off, the kids can’t stop whimpering. Avril tells the little ones to go to a bedroom where the previous occupants’ kids left a bunch of toys. The grownups need to talk strategy.
“If Leo didn’t get that message, then he’s dead now? Maybe they killed him already?” wonders Avril.
“No, no, he’s not dead. And they’re not all bad, just some of them. Just didn’t know who to bloody trust. I don’t know. Jesus, what I saw…..not human….the way he killed that woman!” explains Fred. “I can go out and scavenge for a while, but there’s got to me more people, got to!”
“Maybe we shouldn’t bother. We’re lucky we made it this far. It’s all been downhill and we’re near the bottom,” Avril replies, dejected.
Both look around the room, wondering who owned this place and why they left. It’s kind of old and dumpy but looks secure enough. The bottled water and handful of rice crackers Fred managed to snatch won’t last long. The former millionaire hockey star who had everything he could possibly want, whose life exceeded his hopes and dreams, doesn’t want to think suicide but is increasingly agreeing with his wife that they’re near the end. As long as his kids don’t suffer.
Then, the window breaks in the other room and both kids run out screaming, a terror no father should hear.
They run into their mothers arms as Fred grabs a shovel that had been left here. He runs into the other room to encounter a growling plague monster at the window, its eyes wild and hungry for meat. It's a dead woman with long dark hair, and wearing a bright orange leather jacket with a Canadian Football League emblem.
Suddenly, yet another surprise as the vile smelling thing at the window is decapitated by someone also outside, someone holding an axe and possessing nice technique. What the hell? The hockey star is too startled to grasp all this and runs back to the living room, finding himself face-to- face with two men, one holding a novelty sword and the other with a metal cane with one hand and holding a small hatchet with the other.
Huh? Where did they come from?
Also flabbergasted, Avril is seated on the couch, holding the kids tight.
“You, you bit? Where did you come from? Thought we cleared out this area?” says the man with the cane in a truculent tone. “What the hell you doing here? The dead are all over the place! You stupid or something?”
“I, I’m not. We were running away from this other place, needed a house to spend the night. Who are you?” counters Fred.
A youngish woman, wearing all black and sporting the axe covered in bloody muck, who finished the plague monster outside enters from the kitchen, telling everyone the place is now clear. Fred’s not sure whether to be relieved or fearful as he introduces himself and where they had just been, as well as the horror he had just seen. Hopefully these individuals aren’t scumbags looking to loot and kill.
“Holy Batman, you came from that monastery? You escaped? You saw that freak who’s running the place?” shouts the man with the cane. Yes, it’s Vic Lemay, beloved children’s entertainer and Canadian icon.
“Look, you guys, tell you what…you can stay here if you want or come with us. We got a camp not far from Vernon. We just moved ourselves out there. We’ve got enough room for you and your family. We know all about that monastery place. Our head honcho, Don, will want to talk to you, I know it.”
Vic then looks at Avril and gives her a creepy stare, raising his eyebrows, not minding at all that she’s uncomfortable and hoping her residency at their camp will give him a chance to get into her pants. Fred doesn’t see this, of course, as he’s still trying to ascertain whether these people can be trusted. What other choice is there?
“I know you! You’re Suitcase Vic, we see you on TV!” points one of the kids, a giant smile on her face. “I like your singing!”
Lemay seems frustrated at the recognition but gives a quick, polite nod to acknowledge the runt.
“You’re Vic Lemay, oh thank god!” Avril says, exhilarated, for a moment forgetting the fact he had just been eyeballing her up and down.
“Wait, wait, you’re near Vernon? Is the military base they set up there? That safe camp?” Fred asks, hopeful. “When things started going really bad, that’s the one safe place that was left!”
Lemay’s comrades look at each other with sullen expressions before he breaks the news to the family.
“You are an idiot. If you would have went in there, you’d be dead now. You, your hot wife and these two rug rats of yours….dead. It’s fallen. It’s crawling with those corpses. Only reason we’re camped out close is because we got a secure spot and it’s the last place those monastery freaks would come looking for us. Come on, let’s just go.”
So, Vernon is gone? At least Hall has a chance to save his family with this new group, but he can tell something is off with this Vic guy. Well, at least they have somewhere to go for now, but something will be hitting the fan soon.
Meanwhile, a dead (excuse the pun) main street of a small town not too far away is being rocked by the deafening boom of high-powered hunting rifle fire. From behind a broken down car covered in grime, four disheveled, hungry men wearing ill-fitting overcoats are blasting away at several of Head Snapper’s hot biker chicks who are using pistols to return fire from behind another vehicle.
Seems these two groups met by chance and immediately cast aside all pleasantries. His group impervious to emotionalism, Head Snapper plays it cool as usual as he sneaks up on the men from behind and throws a beautifully lit Molotov cocktail. In an instant the grubby quartet are engulfed in fire and scream. There’s no time for the biker to admire his maneuver as several dozen decomposing corpse things emerge from some of the forlorn businesses and head straight to the commotion.