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December 04, 2023

All-Nighter 05

By Lydia Manx

Episode Five


Back then ...

Once I'd given in to sleep it was like I'd flipped the switch off and I was out for the count. There weren't any haunting or frightening nightmares that I remembered, but deep nothingness that refreshed me. I woke to an empty bed and saw Dean sitting at the control desk. He was very busy staring at the screens that flickered between shots on the ones closest to him. I could see movements, and once I washed my face and finished the waking process, I left the small bathroom to see on what he was fixated on the various screens.

He barely registered me standing over him while he was busy typing on the keyboard, and I saw that one of the monitors was changing even faster than the other one he seemed to be using. Six monitors were live, and the two close to him were changing; the date and time stamps on the bottoms were of different slices in the past. I kept quiet as I watched what I'd missed while sleeping.

The militia had come inside. They didn't loot or even seem to do much but glance around and assess the situation in the house. Nobody pried open drawers or cupboards, but instead I watched as they found the owners and subsequently dragged their bodies outside, where another screen shot showed them being flamed into ash along with some other corpses that had been pulled from other nearby homes. Dean had turned the sound off, I gathered, since I knew from the previous day that there was sound capability on the feed. It was this bizarre footage that made my pulse quicken, and I watched in horror. The flame thrower did the same damage it'd done the day before, but I was ill at the thought that they were destroying bodies of beloved family members with little to no regard for any of their surviving kin. The scents were thankfully not floating inside, but it didn't stop me from recalling that horrific scent.

All in all, it was mind-blowingly horrible and there wasn't anything I could even do to stop it. It wasn't a live feed and they were all dead. If they hadn't been before they certainly were now. But that didn't seem to be what Dean was looking for in his toggling the computer monitors back and forth in time. Finally he groaned and froze the screen. I put my hand softly on his back and he didn't even jerk. It was then I saw a body curled around a smaller one. Dean did something with the computer and the screen switched to a closer view of the two remarkably unmolested forms.

My brain took a minute to process what was before me, then I gasped and asked, "Is that your Shelly?"

Sobbing, Dean said, "Yes, she was dragged out and kicked by those damned assholes. Another kid was tossed into her while she lay on the ground and as you can see she really tried to keep him safe while those jerks began stomping." I watched the kicking and found myself sickened by the brutality of the men.

While he was speaking, he had keyed in more commands with a speed I found mildly amazing, and I watched the woman and boy further brutally beaten then quite thoroughly torched. I wasn't sure why the men had decided the two deserved to die, but whatever made them pull the two into their web of hate, it was done. Nothing I saw made me think either of them were zombies, but it didn't matter, they both were dead while I slept.

That seemed to weigh heavily on Dean as he sobbed nearly without a sound. I backed off and let him compose himself. I fixed myself a cup of instant coffee that was surprisingly good, and began to look through breakfast options. There were boxes of dried meals but also many microwave dishes. There was a mini-fridge that was loaded with sodas, water, and mixers for the array of liquor stored. Obviously the dead owners rotated their supplies, because nothing was out of date and although there weren't any fresh veggies, the freezer section of the fridge had egg beaters, cheese and meats. It took me a bit of time, but I made a decent breakfast for Dean and me while I thought about our options. Once I had everything ready, I didn't bother to make him eat with me, but simply put down the meal and retreated to the bed where I ate from the dish on my lap.

He slowly ate the meal and finally said to me over his shoulder, "She's really dead."

I didn't see what I could say to that so I continued to eat. Without a word Dean finished the plate I'd made him. The silence stretched and we both kept our thoughts to ourselves. Once done, I picked up his plate and tossed it with mine in the trash compactor. Nothing we'd used was actually 'real' flatware or plates; the packages had said they were all biodegradable bits and pieces. Either made from paper or rice. Yeah, weird right? I'd read about it years ago but hadn't seen it. There were plates and bowls made from rice that were completely biodegradable and 'environmentally conscious'-created. Given how the dead homeowners had lived I found it oddly ironic that they were so into recycling and the environment. Who knew, huh?

Finally he spit out, "What do we do now, Lindy?"

And without hesitation I said, "Leave and fight another day." He nodded in agreement.

It took another three days for all the activity around the home to die down. And by that I mean literally. We stayed inside the panic room in luxury that I can hardly begin to describe. Dean was mourning his lost love, and I was plotting revenge. There wasn't anything I could combat, but I was angry while Dean was pretty damned depressed. The homeowners had loaded a ton of movies and music into the room, and I spent more than a few hours with earplugs in, watching various forms of amusement while Dean sulked and at times cried. I just want to get out of the damned town and back into the real world.

Once we didn't seen anyone human, or any of the assorted zombie-like creatures outside, we loaded up the goodies from the house into some large pieces of wheeled luggage and headed out slowly. We also raided a few other homes along the street, and eventually headed out of town in one of the best cars I found along the way. The keys weren't in the ignition, but I'd found them in the house of a neighbor, a neighbor that was long torched. I also took the time to find the spare set of keys, just in case Dean got wacky along the way. I'd picked up all my loot hidden in the pharmacy that we'd visited earlier in the week, adding a few more items I'd thought of during the three days spent in the panic room. During our exit out of town we'd fount that the mercenaries had opened up the actual pharmacy in their quest for zombies, without taking any of the drugs. Dean and I made use of the opportunity, and emptied out anything we thought could aid us in our travels. Dean wasn't nearly as ruthless as me, since he was still thinking as a pizza maker drugging the zombies. We loaded up the blue bins provided by the drug store for their deliveries, and all of the drugs and provisions were loaded into the SUV without much effort. I took the time to add in bottled water and other things I thought of as necessary. Dean was still deeply depressed, but I just wanted to get out of the town before zombies showed up.

Once locked and loaded, we headed out of town. Dean didn't much care where we were heading, but I figured I'd head to the town where I was supposed to be looking into purchasing some prime real estate for my company. I also wanted to phone 'home' to my office and find out what the hell was going on in the real estate world. I didn't know if the zombie invasion was local or worldwide. I wasn't worried about my commission so much as what the hell was actually happening. Dean was curled in a ball in the passenger seat for our travels. We didn't encounter any of the crazy-ass mercenaries on our trip, but I noticed that there was an odd lack of wilderness creatures along the journey. We pulled over to get gas and I didn't hear a single bird chirp or frog croak. It was like nature had abandoned us. That sent chills up and down my spine.

Once we drove into the town where I was supposed to have evaluated the real estate, I felt a flutter of fear. It wasn't right. I kept my trap shut because Dean was still shut down. I picked a hotel at random that had the Vacancy light on for new visitors, and checked in with cash. I didn't know if the militia had any idea of who'd been in the town, but I wasn't ready to take any stupid chances. I always figured better safe than sorry and the no-tell motel didn't much care. Hell, I faked a license plate for the car we'd stolen and it didn't even cause an eyebrow to be raised. Cash is king most places, and Dean wasn't giving a shit, so we went to the room we were given with two queen beds inside, all the while both of us keeping quiet. With Dean's state of being shut down, most of our journey had been in silence, but it gave me a chance to think.

Dean fell asleep in mere minutes despite his sleeping away most of our trip, and I was flat out on the queen bed in the dark, working over all that I knew in my mind. There weren't as many facts as I'd have liked, just some basic guesswork coupled with what we'd witnessed, but it was pretty damn clear that zombies were alive and well in West Virginia and I was horrified. Dean wasn't volunteering much to my meandering thoughts beyond vague grunts and sobs, so I knew that I needed to get a game plan together soon.

Eventually I stopped picturing the white lines of the road and my mind began to shut down to sleep. This time I did dream. Nightmares, if the truth be known. I woke up soaked in sweat sitting upright in my bed. Dean was standing by the window swaying. I couldn't hear anything, but he seemed to be moving to his own inner song, and I could see that he wasn't well in any way. With all the weapons we had, both in the room and the car, there shouldn't be anything that could easily harm us, but with how Dean was acting, I was beginning to think he might be more than a bit suicidal. Not good when being chased by zombies. And I wasn't even sure that we'd escaped them. There was something wrong about this town, but at least I hadn't seen any of the walking wounded.

"Dean, you okay?" Yeah, I know it was a stupid question, but I didn't like my odds if I startled him. He wasn't some huge dude, but still, I was pretty sure he could wallop me harder than I'd care for, and my ankle wasn't yet up to jumping around and dodging his ass.

"What? Oh, sorry, Lindy, I didn't mean to wake you." He didn't turn but spoke in a dull monotone that was less than reassuring.

"Not a problem, Dean." I hesitated before I asked softly, "Everything okay out there?"

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-02-29
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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