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May 27, 2024

All-Nighter 14

By Lydia Manx

Episode Fourteen


Back then...

Their snickering died down and we all looked at each other.

Sammy asked, "Why did you stop here, Lindy? I mean, like, didn't you notice it was deserted?"

"No, there was a lit vacancy sign and your buddy Emmett handing out keys for decent prices." I sounded a bit snippy and didn't bother to mention that I had been scheduled to visit and snap up land for pennies on the dime. The real estate market was extremely depressed here, and the bosses loved that there were so many opportunities available. Yeah, literally land sharks except that their teeth were brighter white thanks to bleaching and fake bake tans.

Groaning they both said, "Damn Emmett." I was starting to wonder at their fascination with this Emmett guy but wasn't going to ask.

We all fell silent then Dean asked, "What did you see?"

They looked at each other and Ginny said, "The town has been deserted by the locals, leaving the crazy folks and zombies. What was so confusing about that?"

She made Dean seem like an idiot for asking, but at the same time, she had said what she'd said and it had been pretty damn clear to me. He, on the other hand, was still firmly in denial, even with two more people confirming the obvious. I guess he wasn't finding any solace in his girlfriend Shelly's slaying instead of having her running around chewing at the marrow of her pals, since he was convinced that there had to be a cure for her illness. The flame throwers wielded by the mercenaries should have been a big ass clue, but he seemed to have found some explanation that he hadn't shared with me to date for that little incident.

Dean got an unpleasant look on his face then snapped out, "You're just some kid. It could've been like some drunk who'd fallen in the gutter after a bender." He shot me a glare just in case I'd forgotten my disheveled looks when I'd arrived at his pizza parlor filled with zombies that he'd been drugging since he'd hit that town. I stared right back because I hadn't been drunk, but pretty messed up from weather and falling in the muck during the rainy night.

It took me a second to identify the sound, but Ginny was snorting and laughing. I nearly thought she was having some sort of seizure from the odd sounds. Everyone looked at her waiting for an explanation.

She stopped and said, "I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia with more cousins and uncles than I could count that started their mornings with beer and cigarettes. For others it was hillbilly heroin or weed that was considered the breakfast of champions. I know from drunken, stoned fools. They had their cheeks torn off in a few cases -- like they'd woken up to find a friend snacking on their faces. One was missing half of his damn hand, and there wasn't blood pouring out -- it was simply wrapped with dirty rags, but half there. I mean, there was no way they were just idiots waking up from a week long bender."

Ginny crossed her arms across her chest and gave Dean a look that was pretty serious. She wasn't a weak-willed kid; she was already older than her years. Life had ground her kid edges down a bit. Sammy beamed at us like he'd personally raised her. Looking at them I didn't see any similar features, so I figured it was a safe bet they weren't brother and sister or even closely related, despite the claim of a shared grandma. There was more to that story, I was pretty sure. Even though they were so young, there was a definite sexual tension rolling off them. Spare me from adolescents falling in lust or like whatever they did these days. It was bad enough I was dragging Dean around with his dead girlfriend haunting his every moment -- waking or sleeping.

Waving my hand loosely over to Dean, indicating for him to sit back and relax. I asked, "So there are some nasty creatures here already and you've both seen them?"

"Yeah, they are ugly and scary. I've been keeping an eye on Ginny when I'm not going out to find more supplies. We haven't seen anyone that looks remotely human," Sammy answered, giving Dean a look that seemed to be daring the man to call him a liar.

Dean was being good at the moment, or sulking -- either way he kept it zipped, so I was happy.

"Okay, so did you guys hear any outside news in the past twenty-four hours?" I found I was missing the irritating background noise from TV.

It's amazing how much sound clutters the world and I'd only really noticed it in the past few days, with the lack of cars, radio, television and animals. Hell, I'd take a mosquito buzzing right about now. I didn't have any desire to go back to the sound of those bees, because I knew that wasn't normal and it made my skin crawl. I didn't think it was a good idea to give insects with hive mentalities any fear attractors to find. Not like there were a ton of flowers for those out-of-season bees to find nectar for making their honey.

"No. Can't get the radio to pick up any stations or on the TV. I think the mountain's been cut off from the rest of the known world, at least as near as I can figure." Sammy didn't sound paranoid, but like he was revealing a secret. From the dismayed expression that flew across Ginny's face, I figured he had been keeping that gem under wraps.

Hissing at him, "Sammy, why didn't you tell me?" she looked quite upset, while Dean was seriously tuning us out -- all of us. Seeing the line of his mouth, I didn't even try to catch his eyes. He wasn't ready to listen and anything we said that contradicted his personal belief of a 'bad illness' was going to be ignored at best.

"'Cause it was like, stupid. I thought maybe it was solar flares or whatever crap they usually say when anything happens here. I mean, Ginny, we are pretty much the punch line in most hick tales. You know that." He glared at me like I personally had made a joke on national TV. I hadn't made one on late night TV, but I could have admitted easily to a few snarky remarks at the office when sent here. Oh well, I was pretty sure I'd served my prison time for any bad behavior by now.

Ginny shook her head sadly and said, "You should've told me anyways." Nothing more needed to be said but she'd made her point. It was Sammy's turn to look away.

It was my turn to ask a question, "Why haven't you guys left already?"

"Nobody to take us. We only have a bike, and there aren't any keys in any of the cars I shop from in the parking lot." Sammy admitted.

"How far to the next town?"

"A good twenty miles and some, and all the close places were in red." Ginny offered.

"What's that mean?" I had no clue what the red indicated.

Sammy rolled his eyes, "That means the towns are like the one you just left." He pointedly looked over to Dean, not wanting to watch the guy finally go nuts hearing the word zombies again. Pretty good call on his part, but still, I hadn't known what it meant about a red place.

Taking pity on me, Ginny added, "The local news stations were telling everyone to lead immediately if they were living in the counties indicated in red on a map of West Virginia. Then they showed orange and yellow boxed out areas, advising folks to start packing. We weren't in red when we left Sammy's grandma's home, but by the time we got here it seemed that had changed or everyone just ran quickly." She took a deep breath and said, "There wasn't anybody to give us a lift out of town and the phones were off by the time we got to one."

I watched the two of them look away from me and each other at the phone comment. I decided to save asking them both about that while they were together. I knew there was a back story there, and I'd wait for the right moment. Ginny excused herself and went to the bathroom, taking one of the flashlights next to the box of what appeared to be toilet paper and paper towels. That really let me know that they were in it for the long haul. As I remembered the cold weather outside, I thought it was pretty smart.

"Sammy, did the news reporter say anything about a winter storm in the near future?" I asked softly, not wanting to watch Dean lose it. He was swaying slightly and I was pretty sure muttering beneath his breath. Not a good sign since he'd had more sleep than I'd had in days and nights.

Looking at me in amazement he asked, "How the hell did you know? You aren't from here."

"Duh, it doesn't mean I'm stupid." I put a bit of a snarl in my comment because I was starting to get sick of this attitude that if I wasn't from middle of Nowhere West Virginia I couldn't have a lick of sense. But then, thinking back on my entrance into this land of zombies, I had to admit I hadn't exactly planned for the great outdoors weather ... or the possibility of zombies. Damn 'in-and-out' trip my boss swore was going to happen wasn't even real. I knew better than trusting real estate bullshit, yet I fell for his.

Carefully considering me Sammy said, "Yeah, huge storm possible. They were going to let us know tomorrow from the last news we saw. So either we'll wake up to white snow or buckets of crappy dirty rain. It's still early in the year so it can go either way."

Looking at him and hearing Ginny still fussing in the bathroom, "So you had access to the phone a few days ago huh?"

His eyes flew wide and he looked at me like I was a witch or something.

"How the fuck -- I mean how do you know that?" Sammy kept looking at the bathroom as if Ginny was going to come out a zombie or something.

"You just told me." Yeah, I gloated a bit with that. "And?"

"I had nobody I wanted to talk to and Ginny didn't either. We didn't know that the phones were going to be dead in town until we got here." He spoke rapidly, obviously not wanting to be caught spilling the beans. Had to love the divide and conquer strategy, it really worked. Looking like I cared, I nodded and said, "Okay, we'll just keep that between us."

Sammy looked relieved and Ginny came out from the bathroom with a smile on her face and a flashlight in her hand. Dean was still in his own private Idaho. I didn't hold out much hope for his surviving our next encounter with the zombies.

It wasn't even late in the day, but I could feel the weather shifting.

"Sammy, is there any way that you can see outside and check what's going on from here?" I took a stab.

A sly look flashed across his face, and finally he revealed his biggest secret so far. There was a small screen tucked behind a box and to my stunned disbelief, he had rigged a camera that faced the street and was live feeding to the monitor.

"How the hell are you powering that?" I watched a leaf blow past the front of the store followed by suspiciously white flakes. It was snowing.

He said, "My cousin has a hardware store I've been going to and making sure we are safe." Nice way of saying stealing, but I liked the results. In real estate, I'd learned to be flexible in my judgment of others' ethics.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-05-09
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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