FLESH

The sound of children screaming told Lydia her timing was on point. Screaming meant they were alive.

She stepped into the open back door, Zombies were hardly known for their manners. First, she found herself in a musty kitchen then quickly made her way to the derelict staircase. With her gun in one hand and sword in the other she quickly reached the second floor and peered down the hall where the sludge marks on the carpet told her they’d headed. Well that and the screaming of course. 

Three flesh eaters were banging a broom handle up into the attic hatch. They’d actually managed to poke a few holes in it too. Lydia took a deep breath, she knew as soon as she made the first kill she’d be on the clock. Flesh-eaters might wander about in small packs, but they flocked by the hundreds when they sensed one of their own being tortured. You couldn’t say dying, because, well, they never really died. 

Lydia set the timer on her watch. Five minutes. Once the five was up, well, things could go bad. Without another blink she pushed the start button and crept up in behind and beheaded the first one and then the next. The tall one she shot in the knee and when it landed, she beheaded that one just the same. 

“Children, come out, NOW!” she yelled at the hatch. 

The tiny door quickly disappeared and children began piling out. So many and all so young. They just kept coming. She looked at one of the older ones, a girl about the age of eight,  ”How many?” 

The girl raised her chin slightly “Nine. We lost one on the way.” For some reason children couldn’t survive a zombie bite, they just died outright. Just as well, thought Lydia. 

A small boy tugged at her shirt and screamed, “Go now! Now! Now!” He was right. 

No sooner had she piled them all up into the Hummer when the street began to ooze with the flesh-eaters. Her alarm sounded. Shit. She slammed the huge vehicle into reverse. She could have driven forward of course but it would’ve mucked up the windshield. “Huddle down!” she told the kids. They did. The littlest ones whimpered every time they heard a wet smack slam into the back bumper. 

Once Lydia had ploughed over a long pile of them, the crowd began to thin out. She was finally at the outside edges of the swarm. She threw the truck into drive and took off for the desert. It was the only place left the flesh-eaters didn’t seem to want to hang out in. And who could blame them. Humans didn’t want to live out there either, not above ground anyways. The Apocalypse had destroyed more than anyone could ever have imagined. 

The drive across the desert was very long, and very hot. It was a miracle they’d found a working vehicle, but one with air conditioning would have been too much to hope for. The need to stop and re-fuel the beast from cans buried along the way sapped Lydia’s energy. Just breathing was sweaty work let alone digging up fuel cans. This was always the worst part of any mission. She’d take slaying deaders over this hell drive any day. 

“How’s everyone doing?” she yelled over the roar of the engine. “We’re nearly there now!”

No one responded. They were all too hot. The littlest ones were being cared for by the older ones who were busily grabbing water and frozen cloths from the tiny cooler bin. Even still, by the time they got where they needed to go they’d need immediate care, all of them. 

Hours passed. The cooler long since bone dry until finally the double-armed cacti she was looking for came into sight. Lydia eased back the gears and stopped shy of it. She looked around just to be sure then climbed out and tipped the cacti over to expose one of the many secret hatches to the underground. Her sister, Ruthie, shouted up from the depths, “We’re ready for them, drop ‘em down!” 

One by one, Lydia carried each half-awake half-limp child over to the hatch and dropped them down into the black hole where a med team awaited their arrival. 

Not surprisingly, the last one to get out was the girl who’d raised her chin to Lydia. She was clearly a fighter, even at her weakest. 

“What’s your name kid?” asked Lydia. 

“Diana, just like the hunting goddess.” She said proudly. 

As Lydia reached to lift her down to the ground, something grabbed at her ankle. She shoved Diana back into the truck and slammed the door before looking down, knowing it was too late anyways; the flesh eater had already sunk its sharp teeth deep into her calf. She  took a shaky breath and her sister called out to her. 

“Everything okay up there? The kids say there should be one more?” 

Lydia cried out as the thing tore the chunk of flesh from her leg. It only hurt badly for a moment before it started to feel numb. She grabbed hold of the living corpse and dragged it out from under the truck. How could she, her of all people, have been so stupid not to check the undercarriage for stragglers first?

Ruthie’s head popped up out of the hole quickly followed by her shoulder and a shotgun.

“No Ruthie!!!! Don’t shoot!” gasped Lydia, growing greyer by the second as she tried her best to out muscle the writhing half torso. The little girl, Diana, popped down out of the car and ran over to the hatch. When Lydia had a tight grip on the beast and it was restrained Diana looked her straight in the eye. 

“I’m going to be the new you. Only I’m going to kill them all. I’m going to get revenge.” And with that she dropped out of sight down the hatch. 

Ruthie and Lydia couldn’t help but share a tight grin as Ruthie helped her chuck the deader into the lockup crate. Together they tied it off up on the roof of the Hummer. No easy feat. 

“Lydster, I – “, began Ruthie.

“ – don’t say it sis. It is what it is now. I’ll drop fang-face here into the gorge then double back and leave the truck in the location of the second drop. Send Tom too get it. I – well, I’ll be waiting for him there okay?” 

The sisters embraced each other and let their tears fill in the gaps that words could never do. 

Lydia pulled back first. “Gotta hit the road sis, not much time left now.” 

Ruthie cried harder, but nonetheless she headed toward the hatch and with a final look of anguish, dropped out of sight. Lydia closed the cacti hatch and limped a sweaty blood stained path back up into the truck. 

She drove off toward the gorge, pulled the old black revolver out of the glove box, and placed it gently in her lap. She’d known the risks when she decided to become a Runner and she understood that the only ones who could hope to save humankind we’re children. They would have years ahead of them to study and build on the science already begun in the hopes of finding ways in which to abolish the creatures. 

The inscription on the gun was familiar but today, as the dead feeling in her left calve rose up to her thigh, it held more meaning than ever before. 

“Choose your afterlife.”  

Lydia knew what hers was going to be.

        _____________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Ink Babes welcome you into a realm of deliciously dark places in the upcoming anthology,

Coming Soon……. BLEEDING INK – a collection of Dark Tales

Ever Yours,

The Ink Babes

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Bloody Heat

Sweat rolls off my brow, stinging my eyes as I look out the window wondering how we’d gone from wearing parkas to donning swim trunks overnight.

I adjust the temperature of the air conditioner hoping for a glacial blast, but the thing is ancient and has seen better days. I give the unit a kick and a piece of my mind, and then a smack for good measure.

“Bloody heat!” The unseasonable weather is getting to me and when I overheat I get hot under the collar. It doesn’t take long before my inner thermometer bursts, letting the beast out. I can’t be responsible for anything when that happens. I see red. It blinds my conscience and wipes out my memories. Same thing used to happen to my lousy excuse for a father. I guess it’s hereditary—or maybe learned behavior—I don’t know, but I have no control over it. 

I unbutton my shirt as I walk over to the freezer to get some ice to cool me down but all I find is an empty tray. “Shit!”  I slam the door and open the fridge.  A lonely beer sits in the middle of the shelf. I’m parched, so I pop it and guzzle.  The cheap brew fizzes right up my nose. I swallow hard and shake my head.

A flash of red assaults all my senses.  Blood.

I smell it, taste it, and feel it ooze through my fingers. I look down.  I’m standing in a sticky crimson pool of it.  I step backward, trying to blink away the image. In a second, it all disappears.

“Oh my God.” Beads of perspiration trickle down my face as I pant like I’ve just run a couple of laps.

“What lad, you don’t like the view?”

I swing around. A small, wiry man is standing in the doorway of my living room.

“Who the hell are you?” I shout. “And how’d you get in here?”

“Well now, is that any way to treat a neighbor, Max?” he says, a snaky smile creeping up on his face. “I’m just being hospitable.”

“What are you talking about?” The intruder’s got wild eyes under his bushy ginger brows.  His skin is tawny and lined with age, like an old leather bag.  Unruly hair sprouts from the top of his head, in various shades of ginger and gray.  It’s sweltering but he’s dressed like Paul Bunyan.  The freak gives me the creeps. “How do you know my name?”

“I know lots.” He winks at me. “I’m here to show you around. The boss…asked me to.”

“Show me around? I know everything there is to know about this town. I grew up here.”

“Is that right?” he says, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets. “Have you taken a good look around? You might notice things are… a little different.”

“Enough with the smartass grin. The only thing different around here is you. You’re no neighbor.”  I throw the beer can in aggravation. What’s left of my beer explodes against the wall. “Get out.”

“Ooh, calm down, calm down. No need to get your knickers in a knot. I’m here to help you with the transition. Easy you into your fated future.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down,” I shout, wiping the sweat off the back of my neck. “And what the bloody hell do you mean about my fate? “

“You get mighty testy, don’t ya?” The little man chuckles. “Is it the heat that triggers it?”

“Stop asking questions. I told you to get out!”

“I will, I will, but I got a job to do. I’m the official greeter around here. Let me do my thing and then I’ll leave.”

I narrow my eyes. The second I do, a glint of silver, a flash of mutilated ivory skin, and a piercing scream assault me.  I stumble back, aroused.

“What are you doing to me?” I’m burning up and gasping for air.

“Nothing, Max. It’s RMS. Repressed Memory Syndrome. You’ve got it, but don’t worry,” he saunters over to me, slinking his arm around my shoulders, “that’s why you’re here.”

The man leads me through the kitchen to the living room.

“You’ve been up to a lot of shit over the years. I’m impressed— especially how you’ve gotten away with it. “He thumps me on the back. “But you can’t hide behind RMS. I mean just because you don’t remember the killings doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible. Gotta give credit where credit’s due.”

I want to deny everything this guy’s insinuating but I get another staggering flash of violence in my head. Another woman, another gruesome scene but his time I’m holding the handle of a gore-covered knife.

“Another flash of memory, huh?”  He grips my shoulder. “See, we’re already taking care of that syndrome for you. You’ll learn to embrace your memories. Revel in the joy of who you really are.”

“I don’t want to remember.” I’m trying to twist out of the old man’s grasp but he’s as strong as an ox.

“Oh no no. It’s time for you to reap some rewards.” He turns me around. “The boss is all about giving his people what they deserve.”

He opens the front door with a flourish. Thick smog pollutes the air. The stench of burning flesh hits me like a two-by-four. A frantic tribal-like drumbeat accompanies moans of agony, pleasure, and ear-splitting screeches of fear coming from shadows and shapes writhing right across the street.  Heat and terror consume me.

“Where am I?” I whisper.

“It’s your new home, Max. On the other side.”

“But I’m not dead.”

“You are now,” my greeter says. “Welcome to Hell.”

The Ink Babes welcome you into a realm of deliciously dark places in the upcoming anthology,

BLEEDING INK – a collection of Dark Tales

Coming Soon…….

Ever Yours,

The Ink Babes

PS: The Ink Babes will contact contributing authors with official update via email.

Wolf At The Door

Sweat drips from my hair and trickles down the side of my face. I wipe it away. My back sticks to the leather chair as I bear the discomfort of the early-summer heat permeating my claustrophobic flat.

A tick-tock pounds in my head like a persistent woodpecker. I glare at the clock on the wall—the source of the cacophony—as I rummage through the drawer looking for an aspirin. I find the bottle… but it’s empty. I toss it in the trash.

Keep going…

I try but there’s scratching at my door. It’s the wolf again. He wants his story told.

Go away! Don’t you understand? I can’t think with this heat!

The wolf doesn’t listen; his claws continue to grate the inside of my brain as I stare at a blank page. I tune him out, closing my eyes for a moment. My mind drifts to a white sandy beach, a frosty drink, and cool blue water rippling up to touch my toes…

Snap out of it! Focus. You’ve got a deadline.

And then, just like that, an idea hits me. It’s one that suits me on many levels.

I am going to kill off the wolf.

Oh… yes…

I look over at the door and a smile slithers on my face – like you read about.

COMING SOON…

InkBabes Press’

BLEEDING INK – A Collection of Dark Tales

Ever Yours,

The InkBabes

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