BONUS STORY: Crunch Time, by Maria Kelly

A version of this story appeared previously in the Walking Dead fan club Zombie Survival Crew’s first anthology Undead is Not an Option in May 2011. 

5217 words

Joey Costello wiped the Cheetos dust onto his jeans and leaned forward to stare at the brightly lit computer monitor. It was his older brother David’s hand-me-down iMac: a G4, the one that looked like some fucked-up futuristic space-lamp.

He waited for his tweeps to respond. He watched as line upon line in the stream scrolled past, none of them from his crew.

“C’mon, dudes, damn!” he yelled, banging his fist down on the desk.

He cursed again as a whole load of tweets went sailing by, and he had to scroll down to make sure he didn’t miss one from his friends.

“Oh, man, we SO need our own hashtag.” He made a mental note to spring this bit of brilliant wisdom on his tweeps when they got on line. Where the hell where they, anyway?

He was half-way through the tweets when the auto-refresh kicked in and zoomed a hundred more tweets past his eyes.

“Aw, goddammit!” He swore again, but not too loudly. His mom had begun tolerating him dropping the ‘F-bomb’ but she’d tear his ass up if she heard him using that word. Not that his mother was particularly religious, but Aunt Lois was, and Aunt Lois was always over at their place these days since Uncle Reggie passed.

Finally, his trembling finger stilled on the scroll button as he read the message:

2ndTimeDead: RT @ZombieHuntR666 holla back mah boyz when u online.|| I’m on, Z.

“Yes!” Joey whispered as he typed and waited for his message to appear onscreen:

ZombieHuntR666: @2ndTimeDead it is as we feared, brotha!!!

He waited for 2ndTimeDead’s reply:

2ndTimeDead: @ZombieHuntR666 I know that’s right, bro! Saw 2 on way home from Crosswalk. Scared the fuck outta me. What do we do?

ZombieHuntR666: @2ndTimeDead don’t fuckin panic. that’s the most important thing. don’t fuckin panic. u been readin these other tweets?

2ndTimeDead: @ZombieHuntR666 4realz! Both #zombieapocalypsenow and #realzombiegeddon are TT’ing! WTF? They’re all over the world! WTF? #whatthefuck

ZombieHuntR666: @2ndTimeDead i said don’t panic dude. oh shit! SHIT! brb…

2ndTimeDead: @ZombieHuntR666 Joey! WTF? Joey???????

2ndTimeDead: @ZombieHuntR666 Joey i’m fuckin comin over there in about 3 minutes if you don’t tweet me the fuck back!!!!

2ndTimeDead: @ZombieHuntR666 4realz mofo! I aint playin! Are you ok? Joey i swear to god you better not be playin!!!!!!!!!

ZombieHuntR666: @2ndTimeDead damn dude it was just my mom.

2ndTimeDead: @ZombieHuntR666 You scared the fuck outta me asshole!!! I thought one of them got you.

ZombieHuntR666: @2ndTimeDead LOL sorry dude 😛 dude, we need our own hashtag. going thru these tweets is bullshit.

So Joey and 2ndTimeDead, whose real name was Danny Patton, decided on a hashtag that they thought no one else on Twitter would use, so they could link up quickly if they needed to. In the end, they decided on #oakleafHSzombies because they went to Oak Leaf High School, and that is where they first witnessed the zombie virus outbreak. Joey DM’ed his other two friends to inform them about the hashtag:

ZombieHuntR666: dudes. tweet me and danny on hashtag #oakleafHSzombies. we have GOT to get together and do something about these fuckin zombies!!!!

Joey tried their cell phones one more time, but neither one of them was answering. Joey saw a new g-mail stating he had a DM from Travis Bower, a.k.a. @phath3adX. He opened his Twitter DM.

phath3eadX: They killed my dad, Joey! WTF?

Joey sat and stared at the screen for several minutes, stunned. What the hell do you say to something like that? Another DM popped into view:

crunchtime7: Joey, ppl are running around everywhere, zombies attacking. We need to get the hell out of here!

They’d invented their own RPG zombie game just for fun. The places they met and exercises that they had to perform to gain points, well, that was all part of the game. This was no game. Now, the shit was for real, and Joey had no idea what to do. It might have been a good idea to get some of the other kids at school in on the game, then they’d have had more people to help in fighting the zombies. But none of them had for a moment ever thought seriously that there might one day be a real zombie apocalypse! Besides, they weren’t popular with the other kids at Oak Leaf High. Joey thought it might have something to do with the fact that the four of them were total geeks.

He shook himself violently, and focused. He typed the DM’s quickly, telling them where to meet. He didn’t bother to try and comfort Travis. What do you say to someone whose dad has become brain food for a hungry zombie?

Joey got up from his desk and grabbed his jacket and book bag. On the way out of his house, he stopped in his kitchen and loaded up on food from the refrigerator and pantry and then cursed himself for not telling the other boys to do the same.

#

“Man, this is some fucked up shit!” Danny paced up and down the length of the old boxcar.

Joey watched him nervously. He’d wanted to tell him to stop, it was driving him crazy, but he didn’t say anything. Joey diverted his attention back to a map of the city which was spread out on the grimy old milk crate in front of him. He sat on a sturdier crate and traced a green highlighted line with his index finger. They’d used the map countless times for their game, but now it was for real. They were alone in the boxcar,  called “location 24” in the game. Travis Bower and Jimmy Posey, @crunchtime7, had not shown up yet. It was two hours since he’d sent the messages. And neither of the boys answered their cell phones. Where were they?

Joey decided needless worrying wasn’t going to help matters. They needed a plan.

“Danny, stop pacing and bring me your iPad,” he said.

“Why?”

“Just do it,” Joey said, Danny’s anxiety bothered him. This was not the time to panic. That time, Joey knew, would come soon enough: probably staring into a zombie’s lifeless eyes.

Danny went to his book bag and brought Joey the iPad. He stood next to Joey and watched as his friend logged on the internet and found Superpages for their hometown.

“Whatcha lookin’ for?” Danny asked.

“We’re gonna need some weapons,” Joey replied,

Danny jumped and made a fist-pump. “Oh, hells yeah! I want a fuckin’ AK47, dude!”

Joey rolled his eyes at his friend. “Pffft! We’re not gonna be able to get heavy artillery like that, asswiper!  We’re kids!”

“So what are you thinking?” Danny asked. He watched as Joey pulled up addresses for several local hardware stores and an auto supply store.

“We need to make a list. Do you have any paper?” Joey asked.

Danny hurried back over to his book bag, and rummaged through it. “You didn’t bring any paper?”

“I brought food, dammit! Thought we’d need that a little bit more, if we have to stay here.”

“You mean we won’t be able to go home?” Danny asked, wide-eyed, as he brought Joey his composition notebook from English class. It was practically unused.

“Not if the zombies get to our families. I haven’t heard from my mom, and I keep calling her.”

Joey tore a sheet from the notebook and began writing items down.

“A tire iron?” Danny asked.

“An incredibly useful weapon, and one we’ll be able to buy.”

“We can’t lug around a heavy-ass tire iron everywhere?” Danny argued.

“We’re not going to ‘lug them around’ everywhere, you moron. We’re going to bring them back here. If we’re out there, and running from the zombies, we can come back here and make a final stand. And they’re not that heavy.”

“Were tire irons on the game list?” Danny asked. The Crunch Time RPG game was the brainchild of by Jimmy Posey, which is why his Twitter name was @crunchtime7. They had an elaborate list of weapons as well as locations where the four would meet and do mock battle. They each took turns being zombies and squad leader. They had escape routes drawn on the map in different shades of highlighter. There were various scenarios written on index cards, one of which was drawn at the beginning of each game. The boys never actually used any real items as weapons in the game, but had a system of “calling out” which weapon they were using for each play of the game.

“Yes, but I don’t think we never used them. Anything that can knock a zombie’s brains out is a weapon. Can you think of anything?” Joey asked.

“We need the game rules. Baseball bats are on the list, that’s all I know.” Danny replied. And they had a few baseball bats tucked away in the boxcar. They’d brought them there so they could play baseball in the empty lot behind the abandoned train yard.

“And machetes,” Joey said, scribbling.

“Where in hell are we going to get machetes?” Danny protested. “We need to contact Crunch and have him bring the rules. Couldn’t hurt to go over some of that stuff.”

Joey started to criticize him, but then he realized that the notebook Posey had made not only had the game rules and weapons list, it also had useful information gleaned from the pages of every zombie survival guide and website they could find, along with the information they got from playing Resident Evil at each others houses. Joey reached for his cell-phone, but it rang in his hand, startling him so badly that he nearly dropped it.

“Whoa!” Danny said. “That was fuckin’ prophetic!”

It was Posey.

Joey answered it. “Where the fuck are you, dude?”

“Fifth and Terrace. Guy, this is more serious than we thought. There’s zombies everywhere downtown. The Crosswalk, Edgewater Mall, you name it!”

“We know that. Get your ass here as quick as you can. We’re forming a plan and we need the book.”

“The book?”

“The game book! Do you have it on you?”

“No, shit! It’s at home. You want me to go get it?”

“Yes! All that survival stuff is in there. We’re gonna need that shit!” Joey yelled into the phone. “Is your family okay? Have you heard from Travis?”

“My dad is still missing. My mom cries all the time. But my older sister and brother are taking care of her. I’m still hopin’ he’s okay and just out killin’ zombies. Missing is better than dead. Like Travis’ dad.”

“Yeah,” Joey said.

“Yeah,” Jimmy reiterated.  “I’ll get to the yard as soon as I get the book. I gotta get outta this area. Haven’t seen any undead for a little while, but it’s like, weird downtown. Dead. It’s givin’ me the fuckin’ creeps.”

“Okay, see ya. Hurry up!” Joey hung up the phone. Danny was looking at him expectantly. “Do you have any cash?”

“I have my debit card. There’s a good bit on it, but I pulled out three-hundred bucks earlier today. Thought the ATM’s might go down, like they do sometimes in a disaster.”

Joey smiled. “You’re fuckin’ brilliant. If you weren’t a guy and didn’t have breath like a pig’s ass, I’d kiss you!”

Danny grimaced. “You so would not, dude!”

Joey smiled and threw a mock-punch at Danny’s shoulder.

“Just kidding,” Joey said. He pointed at an address on the iPad. “Go to this hardware store, and pick up what you can from this list. Enough for the four of us. Whatever you can afford.”

Danny grabbed the list and started to reach for the iPad. Joey pulled it away from his grasp. “I need this to look up some other stuff. Leave it here with me. I won’t break it, I swear.”

Danny nodded, turned around and left the boxcar.

#

After Danny left, Joey decided to practice swinging a baseball bat. He tried to keep the bat at head level and imagined knocking a putrid zombie’s head clear over the Green Monster at Fenway Park for a Grand Slam. He stayed in the boxcar, afraid he’d see a zombie if he ventured too far outside.

After about thirty minutes of bat practice his arms got tired, so he went and sat back down on the crate, accessing the web again on Danny’s iPad.

His breath caught and he gulped when he logged on Twitter.

brainpecker93: @ZombieHuntR666 hey you…you don’t know me, but I know u. #oakleafHSzombies

notreallydead: @brainpecker93 @ZombieHuntR666 we know who you are, joey. #oakleafHSzombies

Joey scrolled down until he’d found the first one, then he moved up through the tweets, becoming more perplexed with each one. Who the hell were these guys? He scrolled, reading each message from them—still wondering—when his eyes froze on the following tweets:

notreallydead: @ZombieHuntR666 @2ndTimeDead @phatH3adX know who you ALL are. how’s ur fucking daddy travis? tee hee. #oakleafHSzombies

brainpecker93: @notreallydead @phatH3eadX his daddy was delicious…#nomnomnom #oakleafHSzombies

notreallydead: @brainpecker93 hate it when ur food bites back. LOL! #oakleafHSzombies

Shit! They’re zombies? How could that be? Joey didn’t know what to make of it. He thought that zombies were supposed to be mindless automatons on a continual hunt for a McBrain Sandwich. He watched as the stream jumped upwards, indicating a new tweet. He went to it and his heart felt like an popsicle.

brainpecker93: @notreallydead @ZombieHuntR666 @2ndTimeDead @phatH3adX  we’re coming to get you…bwahahahaha! #NotLD #oakleafHSzombies

Then another jump:

notreallydead: @ZombieHuntR666 @2ndTimeDead @phatH3adX BOOO!

CLANK CLANK!!!

Joey dropped the iPad to the floor as a metallic stomp and a shadow fell on him through the open doorway of the boxcar. He jumped up and ran to the corner where the baseball bats were and grabbed one, swinging to face the new arrival.

“Jesus, Joey! It’s me!” Travis cried. He walked into the boxcar, his motorcycle boots, his “shit-kickers” as he liked to called them, clanging on the floor.

Joey relaxed and went back to the crate, praying that Danny’s iPad wasn’t busted. Danny would kick his ass, for sure. He picked it up and looked it over, front-to-back. Somehow, it didn’t even get a scratch. Joey let out the breath he’d been holding in a long sigh, hoping that Travis didn’t notice his trembling hands.

“You scared the shit outta me,” he said.

Travis walked over and pulled another old crate up to sit across from Joey. “Man, it’s fuckin’ madness out there!”

“Yeah, it is,” Joey said. “But we’re gonna make it, don’t you worry. I sent Danny out to get some weapons and Jimmy’s goin’ to his house to get the book. We’re gonna be okay.”

“I got the book,” Travis said, pulling it out of a worn Cincinnati Reds back-pack. Joey looked up at him in surprise. He frowned at the dark circles under his friends red-rimmed eyes.

Travis noticed how Joey was looking at him and shifted slightly, thumbing open the book. “Kept trying to call Posey but he never answered, so I went over to his house and got it.”

“His mom let you in? Just like that?”

“Yes. Why wouldn’t she?” Travis looked at him in confusion.

Joey shook his head. “Because. Anybody could be one of them now. You can’t just go trusting people anymore without first checking.”

“Do I look like a zombie?”

“No, but…” Joey started, but Travis interrupted.

“My dad is.”

“Holy shit!” said Joey.

“I saw him. He was shuffling down Piney Street toward the mall. His left arm from the elbow down had been chewed off.”

“Dammit! Jimmy was in that area when he called me! I hope he’s got enough sense to avoid him if he sees him.” Or kill him, Joey thought.

“Dude, I hate to say it, but I hope it doesn’t come down to me having to kill my own dad. I don’t think I could do it!”

Travis looked away and Joey thought he must be fighting back tears again. He reached out and patted his friends back, not knowing what else to do, then stood up and walked to the corner of the boxcar where their baseball stuff was. They had about fifteen baseballs in various states of use: some brand new, some worn and frayed but still good for playing catch. He smiled and pulled out his phone. He turned around and walked back to the crate-seats, texting as he went.

“I’m gonna have Danny swing by the sporting goods store on his way back. I got an idea for another weapon.” Joey said. His eyes lit up with the spark of sweet fucking idea.

“Yeah, what?” Travis asked.

When Joey told him, Travis grinned.

He turned to the weapons section of the game book and fished inside his backpack for a pen.

“Did you bring what I asked you to?” Joey asked. Travis reached in his bag and pulled out the best weapon of all. Numero Uno on the list of weapons.

“Awesome!” Joey cried, taking it from his friend’s hand and caressing it lovingly.

The boys began discussing the plan.

#

They were in the middle of laying the ground-work to what they were dubbing the “distract-and-destroy” plan when Joey suddenly remembered the unknown tweeters. He questioned Travis.

“No idea who they are,” the boy said. “But brainpecker…” Travis paused, thinking. I don’t like it.”

“What?” Joey asked.

Travis shrugged. “Nothing.” Then he looked really pensive, like he might be thinking of his dad again, so Joey let the matter drop. He wondered vaguely if Mr. Bower had been one of the ones sending the messages. Travis’s dad was like, forty-years-old, but still, even old people like parents knew how to use Twitter. Still…zombies on Twitter? Every zombie movie, T.V. show, book, or video game they’d ever watched, read, read, or played, from 28 Days Later to Zombie Tycoon all portrayed the undead as mindless, shuffling hordes. It was a scary thought.

“What if these are smart zombies?” Joey asked.

“No fuckin’ way!” Travis cried. “That defies logic!”

Joey thought about it, and the more he thought about it, the more uneasy he became. Maybe they weren’t smart zombies, but what if they didn’t become completely  mindless when they transformed?

“Listen,” Travis said. “I bet those tweeters are Johnson and Haynes.”

He was referring to Tommy Johnson and Al Haynes, two bullies they went to Oak Leaf High School with. Joey considered this. It would be just like those two assholes to do this. But how did they know their Twitter names? Or about the hashtag they were using? Joey brooded on these questions silently but did not mention his concerns to Travis.

They both looked up suddenly as Danny entered the boxcar, arms full of supplies. He was gasping and out of breath.

“Wish one of you dickheads would come and help me with this crap!” he sighed. He put down the bags he was carrying and grimaced at them both. “There’s plenty more. Hop to it!”

The three boys ventured outside to unload the trunk of Danny’s 2001 Chevy Cavalier. Danny was the only one of the group to pass his driver’s test so far, and since he had a car he was always being called for rides.

There was also a pepperoni pizza from Vino’s on the front passenger’s side seat. Danny brought that and a two-liter of Coca-Cola into the boxcar. They ate pizza and drank the cola from a supply of old cups they’d scrounged from the backs of cupboards at their homes ages ago. While they ate, they went over the plan.

Joey talked excitedly as he showed them what he had in mind. He loaded one of the sling-shots Danny purchased at the sporting goods store with a baseball and fired it across the boxcar. The ball hit with a tremendous CRACK and ricocheted back, Travis had to duck to avoid being beaned.

“Whoa!” Danny cried. “I thought you were crazy when you texted me to pick up sling-shots. They make a terrible weapon against zombies. But this is fucking brilliant!”

“No, the sling-shot itself won’t kill ’em,” Joey agreed. “But it should knock ’em down long enough to do the rest of the job.”

“Sweet!” Travis proclaimed.

They took turns practicing with the sling in different areas of the boxcar. Without a target, there was no way to tell if each of them were actually any good wielding it, but in the end they all agreed that Danny and Joey seemed to be the best. Which left Travis to handle the “destroy” end of things. And that was logical, since it was his dad’s weapon he had brought with him. He’d practiced with it many times before.

They also had a back-up plan, in case Travis failed to dispatch the zombie. The two new tire irons were resting against the back wall of the boxcar. Joey had resisted getting four of every item they might need. They had the baseball bats, tire irons, sling-shots, plus two axes. And hopefully Travis wouldn’t let them down when it was time to play his part.

Joey looked at his watch. “Where the HELL is Posey?”

The other two boys shook their heads. The looked over at the beat-up red milk crate that Joey had used earlier as a desk to study the book and map of the town. On it sat a paper plate holding a couple slices of pizza and a cup of Coke. They glanced at the open door of the boxcar and saw that daylight was fading. They’d been so caught up in planning and practicing with the sling-shots that they’d forgotten about their friend.

“Call him again,” Travis suggested.

Joey took his cell phone out of his pocket and flipped it open.

Then, they heard it.

A noise that sounded like the clinking of the gate leading into the old train-yard. But the gate always stood open. None of them had closed it…

The boys looked at each other, horrified, as the truth of what they heard dawned on them. The gate wasn’t being opened, it was being closed.

Each of them ran to different parts of the boxcar and grabbed a weapon. Joey, in a fit of nerves, ended up grabbing a baseball bat instead of a sling-shot. “Shit!” he whispered. He threw it down and grabbed one of the axes that Danny had also bought at the hardware store. He motioned to Travis, who began climbing one-handed, his weapon balanced in the crook of his other arm, up the rungs of the ladder set into the back wall of the boxcar. He climbed to the top and his head disappeared through the square opening. He pulled it back through moments later, and shook his head at Joey. He hadn’t seen anything. Danny ran to the opposite corner, sling-shot in hand, and his book bag full of baseballs slung over his shoulder.

They heard footsteps approaching the boxcar. Was it only one pair of feet they heard?

“Hey guys?” the voice called.

Danny dropped the sling-shot and bag to the ground and raced toward the door. It was Posey’s voice.

“DANNY, NO!!” Joey called out.

But his admonition went unheeded as Danny raced to the door of the boxcar and jumped out. Travis started to descend the ladder, but Joey called out to him:

“Stay there! I don’t like this!” Joey ran over to the door and looked out into the twilight of the dead train-yard. He saw Posey embracing Danny, his head on Danny’s shoulder. Then Danny slumped to the ground as Jimmy Posey looked up at Joey, his lifeless eyes locked on his…blood dripping from his mouth.

“Crunch time,” Posey whispered.

Joey spun back into the boxcar, struggling not to vomit. He raced over to the corner and grabbed the sling and bag of balls, lying the axe down. That wouldn’t be any use now.

“What the fuck’s happening?!” Travis yelled from the top of the ladder.

“Posey’s a zombie,” Joey replied. “He got Danny.”

“Shit,” Travis said. He reached back into his own bag and pulled out one the arrows, nocking it into place in the cross-bow. “Shit,” he whispered again, just loud enough for Joey to hear, as Joey slowly inched toward the door. “Be careful.” Then he climbed up through the hole and onto the roof of the boxcar.

Joey made it to the door and peered outside. He didn’t see Posey anywhere but Danny was still lying on the ground. He was shaking, which meant he was still alive. Or…

“Oh, fuck,” Joey muttered. He tried to stop it, but tears leaked from his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. “Fuck, dude.”

There was nothing for it. Joey went back inside the boxcar to where the axe was and picked it up, and looping the sling-shot around his wrist so as not to drop it, he jumped as silently as possible out of boxcar door, walked over to where his friend lay and with one swing, separated Danny’s head from his body. Joey dropped the axe and leaned over, puking in the grass.

He heard a muffled groan and spun around, looking for Posey. He heard it again and, looking up, saw Travis crouched on the top of the boxcar, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Travis must have vomited, too.

Joey motioned at Travis, waving his arm around. Travis got the message and stood up, scanning the yard, looking for Posey. He didn’t need to.

“Crunch time, Joey,” the voice issued from the other side of Danny’s car. “Crunch time is comin’ to get you…”

Shit. Brainpecker93! And suddenly Joey remembered what Travis had shrugged off earlier. When the boys first met Jimmy Posey, Travis has teased him by calling him Pecker Brain. At the time all four of them had laughed their asses off.

“Hey Joey, did you save me Danny’s brain? ‘Cause I sure am hungry!” Posey stood up from behind the car and shuffled toward Joey.

Joey fumbled with the opening of the book bag, cursing as he tried to remove a baseball, backpedaling at the same time. He hoped Travis had the sight of that crossbow trained on Posey!

He fit the baseball into the cup of the sling-shot. It didn’t fit perfectly, but that was hardly the point. Lead shot came with the sling-shot, but they’d all agreed that a baseball was bigger and might do more damage. Baseball players usually went down when they got beaned by a ninety mile-per-hour fastball.

Posey kept coming toward him slowly as Joey raised the sling-shot and pulled it taut. He waited until he thought Posey was close enough to hit, then released the sling.

The baseball went sailing through the air and…went wide of Jimmy’s head by about three feet.

“Fuck!” Joey cried.

Posey laughed maniacally. “I’m still coming, Joey, still coming to get youuuu….hahahaha!”

Joey rummaged in the bag for another ball. The bag slid off his shoulder and hit the ground, baseballs scattering everywhere.

“Dammit!!” Joey yelled. He took a step forward to try and retrieve one of the rolling balls, then realized he was traveling right toward Posey and he backpedaled. His foot came down on a baseball and he stumbled backwards, falling on his ass.

Posey was a mere five-feet from him now and closing the distance. “You smell good,” he said, sniffing the air. “I love the smell of fresh meat and brains.”

Joey looked up desperately at the boxcar roof. There was no sign of Travis.

“TRAVIS!!! Where the hell are you, dude??!!”

He turned back just as Posey was leaning toward his head, teeth bared.

Joey closed his eyes and waited for death.

A sudden pfffffttt! sound and Jimmy’s heavy body fell on top of him. Joey crawled out from beneath the bulk and opened his eyes. Jimmy was lying on his back, glazed eyes unmoving. An arrow was sticking through the middle of Jimmy’s forehead.

Joey turned his head and saw Travis emerging from the boxcar with the crossbow. He got to his feet, red-hot anger glaring in his eyes.

“You motherfucker! He could’ve killed me while you…”

“I knew I couldn’t hit him from the top of the roof,” Travis explained. “Motherfucker? I just saved your life.”

Travis grinned and the two boys broke out in laughter.

“It’s time for Plan B, I think,” Joey said.

“Yeah, dude,” Travis agreed. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

#

They hacked Danny and Jimmy’s heads to bits, making certain the brains were mush before packing the car with the food they had left and all the weapons except the crossbow, which Travis held onto like a favorite toy.

Joey wished they could have buried their friends, but there was no time. They had to get out while the getting was good.

They lingered for a bit inside the boxcar, making sure they’d gotten everything they needed.

It was getting very dark when they exited the boxcar.

“Hi, Travis.”

Travis’s dad was sitting on the hood of the car.

Joey saw his friends eyes go wide and remembered what Travis said earlier about not being able to kill his dad.

“You gotta do it, man. You gotta,” Joey whispered.

“You don’t “gotta” do anything, Travis,” Mr. Bower said. “I’m not really dead, Travis. Look at me. I’m not really dead!”

The two boys looked at each other. Notreallydead.

Mr. Bower slid off the hood and came toward them. Joey suddenly regretted having put all the weapons in the car, including the sling-shot. He was completely weaponless. He nudged Travis.

“You gotta do it, Travis,” Joey urged.

“I can’t, dude.”

“Damn right you can’t!” Mr. Bower’s yelled. He kept shuffling toward them, getting closer, while Travis trembled, crossbow slack in his hands.

“Goddammit, gimme that!” Joey yelled. He grabbed the crossbow and yanked an arrow from the bag slung over Travis’s shoulder. He stopped. He’d only fired it once, in the Bowers backyard, with Mr. Bowers guiding him. And he’d missed the target by about ten feet. He couldn’t afford to miss this time. Not by any amount. He brought the weapon up and fired.

The arrow sliced through the night and pierced Travis’s dad through the throat. He went down, flopping on the ground like a hooked fish. Travis, jerking himself to awareness, ran to the car and got the axe from the backseat. He rushed over and screaming with agony, decapitated his father. He then turned the axe and crushed his father’s skull with the flat of the blade.

Travis sank to the ground and began to sob. Joey walked over and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“C’mon, dude. Plan B.”

Travis got up and the two boys got into the car, Joey on the driver’s side. He’d at least had some driving lessons under his belt.

They resisted the urge to look back at the bodies .

Joey started the car and backed slowly through the gate, which was open after all.

“Travis, you had to do it,” Joey said.

“I know, dude…I know.”

“Another thing,” Joey started as he eased the car onto the deserted back street leading away from the train-yard.

“What?” asked Travis.

“You gotta teach me how to use that fuckin’ crossbow!”

~~

Maria Kelly works as a writing tutor at a local community college and attends another university in the hopes getting an MA in Literature. She would like to design and teach classes on Gothic literature and Graphic Novels and Manga as literature. She is a published author with many weird-ass stories and poems to her credit. She’s also the owner/publisher/editor of this messed-up little e-zine you are reading. You can read more of her thoughts on her blog at Maria Kelly, Author, follow her on Twitter at @mkelly317, or befriend her on Facebook at either her personal page or her author page. You can also follow The Were-Traveler on Twitter at @TheWereTraveler or on our Facebook page.

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Posted on December 24, 2013, in Issue 11: The Day Zombies Ruled the Earth and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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