The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Zombie or Post Apocalyptic themed fiction/stories.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:06 am

“Hey you, in there,” Connie Brewer’s voice said, shattering the dream he was having about searching for Lux inside an old, broken down barn. “Time to get up or you’re gonna miss dinner.” She finished rousing him with three hard knocks with what he assumed was her rifle butt on the outside of the shed door. “Come on.”

Lucas opened his eyes to the interior of the shed, dimly lit by daylight leaking through the gaps around the door. He raised himself on his elbows, feeling like he’d been hit by a truck. He was still tired and felt like he could sleep for a week, but he was equally hungry and the thought of missing out on freshly made food made him fight his way to his feet. Connie worked the hasp lock and the shed door opened on an overcast afternoon. The clouds piling in from the northwest threatened a cold rain throughout the coming night.

“There’s a bucket of water and a wash rag on the porch,” Connie said to him as she followed him across to the house. She waited while he cleaned his hands and his face.

“Warm water,” he said with surprise.

“Dad heated it up on the stove,” she replied with a disinterested shrug. “He said you might appreciate it after being on the trail.”

Leaving the water in the bucket considerably dirtier than it had been, Lucas entered the house through the back door and was immediately struck by the odor that competed with the aroma of the meal being prepared. It was a smell he couldn’t help but associate with hospitals, a mix of disinfectant and illness. His first glimpse of the girls’ father left him with an explanation. The man looked sick. His jeans were baggy, cinched up tight around his waist with a belt that obviously had new holes punched into the leather. His hip bones protruded above the front pockets. The shirt that had once fitted him was now loose around his chest. His skin was jaundiced and his gray hair had a patchy, wispy appearance. Despite it all, he looked up from the wood stove where he was cooking and smiled.

“Hello. I’m Reed.” He stepped across the kitchen and Lucas saw how the man tried to hide the fact that he was in pain. He shook Lucas’ hand in his bony grip. “Ready for dinner?” he asked.

“Um, okay.”

The man seemed disappointed in Lucas’ response. “That was…unenthusiastic.”

“I’m sorry, but…” Lucas struggled to find the most diplomatic words. “First I’m a captive, then I’m a dinner guest…”

“Ah, well, we can’t be too careful with people nowadays, can we? I mean, when I heard that Connie had brought in a stranger, I was afraid of the kind of person it would be. But I can see you’re no monster.”

Lucas only nodded, but he couldn’t help but think that the man had some naïve notions; not all monsters looked the part.

“So you came over the pass?” he inquired, returning to the pot on the stove. “Why is that?”

“I tried driving,” Lucas explained, looking around the room, “but even the back roads were too dangerous.” The kitchen had a bare look to it, as though nearly everything in it had been used up. True sat at the counter beside her father, picking preserved vegetables from a mason jar and slicing them into a warm skillet. She smiled at him too, but her smile was much more intimate than her father’s.

“From the living or the dead?” asked Reed Brewer.

“The dead. Any time I got near a suburb, they came out in droves. I figured the cities I’d have to pass through were going to be a hundred times worse, so I took a more roundabout way.”

“And how’d that work out for you?” the man asked as he crumbled up a dried herb in his hand and added it to the pot.

“I’m alive,” Lucas said, aware of every sore muscle in his body, “but I wouldn’t want to do it again anytime soon.”

The man smiled again, but his eyes were fixed on the stew. “Connie,” he said, ignoring the fact that his other daughter was right next to him, “come here and taste this.” Constance moved to his side and sipped at an offered spoonful.

“It’s fine,” she replied.

“Not too fishy?”

“No.”

“Good. Go put your rifle in the hall,” he said to his younger daughter. “And there had better not be a round chambered. Not in the house.” He tossed his head at her as she complied. “My little range rider.”

“Little bossy know-it-all,” True murmured. She turned her head and raised her voice so her sister could hear. “She skipped over thirteen and went straight to thirty-three.”

“Someone has to act mature,” Connie rejoined from the hallway, “to make up for the way you act.”

Their father continued as though neither daughter had spoken. “I hope she didn’t rough you up too badly bringing you in.”

“No,” Lucas answered, telling the man just what he wanted to hear. “I didn’t give her any reason to. I know when I’m outmatched.”

“Hmm,” Reed replied with a pleased grin. “And True?” he continued, finally giving his older daughter a sideways glance, “I’m assuming True has proved to be…entertaining…in her own way.”

Lucas saw True’s already strained smile falter. “Uh, she was…”

“I need to go wash,” True muttered as she got up from where she’d been slicing vegetables and left the kitchen.

Unaffected by his daughter’s awkward departure, Reed went on. “Lucas, we’ve been a little isolated here, I suppose.”

“You should be glad for it,” Lucas replied.

“Oh, I am. Still, we’ve had our tragedies. My wife is…no longer with us. And my son, Kirk, is…very ill. Critically ill. I guess there’s no other way to put it.” The man tried to smile, but failed. “An infection – a little cut in his mouth – one of those things that could’ve been easily cured before all of this happened. Now, there’s no penicillin or amoxicillin or any other antibiotic to be found anywhere. Nowhere within our reach, anyway.” The man paused as both of his daughters reentered the room. “Let’s eat. I’d like to hear your story, Lucas. Since they stopped broadcasting on the radio, we’ve been more or less in the dark about things. The farthest we’ve been since this whole thing started is Needlegrass. That was where my wife died.” He gestured towards a seat at the table and Lucas took it, but not before noticing how True Brewer had stabbed the knife she’d been using to slice vegetables hard into the wooden cutting board on the counter and bowed her head at the mention of her mother’s death.

The version he gave of his life story since the world had ended was heavily edited. He left out most of the gorier things he’d seen as well as every time he’d had to kill a living human being. And he specifically omitted the part where a military plane filled with medical supplies – including antibiotics – came crashing into a lake near his mountain house sanctuary. He finished with his quest to find and save Lux, an aspect that seemed to unsettle the man, sadden his older daughter and bore his youngest.

“When will they all fall down?” Reed asked, not expecting an answer. “When will the dead go back to being dead?”

“They’ve got to at some point,” Lucas reasoned. “It’s simple physics; matter and energy. They’ll wear out eventually, but whatever it is that’s keeping them going is doing a pretty good job of it.”

“And when they do,” Reed said, “we’ll still be left with the shell of a world for generations to come.”

“Plus,” Lucas added, “we all still have it in us, whatever it is that reanimates us when we die. We’re going to have to figure out a way to immunize ourselves against it, the way Lux is immune.”

Reed looked thoughtful for a moment. “House rules:” he said suddenly, “If you cook, you don’t have to do the cleaning up. Right, girls?”

“I’ve got to go check on the animals before it gets dark,” said Connie, excusing herself from the chore.

“Then that leaves…” he turned briefly to his other daughter “…you. Lucas,” he said, rising from his seat with some effort, “let’s head out to the front porch for a minute or two. The only good thing about colder weather is less mosquitoes.” From one of the back rooms of the house came a muffled, tortured groan, causing all three of the Brewers to freeze in place. The groan continued with Lucas eventually realizing it was someone trying to talk, but not being able to form intelligible words. Reed was the first to recover. “I’ll join you after I check on Kirk.”

Fifteen minutes later, Reed Brewer stepped out onto the front porch. Even in the dying light, Lucas could see the pain and anguish on the man’s face. But it was against Lucas Locke’s nature to be overly sensitive to other people’s feelings.

“You know what’s going to happen, right?” he said abruptly.

The man thought about it for a second or two. “I’m not in denial about it. My son is dying. And when he dies, his dead body will reanimate and…that will have to be dealt with.” Reed’s eyes were locked with Lucas’, leaving little doubt as to what he meant.

“You want me to do it,” Lucas said, stating it matter-of-factly. “That’s why I’m here.”

“You’re here because you wandered down the trail at the right time,” Reed explained. “It’s just…timing.” He lowered himself with some effort onto a wooden chair. “I couldn’t ask Constance to do it. And True…” He dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand. “That leaves me. I could do it…if I really had to…but…”

“Putting someone down, especially if they’re family or a friend, is nothing but merciful. There’s nothing left inside of the person you knew. You said your wife died. Who took care of that?”

“Donna died when she went out to bring back our eldest daughter. No one put her to rest. She’s…her body is still…still out there walking around. And the thought of it kills me.” Glancing at Lucas’ face, Reed could see he wasn’t going to get away from the subject without further explanation. “True has always been kind of a wild child. Some people, like Connie, are perfectly happy growing up out here, but not True. Never True. She was always in town, getting into trouble. She would drink with her friends and…there were drugs involved. I lost track of how many times I had to drive into town and pick her up at the police station. When things fell apart, when we were all safest staying out here, True couldn’t change her ways. She’d be all right for a while, then something would just snap and she’d be gone. Each time we had to go get her, things in town would be worse than before. The last time…it was just too dangerous to go looking for her. Donna was frantic, but I thought I’d made her see reason; True just didn’t want to be here with us. But Donna went out anyway. True had gone to her friend’s house in Needlegrass, the next town over. By the time I finally tracked them down,” he shook his head “Donna had been attacked by a whole group of them and had...bled to death. They’d boarded up the house – that’s what one of True’s druggie friends told me – and they’d heard Donna pounding on the door, but they’d been too freaked out to let her in. When I found her, True was unconscious, still high as a kite.”

Suddenly, Lucas could see the reason for the tension between True Brewer and her sister and father.

“I’d consider it a favor if you would help me out with this,” Reed said. “I’d send you on your way with some food as thanks.”

Lucas didn’t think it was any of his business. It wasn’t his son who was dying. It wasn’t his family that was fractured. He had someplace else to be and every minute he was delayed in getting to Lux might be one minute too late. But he could see how putting down his own son’s reanimated body would twist Reed Brewer up inside. He could also see that the man was sick and dying himself. A fucked up situation, Lucas thought to himself. “I guess it sucks to see your loved ones up and moving around after they’re dead,” he told the man. “You’re left with that final image of them for the rest of your life.” Lucas paused. “Throw in some double A batteries and you’ve got yourself a deal.”

Reed didn’t look happy about it, but there was a hint of relief in his eyes. “Thanks,” he said as he reached out with an unsteady arm and shook Lucas’ hand.

"How much longer does..."

"The infection's spread," Reed answered in a monotone. "He hasn't been able to eat for a week. Can't drink, even water. He...he just can't swallow anymore. He's delirious. The swelling has just about cut off his breathing." The man shook his head. "He could go tonight. And, yes, we're keeping an eye on him."

“And how much longer do you have?” Lucas heard himself ask. “And who’s going to take care of you when you go?”

Reed Brewer’s expression fell and he stared into Lucas’ eyes. “My cancer was supposed to be gone, but it came back at just the wrong time.” The man dropped his gaze to the wooden boards of the porch. “Putting a gun to my own head is one thing. Having to spend my last moment on earth remembering how I put one to my son’s head…that’s another thing altogether.”

“I guess,” Lucas agreed after a moment.

“Life certainly has some twists and turns, doesn’t it?” Reed Brewer mused as he peered out into the descending twilight.
Last edited by Tinderbox on Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:19 am, edited 2 times in total.
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by teotwaki » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:50 am

Good story. Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it.
My adventures and pictures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Zimmy » Wed Jan 18, 2017 5:00 pm

Great update! Thanks!!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Halfapint » Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:49 pm

Two in 2 days?!?!? Ahhhhh this is what heaven is!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:21 pm

Thanks for the updates TB! Maybe Lucas has some antibiotics stashed in his backpack to save Kirk.

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jan 19, 2017 1:34 am

teotwaki wrote:Good story. Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it.
Very well said...


However, I'm not gonna let that truth put a damper on how ABSOFREAKINGLUTELY stoked I am to get not one, but two...count 'em...TWO entries in one day for of the best stories I've ever read.

I was so pumped before going into work to see one entry. Icing on the cake that after an abbreviated shift, I come home to start my weekend to find another! Thanks TB...Made my week!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 2T2-Crash » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:51 am

A two-fer this week, sweet!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by selen » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:47 am

teotwaki wrote:Good story. Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it.
Guys, you know I used to think like that too. I used to think how much fun it would be with all the adrenaline etc. However, as someone who is living in the middle east where the conditions are not very far from ZPAW nowadays, believe me it ain't no fun at all :)

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Thu Jan 19, 2017 8:51 am

Hunt4lyf wrote:Thanks for the updates TB! Maybe Lucas has some antibiotics stashed in his backpack to save Kirk.

This story has gone on so long I've forgotten about some things that happened early on. Your post made me go back and add this:

And he specifically left out the part where a military plane filled with medical supplies – including antibiotics – came crashing into a lake near his mountain house sanctuary.

Thanks, Hunt4lyf.
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:22 am

selen wrote:
teotwaki wrote:Good story. Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it.
Guys, you know I used to think like that too. I used to think how much fun it would be with all the adrenaline etc. However, as someone who is living in the middle east where the conditions are not very far from ZPAW nowadays, believe me it ain't no fun at all :)

I think when teotwaki writes "Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it," it shows that we're all on the same page. Even minus the zombies, any large scale disruption of our society would suck. Heck, once a summer storm knocked out the power in my neighborhood for 24 hours!!!!! After just a day without the microwave, I was feeling pretty put out.

This story sacrifices realism for (hopefully) entertainment. Every now and then I'll mention how someone's hungry or really misses hot showers or has come to realize that constantly having to wear a gun on their hip isn't as cool as they once thought it would be, but we all know that's nothing. It's just that a purely realistic picture of post-apocalyptic life would be a very grim read.

So one character is dying from a simple cut that a dose of antibiotics could have cured and another is dying because his cancer came back right when his doctor got lunched down on by a bunch of reanimated corpses. It's just my way of gently reminding myself that the real apocalypse ain't gonna involve Milla Jovovich in a tight leather outfit. :(
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:43 am

Tinderbox wrote:
Hunt4lyf wrote:Thanks for the updates TB! Maybe Lucas has some antibiotics stashed in his backpack to save Kirk.

This story has gone on so long I've forgotten about some things that happened early on. Your post made me go back and add this:

And he specifically left out the part where a military plane filled with medical supplies – including antibiotics – came crashing into a lake near his mountain house sanctuary.

Thanks, Hunt4lyf.
Dang :cry:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Spazzy » Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:05 pm

Tinderbox wrote:
selen wrote:
teotwaki wrote:Good story. Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it.
Guys, you know I used to think like that too. I used to think how much fun it would be with all the adrenaline etc. However, as someone who is living in the middle east where the conditions are not very far from ZPAW nowadays, believe me it ain't no fun at all :)

I think when teotwaki writes "Anyone who is wishing and hoping for the ZPAW should read it," it shows that we're all on the same page. Even minus the zombies, any large scale disruption of our society would suck. Heck, once a summer storm knocked out the power in my neighborhood for 24 hours!!!!! After just a day without the microwave, I was feeling pretty put out.

This story sacrifices realism for (hopefully) entertainment. Every now and then I'll mention how someone's hungry or really misses hot showers or has come to realize that constantly having to wear a gun on their hip isn't as cool as they once thought it would be, but we all know that's nothing. It's just that a purely realistic picture of post-apocalyptic life would be a very grim read.

So one character is dying from a simple cut that a dose of antibiotics could have cured and another is dying because his cancer came back right when his doctor got lunched down on by a bunch of reanimated corpses. It's just my way of gently reminding myself that the real apocalypse ain't gonna involve Milla Jovovich in a tight leather outfit. :(

So no Milla Jovovich in a tight leather outfit????
Screw that, I'm out.
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by akraven » Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:58 am

Dang and I was looking forward to Mila.
Still absolutely one of the best stories on the web. Thank you TB!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by teotwaki » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:47 am

MOAR story TB or Mila is gonna' have an uncomfortable chat with you

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by bodyparts » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:25 pm

thank you very much for the double updates to the greatest z story on the web !!! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Wed Jan 25, 2017 11:46 pm

Been away for a while but the latest additions were a welcome surprise :!:

Thank you .
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Tinderbox » Thu Jan 26, 2017 11:48 am

After nightfall, Lucas lay in his sleeping bag on the floor of the shed. Reed Brewer hadn’t locked him in this time. Instead, Lucas had removed the wire handle from one of the empty buckets and had used it to lightly secure the door from the inside. It was nothing that would stand up to a battering army of the dead, but it made him feel better. True had told him that they’d never had a reanimated corpse visit their home, but that wasn’t going to be the case for long, he thought. Kirk Brewer was going to die. His father had said he was critically ill. The groan he’d heard from the back bedroom was one of agony and though he couldn’t quite find the right words to describe it, the house just felt like death had taken up residence and was waiting in there, lurking in the corners.

By the glow of his flashlight he held up the foil pill pack he’d taken from his first aid kit and looked at the label: Moxifloxacin 400 mg. The antibiotic he’d helped salvage from the crashed military plane was supposed to help stave off infection in soldiers who’d suffered an open wound in the field. He doubted it would be much help for someone in Kirk Brewer’s condition, someone “critically ill” and who “could go tonight.” More likely, he thought, it would just give the man and his daughters a false hope – and waste a dose of medicine that was currently worth a hundred times its weight in gold.

It was telling, he considered, that neither the younger nor the older daughter had gone through his first aid kit when they’d seen it. It was a product of their isolation, he figured. Even with the girls having lost their mother, they still didn’t fully realize what things had come to in the world.

Though they hadn’t locked him in, they hadn’t given him back his guns, only his knives and his makeshift spear – and only after Lucas had struggled for half a minute or so to try and explain how after a year and a half of conditioning, it was difficult for him to sleep without having some sort of defensive weapon within reach.

He had just put the foil pill pack back into his first aid kit and repacked his backpack when he heard the sound of footsteps coming across the yard. “Lucas?” came True’s voice in a whisper. An explosion of feelings struck him in that first second, the same kind that had electrified him years ago on the night he’d slept over at Charlie Fitzgerald’s house and his sister, Bonnie, had crept downstairs to where he was sleeping on the couch. Bonnie had whispered his name in the dark on that night, too.

“Hey,” True went on quietly, jiggling the shed door, “it’s stuck.”

“Yeah,” he replied in a hushed voice. “Wait a minute.” Crawling from his sleeping bag, he undid his makeshift door lock, bending open the wire bucket handle and allowing True to enter. Once she was inside, she clicked on her own small LED flashlight, doubling the light inside the shed.

“Locked it from the inside, huh?” she said, examining the bent bucket handle. “I guess that’s like needing a weapon with you. It’s the kind of stuff you have to do out there in order to stay alive.” She put her back against the wall of the shed and slid to the floor to sit cross-legged in front of him. “I wonder how long I’d last out there now.”

He shook his head. “I wouldn’t be in a hurry to find out. You’ve got it pretty good here.”

She made a small snorting sound and stretched a false smile over her mouth. “The last time I went down the lake, things were pretty bad in town. The stores had all been cleaned out and most people were either leaving or in hiding. A bunch of guys in pickups were going around shooting the nasties. The cops were trying to stop them. People were going bat shit crazy seeing their infected family members getting blown away. Some of them were shooting back. In all the noise, people seemed to be missing the fact that all the dead ones were getting back up and attacking the living. I actually saw one of them. It was an older guy, big pot belly, big bloodstain on the back of his shirt. He was just…just walking up the middle of the street. He looked, you know, pretty normal, except for the blood. Not all torn up, I mean.”

“Yeah, the fresh ones can look pretty normal sometimes,” Lucas replied.

“I got to Brandy’s apartment and no one answered the door, but Lucilla, her friend who lived downstairs, said she’d gone over to Needlegrass. I knew exactly where she went; you could always find a party at Dane’s house. So I hitched a ride with Lucilla and her brothers who were heading down to their uncle’s place and got there just as Dane and his friends were nailing a two-by-four over the front door. There were, like, ten or eleven of us in Dane’s little one bedroom house. It was…I guess it was what I imagine a hurricane party might be like; a bunch of people barricaded indoors, trying to pretend that some really bad shit isn’t going down outside. Next thing I remember, I’m in the back of Mom and Dad’s Forester. Dad’s driving and Kirk is sitting beside him and crying – which is so totally not like Kirk – and…and Mom’s not there.”

Sitting there on his sleeping bag, Lucas tried to think of something to say, but nothing came to him.

“You think I could survive out there?” she asked him with a sudden sadness in her voice. In the gray LED glow of the flashlight, he could see her false smile had vanished.

“Why would you want to?” he replied. “You’ve had zero dead people here.”

“My mom died in Needlegrass. I was so totally out of it, I had no idea what was going on. I have no memory of it. But…I guess she came looking for me.”

“Yeah,” he told her, “your dad mentioned…something about it.”

“He said when he and Kirk broke down Dane’s door, Brandy was crying and saying she was sorry and that they hadn’t known what to do. My mom – my mom who asked Brandy’s to stay for dinner every time she came out here, who always sent her home with cookies and shit, who made Brady’s costume for the eighth grade school play when Brandy’s own mom was too drunk to bother – my mom was pounding on the door. And Brandy and the others wouldn’t let her in. They told my dad they were too scared. And I was there, passed out on the floor.”

Lucas thought he should say something about how no one can go back and undo what’s been done and how everyone makes mistakes and something about how there’s no use in beating yourself up about it, but instead he remained silent.

“So when I said we’ve had zero dead people out here…” she said tearfully “…we’ve had zero dead bodies walking around, but my dead mom’s here all the time. She’s here every time my dad looks at me – or avoids looking at me. She’s here every time Connie says anything to me. Even Kirk, he tried not to show it, but I could always see it in his eyes.” She made a fist with her free hand and pounded it against her leg. “I didn’t ask anyone to come after me. I was fine. I was always fine. It’s just, every once in a while I had to get out of here, head into town, find some friends, blow off some steam. I had to get fucked up. I liked getting fucked up. I still do. If I had anything, I’d be fucked up right now. You don’t know,” she added hungrily, “how many times I’ve dreamed – literally dreamed – of heading into town and finding a boarded up bar with a few bottles of Stoli left in the back room.” True aimed the flashlight at her own face, as though placing herself directly in the spotlight. “So, do you think I could survive out there? You can do it. Do you think I could?”

“You want to run away again? Now?”

“As far and as fast I can,” she affirmed without hesitation. “It’s what I do; I run away.” She chuckled, but there was nothing but anguish in the sound. “You don’t know how it is. Every time he looks at me I can see it there behind his eyes. He blames me. He’d never come right out and say it, but he does. He blames me for my mom dying.”

“You think maybe you blame yourself and you just think he blames you?”

“I definitely blame myself,” she shot back, sounding angry and tearful. “She came out after me. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have died. So, fuck yes, I blame myself. I’ll have that with me forever. There’s nothing I can do about that. But seeing it in my dad’s eyes…” she swallowed hard. “…that I can’t take. It kills me a little more every time I see it.”

“You know,” he said slowly, “your dad’s not going to be…”

“My dad’s dying,” she muttered. “My brother’s dying. I’m dying out here.”

“And your sister?”

“Connie hates me,” True shrugged. She sniffed and wiped her eyes. “Who can blame her? Sometimes I think she’d be better off out here without me, even after Dad and Kirk are…after they’re gone.”

“But then you realize that’s bullshit, right?”

True laughed a forced, sick sounding laugh as she rose from the shed floor. “It’s all bullshit.” She opened the door and stepped out into the night. “Every bit of it.”



******



“Out of the barn and into the house!” The distant yell pulled Lucas from his sleep. Though still only half aware of his surroundings, he could instantly tell he was listening to a heated argument. “True, I said get back into the house! It’s way too early for this.” The shouting belonged to Reed Brewer and as close as Lucas could tell, it was coming from the barn across the yard.

“Dad, just…just let me go!” came True’s voice, choked with anger and tears. “Why did you even come out here?”

“Get back in the house,” he father said again. “This is ridiculous!”

“Don’t worry, I’m only riding Sassy as far as town. She’ll find her way back.”

“I’m not worried about the horse, damn it!” her father shouted.

“I’m going! Don’t tell me not to. It’s what you want. It’s what everybody wants. It’s what I want. Holy shit, just let me go!”

“Would you…just go back into the house,” her father said, a pleading tone now entering his voice. “I’ll mix up the last of the pancakes – ”

Pancakes!” True scoffed, her voice bordering on hysteria. “Pancakes aren’t going to fix it, Dad!”

The details of what was said over the next few moments were lost to Lucas as he rolled out of his sleeping bag and pulled on his boots. Judging by the light coming in around the edges of the shed door, it was somewhere around midmorning. The air smelled like it had rained in the night and Lucas recalled hearing the sound of it on the roof as he slept. He opened the door to a bright hazy sky. Across the yard, True Brewer was atop a skewbald pinto and ducking her head to clear the top of the barn door. Her father, however, had hold of the horse’s cheek piece, preventing the animal from moving. “…not a good time for this,” Reed was saying.

“Good time!” his daughter shot back. “When is it ever a good time!? Don’t you get it? I have to go and you have to let me go. I am…I’m dying out here!”

“You’ll die out there. You know what it’s like. You’ve heard. The dead are walking around. The only thing they want is to eat the living. And the living, the few that there are, are desperate and dangerous.” Reed Brewer took an unsteady step back from the horse. His face was ashen and he was short of breath. “There’s…there’s nothing out there. No drugs. No booze. Nothing…nothing left. It’s all gone. Your friends are…all dead.” The man, already sickly and frail, looked as though he was ready to fall over. True, however, was too worked up to notice.

“I know there’s nothing out there!” True shouted in return. “I know they’re all dead, but I don’t care. I can’t stay here! I – don’t – belong – here! I never have and you know that. But you and Mom, you always kept kidding yourselves. You kept bringing me the fuck back. And now Mom’s dead and…and she’s dead because…you couldn’t face the fact that I…that I wasn’t worth the trouble…” Reed Brewer stumbled backward and fell to the hard packed dirt of the barn doorway. “Dad!” True yelled, her anger evaporating into fear. She slipped from the saddle and fell to her knees beside him.

“I’m okay,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s okay. I…just got a little lightheaded.” He blinked away at his dizziness. “True, tie up Sassy and help me back to the house. We’ll talk things over and – ” But the rest of Reed’s words were interrupted by a sharp cry from the house. In unison, both father and daughter turned their heads toward the source of the high pitched scream, identical looks of worry in their eyes. “Connie!?” Reed shouted. He struggled to rise, but fell back to the ground. He looked first at True and then across the yard to where Lucas stood in front of the shed.

“Lucas,” he called out in a gravelly voice, “would you – ” The appearance of his younger daughter at the back door of the house cut short his request. Constance flung open the door and pulled it forcefully shut after her. She raced across the yard, her hands covering her mouth in horror. All her pretended maturity, all her grit and guts suddenly gone, she ran straight to where her father lay and threw her arms around him.

“Kirk died,” she cried into her father’s shoulder. “I was watching you guys fight through the kitchen window and he came down the hall. I said his name and he looked at me and…and he made the same gagging sound that all the ones in the traps always make when they see me.” She sobbed harder. “My rifle…is…in the hall and…I had my revolver and…I had it…pointed at him, but…I couldn’t…”

“Shhh,” her father soothed, his hand stroking the back of her head, “it’s okay. It’s okay.”

“I dropped it…trying to open…the back door,” Connie continued. “I couldn’t…I couldn’t pull the trigger. Not…not on Kirk.”

Beside them, True stood up from where she’d been kneeling. Her anger and fear gone from her face, she stared blankly across the yard at the house. Slowly, she began to back up into the barn, stopping only when the shadows inside had wrapped around her, making her little more than a shadow herself.

“Lucas,” Reed called out after a moment, his voice dry and exhausted, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to…ask you for that favor we talked about.”

Lucas looked at the back of the house, but saw nothing but dark windows. “Where is he? He should be at the back door.”

“He went after Jelly,” Connie said with a tremor in her voice. “He was sitting on the kitchen counter and when Kirk…when Kirk came at me, Jelly hissed and…and ran. I think…I think Kirk went after Jelly.”

“Jelly’s our indoor cat,” Reed explained, sounding on the verge of tears himself.

Going into an unfamiliar house, knowing that a reanimated corpse was somewhere inside, went against everything he’d learned since the world had ended. Normally, the dead would respond to a knock on the door and show themselves at a window, making it easy to count them and relatively easy to put down. But, he thought, if the corpse of Kirk Brewer was busy chasing a cat, a knock on the door might not do the trick. He considered suggesting that they wait for a while, but the suffering on the man’s face and grief in his voice… He wasn’t sure if it was out of sympathy or out of something colder – simply wanting the whole painfully pathetic scene to go away, perhaps – but he found himself walking toward the back of the house with his grip tightening on the makeshift spear in his hand.

“Where are my guns?” he asked without turning.

“In my room,” Reed Brewer answered weakly. “On the dresser. Down the hall, last door on the left.”

His boots crunched over the gravel and he was keenly aware of the sound of the breeze sighing from the tops of the pines. “You said you dropped your revolver just inside the kitchen door?”

It was Reed who answered for his younger daughter. “She says yes.”

“Is it fully loaded?”

“She says yes.”

“Five rounds? Thirty-eight special?”

Reed Brewer answered once more, his voice now faint. “Yes.”

Lucas stopped at the back door and peered through the window, checking the kitchen inside from all visible angles. No undead body, he thought. No cat. The spear in his hand was reassuring, but he knew he would feel much better with Connie Brewer’s snub nose revolver. He reached out, gently turned the doorknob and pushed the door inward with the tip of the spear. The revolver was on the floor behind the door, a compact Taurus 85 with a lot of wear to the bluing around the cylinder and muzzle. He switched the spear to his left hand and, out of habit, opened the cylinder to see if it was indeed fully loaded. A person, he thought, didn’t survive this long by taking chances – chances like the one he was taking now for some stupid reason, he chided himself. The house still smelled of last night’s fish stew with an undercurrent of hospital odors. The reanimated body roaming the house was still too fresh to have added its own distinct blend of musky roadkill and chemical stink to the mix. He thumbed back the revolver’s hammer and stepped toward the hallway.

“Hey,” he said into the gloomy house, but there was no answering croak of air being expelled from dead lungs. This is bad, he told himself as he inched forward. This is B-grade horror movie stuff where the guy goes into the serial cannibal killer house and you’re yelling at him to just call it even and get out.

On his way down the hall, he passed Connie's rifle leaning up against the wall, but decided the little revolver would be better in the confined spaces of the house. He passed a small bathroom cluttered with buckets and hung with drying clothes and two small bedrooms, each one empty. At the end of the hall was Reed’s bedroom on the left and, by the look and smell of it, Kirk’s bedroom on the right. Again, both rooms appeared empty, except for a housecat – presumably named Jelly – who looked out from underneath the bed in Reed Brewer’s bedroom with wide open yellow eyes as if to say “Don’t even think of asking me to come out from under here.”

His revolver and Lux’s guns were sitting on the dresser, just as Reed had said. Though he was already armed, Lucas found he wanted the guns. He wanted to gather them up and to be out of there. He had already waded too far into the private affairs of strangers. He wanted to get back on track and leave the Brewer family and their problems far behind. He stepped into the room, laid the snub nose .38 Special revolver on the dresser and had just picked up his own holstered Smith and Wesson when the body of Kirk Brewer heaved itself to its feet with a small groan, almost like the sound of someone waking from a refreshing nap. It had been lying out of sight on the floor behind the bed, trying to get at the cat. Having eluded the corpse’s grasping hands, the cat took the opportunity to escape the room in a blur while Kirk’s remains gurgled in undead delight at seeing Lucas standing there.

Kirk Brewer, he saw, had been a big kid. He stood a foot taller than Lucas and, even after his illness, still outweighed him by a good hundred pounds. The young man’s face was discolored and swollen from the infection that had killed him. Its eyes were mere slits and its neck was mottled and bloated like a toad’s. It dropped open its jaw at the sight of him, revealing blackened gums and missing teeth. It scuttled around the bed and lunged just as Lucas brought up the spear in his left hand. The tip of it penetrated through the corpse’s stained pajamas and between its ribs, stopping it long enough for Lucas to free his revolver from its holster and aim it at the dead boy’s forehead. He pulled the trigger and heard the hammer drop on an empty chamber. He tried again, but in that fraction of second before the hammer dropped on the second empty chamber, Lucas remembered Mr. Reed Brewer’s admonishment to his youngest daughter about having a round chambered in her rifle: “Not in the house,” the man had said.

“Son of a fucked up – ” Lucas swore as he fell back against the dresser under the weight of the corpse. His spear was now deeply embedded in its chest and there was no hope of him pulling it free for a stab at its head. He let go of his empty revolver and felt about blindly for Connie’s snub nose gun. The corpse’s hands were around the back of his head, pulling his face toward its blackened mouth when he finally found the Taurus 85 with his groping fingers. With only a cursory attempt at aiming, he curved his arm around the dead boy’s beefy shoulder and pulled the trigger. The revolver threw flames and tried to fly from his grip, but he held on. The round struck a grazing blow to the back of the corpse’s skull. Somewhere inside its necrotic brain, it registered the violence of it and its grip lessened enough so that Lucas could tear himself free. He retreated against the bedroom wall, far enough so that he could raise the snub nose revolver. He sighted down the groove milled into the top of the weapon and fired a second time, hitting the corpse in its bloated throat and releasing rivulets of pus and blood. He fired a third time, the bullet passing through Kirk Brewer’s swollen left cheek, and a fourth time, putting a hole between its slit-like eyes. The body fell to its knees and Lucas fired a fifth time, blowing out the rest of the back of the young man’s head and spattering Reed Brewer’s neatly made bed with gore.

Retrieving his spear and gathering up his guns, he left the house with his fingertips tingling and his ears ringing loudly. He left through the kitchen door with Jelly the cat darting past his feet and across the yard. He marched straight to the red roofed shed and took his things, rolling up his sleeping bag, wrapping it up in his tarp and securing both to the bottom of his backpack. He left the shed and walked straight toward the drive leading down the draw and back to the lakeside road. But on his way across the yard, out of the corner of his eye he saw Reed Brewer kneeling beside his youngest daughter in the barn doorway, calling to him.

“Can’t hear you,” Lucas replied without slowing, his own voice muffled in his ears, “I’m deaf.” And he was glad to be temporarily deafened. In the heat of that moment, he wouldn’t have minded being permanently deaf just so he could never hear another voice asking him to do another favor like he’d just done. But the man got to his feet and ran at him with staggering steps and a wild, angry look. For a second, Lucas wondered if the man was going to strike him for doing what he’d been asked to do and putting down the body of his deceased son. He slowed and watched as the man stepped in front of him and took him by the shoulders.

With his face inches from Lucas’, he shouted “Connie’s was bitten.” Reed Brewer then released him and backed away, finally turning to go back to where his youngest daughter sat in the dirt outside the barn.

Lucas stood still for a few seconds, thinking about what the man had just said. Finally, with a deep breath of air, he turned and walked to the barn doorway. He knelt and opened his backpack. Removing his first aid kit, he handed Reed a strip of three alcohol wipe pads. The man tore open the first packet and began rubbing the crescent shaped bite mark on his daughter’s left arm. Through the ringing in his ears, he heard Connie suck air in through her teeth.

“Ow,” she complained, “it didn’t hurt until you did that. I told you it wasn’t bad.” She gave Lucas the briefest of glances before looking away, but it was clear to him that, despite the reality of things, he was now and would always be the guy who had killed her brother.

“Yeah,” her father said, still briskly rubbing the wound with the pad, “I know. You’re tough.” He gave Lucas a knowing look, but one that was also a warning not to say anything. “You’ll be healed up in no time.” Leaving his youngest daughter to hold the alcohol pad against her wound, he stood and walked a short distance away with Lucas.

“Here,” Lucas said, handing him the foil pill pack with the Moxifloxacin in it. “It’s an antibiotic. It wouldn’t have helped your son, not the night before he died. I…I’ve never heard of it helping anyone who’s been bitten.”

“I know,” Reed said to him. “I heard the same on the radio, but…I’ll give it to her anyway.”

“Doesn’t she know?”

“Maybe,” Reed replied with a glance at his daughter. “She’s not dumb. Maybe she just doesn’t realize it yet.” Trying to hold back a flood of grief, the man continued. “You need to go.”

“Yeah,” Lucas agreed.

“And take True with you,” Reed added.

Lucas blinked in surprise. “No.”

“She can’t stay here. Connie’s…Connie’s going to...” He heaved a ragged sigh. “Her brother’s dead. Now Connie’s going to... And then her father.” He gave a firm shake of his head. “True shouldn’t be here. She couldn’t take it. Just get her away from here. I’m not saying you have to watch after her for the rest of her life, just…just get her away from here. Get her on her way to…to wherever it is she’s going.”

Lucas opened his mouth to protest once more, but wound up only standing there with his mouth open. Reed Brewer gave him one last lingering look as he stepped away and returned to his youngest daughter. Lucas turned and resumed his walk toward the draw, in denial at what the man had said.

He wasn’t taking anyone with him, he told himself. He needed to go on alone. Another person would just slow him down. Another person would just sidetrack him, especially someone with True Brewer’s problems.

He was nearly halfway down the driveway before he heard the soft clop-clop-clop of horse’s hooves behind him. Still trying to deny the turn of events, still hoping the clopping sound would just go away, he put off glancing over his shoulder for nearly five minutes. When he finally did, he saw True Brewer riding slowly in his wake, a small pack of supplies secured behind her saddle along with some type of long, wooden handled tool. The girl didn’t look at him or call out, she only stared at the ground ahead, her face expressionless. As they neared the place where the driveway met the road, Lucas remembered the bear traps set by Constance Brewer to keep their home free of the dead.

“There are traps,” he said without turning.

“I know,” she replied from behind him, her voice drained of emotion.

“The road’s riddled with them,” Lucas muttered, mostly to himself.
"...the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire..."

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by independantGeorge » Thu Jan 26, 2017 12:48 pm

TB is on a roll :)

:clap: :clap: :clap:

my ears are still ringing from when I shot 20 rounds of 3006 with poor ear protection 20 years ago. I read an article on TWD and it mentioned that the characters would all be deaf by now with all the shooting. Now I always double up with plugs and ear muffs at the range. at least one suppressed subsonic weapon needs to be on everyones list.

thanks for the reminder TB :)
sent from my walther PPQ

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Spazzy » Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:25 pm

Great update!
Thanks!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:31 pm

Awesome TB!!!

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Sheriff McClelland » Thu Jan 26, 2017 2:19 pm

It never ends :clap:
Every update tops the last . This story has it's teeth in us and won't let go :gonk:
"Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up. "

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by bodyparts » Thu Jan 26, 2017 2:25 pm

woo hoo , thanks for another update :clap: :clap: :clap:

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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by 91Eunozs » Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:58 pm

:( Damn... not Connie too.

Thanks for keeping it real TB...well, as "real" as a zombie fiction story can be I suppose.

But enough of the morose reaction... Thank you! Great update...too short, but what a fantastic addition to this tale. Thanks again for kicking off my weekend in style!
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Re: The Dead at Destitute Mountain

Post by Hunt4lyf » Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:18 pm

91Eunozs wrote::( Damn... not Connie too.
Tinderbox giveth and Tinderbox taketh...

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