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Authors: Ricky Fleet,Christina Hargis Smith

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror

Hellspawn Odyssey (10 page)

BOOK: Hellspawn Odyssey
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“I don’t like this, there must be another way,” John grumbled.

“I could always drive the digger,” Peter suggested and John looked at him.

“Do you know how?” John asked suspiciously.

“Kind of, I used a smaller version to dig the foundations for our garden wall. It’s just getting used to the levers again,” Peter said, sure of himself. “There’s nothing stopping me getting behind the wheel in the garage area and trying it. If both Braiden and I hit two separate supports, the chances of it collapsing are that much greater.”

“Dad, what choice do we have?” Kurt questioned, but John knew there were very few.

“I just don’t like it, why don’t we use the distraction to lure them away from the roller doors and we try crushing a few? The cabs are high enough that Peter and Braiden will be clear of danger as long as they keep moving,” John suggested, he wanted to thin the numbers a little before they tried to pancake the remaining zombies.

“Won’t their weight just cause them to stall?” Sam asked.

“How do you mean, mate?” Kurt replied, unsure if he was talking about the machines.

“I remember you mentioning before that we couldn’t drive through the zombies, that if you get enough blocking the way the van couldn’t push through their combined weight,” Sam explained.

“We won’t have that trouble; the power of these machines will roll right over them,” Braiden told his brother. He had loved all things mechanical as he was growing up and knew the capabilities of the metal behemoths.

“If we use the windows to entice them over and to spread them out a bit, then when the doors are clear we begin the mayhem,” Peter laughed sickly, going pale. He was terrified of the task at hand but he owed it to his new friends to brave the horde.

“Ok, when do we do this?” Gloria asked, checking her watch. It was only mid-afternoon. They still had about four hours of daylight before the night fell.

“We will be cutting it close, if anything goes wrong and we end up on the road in the dark, we will be in real trouble.”

“Right, we do it at first light. We use the time to check the equipment, and you two,” Kurt looked at Braiden and Peter, “You practice with the controls.”

Activity resumed and the doors were thrown open, the shrill cries of Debbie were heard again. The desk was dragged clear and she came stumbling through the unblocked door, sweating profusely from the battering she had given the door. Her knuckles were bloodied and they could see spots of it on the fitted door sign. Kurt grabbed her, pinning her against the wall.

“Are you going to play nice, or do I lock you in a cupboard?” Kurt held his face inches from hers. Her feeling of isolation was compounded by the drumming coming from the door at the bottom of the stairs, a single inch of metal separating the dead from her tender body.

“I’m sorry, please don’t do that,” she said softly, contrition in her voice. How long it would last they had no idea.

“Come here.” Kurt pulled her to a chair and pushed her into it. She was expecting more violence but he walked off, took the small first aid kit from his bag and returned. He dabbed at the torn knuckles with antibacterial wipes, removing the blood and passing her a small bandage. “Wrap this around it.”

“Thanks,” she said as the group moved off. She quickly bound it around each hand before taping the ends down to hold it in place, then rushed after the others.

Their decision to postpone the mission was further validated by the fact it took over an hour to find the keys to the two mining appliances. They were tucked away in the back of a desk drawer that seemed to have nothing to do with the maintenance of the machines. If it had taken much longer they would have given up and tried their hand at hotwiring the vehicles. Braiden and Peter mounted up and the dry atmosphere of the workshop had kept the contacts and wiring free of moisture. The engines coughed into life and the high set exhaust pipes belched out black smoke, the rain covers flapping madly. Standing well clear of the tonnes of poorly controlled metal, the others watched as the two wrestled with the controls. Braiden was a lot quicker in remembering the functions of the levers, moving forwards and backwards as well as utilising the blade, twisting and raising it. The throttle increased and decreased as he adjusted the power, getting a feeling for the yellow dozer.

“What about the exhaust fumes?” Sarah shouted over the din of the engines.

“The workshop is huge; we should be ok for a little while. If anyone starts to feel tired, just yell,” Kurt answered, sniffing the air and smelling the burned diesel.

Peter was taking more time, the excavator had many more levers and functions. The movement was fine as he rolled forwards and backwards and gave them a smiling thumbs up. The success was short lived. The digging buckets were flying all over the place, clattering against the tool chests and surrounding work benches. His smiled faded and was replaced with a look of concentration. They chuckled and laughed at the wildly flailing arms; he saw them and shook his head in apology. It was their turn to return the thumbs up in support. In less than ten minutes he was reasonably competent and would probably not kill them all when he next climbed behind the wheel. He stopped the engine and climbed down.

“Sorry, that was tough,” he apologised again.

“You did great,” Paige complimented him and they all agreed.

“Took you about fifteen minutes to master it, I’d say that was a bloody good effort,” added John.

“I don’t know about master, but I should be able to smash that stone pillar.” He grinned.

They searched the small kitchenette and found no food, but plenty of powdered milk sachets, coffee granules, and Typhoo teabags.

“Oh my God, I would kill for a cuppa, even one with awful powdered milk,” John pined for the warm liquid.

“Let’s take it up. I’m sure we can heat some water. I will boil it on the engine of the digger if I need to,” Peter volunteered and John clapped him on the back.

“Bless you, lad,” John thanked him, grinning.

They blocked the upper office doorway completely. The heaviest obstacles were laid side by side to stop anything getting through. The thin staircase would not allow any real pressure to be brought to bear by the dead should they gain entry. With a metal waste basket and a champagne bucket they had found in the director’s office, they were able to light a small fire by an open window and boil water. The hot brews were most welcome after the chill of the workshop and they bedded down for the night. Even Debbie joined them, some of her obnoxious attitude had departed and they could only hope it would last.

**********

“Braiden, are you awake?” whispered Sam quietly so that he didn’t disturb the others.

“Yeah. Can’t get to sleep anyway. Too psyched for tomorrow,” he answered.

“Can I ask you something? It’s a bit weird,” Sam said, trying to think of the best way to word it without sounding too childish.

“Boys, you need to get some sleep, we have a busy day tomorrow. It’s going to be dangerous enough without you both being tired,” Gloria said, rising from her modest bed of chair cushions.

“Sorry, I just can’t get to sleep. I’m a bit nervous about tomorrow,” explained Braiden, which wasn’t a complete lie. He wasn’t worried for himself, only the chance that he might lose someone close to him if anything went wrong.

“Ok. Let me make you some hot cocoa, there were plenty of sachets left over from earlier. I will be back in a jiffy,” she said.

“No, it’s ok. Don’t worry, you need your sleep too,” Sam apologised, feeling guilty that he had woken her in the dead of night.

“Nonsense. It will take me five minutes and then, hopefully, we can get you two to get some rest. We need our fighting men strong,” she declared.  Standing up, she carefully lifted the tray that had all the leftover drink packets and stepped over the other sleeping figures.

“Thanks, Miss, you’re the best,” Braiden said graciously. He still couldn’t bring himself to call her Gloria. He had tried on occasion, but the entrenched teacher and student relationship was still foremost in his mind. He also thought it showed more respect which was a thought he would have never countenanced before the horror.

“Be right back,” she replied, gently rubbing his head as she moved past.

Honey took the opportunity and followed, seeking a far corner to relieve herself. The spark of a lighter flashed in the offices and then dulled as the small flames in the bin took hold, warming the water through.

“What did you want to ask, bro?” Braiden continued now they were alone again, except for the sleeping forms of the others.

“I don’t really know how to say it. I mean, I know the words, but I don’t want you to think I’m a pussy.” Sam tried to think of the best way to articulate his problem that wouldn’t leave Braiden disappointed in him. Their new brotherly bond was sacrosanct and Sam suddenly wished he’d just kept his mouth shut.

“It’s about that night isn’t it?” Braiden didn’t need to be a mind reader to see it was troubling him.

“Yeah, how did you know?” Sam asked, amazed at how in tune they were with each other.

“I’ve seen the way you have changed. It’s like you aren’t as talkative as you used to be, before it happened,” Braiden explained. “You have tried to ask me before, but then just clammed up instead.”

“I was going to mention it the other night too, until Dad interrupted us,” Sam replied. Braiden smiled at the word Dad, and the way he had come to use it as if Kurt was truly his father.

“I know. You were nearly bursting.” Braiden wasn’t pushing. He waited for Sam to get to what was really bothering him.

“I can still hear their screams when I close my eyes,” he said with barely a whisper, “I see his burnt face in the rubble, looking at me.”

Braiden held out a hand and squeezed Sam’s arm. “So do I.”

“What do you mean?” Sam asked with disbelief. “You are always so cool about it.”

“Doesn’t mean it doesn’t stay with me. I can still see HP’s eyes when he realised what I had done, the way he was swallowed by the attic hole. I see it in slow motion every night,” Braiden added.

“So it bothers you too? I remember you trying to tell me that you were a bad person and dangerous, that we should get rid of you.” Sam was dubious whether Braiden was just trying to make him feel better.

“I thought so too, until you convinced me I wasn’t. If I was evil, then I wouldn’t wish I had never met those fuckers. That way I wouldn’t have needed to kill them, but make no mistake Sam,” Braiden gripped his hand tighter, “You did what had to be done. That’s why it was only laying there worrying that you would get hurt, that made me tell on you.”

“So you aren’t happy about killing that fucker?” Sam asked, still feeling a bit awkward swearing in the presence of his parents.

“I didn’t feel happy killing him, no. What I felt was justice. Payback for all the hurt that people like that do to others, just because they can. One thing you can be damned sure of, though, because of what we did, they will never hurt another family again,” Braiden stated with conviction.

“So in a way, we are heroes. Like in the comic books, tackling Evil and fighting for Good,” Sam said with excitement. Then he thought about the ripping and screaming of the men he had killed and the grin vanished.

“In comic books, the heroes always win. In real life, it’s normally the other way round,” Braiden replied. He had seen the misery that men could commit both before and after the outbreak. It often went unchallenged, until now.

“I guess you’re right. Thanks, Braiden. I thought I was going to go mad,” Sam said with relief.

“You want to know what I do when they come back to haunt me?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Sam replied with interest.

“I picture all your faces, smiling. And I know that I have done something to protect you all,” Braiden said sincerely. The door opened and the drinks had arrived. Honey scurried through the closing gap and made herself comfortable with Peter and Paige, turning in a circle repeatedly until she finally settled.

“Here you go, boys,” Gloria offered the two steaming cups of delicious chocolate drink to the boys. “Careful, they are hot.”

“Thanks,” they replied in unison, blowing the frothy top to cool it a little.

Sipping in the darkness, Sam felt as if he had released a compressing vice of guilt in his chest. The screams of pain in his mind were replaced with the resounding laughter of his new family. Sleep took him shortly after and Braiden smiled to himself at how, through all the horror, he had found such happiness.

Gloria lay quietly, praying for sweet dreams to take the young boys far away from all the misery. The cocoa worked, and after fifteen minutes the boys were snoring quietly, showing no signs of fear in their slumber.

Chapter 8

They awoke and ate, fuelling their bodies for the upcoming trial. Braiden took Peter to one side, huddling and psyching him up.

“We got this, follow my lead. The dozer will be slower than your digger, so I want you to cover my back, crush any that look like they are going to be able to catch up. I don’t know if they can climb, but the maintenance steps could give them a chance.” Braiden held Peters gaze, feeling strange that he was instructing a grown adult and even stranger that the adult was riveted.

“Right, got it. I won’t let you down.” Peter was nodding furiously, getting himself in the zone.

“I know you won’t, you are a part of us now,” Braiden said confidently.

“Thanks, I’ve never really belonged before. Debbie wouldn’t let me see people.” Peter was humbled by the sentiment.

“Fuck her; she is a dead weight slowing us down. I’m amazed she hasn’t been killed or got us killed yet,” Braiden fumed, shooting a hateful glare at the pathetic creature.

“I know, but I’m all she had. She was all I had too,” Peter said, regretting his life choices.

“Now you’ve got Paige, you can forget about that horrible bitch,” Braiden stated.

“What do you mean?” Peter asked, butterflies bouncing around in his stomach.

“She is crazy about you. She is always looking at you and smiling when you aren’t paying attention.” Braiden grinned and they both looked over at her, she was petting the dog, showing her deep well of love. Looking up, she noticed their attention and blushed, but not before giving Peter the familiar smile. “There, see.” Braiden clapped Peter on the shoulder.

“I don’t know what I should do, Debbie would go insane,” Peter whispered, torn between excitement and anxiety.

“I’m fifteen, how the hell should I know?” Braiden exclaimed with a wide grin. “Let’s do this!”

They moved the desk and gathered in the workshop. Peter and Braiden climbed into the driving seats and started the engines, giving them a chance to warm up. They wanted to minimise any chance of failure that a cold engine may provide. Grinding to a halt in the midst of one thousand festering carnivores would result in a bad day for everyone.

“We need to search all this equipment. There could be some good gear to take,” Sam declared, pointing at the scattered tools and engine parts.

“Later, we have a job to do. Sam, go up to the rear of the building, open the windows and start shouting. Debbie, would you mind doing the same from the other end?” Kurt was extending an olive branch.

“Yeah, ok,” she replied, taking it with less ill will than Kurt was expecting.

Peter and Braiden turned their ignitions off once the engines had heated and the hollering started, carrying through the floor and steel doors. The noises of the dead battering on the metal diminished and finally stopped altogether. Kurt was nervous, he desperately wanted to take their place, but he didn’t have the skill to pull it off. He would just as likely crash into the other vehicle, killing them both. Or roll straight off the edge of a precipice, falling to his death on the rocks below in a tangle of twisted metal. Swallowing his pride, he waited patiently for the zombies to move away and the all clear signal to be given by John.


Go
!” His father shouted.

“Now,” Kurt called to Gloria and Sarah who pulled on the door chains, opening them to the daylight.

“Good luck!” Gloria yelled as the two rolled past her, giving her a nervous wave.

They squinted into the bright morning sun and as soon as they were clear the doors closed, sealing the openings like two closing eyes. They were on their own now, they would lead the crowd as far away as possible when they had, hopefully, been successful and the doors would blink open again. Peter felt like he was going to be sick when the flood of bodies rounded the building and made directly for them.

“Fall in line!” Braiden shouted, beeping the deep horn of the dozer and pointing to his rear. Peter nodded and pulled in behind, following the tracks of the heavier machine.

The horde was filing around their base which worked in their favour. Braiden drove to the far side of the open area and doubled back. The snaking line of horror was perfect and Peter assumed that Braiden would roll straight down it, killing most of them in one pass. Braiden took the safer option, he trusted the vehicle, but there was no room for error. He cut to the left and then sharply right, intersecting the pustule riddle procession, cutting through it. The heads and bodies connected with the massive blade, splattering gore and blood indiscriminately. The heavy caterpillar tracks dragged the dead down and crushed them, innards spewing from mouths and noses before the heads were pressed into the gravel, exploding from the forceful pressure. Braiden was cheering as the machine trundled on. Peter aimed the excavator, mopping up as many as he could that gave chase. The half squashed bodies that had escaped the full weight of the bulldozer reached out, unable to peel themselves from the gravelled ground. The tracks of Peter’s vehicle finished them off, compressing them like half rolled tubes of toothpaste. Braiden turned and cut another swathe through the lines, the smell of spilled decomposition was getting through the windows, making his stomach churn.

“Doing great!” Braiden whooped, looking back at Peter and punching the roof of the cab with excitement.

The enthusiasm wasn’t shared. Peter felt increasingly nauseous at the stink and the sights he was following, the glistening piles of ruptured meat and splattered blood, still retaining their basic human shape but squeezed to an inch thick. The mass of figures was getting thicker, the line converging on the exhaust snorting monsters. Some tried to find purchase to climb, but the rotating metal tracks brushed them aside and they too fell under the massive weight.

“Oh no!” Peter muttered fearfully. When Braiden had slowed to make a turn, the zombies had scrambled onto the rear of the cab. They were trying to get at the youngster who was oblivious to the impending threat because of the noise. The sudden turn tumbled one sideways and he was dragged into the churning cogs of the tracks, gradually being minced as they continued with the carnage. Peter accelerated and raised the digging arm, stretching it out. Matching the pace of the dozer he dropped the metal bucket and pinned the corpse, scraping it clear in a smear of green ichor which dripped from the rear.

“Thanks!” Braiden yelled, still smiling and putting his thumb up. How could he be so cheerful? Peter wondered.

They were getting close to the main building and Braiden swung away, leading the gathered horde towards the furthest point, readying himself for the final run into the waiting garage. Hundreds had fallen beneath the tonnes of steel. The caterpillar tracks drew crazy wet lines between crushed piles of the dead.

“You did awesome Pete!” Braiden called out as they waited, engines idling while the crowd converged on them. He gave three heavy blasts on the horn, signalling they were making their return journey.

“Can’t hear you,” Peter shouted, pointing at his ears. The JCB was saturated with unspeakable fluids and fragments of splintered bone that had hit against the cab. Struggling not to vomit, he focused on the steel doors, watching as they opened welcomingly.

“Ready?” Braiden mouthed to him and Peter nodded. They revved and punched forward, hitting the incoming tide with a sickening crunch, slime and blood splashing upwards like a wave hitting a breaker. Bouncing and rocking over the huddled bodies, the tracks started to slip on the dozer and it ground to a halt atop a pile of vileness. Braiden gunned it but the machine just churned the flesh into a paste, he didn’t have time to free himself, the zombies were already surrounding the stricken dozer. Peter hesitated, staring at the safety of the garage and the solid doors, the new friends he had made were waiting for him. The inner coward almost won, but with a bestial shout he turned, crushing more of the dead.

“Just go! Get out of here!” Braiden was shouting, pointing madly at the open doors.

Peter ignored him and raised the arm once more, dropping the toothed bucket and grasping the dozer blade with a resounding clang. Shifting into reverse he pulled as Braiden pushed and the vehicle came free, much to the disappointment of the hungry corpses who gave chase. Instead of repositioning himself Peter stayed in reverse, watching over his shoulder and breaking loose of the other machine at the last minute and backing it expertly into the waiting mechanical bay. Braiden parked up and the doors came clattering down just in time, the sounds of fists on metal quickly commencing again.

“Bloody hell that was intense!” commented Braiden, jumping down from the cab and grabbing Peter in a bear hug. “You saved my life, Pete. I won’t forget it.”

“None of us will, you were fantastic,” Paige complimented him and joined the embrace.

“You would have done the same for me,” Peter said, blushing. He would keep his momentary weakness from them, he was ashamed at himself. It was the kind of shit Debbie would pull.

“Look out!” Kurt yelled and swung his hammer. The half minced zombie had pulled itself free from the cogs and was reaching for Paige. Peter pulled her away and they fell on top of one another. The steel hammer head punctured the brain and it collapsed, the entrails stretching in a disgusting trail from the dozer.

“Thanks, you saved me again.” Paige smiled up at Peter; she saw his face and the smile changed to confusion.

“I… I …” Peter didn’t finish, instead vomiting his breakfast all over Paige’s hair.

“That’s gross!” Sam said, trying not to laugh.

Peter looked devastated. He was frantically trying to clean his mess, pulling bits of food from her golden tresses. She started laughing underneath him, unfazed by the sickly smell and sticky hair.

“Oh God, I am so sorry,” Peter was apologising repeatedly as Kurt and John helped him to his feet.

“Bend over, dearie,” Gloria instructed, pouring clean water over her head, washing most of the larger debris away.

“Hang on!” Sam said and ran off, returning quickly with a handful of soap from the press dispenser in the toilet. “It’s not great, but it’s got to be better than that.” He shrugged, rubbing it into her head. They poured more water, washing the suds away onto the concrete floor.

“That’s a waste of our water,” Debbie scolded.

“Yes, but necessary,” Kurt agreed grudgingly. Paige couldn’t have been expected to have vomit dripping from her. “Let’s get the last of the water from the chiller, and then we get our breath back. I want to head out within the hour.” It was as much to get it over and done with as anything. The sight of the JCBs wreaking havoc was one thing, but he would be on foot.

“We need to get these scraped off first,” John argued, indicating the limbs, guts and blood that covered the machines. It was unlikely that the gore would cause a malfunction but why take the chance? John picked up a broom and started to poke through, dislodging lumps of viscera that hit the bottom of the inspection pit with a wet splash. Peter looked over, retched and looked away.

“You sit this one out, mate. We will finish up,” Kurt advised and Peter raised an appreciative hand before staggering off to lie down.

Three more incomplete zombies were ground up and wedged in between the main body of the vehicles and the hydraulics. They gnashed and moaned before being dispatched without ceremony, ramming jabs from the last crafted steel spear ending their loathsome existence. It was more difficult to shift these larger objects and Kurt had to reach in, hacking away with the hatchet until the remains dropped onto the growing pile of meat.

“I think that should do it,” John said, dripping sweat.

“Fancy a cuppa?” Kurt asked, wanting a steaming mug of coffee.

“Sounds like a plan,” John replied and they returned to the upper floor, igniting the fire in the bin to boil more water.

“You ok, Pete?” John questioned, kneeling by him on the sofa and offering the hot fragrant brew.

“Yeah, sorry it was just the smell. I’ll be good to go again shortly.” Peter took the mug, savouring the delicious coffee.

“Good man, you were terrific. Rest up a while longer.” John patted his shoulder and retrieved his own drink, before walking to the window. The broken bodies were strewn across the gravel, some still alive, now immobile and stuck to the ground. Several hundred had been wiped out, making Kurt’s task slightly less daunting. They were still a sizeable force to take on.

“You ready for this?” John asked when Sarah and Kurt joined him.

“Nope, but we don’t have a choice. I’m the only one who knows the mines a little,” Kurt said and Sarah held him tight. His youthful exploration into the lower level had been short lived, his bravado in front of his female companion quickly disappearing when mournful wails had echoed down the tunnels. It had probably been a lost animal but they had not stopped running until they were safely back in his rusty car, panting and laughing in equal measure.

“We should go and sit down, get our strength back. This nervous pacing is doing us no favours,” Kurt stated and they settled onto the sofas. They talked and discussed as much of the coming plan as they could think of. It didn’t go unnoticed that the closer Paige got to Peter, the further Debbie moved away, both physically and mentally. The hateful looks that she regarded the pretty blonde with were beginning to grate on Kurt. Just as he was about to explode again, the time had come.

BOOK: Hellspawn Odyssey
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