This is part of our free, online and highly-praised survival fiction novel. You can read the rest of the parts here.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Jeep slowly rolled to a stop. It was well after midnight, and the men sat overlooking the darkened city. Bob turned the engine off, still staring into the starkness below them.
A newfound horror lay before them. In the early morning gloom, their once fair city glowed red with embers and small fires, which stretched for several miles into the distance.
Above the city skyline was a thin layer of smog, and above that, was the tiny pin points of light. Star fire, as if they were holes punched into a blackened dome that hung over the city. The men were nearly two miles from town, yet they could see the horror of what lay before them.
Simon leaned forward, disgusted, he coughed the words out shaking his head with hungered despair.
He was the first of the three to speak, “Well, what a damned shame, will you look at it.” His tone almost sounded casual, as if he expected to see it the city in such a wreck.
“What the hell happened?” The question was meant to be rhetorical. The three barely moved, as if caught off guard they stared stoically at the devastation sprawled before them.
It was obvious that the rioting over the past year had gone from bad to worse. The city was a war zone, it lay in ruin. A shadow of its former self.
The three men struggled with their thoughts. Taking in the devastation, trying to recognize their once vibrant home. Now, smashed under piles of rubble, and over a year of violence that it had endured.
The fires could be seen writhing between the orange embers, and twisted frames of buildings. Many once towering high-rises were dimly lit from within. Behind broken windows, glowing red not by electric light, but by the faint flickering of flames came from within.
The glow revealed black ominous plumes that tore away from the spires of the skeletal frames. Pushed by eastward prevailing winds, that had dropped out of the western hills cold and foreboding.
It was as if a hidden force slithered its way toward the east… forcing the determined hand of God crushing all in its wake, or perhaps something more malevolent.
The men blinked in wonderment at the Renaissance painting… brushed by some crazed artists. A madman who’s hand haphazardly dragged a shaky fist across the skyline… smearing grays and blacks from edge to edge.
The demonstrable work of the black arts must have been smudged by horrific bile, blood, or the soulless tones of color created somewhere beneath us in the underworld…
An apocalyptic scene thrust its way up from the crust. It was a scene resembling Dante’s inner turmoil, straight from his insanity.
This was not fiction. Murphy was viewing a new form of insanity, although, it was the work of man’s undoing. A futuristic vision of humanities of doom, it was an example of a failed nation, much like the failed societies of our not so distant past. The inevitable downfall of so many of man’s empires before a modern empire collapse.
What was once straight and orderly, a bustling city, was now bent and twisted. This fearful signpost, was a warning to all who saw it, such as from those ancient mariner days, penned by those old world navigators in our past.
Man’s future was now as uncharted as any unknown planet.
Murphy reasoned this was more than the fruition of a series of nightmares that he was witnessing, but that he and his friends were standing at a crossroads.
All of them stood by the bent billboard swinging on a gnarled tree, in the winds of change. It was a grim warning to them who could read it. It read…
“Turn back,” it was as plain as day to Murphy, “you shall not pass,” it read… a foreboding message… the meaning welled up in Murphy’s heart, “beware all who continue down this path of doom.” He could hear the voice behind the words as if it whispered in his ear. “Hello Brother.”
The voice haunted Murphy from his dream in the swamp.
“For beyond this point there be dragons…” The message was all too clear to Murphy. He wanted to turn back…
He shivered inside, “We should think about this mission some more Bob, before we go down there” he choked the words out… without looking over at his friend. “Maybe we should head back,” he added?
Murphy’s negative thoughts regarding Bob’s crazy idea to return to town were booming in his head now. It was not the first time either. The idea had been creeping up in the back of his mind since the mission started. It felt much like that night… way back in the Longview swamps, a year ago.
He had been more than bothered by those not so distant nightmares from the swamp. Murphy recalled his nightmare of running through the riot and the firestorm. The bomb blasts and the squealing finger scratching over the cars windscreen.
A nightmare that, for a moment, had come alive right before him, and now his old feelings spiraled up from the depths of that black ocean that we all tread… oh so fervently above, as we can’t help but plumb the depths of these fears. We revel in them…
Murphy could once again taste the bile in his throat, he felt the urge to bolt from the Jeep, just as he did the night in the swamps.
He bit his lip hard and gripped the jeeps door handle, ready to flee… desperately he was trying to control his growing anxiety. The other men would never understand his anxiety.
Thick black smoke coiled from buildings pyres. Billowing upward, and flashing periodically from within, red and roiling gases, belched as if boiling from within. Blasts from beneath many violent explosions.
Above these buildings, there were flickering tendrils of red and orange, swirling dragons breathe belched forth against the black morning sky.
The flames taunted the heavens as the stars above glimmered like diamonds from the heat waves.
Truly hell hath brought forth its wrath, risen from the underworld in a clenched black fist that now gripped the city and crushed all who lived within.
The entire south side of their town had been leveled beyond hope. A few buildings still standing, stood between crooked walls. Chaos and rubble thrust up through soot and scorched earth, past piles of dark matter.
The scattered ground fires danced over the distant hills… possessed entities, spitting flame and ash before of a parade of dancing demons. Hell’s army was made of flame… seductively writhing ahead a shimmering mirage of heatwaves. It was as if an animated production had been created… featuring the end of days.
The city had endured a hard fought battle that much was sure. It had clearly taken place over many months. All was either smashed or burned to the ground. Nearly unrecognizable.
It was alien to Murphy. The scene appeared as if something from the Middle Ages. A village or city viewed beyond time after a battle of the crusades.
His once quiet city was Dante’s Hell incarnated… red funeral pyres painted with pastel charcoal earth-tones. Were now burned into the men’s minds. The finality of the devastation stood stark, feeling hopeless in everyone’s minds. Their collective gloom was painted against the growing morning gloom.
Oh, the sun may rise again, that much was certain, but beyond that it seemed hopeless…
Simon pushed forward in his seat again. He repeated the same sentiment again.
“Damn… what the hell happened here,” he asked?
The rhetorical statement crackled in Murphy’s left ear… shaking him from his hellish funk. Simon’s tone made him look back at his companion in stunned silence.
He saw it in Bob’s eyes too, it was as if they were somewhere else, staring off into some space Murphy couldn’t see.
Murphy wondered how these soldiers saw what was before them. Was it the same as he, or tempered? Perhaps Bob was back in some Middle Eastern desert on a mission.
Both had that unfamiliar thousand yard stare. It was so obvious to Murphy, and on Bob, and Simon’s faces were vague but distant expressions. A look of indifference which had replaced what had been moments before an attitude of mirth.
Each had just minutes before this, been smiling while anticipation their city. Perhaps they hope returning would be joyous… as the long lost prodigal sons.
Murphy laughed silently to himself. The three had acted as foolish youngsters as they rolled to a stop, each happy to have made it through a gauntlet of check stops and military patrols, now finally arrived.
Bob leaned his elbows onto the Jeep’s steering wheel and squinted through the dusty wind screen as he rested his chin on his forearms. He exhaled slowly not believing what he was witnessing.
Murphy needed to see it more clearly, he slowly stood-up for a better view. Pulling himself up by the windscreen of the Jeep, he peered over the filthy glass. The scene was certainly complete destruction, a landscape of epic proportions, and it was as far as Murphy could see in any direction… total ruin.
Bob managed to whisper out these words, “I’ve seen this before, in Iraq…” He hesitated a while, “I never thought I’d see it in my own town… What have we done here…Good God, what have we done?”
Murphy knew this was the coming war Bob had warned them about a year before. He knew. Somehow he knew it as if it were inevitable. More than once Bob voiced this prophecy, and of it’s coming.
Murphy hated how he always doubted his neighbor, he considered it as mere rambling a year ago, but now felt devastated. It made him sick to his stomach.
“This can’t be happening,” Murphy swallowed hard, trying to keep the bile from rising in his throat. He hoped he would not get sick in front of his companions. Desperately holding it down.
He didn’t want the other men to know how weak he felt. He decided to say nothing, to remain silent for a while until he could hold his fears in as he imagined the other two men did.
Suddenly a rapid series of distant flashes could be seen in the valley below.
“That looks like artillery,” Bob pointed toward the valley floor where the flashes could be seen.
Murphy shivered at the thought of being in a real war… he realized Bob would recognize artillery when he saw it. Yet he hoped it wasn’t so.
What followed were the tell-tale deep thuds of mortar rounds, and moments later a small shock-waves could be seen emanating from their centers. The shock waves bent the air before it. The waves moved the smoke and dust in an ever widening circle.
The horror gripped Murphy’s mind.
Could really be?
Was he witnessing the destruction of his entire city, their homes and their lives which once was taken for granted?
It looked as if now in were in a civil war.
A war he had nightmares about back in the swamps.
Murphy wished he would wake from his dream. He reminisced about his childhood home, the streets he grew up on. He envisioned himself standing on its sidewalks once again, outside his quiet childhood home… Suddenly he pictured it torn and cratered by mortar rounds.
No more magnificent elms, no mail boxes, row on row, no manicured lawns… no more vibrant yellow leaves spiraling in the autumn breezes. Dislodged by the slightest gust of October winds. All his favorite haunts and romps were gone too.
“That looks like our neighborhood right down there.” Murphy pointing a shaky finger toward the burning houses below them. His voice was raw, as he watched three more artillery flashes explode across his neighborhood.
“God damn it…” Bob spoke with quiet disgust, “That’s our neighborhood.”
The nation’s plight had come to Metro…
Bob leaned back in the Jeep’s seat with a look of despair, he shook his head in dread. He swung the Jeep’s shifter back and forth, searching for neutral.
“Well, let’s get closer.” Simon called out earnestly from the back seat.
Bob looked at him in the rear-view mirror, “Okay, We’ll camp just at the edge of town for the rest of today, and chose a route through town from there… I won’t leave until it’s dark… hopefully we’ll find a route that feels safe.”
He reached for the ignition switch, and turned the key to “on” position without turning it over, and sat back, “Well, shit… how could things be any worse than this?” he thought this out loud then recalled the idea of heading into town, and cringed.
Murphy’s sickness crept up… He knew right-a-way this was a bad idea.
“Let’s go,” Simon called out from his back seat. He was certainly ready for whatever lay ahead.
Bob carelessly fumbled with the Jeeps shifter once again… while forcing the gear, he pushed the clutch and let it roll freely down the hill, then dropped the gear, while dumping the clutch. The engine suddenly roared to life. Bob grabbed for the second, and stormed toward the bottom of the gull for the highway.
The Jeep descended the hillside bouncing wildly and speeding over bushes they rolled toward the base of the hill. It bounced out from the side trail, as the highway suddenly appeared several yards ahead appearing through some tall trees that lined its edges.
Its smoothness looked odd, straight and vacant, and that old feeling came over Murphy as they climbed the ditch. This may be the smoothest driving in the last twenty-four hours for the men, but as comforting as that sounded, they were nervous once more, and searching for rogue patrols while leaving the treeline. No longer in the safety of the woods, the rest of the way to town would leave them exposed.
They carefully considered they would need to stay vigilant to make it into the city undetected even in the dark. Scanning for patrols, as well as Bob’s warning that there may be snipers or insurgent taking pot shots at them from cover.
The idea of snipers didn’t make Murphy’s feel any better.
It churned, and rumbled, threatening to retch as the pavement drew near.
He hid the sickness well from the others, hoping the darkness would obscure his pallid complexion. Murphy looked ghostly with fear as the Jeep rolled up the bank.
They climbed out of the ditch, and leaped out onto the vacant highway. Each man scanned the ribbon of asphalt. It was still, quiet, dark and the highway was void of all things moving. Even the moon could not brighten its black void.
No movement could be seen. Bob shut down the engine to get his bearings, the highway looked straight as black as inside an old stone cellar. The lack of motion made it standout stark under the moonlit sky. Nothing could be seen to move in either direction.
“What do you say, boys?” Bob asked loudly.
“Let’s keep rolling, we can’t stay here all morning,” Simon spun about nervously looking for trouble. Murphy for once agreed with Simon, and Bob, turned the Jeep over, he aimed it toward the outskirts of the city, toward their next unknown destination.
He anticipated that everything would be smooth, or so he hoped. At least he sensed that there would be no more check stops until the edge of town. He hoped they hadn’t moved the check-stop from where it had been the last time he passed this way a year ago. He knew that this wasn’t likely, but had nothing else to go by. Now, it was a straight run toward the city from where they were.
From that point forward, they would be limited to traveling by the city’s streets only. They would be exposed to any patrols, and if they were spotted, Bob hoped the three would appear harmless enough. Hoping the patrols would disregard them, hoping they would be bent on bigger fish.
After seeing the state of the city from the hillside, the men decided not to conceal their rifles.
Murphy certainly would feel safer with them at the ready and he prayed they would not need to use them at all. Bob reckoned that things looked far worse than he anticipated, so he deciding to err on the side of safety. They kept them at the ready, rifles would be handy if they were shot at by gangs or vigilantes.
The men continued onward, and for the most part things remained quiet. The city appeared to be just a ghost town at street level. Rolling along block after block were empty streets and vacant windows.
Occasionally the need to swing off onto side streets was necessary to avoid coming vehicles. Then, the occasional group of suspicious looking people dashing behind buildings.
The men rolled on cautiously as they moved toward a group individuals. The men watched cautiously as they drew near. They crept forward.
Bob’s Jeep must have appeared to the men as a military vehicle. The group scattered and ran for the buildings. Bob rolled by without hesitation.
Simon nervously twisted in his seat to watch as they drove by, “We need to get the hell off this road before daylight,” he said holding his head low behind the spare tire.
“I agree,” said Bob as his eyes darting down each street they passed.
Growing nervous, Murphy watched the alleyways too, scanning the windows for snipers.
Bob shouted above the engine’s rubble at Murphy, “Hey, keep that rifle ready. It’s better if everyone sees it in the open… unless you spot a patrol… then hold it out of sight.”
The truck’s rugged tires hummed over the smooth black top. Bob grabbed third, and the Jeep sped up racing past a rather rough looking group of teens who seemed indifferent to the men, they didn’t react to the vehicle or Murphy or his rifle. Simon stared at the teens as they disappear behind them. The growing fog hid everything they pasted as they flew by.
The smoldering metropolis drew near, and the men’s hearts filled with dread. The thick morning gloom rolled in front of them. The tiny vehicle plunged through the fog. It disappearing into the grayness of it all.
Murphy suddenly had a deja vu. Perhaps from his nightmares, perhaps from another life…
It felt like entering one of his fevered dreams-capes again. The fog certainly did conceal the Jeep’s movement, and for the most part it hid all that was going on around them as well. This left Murphy anxious, and with an old feeling he recalled from the swamp.
A thin silver light rose above the neighborhoods buildings, it came from the east. It was a dim glow that had been squeezed between the dark low clouds above, and the hard shadowed landscape on the horizon. It appeared strained and pinched in Murphy’s mind, he choked down the relentless bile welling up in his throat…
The grey light revealed more of the city’s devastation.
Bob’s off-road tires howled as they drew closer toward the ruined Metropolis. Its devastation was horrific up close, resembling a war zone.
Murphy could smell soot and chemicals on the warm wind.
As they approached the burned out industrial section of town… an acrid stench hung on the air. It was a mixture of burning tires and rotting garbage…
It reminded Murphy of the times he was a kid and he and the neighborhood kids would scavenge the dumps for bicycle parts. Murphy was a poor kid, as families go, though he never considered himself this way, when he was a child. The neighborhood kids just liked building their weird custom bikes out of dump parts, like the motorcycle gangs did, or so they imagined.
The city’s odor grew foul, until it blended into the graying haze all around them. The smog hugged the broken asphalt, and moved across it slowly. It wound its way between the buildings. Circling the light standards, the burned out vehicles, the leave-less trees as if some sort of living thing drove it forward. As if it were searching for something, then devouring it in its wake.
The fog flowed over rooftops and spilled off barriers, reminding Murphy of hot ice when it spilled from a science beaker.
The three men flew passed a car lot that was full of abandoned cars. Most only had their rooftops exposed above the unusually eerie mist.
A strange sight which clung to all that it engulfed. The gloom went on block after block, and slowly dissipated as the evening waned.
The dim gray light slowly turned yellow as the mysterious morning crept forward. Many of the street lamps had either been shot out, or without power and not lit. This made it difficult for the men to scan the side streets.
Murphy feared that most of all, anyone could be hiding in the shadows. Who would ever know? He imagined that the hardened war veterans, developed a sort of sixth sense about this sort of thing. Perhaps because they knew that is where they would hide if given the chance.
The Jeep rolled on as if they were the only people in the world now. It drove deeper into the city’s chaos. The pensive passengers swiveled their heads back and forth nervously scanning for any danger.
They studied every shadow for movement. Murphy was keenest to catch any motion… at least before being caught off guard. He imagined bullets zipping through his body…
“What the hell was he doing here?” he wondered.
Simon and Murphy paid particular attention to the upper windows for snipers. Bob kept a wary eye open for domestic patrols and gangs from the North he had heard about on the radio.
Murphy looked back and studied Simon. He had wrapped a wet T-shirt around his face allowing him to breathe the foul air, so Murphy did likewise. He wet it with a canteen that Simon handed him to cover his shirt.
Murphy nodded as he accepted the canteen… without a word. The group rolled through the desolate streets toward the inner city.
Black soot fell from the sky, out of nowhere, like black snow from the cloudless void. It was as if the men were watching a negative image of a blizzard.
High above the burning warehouses, windows suddenly coughed plumes of black into the air. Thick spiraling columns of smoke raged into the heavens, adding to the gloom. The rising soot formed against an invisible ceiling high above the city. A layer of black had formed and was forced down by the cold dense air circling above the city.
An inversion flattened out the warm bubble of air against the cold ceiling. Streams of soot stretched out like fingers inside a growing black glove.
They spread out over Metro, a fist seeking to squeeze shut, and pull the city beneath the grim scorched ground… forever.
Murphy had never seen such a sight. He shivered and watched the black fingers coiling eastward.
The smoke was forced eastward at hard angles pushed by the upper winds.
Murphy stared into the distance. The wild fires raged over the hillsides. Their flames driven hard by the gale force winds. He saw hellish tornadoes spin orange and red in relentless rows. Their army marched through the underbrush, an inferno of flames. Marching eastward… sickening step by measured step. This army of demons laid waste to all in its wake.
The growing dawn revealed more terror, yellow oozing forth from behind distant hills. A foreboding skyline that look smeared, brownish, pouring from under edge of the low cloud.
Murphy saw what he thought were flashes of lightning. The pulsing red explosions coming from an oil refinery, spewing mushroom clouds… that boiled up into the yellow morning gloom. It was Satan’s world… that was all Murphy could think of as he watched the destruction.
The thickening black ceiling rolled over the men’s heads. Only lit by the burning city far below. It gave the scene a strange gray glow to the underside of the clouds as the Jeep rolled beneath it. Murphy felt claustrophobic, almost tiny, and closed in by the rolling layer of smoke and cloud.
To the west lay a dingy dome of gray, much like a cathedral made of smoke. Its arch had formed by the prevailing winds. The cloud base sprawled across the western sky, as if a blanket had been tossed out there. In which this blanket was torn in places with a series of pointed spires and shattered skyscrapers, which still desperately tried to poke itself through this blanket.
Such devastation shook Murphy, and to see this was all so new to him. The smell, the fire, it all made him feel anxious. A surreal world had replaced his world with a weird hum only he could hear. In which rose from one of those old black and white science fiction movies an invisible monster, Godzilla. And, now it somehow had come to life moments before, and changed everything to ruin.
The men moved along the streets. No one spoke for several blocks, they rode in silence taking in the chaos around them. The Jeep seemed to be the only mobile thing in this hell world. The silence replaced the hum of the Jeeps tires, as if the vehicle had levitated and rode above the pavement… on air.
The traditional industrial part of town slowly rose up, ahead of them, looming with its stature as they drove under its darkening cinder block cliffs. Looking like stone walls hanging above a deepening valley towering above the men… it reminded Murphy of his childhood Bible passage. “Thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil…” the book of Psalms if he recalled.
Well, this valley held some fear for Murphy. He shook the grim image from his mind, for he feared the evil that had appeared around him suddenly…
He couldn’t help wish he were back home in his and Bob’s valley. He wondered if they were making a mistake by even being there…
His mind wandered and he wondered about the Granvilles and their tiny cabin, he thought of Marlee with her new colt. He panicked and grabbed the edge of the Jeep again, ready to jump from the moving vehicle this time, but held fast…
“What the hell was Bob planning in town,” Murphy wondered?
Why did he need to go to town in the first place? What was it that he was so adamant about getting at his house? Why would he risk everything in returning to this place?
Murphy wondered what was worth so much to risk.
Suddenly, two blocks away came a steady barrage of automatic gun fire. Murphy noticed it echoing throughout the neighborhood. It bounced off the factory walls. They moved through the echoes. Bob dropped a gear and accelerated. The grade leveled out, and it was apparent that the gun fire was aimed at them.
Simon nervously shouted, “Did you hear that? The bullets made a buzzing noise when they flew by, much like a large insect.
“That went right past my head… it came from just over that way.” Simon pointed in the general direction. The shots came from a building in the next block. Murphy too heard the buzz as the next angry insect zipped past his head.
Simon yelled out, “Get the hell out of here, Bob.”
Bob slapped Murphy’s arm and yelled above the noise of the jeep, “Murphy, keep your head down and your eyes open,” Murphy accepted Bob’s order, and crouched beneath the Jeep’s dash. He felt as if he was on patrol with these men. Murphy considered he was now a soldier too, whether he liked it or not, and this was his combat experience… to be sure, it was no joke, anymore.
Murphy again regretted coming, and felt ill-equipped for not having any training for this sort of thing. He envied his two companions, and reflected, on how every man feels for the most part… some form of regret at some point in their life… for not having served in the military or gone to war. That’s how they keep young men coming back to war, he thought…
Murphy drifted in his mind. He remembered reading about the last war between the states. The history books called it a Civil War, and a particular passage written by General Stonewall Jackson, popped into his head… it read:
“When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.”
As a kid he felt pride well up inside him when he read it. The words sounded heroic… as it was meant to be. But, now he feared the outcome of such a brash statement.
Murphy realized one cannot afford to think in any other terms in the face of war. Anything less would surely be met with defeat.
The streets were choked with debris, and strewn with clutter. Bob had to slow the Jeep to 15 MPH. The roadway was lined with derelict cars, and some of them burning from the recent skirmish, while others were over-turned, and engulfed in flame too.
Obviously there had been a recent battle.
Murphy’s head swiveled about, as he followed the grimy faces of the derelict persons. He held their gaze as they rode by. They were two very young men, plus an old woman, huddled behind a burning sedan.
The image seared into Murphy’s mind as he watched them cowering behind the burning wreck.
Bob drove cautiously, and Murphy stared in amazement at their pitiful state. How could this be? What happened to his old town? These people were like characters from some Dicken’s novel…
“Keep an eye on them, Murphy,” Bob nodded at the three wretched beings. Murphy didn’t see the harm they could do, but lifted his rifle to his chest, and held it at the ready. He honestly doubted anyone of them could harm a fly, or that he could even shoot one if they did try something.
The men rolled on.
Simon viewed them with indifference as the street urchins stared slacked jawed, and vacant. Murphy wondered about this new world he found himself in.
The abject poverty that these people must be experiencing left him in awe… it seemed pointless. Who was responsible for this new America? He wanted to find out and kill them. Murphy felt beyond his depth, experiencing these new feelings he was wrestling with, was breaking him.
He could not reason that these people were so poor that their lives consisted in daily huddling around rogue fires for mere comfort against the weathers biting cold. These people were most likely homeless because of these same fires that now gave them warmth.
“Who knows who was to blame,” Murphy wiped a tear from his eye. Were these creatures created by rioters, or perhaps… our Military, or some other faction with one of those twisted acronyms they use so often these days…
Perhaps Islamist terrorists were solely to blame? Taking advantage of it all because of a declared Martial law? Who started this, and how is it that it cannot be stopped? Every option looks like simply another path toward the same outcome.
Murphy felt ashamed for humanity. He gripped his rifle tightly to his chest. His knuckles turning white with anger. He was ready. He was a soldier now.
He told himself to be alert. It was for everyone’s safety.
He held his rifle barrel against the floor-boards just between his knees. He then grabbed Simon’s bottle of whiskey from the back pack without asking.
Murphy took a long swig of the 18 year old whiskey. Simon reached out his open hand, and Murphy passed the bottle back to him.
Bob suddenly jerked the wheel hard, swerving the Jeep around some grisly looking apparition. It had appeared out of nowhere. A man standing in the middle of the road dressed in rags had suddenly appeared out of the thick fog. The man was standing stiff with his arms raised in a Crucifixion… he was shouting inaudible curses towards the heavens.
Murphy could make out just a few words as they passed, it was scriptures, although he couldn’t make out which passage or phrase. Recognizing only the telltale pattern of a prophetic sermon.
The Jeep wheeled by the mad prophet. He must be clearly insane or on some sort of hallucinogenic drug. The ragged man held in one of his filthy hands a tattered Bible, and in the other a large butcher’s knife, which he raked at the sky as he kept shouting.
Bob yelled out to the disheveled one, “Jesus man… look out.” He followed this up with, “You crazy bastard, get off the friggin’ road.”
Murphy could hear a fragment of the man’s sermon as the Jeep drove near him.
“The end is nigh!” He stared right at Murphy when he said this.
Murphy considered this profound statement with little to no regard. It had been quite apparent to Murphy for some time that the end was nigh.
The statement was not actually as insightful these days, as it had probably been in the past. For the tattered bum had no doubt been yelling this for most of his insane adult life, and yet for once …he was dead right. Still no one was listening… what a wasted life. Murphy wondered how many derelict prophets had simply emerge then faded with no one ever hearing them.
The four wheeler moved carefully on, moving through the scattered debris. Slowly Bob swung the Jeep through the crates, and debris. All while making his way around wrecked vehicles, and slowly pushing past a makeshift barricade.
The wrecks seemed to pop out of nowhere at the men. Appearing as if suddenly from behind the fog, and then disappearing behind whence they came. The fog had flowed down off the western hills like an invading army.
Murphy couldn’t help but wonder as the people he saw cowered. What did their lives consist of nowadays? A daily struggle for life itself. The people appeared often now through the fog, and out of nowhere… and, just as suddenly they faded from view.
They were as ghosts with no discernible features… Pathetic looking creatures… most ghoulish, and sullen, the unseen grimness was implied, each retreating behind a misty curtain enveloping them gone forever. This trouble all three men in the Jeep.
The vehicle crawled forward as if it were being drawn into the city by some force. Maybe on some weird carnival ride, with its destination being unknown to even the passengers of the tiny four wheeler.
All of them suddenly recalled the mad prophet from moments before. His eyes, and the lost ghostly beings that came and faded from view as if into the past. Bob shivered as he thought of the ghoulish mob. Each had watched with vacant wonder… with indifference… but their apparitions remained in their psyche.
Simon spoke loudly, just to break the silence in the Jeep, “Jeezus… the friggin’ undead or what?”… The statement startled Murphy, but not as much as the sudden bounce of a red brick, as it rang off of Murphy’s side of the truck.
Bob heard it hit, and jammed down the accelerator to hurry along.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Murphy and Simon both shouted in unison.
Everyone wondered if these were the mythical zombie hordes everyone had joked about before Martial Law was declared. Murphy recalled the days when people believed that all this was just rambling conspiracy theory. Including himself.
Perhaps those people have finally considered that this was not so unthinkable at all. It seemed humorous… way back before this all started. It was over a year ago. We couldn’t imagine this madness in those days.
It was well before all this horror… before all this had become reality. It once was a fictional nightmare that may have been built around a foreshadowing of the future perhaps, but real enough nowadays…
The zombies certainly seemed inhuman to Murphy as they drove by. Did this make Murphy an elitist, a racist, or what…? Was he somehow culpable simply by his indifference?
He shook his tired mind, yet the image could not be erased.
It appeared as if something had vanished from their ghostly eyes. Was it hope that was missing, or the very spark of life? Had it been snuffed out by the events that led up to this new world? All these poor souls were ghosts seeking to cross over, just an image of their former persons.
For now, at least, the ghostly beings had thinned, and the Jeep carried on down the empty streets without further incidence.
Murphy had to consider that it was possible that the spark of life had left these poor souls for a reason. He considered that this spark… the spark we’re all born with. This divine human spark, was a sort of jump start that we get at birth. It happens when a baby’s first cry’s is heard. That virgin scream… of a new voice, when that soul comes into being… announcing to the world that another life has burst forth.
It is a spark… that makes each of us human Murphy considered this epiphany.
He wondered about it in his tired mind what grim thoughts this misty morning has brought to him, thoughts that came and drifted away again as the vehicle hummed past the road wreckage.
His imagination drew on a scene from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, for no particular reason that he could connect. It was that old black and white movie scene. The mad Doctor appeared to Murphy’s childlike mind at that moment. The scientist suddenly threw the switch on the electrodes and the beast’s chest convulses violently on the rusty table.
A thunder clap, and a flash of lightening then course through the wires and thrust the great man’s body into an arch. The maniacal Doctor Frankenstein yells out, “It’s alive,” punctuating that insane moment as the good doctor reanimates the cumulative parts of this sad beast of a man.
Murphy supposed he saw this apparition simply because of the way humanity has messed with nature and the results are always mutations, and chaos. Some cannot understand men will never be gods.
A cool blast of air buffeted over Murphy’s face, he shuddered as the image of the creature fades. He knows these people have lost… that same human spark that the good doctor tried to give the beast, and doubts even a mad scientist will bring their spark back to those lost souls.
These people exist only in some mindless form, heartless machine-like entities, void of feelings. Each one condemned to shuffle to and fro, and with no direction in their miserable existence. All useless to anyone, or any task, or any purpose for that matter. They might as well be zombies, for all that they are worth to humanity now in their zombie state.
Murphy wondered how long they all had been living like this. He had been in the bush for over a year now. He wondered this about himself too. Dead-eyed and mindless, merely hollow bodies. Was he doomed to end up like these lost souls?
How obvious was now everything to Murphy… most of everyone he had known this was happening… had been this way for years. He recalled asking himself this same question… way back at the beginning of this martial law epoch, well before any social collapse had even been considered.
It wasn’t the collapse that made people this way… but he reasoned it had little to do with it actually. It was their faithless mindset, their thought process that grew over years. That was the reason for the collapse in this world. A world that had been zombified as far back as… well one hundred years…
“No… it was not the other way around,” we the people created our own apocalypse, by ignoring reality, as if it could never happen to us. Collapse, what collapse… as we waved our flags shouting we are the greatest.
All of us relying on some document promising to protect us from evil, while the evil ones knew all along it would take force and sacrifice to protect those freedoms from their evil grip.
Oh, much more than a piece of paper. The paper was only a clue left behind by the minds of great men… on how to act when tyranny reared its ugly head, and those who are coming to usurp it all once again, and again, and again…
Simon leaned over Murphy’s shoulder and shouted in his ear. “I wonder, what the hell happened to these poor bastards?”
Bob heard the comment too … yet no one answered. They all watched ahead of the Jeep, and all Murphy could quietly manage to respond was, “Who can know for sure…” No one heard Murphy’s whispered words and Simon didn’t expect an answer to his question.
Bob looked about the mist for a sign or an exit that the trio could take. “We should get off the road here.” Murphy watched Bob for signs of what was going on in his head. He prayed he was handling this situation, and was on point. He wondered if he may be reliving his days in Iraq right now… Was he of sound mind? He worried about his friend and neighbor.
He hoped he could rely on those years of warfare to get them through this crazy adventure.
Bob’s head swiveled back and forth looking for movement. He watched for an opening, an exit or road. They now drove on. Bob looked nervous. He was worried about being out in the open like they were. The growing light threatened to expose them.
“I agree,” Simon shouted out. Oddly his comment was well after the statement, like it had just sunk into his otherwise occupied mind. Each man was tired, and had been pushed past exhaustion with little sleep.
Murphy added, in a shaky voice, “We might have to rethink some of this plan of yours, Bob, before heading to our old neighborhood.”
“Yeah, maybe,” he nodded, without looking away from the road… he maintained a vigil. “Keep your eyes open Murphy,” Bob yelled out. “The trick is to blur them a bit,” he shouted the instructions at Murphy. “That way you can catch any movement… not individual things, but motion will give them away.” Murphy scanned the road ahead of the vehicle, and blurred his gaze. He mostly focused his view in front of him, or unfocused as the case may be.
In Iraq, a driver could watch everywhere around the vehicle using the flat windows and their reflection, the mirrors, the glass. It took practice but was very effective once learned. Bob was using what he could, much like in Iraq.
He, after all was a corpsman and road in the back seat in those days, but he had no problem jumping into the front seat when needed. Simon had been with Bomb disposal, a Private first class. After his first tour he had had enough. Two years in Fallujah, and he did not re-up.
Suddenly Murphy felt ill, “Damn his fear…”
He never had much of a stomach for this kind of thing. He recalled various times in his life when he had gotten stressed and grew ill. Mostly when he was a child. He would get sick to his stomach and retch for no reason at all. The other kids often laughed at him even when he made excuses, “I think it was something I ate,” the young Nathaniel would say. “Yeah sure Murphy,” the kids would jeer back at him. He always felt different for this.
Simon poked his head between Bob and Murphy, and spoke, “I know a place three blocks… that way…” he pointed ahead, and off to the right. “There, on that side street… about a hundred yards. It’s a warehouse, with a suite above it. It’s down the block that way.”
Bob approached the corner. It appeared through the fog. He hit the brakes hard then wheeled the Jeep right, and slowed to turn into the street.
Simon shouted above the engines roar, “I lived in the space above the parkade, it’s not much… even back then it wasn’t much… that was long before I went overseas. So, don’t expect much.”
Murphy had assumed Simon as ex-military when he met him. Much like Bob. It was something about the two of them that gave them away. That learned military discipline that they still carried. Something many service personnel get, and can never seem to shake. It comes from working together as a team, he suspected. Working under traumatic situations, and within a crushing proximity to war… at least that is what Murphy assumed, having never been to war…
“I know people in this neighborhood from years back… maybe they might still live here,” Simon looked hopeful as he scanned the burned out neighborhood.
Bob moved cautiously ahead. The three men glanced about at the broken buildings emerging through the gray morning mist.
Still, the fog flowed down from the western hills. The fog slithered through the streets as if it had a purpose in mind, as if it were searching for something.
Three and four story block buildings lined both sides of the street. Most of the glass was missing. The windows of the buildings, were either smashed or melted. Many small fires glowed from inside. The upper levels of the warehouses had smoke pouring from them. And the black overhead electrical wires hung across the roadway looking much like jungle vines. Their insulation and cables dangled overhead in this jungle landscape.
Clearly, the wires had been cut… long before the fires started. Some were still draped with frayed banners. Decorations from past celebration, banners hanging to the ground beneath broken poles or the battered street-lamps. They appeared to be from 4th of July celebrations.
It was an apocalyptic hurricane that had raged through the neighborhood. It left a kind of ambiance that throbbed in the early morning gloom… feeling as if a prophecy had come to fruition here.
The warehouse buildings lined the blackened street, each punctuated here and there by burnt low end apartments. These squeezed between the warehouses, as are often in found in many ghetto areas. All of the neighborhood had been destroyed during the riots. Murphy watched the upper floors, as Bob inched forward.
Every traffic light hung beneath frayed wires, none still functioned. Most swung about quietly over the intersections slowly shoved about by the unseen growing morning breezes.
This section of town had been completely obliterated.
It was no doubt the poorer section, of Metro and never held much hope for those that lived here. Even before the riots, it held little hope. This community simple had been replaced with a different kind of ghetto, a war zone was not much different.
Gone now were the last vestiges of civilized community, leaving a beaten ghost town.
Murphy felt an overwhelming sickness again, he ordered Bob to stop. “Pull over…” he pleaded, and shouted, “Now… I’m going to be sick.”
Bob swung the truck to the curb, and just in time. Murphy wretched what little he had in his stomach. Several awkward moments rolled by as he convulsed, and dry heaved, his head hanging from the Jeep.
Murphy felt ashamed, just as he did when he was a child. Finally he wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and stared at the results on the ground. It was barely a speck. The men had not eaten in over 24 hours. Murphy felt thankful for this at the time.
Embarrassed he quickly recovered, and thought up an excuse for his illness, just as he did when he was a teenager.
“I’m sorry fellas, must have been something I ate.” He heaved one more time and then contained himself… still looking down.
“I… okay I’m better… we best get moving,” he wasn’t really ready to continue, but stared at the bile and broken curb he spewed on. He studied the cracked and worn sidewalk considering it for a moment, a chill ran through his body, it was that same fever he had in the swamps.
Simon leaned in. His head motioned ahead with a nod, “Look,” he said nodding a few yards up the side walk. Some rough looking men approached the jeep from a distance. He then nodded down toward the rifles behind the seats.
Bob spoke up then, “That looks like trouble.”
“Gangbangers,” Simon grabbed Bob’s rifle… as the men headed toward the Jeep.
Bob reached a handover the Jeep’s console and grabbed the back of Murphy’s jacket pulling his ill friend into the vehicle. He then hit the gas. The three sped off as the thugs looked after them. They stared dead eyed.
More zombies, like they had witnessed earlier, neither seemed to do anything but watch as the Jeep speed away. Murphy saw them grind their teeth in unwarranted anger as each flung a half brick or projectile at the truck, missing them by several feet.
Simon yelled back at gangbangers… in defiance, “what the fuck is with you people?” Another feeble brick was hurled at the fleeing vehicle.
“There goes the neighborhood,” Simon laughed half-heartedly at the zombies, then spun forward in his seat. Murphy observed that familiar unhinged look in Simon’s face. That look worried him each time he saw it. It was as if Simon enjoyed the chaos. Not an entirely unusual manifestation after experiencing too much combat.
“Just punks,” Simon spit out. “They don’t even own a gun…” He grinned and seemed quite sure of himself.
“How can you tell,” Murphy asked.
“Hell they would have definitely used it if they had,” Bob added quickly as he wheeled down another side road. This certainly was a new experience for Murphy.
Murphy still was feeling sick, but held it in.
Bob glanced over at his friend and was uncharacteristically short with him. “You’d better pull it together buddy,” he scolded Murphy for acting unsure of himself. “We only got a few more blocks. Hang in there and look alive, this is dangerous country.”
Bob did feel sorry for his friend. After all, they had been through a lot together. Much of it over the past year, but he knew that now was not a good time for Murphy to lose his shit. “Straighten up, look alive,” he shouted at his sullen friend.
Simon pointed ahead of the Jeep, “Here, turn here.” The truck made a hard right at the coming intersection and turned the corner quickly, they then slowed to a stop, about two hundred yards down the street, stopping in front of a towering four story brick warehouse.
The trio sat scanning ahead for trouble as Bob again approached cautiously. They all swiveled their heads. Staring up at the old structure above them. Every window was smashed, meticulously broken or for no other reason gone.
Bob looked about the neighborhood. It felt quiet, but like they were being watched. Murphy felt less assured, it seemed too quiet.
“I can’t leave my Jeep here, Simon.” Bob sounded nervous, and looked at Simon using his rear-view mirror.
He shook his head slowly at him… adding, “Hell, we wouldn’t even get to the front door of the building, before it got stolen or at the very least it is sitting on blocks.” Then he smiled at Simon to lighten the situation.
Simon tapped Bob’s shoulder and pointed ahead a few yards, “Go up and around the end of the block,” he said quietly. “There’s an alley in the back that leads to an underground docking platform.” Bob slowly pushed on the accelerator, and the Jeep moved ever so slowly.
Simon continued, “It used to be a small newspaper back in the day, an underground rag… You know a pirate magazine. You can just head-round back and down under the building. Use the delivery ramps. They lead beneath the building.”
The side alley suddenly came into view. A hole in the wall which appeared through the diminishing fog.
“Maybe we can lock the doors for the day… rest a bit… if there are doors left that is,”
Simon laughed nervously, adding while glancing about the street… doubtfully.
He claimed he had once lived here, but how could Murphy be sure of this? Simon look about, as if he was a bit unsure of where he was.
Murphy was feeling better… for the moment, his fever had subsided. He held his head in the growing breeze and listened to the glass crunching under the Jeep’s wheels as they slowly rolled toward the dead-end street.
Bob looked about nervously, scanning the windows above them for movement.
“Now would not be a good time to get caught in a crossfire. Not in this dead end street.
I don’t like being boxed in like this Simon, you sure you know where we are?”
“Trust me, I know these streets and these home boys like the back of my hand… we’re okay… do as a say.”
Simon cautioned Murphy, “Don’t make any sudden moves.”
The statement didn’t make Murphy feel reassured at all. Every time he has heard this, something inevitably bad, always happens.
Bob slow the roll of the Jeep, yet still creeping toward the alley side entrance. Murphy too felt uneasy, Murphy called over his shoulder to Simon.
“Simon, grab my duffle beside you, would you?”
He turned and looked back at Simon to make sure he did as he asked, “just in case,” he added. Murphy shrugged at Simon looking back at him awkwardly.
“I want another magazine.” Murphy consoled him. He could see Bob smiling.
Murphy didn’t trust Simon but Bob obviously did. Not feeling as sure, since their meeting at Misty Lake, Murphy wasn’t ready to trust their new companion just yet. He needed to keep an eye on him at least for the time being.
He took the duffle and placed it between his feet on the floor of the Jeep.
The dawn was breaking brighter now. The long shadows of daybreak began to grow over the buildings walls. The long lines snaked their way across tired brick walls. Slowly swaying shadows… relentlessly clinging to broken walls… Long flicker ghoulish shadows, gently stirred about. Creeping ever forward. They danced about from still burning fires that raged from nearby buildings.
Murphy could feel the heat from the adjacent fire. The men drew near the crumbling building. It had been raised to the ground, and still held a few hot spots at its base.
The heat had been what had broken the windows of the other nearby warehouses. Even from across the street, the intense inferno had been too much for the other building’s windows. Each shattered from the stress. It had been obviously a chemical fire, and the remaining glass had either been shattered or sagged in the metal window frames like candy. Looking like burnt brown Caramel.
Suddenly, there was movement up ahead. A diseased looking pack of mongrel dogs ran out of the end of the dead-end alleyway. The pack crossed, oblivious to the men. An Alpha mutt carrying half a dead cat in its greasy mouth. His followers took up from the rear.
The men watched as the pack disappear behind the bent walls of one of the burned out buildings. They vanished just as suddenly as they had appeared, and seemed odd. To see such a form of nature in this urban environment was out of place. It reminded Murphy of the day he watch the Wolf pack following him and Harlan, back in the valley.
“What a lovely neighborhood eh boys?” Simon laughed sarcastically with that crazy man look in his eyes. This didn’t reassure Murphy at the time. He watched Simon intently, and checked the breach of his rifle. Simon charged the weapon while looking about as if it were another day at work.
Simon quickly pointed ahead at the alley, as it suddenly appeared from the mist, exactly where the pack of dogs had come out of nowhere. He claimed it led to the back of the huge warehouse. Bob moved toward it.
The entrance was tightly concealed from the street, squeezed between a neighboring structure, and the big red warehouse. It certainly was difficult to see in the smog. Murphy reasoned it would have been difficult even on a clear day. It was barely wide enough for the Jeep to enter, yet sure enough, it did. It lead behind, to the alley in the back. After making a sudden turn, Bob swung past a grimy detour sign.
A larger alley lay behind the block long warehouse. It used up an entire city block, and was perhaps four stories tall in its day, although the entire top was missing now. No one would have guessed there was an alley in its center that existed, without knowing beforehand. The men and the Jeep disappeared with a whiff of fog that slowly covered their retreat.
“That way,” Simon pointed ahead.
He nudged Bob’s shoulder, and then nodded to proceed. Simon seemed to familiarize himself with the old neighborhood again. He remember the way now. Murphy conceded that Simon knew his way around the neighborhood well enough.
Maybe all too well…
As far as Murphy was concerned, this was not a good neighborhood to live in, even back in the day. He still did not fully trust Simon.
He recalled years before, when some friends and he had been in this part of town late one Saturday night.
Back then, it was considered to be one of the city’s worst neighborhoods, and then not even looking as bad as was now… back then it was filled with a different type of zombie.
Meth addicts, and poverty and the walking dead. Each held back by crushing economic strife. Most neighborhoods at least had their dignity in those days. Patch worked together with old world ethics, mafia’s controlled the streets.
The seniors desperately kept their world alive with what little tools they had at the time. A code was adhered too, with an attempt at ethics… street ethics, this was slightly different than the rest of the world’s ethics, but just as important to the survival of the neighborhood.
Murphy recalled those college days with his friends and how they slummed in these parts. He felt guilty for looking down on these communities. He and his college adventures were silly. Like bar hopping as students or slumming it in dangerous parts of town, as it were. This embarrassed him now. He decided not to mention it to the others.
The young college men and Murphy felt adventurous then. A little walk on the wild side. He and his sophomore friends took breaks from studies to make this pilgrimage.
It was a sort of rite of passage for the up and coming academics.
Again, Murphy felt ashamed for his immature antics. He looked around the world he was in, and felt sorry for the community.
He remembered at one time he and his buddies had been nearly knifed by thugs, and not three blocks from where they now were.
A group of locals attacked the college men at a local bar. They confronted them, saying they were there to steal their women. This was in fact the very reason they were there. Although they denied it at the time.
Murphy recalled his narrow escape and smiled. The young men that evening escaped the bar through the back door which opened onto a similar alley as the one they were now.
They ran for their lives and jumped into their car, with spinning tires they laughed as they sped away.
They excitedly retold their adventure over and over all the way back to their college dorm. And, most of the following Monday at school they retold their walk on the wild side. This made them heroes to the other students, as well as to many of the ladies. The memory was nothing compared to this adventure this morning. He regretted that his two companions had spent their college years in a war-zone. In some desert shithole in Iraq… that he would only see through eye of the lens on TV.
The reality crept in from the unlit alley; it brought Murphy back to his senses.
“We should try to make home before daylight? What do you think, Bob?” Murphy spoke in a shaky voice.
Bob wheeled the corner and answered without looking over at his friend.
“We’ll never make it, we’ll stay here the rest of today,” Bob seemed convinced they would be better off in the warehouse during the day, rather than moving in daylight.
Murphy felt uneasy.
In his mind, stopping here even for the day was not a good idea… not at all. He tried again to convince Bob to move on, but, was too tired to argue his point effectively and relented to Bob’s authority.
Another series of thunderous concussions was heard nearby. The artillery flew over the city sporadically.
Murphy couldn’t help himself… he ducked while noticing that neither Simon nor Bob reacted to the thunderous artillery. It was clear to him now that Simon was not lying about being military either. He had obviously experienced this sort of thing before, just as Bob had.
Murphy felt there was something wrong about Simon. This worried him. It was something that needed explaining… Murphy wanted to know about this new member, this stray dog that Bob had picked up.
“Who was this guy what was his background?” He felt determined to get to the bottom of these questions even if Bob was not. For now, he accepted Simon, and offered no argument to Bob, at least to keep the peace.
They all certainly needed their rest. Things felt edgy, and Murphy hoped… he wouldn’t need to say… “I told you so,” at the end of this very long night. Especially when the shit hits the fan… if it does.
Murphy reflected on this idea… and laughed out loud at his thought, what a crazy notion. How ridiculous it suddenly sounded to him. “If the shit hits the fan.”
Especially ridiculous after finding himself where he was right at the moment, in this insane war zone.
He laughed out loud again at the absurdity of his perspective.
Bob and Simon looked over at their hysterical friend in the passenger seat. They each looked at him with puzzled awe, and watched as Murphy calmed himself. “What’s so funny,” Bob asked Murphy?
“Oh, nothing, just something I was thinking to myself about. Never mind… you wouldn’t get it.” Murphy smiled at his secret idea.
Simon looked at Bob and shrugged puzzled.
Murphy, smirked, and winked knowingly.
He quietly laughed to himself. “How could the shit hit the fan any harder than it has now?”
The others squinted curiously at his antics, and Bob shrugged it off. He moved on cautiously toward the underground entrance.
Murphy considered about what Bob had said earlier at the top of the western hills.
He thought now that this was right, “Fuck it… how could things be any worse than this?”
Murphy didn’t see the need for such a simple statement at the time, but he understood it now. It was the only way to move forward. Breaking down the impossible in any situation, and moving on, no matter what. He reached down, and pulled out his two extra magazines for the Russian rifle, checked the breach of the weapon to be sure it was ready.
“Fuck this neighborhood,” he said loudly so the others would hear him too.
He then looked up at each with a maniacal grin of his own. Grinning stupidly at his Jeep mates and laughing seemingly for no reason. They shrugged again at their insane passenger. Murphy dropped the bolt of the SKS securing a round in the chamber. He placed the barrel against the floorboards of the Jeep, and stashed the two additional magazines into his oversized pockets of his vest.
He looked about the scene with a new serious attitude and repeated. “Fuck this neighborhood.” It would become their new Mantra… in the coming days.
The Jeep wheeled hard across the cool pavement, it hit some gravel with a crunch as the tires grabbed the dry earth. The truck disappeared behind the dust cloud which hung in the still air.
The sun crept one more notch above the skyline, and the men made their hiding place just as the light broke above the distant horizon.
Perhaps the sun could ward off the zombies, as it always does in the movies or is that vampires and such. Simon laughed as he considered Murphy’s new attitude. He grinned and reached forward to slap both Bob and Murphy on their shoulders, feeling their new bond of insanity.
“That’s right, my friends,” He stared ahead down the dark alley, “Fuck this neighborhood,” and smiled his own maniacal grin, as if it was so clear now, he could see it up ahead…
Bob watched his new companion in the mirror and smiled too. They both were impressed with Murphy’s new-found courage… no matter where it came from. The men all laughed out loud for no reason at all, and rolled up to the underground entrance of the warehouse. Simon leaped from the jeep.
Murphy’s stomach problems were gone as suddenly as they appeared. He reminded himself, he was not an accountant anymore, but a warrior on a mission. He was ready to do whatever it took to survive these days.
He too laughed and jumped out with Simon, “now, if I could only convince that tiny, cowering accountant that remained in my stomach, he’d be fine.”
If the warehouse was unoccupied, the men would hole up the day until night fall, and, would make plans to continue their way into the heart of the city under darkness. Hopscotching their way to their destination. The waning evening had been a big adventure for all of them… And all three felt spent after a sleepless night. Their long drive into town through the fog and the darkness they had gotten their nerves in a knot.
The Jeep rolled up to the underground parkade entrance. Murphy dragged a half broken barricade to the side. It fruitlessly blocked the entrance of the entrance. He hauled it to one side and Bob rolled the Jeep past. Simon placed the barricade back behind the jeep and ran ahead down the ramp toward the partially closed overhead door. It was a large red primed roller style door, looking bent and ajar.
Bob, jumped out next to help. He shouted at Simon, “Hey heads up.”
After grabbing a pry bar from behind the seat of the Jeep… feigning the motioned of a toss he threw it to him. It made a smooth arc, let go high in the air and rolling horizontally toward Simon. Simon deftly snatched the rolling pry bar out of the air with one hand and jogged the rest of the way down the ramp toward the stuck door. He quickly ducked beneath the corrugated metal, and yelled, “Wait there, as his words echoed from inside.
Bob and Murphy waited quietly listening. They heard a racket from behind the door that reverberated from inside the parkade, indicating the large empty space. They heard more metal on metal crunching and some cursing. Then, minutes later, Simon emerged victoriously, spinning the three-foot pry bar like some maniacal band leader, with a baton. Simon stood there grinning like a fool, it was that patented unhinged look that had always disturbed Murphy, but now he had to admit Simon was growing on him, and certainly handy in a pinch.
Murphy still wondered how Simon could have possibly gotten himself mixed up with that Misty Lake gang. He, at least on the surface, seemed far too clever for that. He considered how his own life had changed, and how his life suddenly took a turn as well. He reasoned even the cleverest people sometimes following the growing number of lost souls among us. Murphy conceded that sometimes life leaves us no other choice but to move ahead and to survive at any cost.
He decided then to give Simon the benefit of the doubt until circumstances dictate otherwise. He hoped he was wrong about the man, he couldn’t help begin to admire him. He remained cautious, as yet only time will tell for sure whether he was a good man or not.
Pop… pop, pop, pop as sudden flashes erupted from inside the parkade. It was obvious gun fire. Murphy froze. He watched in horror as Simon leaped from the dark interior of the garage as if being stung by bees from inside. He swung around the door rails taking cover from the coming bees. Falling hard against the brick exterior, he slid to the ground. Murphy could see a streak of red smeared on the wall as he slid down the cinder block wall.
Bob moved toward Simon, firing rounds into the dark interior of the parkade, obviously aiming at the flashes from the rifle blasts from inside. Murphy stood motionless. His brain was on fire. He knew he should be moving for cover, but his feet had a mind of their own, and he stood froze in place.
Simon turned white like a sheet, as he clutched his chest and thigh. He had been hit more than once by the gun fire from within. Bob yelled hard at Murphy, “Cover us Murphy.”
Murphy felt horrified. He could barely comprehend what was happening. Puff of pavement whinnied by his feet, leaving white chalk like marks were the bullets struck the asphalt. This was enough to bring Murphy to his senses. He moved behind the Jeep’s fender, using the front tire as a barricade hoping to hide behind it against further gunfire. He rested his SKS across the Jeep’s hood, and fired several rounds into the dark interior of the parkade, without aiming proper. Then he quickly ducked beneath the vehicle, using the engine block as Bob had taught him, hoping to shield him from the gunfire.
He knew most that parts would not stop bullets. Especially military full metal jacketed bullets. It wasn’t like those Hollywood movie. Bob taught Murphy that even a .22 rifle can go through a car door and kill you. So, if you want to rely on it for security you’re a fool. Bob had even told of how large calibers like .50 caliber rounds can pierce through cinder blocks and even engine blocks and kill a person on the other side. That is with simple full metal jacketed bullets not to mention armor piercing or incendiary and explosive rounds.
Murphy popped up and sent a half dozen more rounds into the darkness. “God, he hoped he was doing the right thing. He hoped he would not let Bob and Simon down.”
Murphy leaped up and emptied the rest of his clip into the darkness. He held a clenched look of madness across his face. He screamed into the darkness like some wild of animal. He hated those inside. He would kill them.
Dropping down behind the jeep’s protection again, he reloaded, and sprung up immediately emptying another clip into the darkness.
Bob yelled out to Murphy, “Hold your fire Murphy!”
Murphy crouched behind the engine block panting like a wild animal panting. He waited for his orders.
He checked his clip, and swapped it out for another. Murphy had a sudden rush of elation that overcame him. He began to laugh uncontrollably. He felt he was losing his mind. The feeling of all out annihilation of the enemy was overwhelming. He was sure he could rush the parkade and take out anyone inside with just his bayonet.
“Murph,” Bob yelled from beside Simon. “Stay put, hold fire.”
Read the rest of the parts here.