Holdout

 

“They’re coming!” Luca bellowed. “Safeties off, people! Do not fire unless they give you no other choice! Those are still people down there!”

I could hear them from a mile off, crying out and choking on the toxic, hallucinogenic air as they clambered over one another to reach the building.

Luca crouched close to the rooftop railing, sliding twelve gauge shells into his shotgun, staring out at the wasteland through his gas mask. A full crate lay next to him, ready for the task ahead. Whether it was enough was anyone’s guess.

They arrived in force. A good thirty or forty people, covered in their own filth. No masks. I watched them through the sights of my rifle as they flailed about, swiping at ghosts, trembling and twitching the entire time.

Luca grabbed a bloodied limb from the crate with one of his gloved hands and lobbed it off the roof. It landed in the dirt, and no less than ten people lunged for the fresh dead meat, fighting among themselves for a taste.

The others on the roof joined in, throwing legs, arms and even a few torsos down to the masses.

To my right, I saw Emily gaze long and hard at an arm before she tossed it over, staring at a ring on one of the stiff, lifeless fingers.

“I’m sorry Zach,” she whispered, almost on the verge of tears. The arm went over. She twisted the matching ring on her own finger a few times before reaching back into the crate for another limb.

A shotgun blast rang through the air, followed by a pained yelp and distant thud.

“Watch the walls dammit!” Luca called, ejecting the spent shell. “Keep them busy!”

A desperate shriek from my left caught my attention. I swung my rifle around just in time to see a dishevelled man reach up and claw at Anthony’s neck before disappearing back over the edge, taking a fresh chunk of flesh back down with him. I fired a round, but the bullet missed its mark. Anthony toppled, almost falling off the roof

“Shit!” I chambered another round, cursing myself. We couldn’t afford to keep losing people like this.

There would be no burial for Anthony. We needed the meat. It was all they ate now. It was all we had left to eat. Those people down there have no idea what they’re doing. It’s not their fault they’re like this. This was grim, nasty work, but it was our job to keep them alive and fed until the toxins subsided.

Exactly when that would happen, though, nobody knew.

For now, we held our position.

After what seemed like hours, the mob down below dissipated, wandering off into the fog, their hunger satisfied for now.

I joined Luca’s side as he pulled Anthony’s body away from the roof edge, lifted his mask and gently closed his eyes.

“Same time tomorrow?” I asked, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah. Same time tomorrow.”

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Pandemic

This short story was originally written for my 2015 horror anthology, Random Number Hotline, but I scrapped it in favor of another story.

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My legs shook as I stood before the front porch of the Carner family house. I still questioned my reasons for volunteering for this grisly mission in the first place. Perhaps I felt obliged to undertake the task because of my past with the family. I knew them better than anyone else in town ever did.

Maybe it was because nobody else on my street were exactly keen on volunteering to murder a family of four. It was understandable. There was something terrible happening. Some kind of disease, or virus, or…something. Nobody knew for sure what it was exactly, or where it had come from, but from what we had heard about it on the news before the stations went down, we were all living on borrowed time.

It hadn’t arrived in our town yet, as far as we knew. We had an agreement, those who hadn’t decided to run for the airports, harbors or bus depots. There was no point in running. Where would we go? So we stayed here, and tried to hold down the fort and survive for as long as we could. If anyone showed any signs of the sickness, we were to put them down, right then and there without hesitation. Since there was a lack of firearms and people trained in their use left in town, we had to find alternatives.

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Random Number Hotline

#10 of ten short stories from my 2015 self-published horror anthology, Random Number Hotline.

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When Nikolas Bryant woke, the first thing he noticed were his surroundings. They were completely unfamiliar. The bed he lay on, the room and everything else inside, he had never seen any of it before in his life. What the hell happened last night? He sat up and rubbed his eyes and face, trying to wake up. The entirety of the previous twenty-four hours were gone, like they had never happened. The memories were just…empty. Whether he had drunk too much or if someone had slipped something into his drink at the bar, he didn’t know. He wasn’t sure if there had even been a bar. All he knew was he felt like shit.

It wasn’t the first time he had woken up in some stranger’s house after a night out on the town. But even if that were the case, he should have been able to remember something; who owned the place, where it was, anything. The more Nikolas thought about it, the farther he felt from an answer. He looked around the room again. There wasn’t a lot to see. A steel bed, a small wooden desk and matching chair, an old telephone sitting on the desk and a painting hanging on the wall next to a closed steel door. Other than those, the room had nothing else of note. Nikolas groaned and rose from the bed.

The door was only a few steps away, but walking there proved far more difficult than Nikolas had thought. Every step caused his head to pound in pain, to the point where he thought he would pass out if he took one more. He brushed past the painting, which swung on its fixture before coming to a halt a moment later. Nikolas reached out and tried to pull down on the door handle, but it refused to move. Unperturbed, he tried again, wiggling the handle up and down this time. Still nothing. He gripped the handle with both hands and put all his weight onto it, but no matter how hard Nikolas tried, the door wouldn’t budge.

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Rehabilitation

#9 of ten short stories from my 2015 self-published horror anthology, Random Number Hotline.

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His eyes fluttered open as the bright halogen lights flickered and turned on. Their white glow lit the chamber from top to bottom. It took a moment to readapt to the new environment. The grey walls, scratched and marked by hundreds of desperate hands weren’t familiar. Anton Terrey would know if he had been in here before. He wasn’t frightened. This was his routine now.

They were still at it. These people would never give up. Not until he talked. But he would never break. A few more weeks in this place wouldn’t matter anyway. They were going to kill him. Maybe now, maybe later. He didn’t know exactly what these people did to those who refused to cooperate. Judging from what he had seen them do so far though, it would be prolonged and excessive. The past month he had spent here had been an inescapable nightmare. Anton had no doubts in his mind the next month would be just as unbearable. It was only a question of when.

An unseen speaker screeched and crackled to life somewhere above him. The interrogator. His best friend since this whole things started, or so they told him between beatings. The lights continued to sputter to life right up towards the top of Anton’s cell. It stretched up as far as he could see, with no end to it visible from where he sat. His cell was wide enough to hold him as he lay against the rounded wall, and even then it was still a tight fit.

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Mind Games

#8 of ten short stories from my 2015 self-published horror anthology, Random Number Hotline.

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Vicki Hermanson pushed her trolley across the supermarket floor, weaving around the other shoppers she shared the aisles with. It wasn’t usually this busy here at the Alville Market. It felt far busier than normal to Vicki, with the store packed in comparison to their usual meagre number of customers.

Alville had been Vicki’s home for several months, ever since moving out west after some rather grim events came to light in her old home town. She hoped to put it all behind her, and so far coming to Alville seemed to have worked. Sure, she had left everything and everyone she had known back there, but she needed a new start. And Alville had fit the bill perfectly. New friends had been easy enough to make, after getting involved in the community and various events. And the town itself wasn’t too bad either. Nice and quiet, just what she was looking for

Despite being a bit older than some of her friends, they treated Vicki all the same. She was in her mid-forties, with shoulder-length auburn hair which she kept tied behind her head in a small bun. She could be kind when she wanted to, which was most of the time, but if something irritated her, she wouldn’t let it bottle up. It was one of the qualities her new friends appreciated. She was honest and would stand up for herself and others when necessary.

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