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FORWARD: DAY 3 CHAPTER 6

The truck hit the asphalt at a furious pace as dust and rocks flacked off the thick tires. The fear that coursed through his blood was almost palpable. Reading the diary had shaken his sense of urgency in a dreadful way. As much as he tried, he couldn’t get the image of his parents out of his head. As the Bronco hummed through the foggy morning, he started to wonder what happened to them. He had checked his phone a million times this morning but his calls always ran into a dead end. Were they safe? Who was with them? Had their genetic code been targeted? Were they too old to make it? His thoughts ripped into his head without mercy and he felt his mind would erupt. The roads were quiet and desolate. What was once a very busy road was now covered in the morning dew that painted the asphalt with gentle water drops as both machine and man raced through them. Stores, supermarkets, parking lots and parks all portrayed a ghostly stillness that made him feel as though he was driving through a painting, not a once overpopulated city. Every quiet corner or shadowy crevice seemed to be a possible den for those invisible monsters. He looked from left to right expecting that mass of reflective light and movement to come storming out. He didn’t know whether these things rested or had to sleep or when they… hunted… and this kept him driving on full alert. He lowered the windows a little to allow the pair of snouts seated next to him to sniff the air curiously. Both dogs unbothered by the day before as they walked over and on each other to get a better position at the window. The heavy pace of the truck seemed to still bother Bryn but the younger and smaller Bleu raced around as if she found a new toy. They passed another major intersection and turned into check point. He slowed the Bronco to a crawl expecting military or police officials to approach the car but was met with utter silence. As the Bronco rolled to a halt, his eyes began to search desperately. There had to be someone to help, someone to talk to or explain what happened the day before. He couldn’t keep at this alone, not being outnumbered and with limited weaponry. He knew he had expended rounds on the first day and walking around with an arsenal was not something he had ever prepared for. He sat there for a second as the engine rattled and wondered if he should get out of the truck. Stepping out of his area of safety and protection just to be a possible meal for whatever was out hunting seemed insane to him. He looked over at his two companions who stared at him with hungry eyes. It suddenly struck him that food and water were going to be a factor very soon. He sat and wondered when he had last eaten anything or sat down with a proper meal. It wasn’t until he began to think of food that his stomach grumbled to life. “Ok, Ok, you’re right. There has to be something to eat somewhere,” he mumbled to the dogs who he felt had agreed silently. He looked around the intersection before stepping out, making sure he was not going to be attacked by those monsters. In the eastern corner of the road stood a large military tent that was probably the main bussing station of both troops and police officers. The tent was waving in the soft morning wind as the dew on top of the corners began to dry in the early sun. Underneath it there were desks, chairs and a few crates that could possibly hold something of value. He looked to his left, in the western corner, where there sat two police cars, a military truck and small make shift sandbag wall. The world was still and this intersection was embalmed in isolation. It was sad to see the state of affairs that such a major road was now a small military post but even more so, the lack of people ANYWHERE. He gripped the steering wheel tightly and took a deep breath that filled his lungs with an icy chill. “Let’s go.” He jumped out of the truck with his gun grasped firmly in his right hand. He could feel Bryn and Bleu staring at him but they did not make a single sound almost knowingly, almost foreshadowing. He stepped quickly and lightly towards the tent half expecting a soldier to approach him or one of those creatures but nothing stirred. The tent looked as though it had been used a few days ago as scattered paper work, crushed Coke cans and pens were littered throughout the floor. Small garbage containers next to the desks were half full and the chairs were scattered about the tent portraying an organized chaos of seating arrangements. He looked around at the eerie scene where people once were and yet, were not anymore. His heart was pounding through his ears as he scanned left and right, up and down, in and out. He wanted to leave as fast as he got to the tent as he made his way over to the crates at the edge of the tent. He took one long look around before kneeling next to the crate to look inside. Paper after paper held together by thick paper clips stacked on top of each other filled half to the container. The other half had a few bags of chips and granola bars wrapped neatly in their metallic green colors. He quickly grabbed the bags as he could feel his mouth salivating. The bags crunching loudly in the still air made his teeth clench with panic. He stood up quickly feeling completely vulnerable with one hand full of generic office snacks and the other with a gun very low on ammunition. It was in this moment, as his hand gently danced around the trigger that he glanced over to the police vehicle. He chuckled quietly as he thought of all the games he had played as a teenager where boxes of ammunition would be found in cop cars and he could rocket his way through giant zombies for hours. This whole situation was drenched in the unbelievable and as silly as he felt, he made his way over to the vehicle partly hoping to find more food. He walked closer and closer to the vehicle before he froze in his footsteps. He could not see it from the truck but it was screaming at him now that he was a few feet away. The passenger seat of the police car had been shattered as if something had crushed it from the outside. Hundreds of shards of glass sat on the passenger seat sprinkled with a dusting of what seemed like bright red blood droplets. His eyes widened as he inched a step closer to get a closer look despite his body screaming at him to stop, to take a step back, to run for his life. There had been a struggle as the seatbelt and mess inside the vehicle portrayed a fight to survive. He cocked his head a little higher as he could make out deep dark stains of blood on both seats. Chunks of flesh and hair softly glistening in the wind and drying in the cool air hung on the edges of the passenger window and door frame. His final step took him to the front of the vehicle where he could finally see on the other side of the hood that sat adjacent to other vehicles, as if they made a small circle around whatever he was about to see. And there in the quiet morning, just beyond the car, at the forefront of his sight and mind sat the blooded bodies of dozens of men and women. Uniforms and hats and boots and belts thrown around and ripped apart. Rib cages, bones, skulls, flesh and organs left open and scattered about as if the bodies had erupted under the teeth and claws of indescribable monsters. He stared in horror as he could see hands gripping to the floor for life, having left behind ghastly marks of red finger trails on asphalt and the vehicle doors. The floor was painted in a thick dark crimson that told a story of utter brutality. Jaws could be seen left open in screams off pain as what was left of faces only showed eyes wide with sheer terror. The circle of death had been relatively fresh as if whoever or whatever had ripped apart these poor souls had had its first fill during the night. “Grrrrrrrrrrr,” he heard the distant and familiar sound of his dogs growl and he was quickly shaken into reality. He had been too engulfed to scream but to absorbed to move and Bryn’s reaction was a welcomed fear. He looked around him on all sides and couldn’t see anyone but it didn’t matter, he thought. Whatever was out there could not be easily seen as he began to dash towards his truck. He opened the door, throwing his gun and bags onto the passenger floor, deciding he was not going to stay and find out what did that mess or if they were watching. His urge to get to his parents’ house was more prevalent than ever as he swerved left and right to make his way around the intersection and sped towards what he hoped was the embrace of his family. The roads were desolate and bare. Not a single car on the road and the scene was made more eerie by the blinking stoplights that flashed synchronized bright yellow lights. He tried to look around but was lost in a desperate tunnel vision as he pushed the pedal as hard as he could. The two dogs whined softly with anxiety as both laid tightly together in two cashew-like curls to avoid flying off the seat. His knuckles were white against the steering wheel as the desperation to get home and check on his family was excruciating and nauseating. He took a hard right simply by memory, no longer looking at the road signs or numbers where only a year ago turning here was a joyful event. Where visiting his parents was quickly followed by Sunday breakfasts, family gossip and old jokes repeated to death. His sweat was running icy down his forehead as his eyes began to water for reasons he could not yet grasp. A hard left, then a quick right and he was there. There, right in front of his parents’ home, the truck came to a screeching halt as rubber fought asphalt and grass to stay in one spot. With utter disregard for his surroundings and a new sense of urgency, he jumped out of the truck nearly falling on his face as his hand slipped off the door panel on the way down. He ran toward the door followed quickly by the click and clatter of dog nails racing behind him trying to keep pace. He stumbled to the front door and nearly fell over, having expected the door to be locked and bolted. His body weight came crashing through the door, knocking over the framed artwork that hung adjacent the entry, he cared very little to give up his position of surprise. He looked around for seconds that felt like hours as an impenetrable wave of nostalgia battered across his body, making him weak in the knees. He fought to catch his breath as his eyes focused on the family photos to his right, delicately framed in silver baroque frames that seemed too fancy for themselves. The living room, that no one was ever allowed to sit in, remained perfectly clean as if it was always ready for a royal visit. The house was no longer brimming with life but instead it was stained with a stark loneliness. He looked around again, somehow hoping to see his mother come out of the kitchen in her flowered aprons offering coffee or a warm meal with her shiny brown skin and her smile that made her cheeks swell with a childlike glee. He stood still hoping to hear his father’s limp slowly echoing down the hall as he would rush to the door, look through thick glasses and grin with an excitement to see him as if every time was the first time. He stood as his heart began to pound through his ears and as he raised his voice to speak but he couldn’t utter a sound. He stepped closer to their room and he could see now that the home had been unmoved in what seemed like a couple days as soft hint of dust was settling on the kitchen table which normally his mother would not allow. He stood down the hall staring directly at his parents doorway and what looked like a few feet now felt like a marathon. He stepped slowly now, not because his urgency was gone, but because the dread that filled his heart was soaking through his very being. The thoughts of the past two days, the diary, the dogs and Mendoza’s body all echoed loudly in his mind and the silence of the house was only broken by the sounds of sniffing dogs. He stepped closer to the door as the soft words broke from his lips, “Mami…,” he uttered just barely opening his lips. He coughed through a giant knot in his throat, fighting back the tears that now raged across the bottom of his eyes. “Mami…,” a little louder this time and the very real response of silence made his hands begin to shake as he grabbed the door knob. “Mami… Papi…,” he said, forcefully and with volume but again… nothing… He opened the door and was met with light sunlight as his parents barred windows had left little need to cover them with wood and despite there being some light, the room felt as dark as night. The air was thick with an unknown smell, but the stagnant feel of the room made his heart sink low into his stomach, lower into his gut and even lower to the floor. In the bed he could see a blanket pulled high on top of what looked like the silhouette of two people. The white blanket softly draped the two bodies as if it had been laid softly enough to paint the figures perfectly side by side, face to face, holding hands. He fell to his knees with the life completely running out of his being. He crawled on all fours shaking uncontrollably as what he was seeing was not possible. His chest erupted in pain as his breaking heart send thousands of shards of sadness against his bones. “Mami!!,” he yelled this time with a lost fervor that belted out of his throat and snot filled nose. “Papi!!,” he screamed once more as he pulled himself across the floor like a wounded animal getting close enough to feel the covered feet of both figures. Feeling the small foot of his mother contrasted by the thicker heavier foot of his father. He squeezed them hard beyond measure as if to wake them up, only to feel a motionless response from what was once his very reasons for living. The tears poured harder down his face as he roared uncontrollably, screaming and yelling in a howl that ripped the air apart with suffering and pain. He bellowed with the guttural pain of a grown man but felt like a broken child at the foot of his parents bed. He dove his head hard into their feet and wept beyond measure, beyond pain, beyond what he thought he could bear. He stood shaking the bodies with his clenched hands shivering with tremors of emotions and screamed “WHY?!?!?! Fucking why?!?! I am so sorry… I wasn’t here!! I am sorry... perdoname Mami… mami! Perdon!!,” as he drove his head into his father’s feet as if to feel one more childhood memory come running across them one more time. Searching for one more smile, one more birthday, one more phone call and one more embrace. His hands left squeezing and searching, yearning for the warmth of life but answered only by a cold stillness that only death could give. He fell to the floor in a fetal position as all his courage and anger bled into the floor as the lifeless bodies who laid so peacefully, hand in hand, had taken their final rest embraced in love. His body withered into the floor as the cool feeling of the tile did little to sooth the fiery smolders of loss. And in the distance a slow rumble came from the sky as soft and gently droplets began to dance on the roof, peppering against the silence of the house in a gentle dance that hummed over their heads. There, strewn across the floor, broken beyond measure and weeping loudly next to everything that had once mattered so deeply in his life, it began to rain… and Michael joined the world… as it wept from the sky.

© 2020 BATTLE AXE GYM

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