May 15, 2016

Prologue 1



A whirlwind, chaotic, frantic. Gunshots, the dying bodies around him, and an ocean of rotting mouths—jaws and teeth, popping and grinding—forced Rickett to make the decision. He had to leave. A dying man’s mouth gulping for air reminded Rickett of a fish, but the man swam in his own blood, not water. Then Rickett realized that there was no hope. Those hungry mouths attached to the bees—the biters, those feral animals—had ripped through the living, blood staining their bodies like war paint. Only bodies and a slippery hallway guarded Rickett from the coming horde.

Rickett pulled a revolver from a limp hand and grabbed the bat lying next to a woman’s body. He felt the weight of death and murder, of failure, as he placed the firearms in his waistband before turning to watch the man struggle. He wanted to help. Wished he could help. But he knew to help was to die.

Everything seemed slower; the sharp, anxious pokes of survival that propelled Rickett forward had dulled, and after gauging the distance between the man and the slowly rolling wave of carnivorous teeth and lashing tongues, Rickett dropped to the floor, grabbing his hands.

The wave of bees crashed onto the shore that was the squirming body in front of Rickett, pulling at his legs and tearing through his clothes. But the man’s face showed no pain. Shock had set in. He was numb to everything, it seemed, but Rickett was not. He cried, borderline sobbing, as he mumbled, “I’m sorry. I—I’m sorry.” Rickett shook his head before glancing at the bees ripping into calves and thighs, tearing at the muscles and exposing bone. “My boys, again,” he stuttered.

Rickett had watched his sons waste away; his wife had left him—who knew if she was even still alive in this mess of a world? Now he was alone again, and because of that loss, he’d murdered out of anger. Wrath—the perfect sin for the coward at heart. It was time. The horde was slowly moving its way up the man’s body. Rickett the father. Rickett the murderer. Rickett the coward stood, took one last look at the body, and then opened the door out into the smoke-filled night.

***

Rickett opened the door into a smoke-filled night filled with snarling silhouettes lumbering towards him. He moved towards the parking lot where Addison’s car was parked, each step kicking up tendrils of smoke that, mixing with his teary eyes, further hindered his vision.

Claw-like hands emerged from the smoke, striking at him, coming close to ripping through his gray sweater. Rickett released an adrenaline fueled primal roar and swung the bat towards the attacker. Aluminum collided with a brittle mass, bones cracking on impact. He swung again, landing another hit to purge some of his anger, before turning from the attacker and continuing his search for the car. He wanted to move faster, but the possibility of running right into a hive of bees hidden within the smoke held him to a brisk pace. Regardless, if the bees didn’t get him soon enough, the smoke would. He had to get away from the school’s campus. His throat was already burning.

When the first car came into sight, a white Honda sedan, Rickett didn’t adjust his step to accommodate the curb and stumbled, rolling his ankle and hitting the asphalt. The clank of the baseball bat stung his ears; he knew that he had just rang the dinner bell. “Fuck,” he barked through clenched teeth, wincing as he pushed himself up. But Addison’s car was close, and a parking lot meant more obstacles for the bees to maneuver around. Stifling a cough with his sleeve, he couldn’t remember exactly where Gavin had pointed out his sister’s car, but since he exited the back of the building, he knew that it had to be either ahead or to his right. He dug the keys out of his jeans’ pocket, keeping them from jingling by clutching them in his fist.

But the noise would eventually become overwhelming. It was inescapable. The coughing, the bees slowly making their way to the parking lot, the first few tumbles from their lack of coordination when stepping down from the curb. Ultimately, he would be overcome once he started the engine—if it did indeed start. Rickett just needed to be silent up until that point. He stifled another cough, crouched low and began the move towards Addison’s car.

He moved slowly, mindful of his throbbing ankle. He noted the various cars in the parking lot. If he was wrong about the location of the yellow VW bug, he needed to remember what cars he had passed so he didn’t waste time looking in the same areas. The bees were close behind him, their gnashing teeth giving Rickett yet another reason to wince.

Where the smoke hung in heavier clouds, Rickett brushed his fingers along the cars’ grills to read their emblems like brail: Hondas, Toyotas, and Fords. He moved to the next row in the parking lot, hoping that the smoke impeded the bees’ ability to taste his scent in the air with their awkward flicks of the tongue. He wondered how much the fires had consumed. The increase of smoke meant that somewhere, the fires had gotten out of hand, no longer serving only as a fence to keep the bees at bay.

This time he had to move back toward the bees instead of away from them, and he knew that each step brought him closer to an impending doom if he wasn’t careful. He pulled his sweater up over his nose to help filter out some, if any, of the smoke. He even put some of the fabric into his mouth not only to help stifle future coughs but also to give him something to bite when the pain from his ankle shot up his leg. He spent more time thinking about his balance than he did listening to the noises of the hive collectively hunting him.

He found the VW in the following row. He remained to the right of where he had entered the parking lot, making sure to avoid the stumbling, struggling hive. He stayed as low as he could, moving on all fours at times, trying to avoid breathing in too much smoke. He had to get out of here, and quickly, before the coughing became too much or he lost consciousness.

He backtracked at an angle, putting some distance between himself and Addison’s car. Once he felt he there was enough separation between him and his getaway car, he stood and swung the bat, shattering the rear window of the sedan next to him. The loud, piercing wails of the car’s alarm made him cringe. With a second swing, he broke the side mirror off the sedan’s driver’s side door and picked it up. He limped back in the direction of the VW, the car alarm’s staccato noises echoed by the groans of a moving hive.

Reaching the VW, he listened to the cacophony of stumbling bodies hitting cars and each other, setting off further alarms as they searched for their prey, for Rickett. Before unlocking the door, Rickett throws the side mirror in the direction of the hive’s original location in the parking lot, setting off yet another alarm and shifting the hive’s focus. Quickly, Rickett unlocked the VW using the remote to avoid jingling the keys and jumped in, swiftly closing the door. There was a slight release of tension as he inhaled the stale, relatively smoke-free air and locked the car’s doors.





1 comment:

  1. Good start. I enjoyed the last one and look forward to this one.

    ReplyDelete