I never expected this, not in the least. There I was, standing behind the counter in the dying days of summer at the diner where I worked. I was
trying to work up some money for college working at this grease pit on the edge of town -and I use that term liberally- near the interstate. It wasn’t
pleasant in the least... the place was little more than a deep fryer, a few gas pumps and some whores waiting around outside. The only people that
came by were truckers. The pay was crappy, but there were plenty of hours. So, at any rate, I was there, late Tuesday night, dreaming of far away
college and its beautiful women. It was pouring like something else, and there were only a few people in the place. A couple of the hookers had come
inside for a cup of coffee, but most of them had gone home. A few truckers sat in stalls, looking outside. It was near midnight, and my shift had been
done for ten minutes. I had been grumbling for twenty, but the owner (stereotypically named Red, no less) wouldn’t let me go.
So I’m standing there, staring at the cash machine with blurry eyes, right. I look up, and there’s a trucker just walking in. I really couldn’t have
cared less. I’m practically asleep on my feet, and my vision drifts back down to the machine. Suddenly, the numbers on the display flow together. The
little green bars read “HE IS NOT ALIVE”. I blink, and the message is gone. When I looked up, there he is.
I don’t know how I couldn’t have seen it before. The “trucker” looked dead. I don’t just mean pale-like-a-cheesy-goth dead. I mean DEAD. The flesh
was hanging on his face. I could see it sag. I could see the eyes turning yellow, and I could see the little holes in his rotting skin. His plaid
shirt, caked in what I thought were grease stains, was actually soaked in blood. Well, not blood. Ichor is a better word. It looked like Chunky soup
six days old. I did a double take, and looked around to see if anyone else was seeing what I was. He held a tattered dollar bill forward with a
scraggly arm, repeating his order with a rasping voice. He asked if I was listening, but I wasn’t. I recognized the bill...Sandy, one of the hookers
around here, kept it as a souvenir of better times. It was a bill printed in 1920. Her father gave it to her. He was giving it to me. She was dead. I
realized it before the rot realized something was wrong.
I just got so angry...I knew Sandy. Sandy was almost a friend. She hadn’t hurt anyone, and this THING had killed her! It was the only way she would
have given it up. Before I knew what I was doing, I reached over the counter, and I slugged it. The shock of the impact shot up my arm, hurting more
than it should have. I was impressed by the results, though. The zombie went flying backwards, lower jaw sent tumbling through a window. It screeched
in agony and rage, cheeks shredded and hanging limply to cover something that wasn’t there anymore. Blackened, diseased gums held but a few
teeth...something unremarkable for a trucker or a dead man. Everything erupted into chaos at that moment. Red was going for the Ruger over-under
shotgun he kept beneath the counter, one of the whores was going for a her purse, the rot was stumbling backwards, and everyone else was dashing for
the exit. They scrambled over and around each other, fleeing into the rainy night.
Stumbling into some tables, it pushed itself back up, flying towards me and Red with hands -more claws than anything else- reaching towards us as Red
brought the silvery 12-gauge to his shoulder. He fired the top barrel, hitting the thing in the chest. Putrid meat exploded backwards out of the
thing’s chest, spraying bystanders. Its steps faltered for a moment as Red stared in shock. He fired the second barrel, hitting in the shoulder and
tearing the left arm off, leaving it dangling from but a slim cord of flesh. A shard of bone jutted sharply out of the stump. Red unflinchingly broke
his shotgun open, emptying the spent shells as the thing kept advancing, holes in its decaying chest closing themselves before our very eyes. I just
stood there, anger growing and growing. I should have been able to do something to save Sandy, I thought. Done something, spent something... she was
a good person. As the rage and guilt built up, I felt something tear. This weird fog started to seep out of me, drifting towards the Thing. I saw the
angry hooker holding a flaming dagger, bring it down into its back. The fog touched it, and the rancid flesh shrivelled up and turned to dust.
Each and every second the fog came out of me, I felt worse and worse. It screeched and swung its arms through the mist, but all it did was make
things worse for itself. Finally, I slumped over, barely holding onto consciousness. Through half-closed eyes, I watched the crazy bitch stab the
Thing as it collapsed, legs barely anything more than bones. It’s claws swung at her, driving for the throat. I heard Red’s command clearly...a shout
of “STOP”. The Thing’s arms stopped moving inches before her throat. It looked up, perplexed for the second before Red ran up and reduced the Thing’s
head to a smear near to a crater on the floor and the hooker’s blade drove into its heart.
I fell to the floor, utterly exhausted. The truck stop was silent except for the wind howling through the shattered windows and the rain and blood
slopping together on the white tiled floor. I looked around, realizing just how much had changed. The place was a shambles. Our lives, for that
matter, were reduced to slim shades. Odds were that we were going to be blamed for Sandy’s death. Red helped me, throwing one of my arms over his
shoulders and helping me out of the wrecked restaurant. He still held his shotgun in one hand as he helped me out to his pickup. The streetwalker had
taken off already. I passed out just as he slapped a seatbelt on me.
I woke up on a cot. I started awake, looking around the darkness for some clue as to where I was. The only light in the room was from a computer
screen half-hidden by a person’s bulk. I groaned. Red’s voice drifted back to me.
“Check this # out, boy.”
I walked over to the screen, leaned over and read what was on the screen. The banner read HUNTER-NET. A symbol at each end jumped out at me... the
first meant “protected” and the second “hope”. I had no idea how I knew this. The page was some one else’s experience, much like my own...our own. Red
looked up at me, strangely serious. “Sandy is dead. Her head was nearly torn from her body by... by that thing. It was awful- I saw her lying there in
the parking lot.God, I’m gonna make those #ers pay if it’s the last thing I do. ” I nodded quietly. “We’ve got to find them. We’ve got to kill them,
each and every one. I saw two ghosts and a pack of mother#ing zombies on the way here. ZOMBIES! At least I know I’m not #ing insane. Right? Right?”
I nodded again. “I saw that thing at the restaurant too. What’re we going to do about it?”
“Kill them all, dip#!”
“Fine. With what, though? That thing shrugged a hit off from your shotgun.”
“Well, maybe I just didn’t shoot it enough. And it did stay down after I turned its head into jello.”
Red gave me dinner, sent me home. He told me that the others on the internet site said to grab anything that looked like it could put the fight out
of one of those suckers, drain my bank account, leave a note for my parents. I entered the house quietly at close to four. I rummaged everywhere,
snagging what I could. I got a long, ugly looking knife from the kitchen first, as I writ a quick note to my parents: ‘Can’t explain now. Doing the
right thing. Love you all. Pray for me.’ After that, I filled a duffel bag with all clothes at hand, threw that in the back of the pickup.
Next, I hit the garage. I was blessed with a father who was a prolific hunter. I grabbed the old Remington .3008 rifle, three boxes of ammo for it,
and a wood axe. Next came the hard part. After loading all of that into Red’s waiting truck, I snuck into my parent’s bedroom. My dad kept the good
stuff in there. He had two pistols and a shotgun ready in case of intruders (though one must question what my father defined as intruders...tanks?
Perhaps a full armored division?). I snagged the Desert Eagle .50 AE, the Nova Tactical, and all the ammo for both. I left him his favourite revolver,
knowing that he would feel naked and defenceless without them. As I left the room, I turned around smiled at their sleeping forms. Turning back
around, I saw something that shouldn’t have been there. A ghost.
It was an middle aged woman. Her hair was all scraggly, and her clothes clung to her as if soaking wet. She smiled an impossibly large, sharped tooth
smile. I raised the Desert Eagle at her, flicking off the safety clumsily. It took a second for her to realize that I could see her. She laughed, and
the ‘skin’ of her face sunk in, forming words.
Carved into her bemused, sunken face were the words “Where are you going?”
I pulled the hammer back, and quietly asked her to move.
The words faded back into her flesh, only for new ones to appear. “Why do you have those guns?” I didn’t react. Sweat poured down my face. Then, her
face lit with hope. “Can you help me?”
At that point, I fired. The recoil was absolutely shocking. I stumbled back two steps into a lamp, knocking it over with a clatter. My ears were
ringing from the shot, and my arm felt like someone had hit it with a baseball bat. I could hear my father cursing and fumbling with his gun, running.
I looked at where the ghost had been, and saw only baseball sized holed in the wall to my brother’s room, and another, bigger hole in outside wall. A
second shot rang out, slamming into the table just above my knees and sending a dozen shards of wood into them. My own father was shooting at me. The
shock and sadness of the situation hit me, and I took off, lobbing myself down the stairs and into Red’s waiting pickup, boxes and boxes of ammo
barely in hand, shotgun over my shoulder and hand cannon still in my grip. He gunned the engine as my father continued to give chase, firing. I could
hear the impacts as two rounds from his Colt Python flew through both sides of the pickup, leaving holes. Somehow, I always knew that my father’s love
of high-caliber weaponry was as much a curse as a blessing.
We returned to Red’s house, took inventory. It took us four hours to put everything together, make all the adjustments. My father’s prize shotgun was
sawed off. Ammunition was counted, everything cocked, locked and loaded. I handed him all the cash I syphoned out of the bank, and helped him load up
the truck. His Ruger was sawed off now, too. It was it tucked against his body, underneath a long coat.
“Where are we going?” I asked, the Desert Eagle tucked into my belt.
“We’re going to meet another hunter I met on that site. Name’s Student67.”
Ooohhhh! Something I dug up. Enjoy. More comments, more additions as usual.