The King of Clayfield - 01

BOOK: The King of Clayfield - 01
3.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub














© Shane Gregory





I harvested sweet potatoes today. The first frost was this morning, and you’re supposed to
dig sweets on the morning of the first frost. I’m glad I know stuff like that. It’s a bad time to have to learn about important things like when to dig your sweets. I got two wheelbarrows full (I’ve only got one wheelbarrow, but I filled it up twice). I don’t know if it will be enough.

I took them to the little greenhouse, and put them all out on
the rack and covered them with wet towels
to cure. They’ve got to stay warm and moist for a few days
to cure properly. I’m glad I know that, too.

Sometimes I get to thinking about the people out there that don’t know this stuff and how they have to learn it the hard way and how they might die because of it, or how they might kill me for mine because they didn’t learn how to take care of themselves before everything happened.

It’s now been
eight months since Canton B took people’s minds away. It was quick, too. In less than 24 hours, it had spread through my hometown of Clayfield, Kentucky, population
twelve thousand and something. It didn’t originate in Clayfield, but that doesn’t matter.

I remember
scanning over
story online
a few days before everything happened
about an epidemic in Europe, something that affected the brain. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because the media was always trying to scare us with some new thing that was going around. It wasn’t until after everything happened that I learned about it…not that there was much to learn.

I don’t think they ever got a handle
Canton B, because it spread so quickly. It was airborne, and the infected
could be
contagious as much as 36 hours before exhibiting symptoms. That was how it spread so fast. By the time
they knew someone was infected, it was too late to quarantine them.

A couple of days after that news story, the headline on the front page of The Clayfield
Chronicle said, “Canton B Suspected in U.S. Patients.” There was a picture of
a woman
held down by men wearing surgical masks. I still didn’t think much of it.

Less than a week later
all hell broke loose in town.


I am…well, I was…a museum director. It was the only
museum in the whole county.
In the permanent collection, we
had artifacts from Clayfield’s past like Civil War cannon balls and a replica of a Prohibition-era
moonshine still. There were some much older items, too, like arrowheads and fossils of
prehistoric sea creatures. Every three months, we hosted traveling exhibits in our gallery space.

The museum
was a non-profit, relying on donations; otherwise it would have never made it.
Some days I was there by myself with nothing to do; other days, I’d have a house full of school kids on a field trip. It was a great job. Now, my only job is staying alive.

I remember exactly what I was doing when I became aware of Canton B’s arrival in Clayfield. It was a
around 11:00 a.m. I was supposed to have a Senior Citizens group coming
for a tour
after lunch, and I was in the gallery
The traveling
show in
was about the history of tobacco in Kentucky. That exhibit is still up and will be until the building falls in or the artifacts turn to dust.

The local oldies radio station was tuned in, and they were playing Marty Robbins’ classic “El Paso.” I used to love that song, but now I just associate it with that day. I suppose it doesn’t matter since I’ll probably never hear it again.


Somebody crashed a car on North 8
Street. I didn’t know what it was at first because there wasn’t the sound of screeching tires with it; it was just a loud
It kind of sounded like a garbage truck emptying a dumpster. The building shook a little. It startled me, and I ran to the door to see the
source of the noise.

The Grace County Museum sits on the corner of North 8
Street and North Street, with the front of the building and parking lot facing North 8
. Directly across the street is an empty building with a “For Sale” sign in the window.
Jay’s Transmission Repair
is across the street to the left, and across the street to the right are the offices of The Clayfield Chronicle.

I stepped out the front door still holding my broom. It was a cloudy February day, and there was some leftover dirty snow lining both sides of the street. The temperature was just below freezing, and I
was uncomfortable in only my shirt sleeves.

Off to my left, in the corner of the lot, a red Chevy S-10 was ramped up onto the museum’s sign. The sign was splintered in half horizontally. I feel bad saying this, but the first thing I thought about was how it was going to be a hassle to get it replaced. The second thing I thought was to check on the driver of the vehicle.

I ran out to the truck. The driver
must have had their
foot on the accelerator, because the engine was roaring and starting to smoke, and
white exhaust was pumping out of the tailpipe. I guess it was in park or neutral, or the wreck had messed up the transmission,
because the tires weren’t spinning.
young woman was behind the wheel, sitting up with her head resting on the back of the seat. The deflated airbag was in her lap.

Smoke from the engine was coming into the cab through the vents. I tried to open her door, but it was locked. I ran around to the other side. But it was locked, too. I could see her stirring, so I pounded on the passenger side window.

“Wake up!” I shouted. “Get out of the truck!”

Another car pulled into the parking lot. An older man, I guessed in his late 60s, got out.

“Break the window!” he said, his breath fogging out of his mouth.

I started driving the end of my broom handle into the window, but it wouldn’t break. Then I turned it, and swung it like a baseball bat. The
other man opened his trunk and came out with a tire iron and
started working on the driver’s side window.
After several
swings, the
broom handle hit the window and
broke in half. Then I saw the driver’s side window shatter. I ran around to the other side, and he was already opening the door and trying to unbuckle her seat belt.

“Call nine-one-one!” he yelled at me.

I dropped my broken broom, and took my cell phone from my pocket and dialed the number. It rang, but no one answered.

Another crash. Farther up North 8
, a white delivery van had driven up onto the sidewalk in front of The Chronicle and
hit the front of the building. Just as I looked, the van was tipping over on its side. The only thing I could think of was that there must have been ice on the road.

I started to run toward the van when I heard
a scream to my left. The older man was on his back in the parking lot next to the wrecked truck, and the woman he had been trying to rescue was straddling him, and it looked like she was kissing him. I stepped toward her, and she looked up at me.

Her mouth was bloody; her eyes were wild. I looked down at the man, and blood was dribbling from his neck and beginning to pool around his head and shoulders. She stood and stared at me.
She had light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. No coat, just jeans and a flannel shirt, which
were soaking wet. I could see heat in the form of steam coming from her wet clothes. Panting
like an animal, she took a wobbly step toward me and fell.

My brain wasn’t making sense of any of it. It was surreal. I just stood there watching her crawl toward me, that man’s blood
smeared on her
chin. Then another crash snapped me out of it. It was farther away, but it was definitely a car wreck.
Then, a

“What is happening?” I whispered to myself.

The young woman was attempting to stand again. I picked up my broken broom handle and backed toward the front door of the museum, keeping my eyes on her. I detected movement across the street. A man was staggering around in front of the transmission shop in his boxers.

Something was very wrong.

When I got to the door, I went inside, and locked it behind me. Through the glass, I watched her. She got to her feet and looked around with an expression of bewilderment, like she forgot what she was doing, then turned and limped across the parking lot and into the street. Another crash--this time from the direction of North Street. Someone screaming outside.

I ran into my office in the back of the building
to see what I could see. The Everly Brothers were on the radio
singing “Cathy’s Clown.” I switched it off. My office window looks out onto the rear parking lot of
Kentucky Regional Bank. I can see across that lot
to North 7
Street, and then past that is another empty lot, then North 6
City Hall and a fire station are on North 6
. There was a lot of activity going on between the fire station and City Hall. I could see four
police officers in their black uniforms shooting at something out of my field of vision. The gunfire from this distance sounded like little pops.

Closer, two nicely-dressed women
sprinted around the corner of the bank.
The second one had on a dust mask. They were both wearing heels, but it didn’t slow them down. Not far behind them was another nicely-dressed woman. The third woman was barefoot and was moving like she was drunk. One of the front women skidded to a stop next to a black car that was parked near the drive-thru ATM, she said something to the second woman and began digging in her purse. The second woman stopped beside the first woman’s car. The third woman was
coming at them in a limping jog that reminded me of the movement of an ape on hind legs. The first woman
found her keys and unlocked the doors. The woman in the mask took off a shoe and threw it at Woman Three. It was a move that cost her time. Woman Three tackled her. The two of them fell down out of view on the passenger side of the car.
The first woman
screamed, but didn’t help. She got in the car, tore out of the lot, and headed up North Street toward the fire station.

BOOK: The King of Clayfield - 01
3.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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