Authors: M.D. Massey
Tags: #dystopian, #werewolf, #shapeshifter, #horror, #post apocalyptic, #vampire hunter, #vampire, #zombie, #werewolves, #Shifter, #werewolf hunter, #zombie hunter, #apocalypse, #post apocalyptic books, #Zombie Apocalypse
Season 1 Episode 1
A Post-Apocalyptic Thrill Ride By
Modern Digital Publishing
Copyright © 2014 by M.D. Massey.
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Austin, Texas 78727
THEM Season 1 Episode 1/ M.D. Massey. —1st ed.
Dedicated to those who stalk the night
so that others may sleep in peace
“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
~from William Shakespeare’s
he nos’ had me pinned to the rich Texas clay with a single bony arm across my throat. Despite the fact that I’d managed to turn my head and relieve the pressure on my windpipe, the damn thing was managing a fairly effective blood choke and I was starting to fade out. They always seemed to get a kick out of looking their prey in the eye, right before feeding; I think it gave them an undead woody or something. Vamps were nothing if not predictable.
As it whispered psychotic sweet nothings to me, I noted that its breath was colder than a grave digger’s ass and came complete with a stench to match. It was saying something to me about how it was going to suck the life from me, crack my bones and eat my marrow, blah, blah, blah, and every time it hit a hard consonant sound it spat clotted blood in my face.
How I hate close talkers.
All social discomforts aside, I was fading out and needed to get some breathing room before this thing punched my ticket. I’d already shot it multiple times, but you’d think I was shooting BBs instead of .45 ACP at the thing for all the good it’d done. Bastards were hard to kill, and this looked to be an old one. That meant it had an extra helping of piss and vinegar to keep it going, along with a winning personality and a set of teeth that’d make a great white jealous.
Thankfully, I had the vamp right where I wanted it.
- - -
urprisingly, there are worse things than an apocalypse.
The Great War came as a shock, sure, but it’s what came after that really did us in. That’s when
came. History tells us that mankind can recover from all manner of war and catastrophe. Hell, we’ve been doing it for millennia. But, this was different.
Yes, the atomic bombs and resulting EM pulses destroyed major cities and knocked out power and comms across the entire country. Yes, social structures and governments crumbled, bringing on a massive economic collapse. And yes, disease and famine wiped out a huge chunk of the remaining population. Even so, those were all things we could recover from, eventually.
It’s funny when you think about it: back in the days just after the War, everyone believed nothing could be so bad as when the bombs fell. I know I thought seeing the bombs drop was as bad as it could get. But what was to come after would make most people think the survivors got the short end of the deal.
So what’s worse than nuclear annihilation? Pandemic disease? Widespread famine? Something no one ever expected: nightmares, come to life. Walking, often talking, and sometimes breathing nightmares, straight out of the pages of myth and legend.
Overnight, mankind dropped a rung on the food chain.
Ain’t that a bitch.
I’ve stopped trying to figure out how it happened. To be honest, I could give a shit. They’re here, it’s pretty obvious they want us all dead or in thrall to Them, and they can be killed. And as far as my work is concerned, that’s all I need to know.
That’s right, I hunt Them. And damn it if I don’t enjoy my work.
- - -
uestion: How do you hunt a creature that slips in and out of the shadows like smoke slips through fog?
Answer: You don’t, you let
. And that was what I was currently doing, playing possum to draw in a vampiric humanoid that had been hunting the edges of an established safe zone in the Texas Hill Country.
My cabin and land was located in a sparsely populated area close to the Frio River, far west of San Antonio. Accordingly, I operated mostly in South and Central Texas, contracting out my troubleshooting services for barter to folks who lacked the skills to handle the tougher nightmares. For which I was hired much more often than even I would prefer.
For most South Texas and Hill Country survivors, zombies and the occasional ghoul or two were no match for a well-placed .30-30 round to the cranium. All ranchers and even most city dwellers in small rural Texas towns were raised hunting and shooting rifles, so the average monster was not a problem once they overcame the shock and learned to adapt. But every so often a community would get one they couldn’t handle, and that was where I came in.
To put this in perspective, I suppose I should explain the hierarchy of the so-called occult species. It starts with your run-of-the-mill, bottom-feeding zombie. Slow and stupid, but also preternaturally strong. Still, so long as you keep moving and don’t run into a herd of them, they’re easy to pick off.
Next are ghouls. Ghouls are slightly hardier versions of the aforementioned zombies; sort of a zombie 2.0, if you will. They take a bit more doing to kill, mainly because they’re quicker and have thick skulls. They’re basically zombies with upgrades, but still just zombies. A pain in the ass, sure, but not much problem for anyone with a 12-gauge and a handful of shells.
Now, one step up from that are revenants. Revenants are undead humanoids that can reason almost as well as humans do. Stronger than most humans, meaner and faster than a meth head on steroids, and wily as hell. Hella’ dangerous. Revs are kind of my bread and butter, as most folks won’t mess with them.
Then there are vampiric humanoids. Supposedly they come in various flavors, but all the ones I’d run into this far south were of the nosferatu variety: ugly as hell, and with personality and manners to match. Vamps were freaky quick and tough to kill, so anytime there was a vamp in the area I got called in.
And finally, there were your atypicals: lycanthropes and other nasties. We never saw atypicals this far out, and that was fine by me. Years of living in a post-paranormal-Apocalypse world had taught me to deal with what was right in front of me and avoid thinking too much about problems I didn’t have. And right now, I had my mind on hunting a nos-type that was likely already headed my way.
This nasty in particular had been lurking around the edge of an established safe zone, and it was picking off people at leisure. Vamps tended to be territorial; they’d settle into an area and hunt it until all the humans around were dead or driven away. If something wasn’t done, all the work in reclaiming this land would unravel and the residents would be set back a good four or five years, not to mention lose the sense of relative normalcy they’d achieved.
I was happy to lend a hand, being as my girlfriend happened to run the local roadhouse. Besides, Kara told me they’d recently traded with a settlement northwest of here for some canned peaches. I hadn’t had peaches in some time, and my mouth was watering for them already. Benefits of being a professional troubleshooter; I usually got my pick of supplies and food, depending on what was available.
Presently, however, I really wished this vamp would hurry the hell up. I was pretending to sleep, covered in an old moth-eaten Army blanket with the embers of my campfire playing counterpoint to the hum of cicadas and the occasional yip of coyotes in the distance. Fall was in session and the nights were getting longer, and this one came complete with a touch of frost in the air. And here I was, more or less freezing my ass off, waiting for a vamp to come try and take a bite out of what remained.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait much longer. From one moment to the next, a stillness settled across the night like it always did when they were close. That was how I knew the nos’ had caught my heat signature and was closing in; animals didn’t like ’em, and avoided the undead like the plague. Which, of course, they sort of were.
I hated calling them “vampires” since they were nothing like the ones depicted in pop culture before the Apocalypse hit. Having been up close and personal with my fair share, I could honestly say it was doubtful any of the specimens I’d seen were capable of charming young innocent virgins out of their chastity.
Not that they were interested in that, anyway. No, this species was driven by one thing and one thing only, and that was a deep, abiding hunger for warm, pulsing, human blood. And that was exactly the thing that was drawing this particular specimen closer and closer to my camp.
Natural-born predators, especially nocturnal predators, almost never attack from the front. That explained why at the moment I couldn’t see my intended prey, as it was likely attempting to sneak up on me from behind. However, I’d positioned my camp and bedroll just under a small rocky overhang for shelter and to reflect heat from my campfire. And of course to protect my back and force the nos’ to attack from a position that would afford me at least some ability to defend myself.
As I’d suspected, this one was trying to attack me from a position of surprise. I could hear just the faintest scraping of hard, dead flesh against the rock surface above me. Cracking my good eye ever so slightly, I saw a clawlike hand creeping slowly around the edge of the overhang. Soon another followed, the granite hard nails clicking softly against the rocky surface.
Shortly thereafter, the head popped into view as well. They didn’t breathe unless to speak, so it was almost perfectly quiet as it slowly made its way around the rocky edge. It hung inverted, clinging to the rock with movements more like a spider than a human, and I waited until it was completely around the cliff and hanging above me before I moved.
As I sprang into action my two Glock 21s fired simultaneously, delivering a pair of .45-caliber hollow-point rounds tipped with a combination of silver shavings, silver dust, and epoxy into the creature’s pelvis from close range. I fired directly through the blanket where I’d had my sidearms hidden and angled upward at the rock face where I suspected the creature would approach.
As the ugly bastard fell to the ground almost on top of me, howling in fury, I rolled to my right, flinging the blanket off and firing two more rounds, the first shattering a knee, and the other ruining the creature’s left arm just above the elbow. I could’ve easily hit it center mass, but I’d discovered early on that they often had incredibly thick sternums covering that most vital of internal organs. Likewise, their skulls were thickened to the point that all but the largest calibers of high-velocity rifle rounds could bounce off, making head and heart shots a gamble even at close range.
However, in my younger days I’d discovered that the joints were a weakness in vampires, with little protection for the soft connective joint tissue within. And despite their high bone density, these creatures had limbs that were of the same basic structure and function as a human’s, a fact that I took full advantage of when hunting them. I don’t care how superhumanly strong you are; it’s damn near impossible to fight with a broken pelvis and shattered knees and elbows.
That said, this nasty was not giving up without a fight. Already it was scrambling toward me using its one intact arm, and despite a ruined knee and pelvic girdle. I could actually hear the bones grinding together as it scuttled across the ground like some sort of Lovecraftian arachnid from hell. Apparently, my date didn’t understand the concept of “no means no.”
The good news was that it was coming at me feetfirst, which afforded me the opportunity to place a few rounds under its rib cage, hopefully piercing its heart. I sprang to my feet and backpedaled around the campfire, firing as I moved. Unfortunately for me, I caught my foot on a protruding rock as I retreated, landing hard on my ass and nerfing the shots entirely.
The leech was on top of me in an instant, a testament to exactly how fast these creatures could move, and it did an impossible spinal contortion to flip over and land on me face-to-face. I was looking at it up close now, and everything about it was ugly and unnatural: the bucksaw teeth, the grey pallor of its flesh, the almost apelike nostrils, the heavy ridged brow covering eyes shining with a faint glow that mirrored the embers of my dying campfire. Pressing down on my throat with the one arm it could still use, it had me pinned to the rocky soil below us.