Authors: T.F. Hanson
Copyright © 2014 T.F. Hanson
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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this story are either products of the authors’ imagination or used fictionally.
No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Timothy F. Hanson
Blood Alley, A Romulus Pike Novelette
April, my muse and best friend.
My daughter Hope, may you never lose sight of your dreams.
A quick thank you to Linda K, for her editing and support, Scott S for his great artwork and Chris E for his great suggestions and for kicking me in the arse on a daily basis.
A cold gust of wind brought the smell of garbage and urine down the alleyway behind the old liquor store. Conner wondered again why he and Alex chose to stay out late that night. Yeah, Alex had been his best friend since they were five years old and they both survived the Apocalypse together; and yes, he had just told him earlier that night that he and Emily were finally getting married, but they had to get back to work in less than six hours. Old Mr. Smith down at the brickworks would surely be pissed if they came strolling in late in the morning, smelling of beer and moonshine.
“Conner, I hate going down this alley, the place gives me the creeps during the day. At night it’s just downright scary,” Alex said as the two men peered down the dark alley.
“Don’t be a pussy, Alex. I want to get home and get some sleep.”
“Come on, let’s just head over two more blocks and go that way. What’s five more minutes?”
Conner pulled his coat closer together against the cold wind and started down the dark alleyway, heading toward the lone, flickering light halfway down. “You coming?” he called over his shoulder.
Alex had no choice but to follow. Conner had always been the De facto leader of the two. He set out after his friend, the sound of his boot steps echoing off the walls. Somewhere off in the distance a lone cat called into the night.
“Hey, you know, Emily has a cousin,” Alex said as he caught up to his friend. “Maybe we can set you up with her?”
“The one with the big hips? No thanks, buddy.”
“She’s also half-crazy too,” Conner replied as they reached the edge of the halo cast by the lone light. When he was directly under the light, Conner came to a stop.
“Why are we stopping?” Alex asked. “I told you, I don’t like this place. Besides, I thought you were in a hurry to get home.”
Conner pulled off his gloves, blew on his hands and rubbed them together. “I hate the fucking cold. Feels like it’s going to snow soon. We’re stopping because I wanted to have one more smoke before we get home.”
Alex ripped off his gloves to help. “Roll me one.”
The two men huddled together under the light to keep the wind from blowing away the tobacco as they worked to roll a couple of cigarettes. Neither of the two men noticed the figure that stepped into the light behind Alex until he was pulled back into the dark. A lone scream escaped his lips as he fell back, away from his friend.
At first, Conner did not understand what he was seeing. Alex was lying on the ground and a man was on top of him. The man appeared as if he was about to give Alex mouth to mouth resuscitation. Why would the man be doing that to Alex? Alex was fine. Then the smell hit Conner. The smell of rot and decay reached him, overpowering the alley’s smells of piss and garbage.
Another scream escaped Alex’s mouth. A scream that ended in a gargle as the figure leaned over and ripped out Alex’s throat with his teeth.
Conner stood in shock as his friend’s feet beat on the ground.
The zombie turned his head and peered up at Conner, blood flowed from the corners of its open mouth. A low moan filled the alley as the creature reached for Conner with outstretched arms.
As he jumped back to avoid the zombie’s arms, Conner’s head struck an old air conditioning unit that stuck out of the wall behind him. The blow momentarily stunned him.
The zombie stood up and grabbed Conner in its embrace.
Conner reached up with his left arm and blocked the creature’s mouth as it descended on his face. He let out a loud scream as the zombie sunk its teeth into his upraised arm.
Conner went limp in the infected creature’s arms, hoping that his body weight would free the zombie’s grip on him. His plan worked as he fell out of the creatures embrace and rolled to the ground.
The zombie let out another moan as his prey escaped.
Conner scrambled to get back up and protect himself as the creature advanced. His hand landed on a loose board from a broken pallet lying on the ground. He grasped the board, stood up and turned on the zombie. The board crashed into the creature’s head, knocking the zombie back. He raised the board again and struck a second time. This time the zombie fell to the ground. Conner kicked out with his boot, catching the zombie under the chin. An audible snap filled the alley as the zombie’s teeth came together from the impact.
One more time the board came up and smashed the zombie on the side of the head, caving in its skull.
Conner dropped the board and rushed over to his friend laying on the ground. He dropped to his knees. “Alex! Alex you bastard! Listen to me.”
Alex slowly turned his head toward his friend. His mouth moved as he tried to say something.
Conner leaned closer, his mind shutting away Alex’s torn apart throat and the blood pumping from his ripped apart arteries. He thought he heard his friend say, “Tell Emily I loved her.”
A low wail began to fill the alleyway as Conner’s grief came to the front. The sound split the freezing night air as the loss of his best friend overcame all other feelings inside him.
From somewhere in the dark of night a bang sounded as a door was thrown open and then a voice split the night. “We’re sleeping here. If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to get the militia.”
At the mention of the militia, some sense of reason came back to Conner. It was as if someone had just thrown a cold bucket of water in his face. He looked down at his left arm, blood seeped from a tear in his jacket. His blood. Already a cold pain seeped up his arm.
“I’m bitten,” he whispered as he peered up and down the alley expecting someone to be there.
Since the Apocalypse, the number one rule in the new world was never, ever let yourself get bitten. If you were bitten by one of the Infected, you were to immediately turn yourself in to the authorities. If you were alone, you were expected to swallow a bullet, blow your head off. Make sure you could not hurt anyone else, ever.
Conner stood up as he watched the light fade from Alex’s eyes. “I will buddy. I will let Emily know you loved her.”
He stood there for a moment staring at his friend’s body and wondered what he should do next. A militia outpost was here in this quarter of New Atlanta, over by the east wall. He could be there in less than five minutes. Conner knew that was what he was supposed to do.
“Not yet,” he whispered. “I need to go and find Emily. I need to let her know what Alex said."
He started to move back down the alley from where they came, Emily’s apartment was in that direction. He would first go tell her what happened and then he would go to the militia. After two steps down the alley, he stopped. Turn myself in? They kill people who have been bitten.
Conner knew one thing; he was not ready to die. He was only twenty-one years old, he survived the Zombie Apocalypse when he was only eight. Yeah he and Alex did it together and now Alex lay dead in a pool of his own blood, but Conner did not have to die too. Did he?
Conner turned back in the other direction and sprinted down the alleyway towards the other end, the sounds of his steps echoing in the cold, dark night.
Romulus Pike was loosing his patients. The zombie hunter had been stuck in line for over two hours this morning as he tried to leave New Atlanta. When he arrived at the gate to leave the city at 6:00 AM there had already been a line.
Romulus was frustrated with the guards. They seemed to be just as concerned with checking those who wanted to leave the city as they were with the people coming into New Atlanta. He could understand the need to check those wanting entrance, the militia needed to make sure anyone coming in was not a carrier coming into the city to spread Freddy’s Disease, an infection named after Dr. Frederick Williamson, a doctor from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta who accidentally released the disease that turned people into zombies, on the world.
But what Romulus could not understand was why they had to be just as thorough with the people who wanted to leave. For Christ sakes, they were trying to leave.
Romulus stamped his boots on the asphalt to get the blood flowing as he waited in line, his feet were freezing. If he had known the wait was going to take this long, he would have worn an extra pair of socks.
AJ sat up next to him sensing his master’s frustration. The beagle was always at Romulus’s side no matter where he went. AJ and Romulus had been constant companions since Romulus first found the beagle when he was only a puppy in the train station underneath Old Atlanta over three years ago. AJ was now considered one of the best zombie tracking dogs in what used to be the Southeastern part of the United States.
Romulus was anxious to get out of town; the trip to New Atlanta had been a profitable outing. He had received payment for his last job after he had provided proof of the kill and he was lucky enough to have picked up a new contract. The only problem with the new job, he was not the only zombie hunter hired for the contract. His rivals, the Stratos brothers, had also been hired for the job. Romulus wasn’t worried about the brothers beating him out of the contract. In fact, the brothers were almost borderline incompetent. No, what had Romulus so pissed off was the fact the Stratos brothers had a day’s head start on him.
Romulus peered up at the dark sky, filled with heavy snow clouds and watched a lazy hawk turning slow circles. He envied the bird its freedom, as he was stuck down on earth, waiting for some petty officials to get about their business. The hawk circled around in the sky for a few moments longer then dived down behind the outer walls beyond Romulus’s sight. He hoped the bird had caught something to eat.
“Next,” the voice called out interrupting his thoughts. “Romulus Pike, the Zombie Hunter. Leaving town I see.”
“Captain Walters, always the Master of the Obvious,” Romulus replied as he stepped up to the gate.
“Ah Pike, it is always so good to see you leave New Atlanta. I hope you won’t be coming back anytime soon.”
Captain Walters and Romulus had been at odds for some time now, ever since the Captain had found Romulus talking with his wife at a bar one night. Romulus had only been polite and was looking for good conversation that evening, but the Captain had assumed the worse.
“Only if your wife invites me back sooner, my Dear Captain,” he replied. He noted with a slight smile, the distress his comment made on the man.