Extinction: First Strike
Author: Jack Skoal

Chapter 20
The Breakdown

Chapter 20
Quincy, Illinois / 18:42 Hours / December 1, 2013
A large storm is brewing in the western skies. Jimmy is unconscious, hurt worse than we had originally thought. We are forced to find shelter as quickly as possible. Michael is doing all he could to keep Jimmy from slipping away, but he has no medical supplies other than a small first aid kit.
“I need to get him on a table and quick.” Michael is using every piece of fabric he can find and having Emily and Stacy hold pressure on some of his wounds, while he removes a piece of glass from Jimmy’s stomach.
“I see a house just up ahead. Should I pull in there?” Clyde asks, looking back over his shoulder for Michael’s response.
“That’s fine! Just hurry!” he says, his words rushed. The doctor’s blood-covered hands are pressing against, a large laceration just under Jimmy’s ribs. Nothing will stop the bleeding and the amount of blood that is now soaked up in discarded rags on the floor of the Humvee is causing Jimmy to slip in and out of consciousness. My eyes flick back and forth between Jimmy and Kaylee Ann, who is using every ounce of her strength to keep it together. Her right hand clings tightly to Jimmy’s and her blonde hair is matted with blood from where her free hand has swiped it back behind her ears. I watch as she bites down hard on the soft flesh of her lower lip to stop it from quivering. There’s not a single thing I can do for them in this moment, so I look away out the front window.
We pull into the driveway of the house Clyde spotted and Carl and I move ahead to clear the house while the others help to pull Jimmy out from the back. We make it to the front door without spotting any undead, but it’s locked so I cock back to kick it in. It’s surprisingly harder than I thought it would be to kick open a door. It takes several kicks but eventually gives way.
Inside the house is in disarray. Tables are overturned and broken glasses and ceramic dishes litter the kitchen floor. Carl goes to the right and I take the left. Normally we would search the house as a team but there isn’t time. We move from room to room, checking every closet and under every bed. It isn’t until the last room I search that I find the undead.
Two small girls had turned and must have attacked their mother and father while they slept in their bed. Their skeletonized body’s lying dismembered on bloodstained sheets are all that remain. The sight of two maybe ten year old girls as undead creatures retards my response on the trigger. Their faces scowl at my presence. They are badly decomposed and the room is flooded with the stench of death, so much so that I begin to gag uncontrollably. The girls seize the opportunity to get to their feet and begin making their way towards me. I have the barrel aimed low, and know I should raise it, but I’m trapped in a trance, fixated on their slow, twitching movements. They’re dressed in matching night gowns, and through the decaying overlay, I can still see the innocence that once shrouded them. I imagine them dancing, blissfully unaware of the horrors of the world, the frilly hems of their dresses reaching outwards as they twirl in front of me. Their arms stretch out to take mine to join them in their silly dance. I smile and feel my hand lower. It would be so easy.
It’s not until I hear the repeated firing of Carl’s riffle down the hall that I snap awake. The young girls transform back to the putrefied creatures they have become. The rifle reflexively comes up and I fire off two rounds in rapid succession. The girls slump to the floor and with haste, I exit the room. I just want to forget what I’ve witnessed and find Carl.
“Are you all right?” Carl shouts from across the house, now making his way towards me.
“I’m fine my sides clear. Tell them to bring in Jimmy”
I hear Carl moving to the front door to get the others. I make it back to the main entrance just as the rest of the group carries in Jimmy.
“Clear a table off,” Michael orders.
“Emily, I need you to start boiling water and a lot of it. Stacy find me all the items we used on the Oak Island expedition, and Kaylee Ann hold pressure here. Don’t let go.”
“Is there anything we can do to help?” I ask as I move out of the Doc’s way, knighting him with the name of most doctors or medics in the military.
“Yeah, Clyde help Kaylee Ann hold pressure down on the wound and you two just stay out of the way for now.”
Carl and I move to the front door to keep watch as the others rush to save Jimmy who is now passed out. The thunder outside is becoming louder now, and a light rain begins to drop from the clouds. “We’re in for a rough one,” Carl states, looking up overhead. I look at him and up to where his eyes are following a trail of dark, fast-moving storm clouds. Neither of us speak a word as we split the time watching for more of the undead outside.
As I stare blankly into the distance at the storm clouds hastily approaching, I can’t stop thinking about what Doc had said. Oak Island I had heard of that place before, but I can’t quite place it. Something I’d read online, or maybe, or heard on television. I’m trying to think back to the article I’d scanned at the start of all this, but my train of thought is interrupted when Doc begins yelling from the kitchen.
“Get out of the way, were losing him.” I watch as Doc begins CPR. He leans over Jimmy and starts chest compressions. “Come on, come on. Stay with me.”
He pumps vigorously, only stopping to allow Stacy to blow air into his deflated lungs. He continues for a good while before he stops, to call it quits. Kaylee Ann erupts in hysterics over Jimmy’s lifeless body. Everyone stands in silence except for Stacy, who moves to comfort Kaylee Ann, her hand moving to the younger woman’s shoulder. Kaylee Ann is slumped over, clutching Jimmy’s head. Tears stream like raging rivers from her pretty green eyes. Carl, Clyde and I feel her pain over the loss of Jimmy. Carl and I have all grown to love him since the day the two emerged from the basement at the old farm house.
Stacy holds Emily’s shoulders gently as she sobs uncontrollably, but then the pitch of Kaylee Ann’s cries turn to blood curdling screams. Jimmy is pulling her down by her golden locks, and Kaylee Ann is vigorously resisting his attempts to pull her down. She finally frees herself and stumbles back, her hands curled up by her face, shaking. Jimmy, or at Jimmy’s plagued body at least, vaults off the stretcher in pursuit. It stands in the middle of the room, gurgling vibrations emanating from somewhere deep in the back of its throat, foam frothing at the corners of its mouth. Everyone stands frozen, gawking in disbelief, petrified.
The creature shifts about, not quite sure which target to engage. Kaylee Ann’s screams begin shifting back and forth from cries of fear to deep inhuman guttural sound. Bloody vomit ejects forcefully from her mouth as she twitches and flails wildly now falling to the floor.
The abomination that was Jimmy finally chooses its target and rushes for Carl and I who are standing closest to it. Instinctively I draw my pistol, but can’t find it in me to kill the creature that was Jimmy. I can see Carl in my peripheral vision, aiming his pistol at Jimmy but not firing as well.
Suddenly shots erupt, and the creature that was once Jimmy begins absorbing the rounds. His body jolts back with each impact. I can see now as I look to my left, Stacy had picked up an M-4 I left by the kitchen, and is letting lose on Jimmy. Her handling of the rifle is poor at best and the recoil causes the rounds to scatter uncontrolled around her target. The first few rounds hit Jimmy center mast, but after the initial burst some hit the ceiling creating a cloud of dust from the plaster above.
Stacy stops pulling the trigger as the thick cloud fills the room, limiting our view. As the dust settles to the floor the room is silent, and I squint my eyes to try and gaze through the thick cloud. I wait as the dust settles to see if the creature is dead. I see the creature just as it releases a roar of anger as it regains its composure. Stacy most have seen this as well and releases a second burst. The first rounds rip through its chest again, and then travel up ripping through its neck and jaw before striking a direct blow to its cranium. The creature’s head snapped back sharply and its legs buckled below it. With a thud Jimmy’s now lifeless body thumped to the floor, landing a heap.
I watched the body as it lye motionless on the floor, in shock and awe at the sudden events, but am quickly distracted by the movements of Kaylee Ann. I watch as she flops wildly on the floor in movements I have never witnessed a normal person do. With her back arched and her chest up see strains for a second before settling to rest on the floor. I begin to move forward to see if she alright, but am stopped.
Grabbing my arm, Carl says, “She’s one of them. She’s turning.”
I continue to watch Kaylee Ann as Carl explains this. But no sooner than is he finished, she opens her clouded white eyes. She releases a roaring cry before flipping over to her hands and knees, now looking across the room at Stacy and the others. I can see now what happened, Jimmy had torn of a chunk of her left cheek during their struggle.
As I watch as the creature crack its neck from side to side with its eyes twitching, Stacy releases a three round burst on it, then I heard the bolt lock to the rear, indicating the magazine was empty. The rounds knock its arm out from under it and toss it to its side. Kaylee Ann convulsed her upper body on the ground where she had fallen but her legs did not move. Stacy must have hit her in the spin causing paralyses to her legs. I now released what this had come to and jerked my arm free from Carl’s grip.
As I approached the bloody body of Kaylee Ann that had become what she feared every moment of the last few weeks I raised the pistol and pointed it at her head. Her eyes were hollow and cast with a soulless mist, but look upon me as if beginning me to end the nightmare. I slowly pulled the trigger and sent her to a better place freeing her tormented soul.
Both my friends, or what I could go as far to say family, were now bullet-riddled rotting corpses lying on the ground. We all stand there silent and in shock. Thunder roars through the sky and lightning flashes like Zeus himself is hovering above, orchestrating the events within the house. The rain is pouring down now, and is splashing in through the open door way.
“What the fuck was that?” I say breaking the silence. “I thought he wasn’t bit. Didn’t you check him over Doc?”
“He wasn’t bit. If he had been he would have turned in seconds.”
“Then how the fuck do you explain that?” I shout pointing the pistol I was still clutching at Jimmy’s body.
Doc places his hand on his forehead instinctively as he tries to think. “I don’t know, I don’t know. Maybe some infected blood got into one of his wounds.”
“No! No you cleaned the wounds. I watched you wash them out and he never changed.”
Before the Doc can respond, Stacy softly cuts in, “He died. He died and then he turned.”
“What do you mean?” Clyde asks, inserting himself into our heated discussion.
“I mean exactly what I said. He died then he turned.”
I hear Carl’s voice from somewhere to my left, “Wait a minute. You’re saying if we die we come back as one of them. You mean to say were all infected.”
“Yes, I believe we’re all infected.” Stacy says in a steady voice, confirming a nightmare I’d never before considered.
Carl speaks up again, “So if we’re all infected, why haven’t we just changed in to one of them?”
“I can’t answer that; I’m not a biophysicist,” she says firmly, “But maybe we have some kind of resistance while were alive to fight it and once we die, it can take control.”
I turn to face her square on, jumping back into the argument. “Then why does their bite or blood change us.”
“Like I said I’m not a biophysicist. Maybe it mutates or changes and becomes deadly like a venom or toxin.” She looks between all of us and I stare down her blue eyes, irrationally furious that she doesn’t have the answer I want.
I rub the back of my neck with my left hand roughly and then turn away from the group to stand outside in the rain to collect my thoughts. It registers now for the first time how the plague was able to spread so quickly. We have all lost a little hope today. We can never die peacefully, or bury our dead without putting a bullet through their heads to make sure they stay dead. We have lost two members of our family and gain three strangers. Jimmy and Kaylee Ann died as a result of my decision to rescue them, and I didn’t even know if they would be alive when we got there.
As I stand in the pouring rain, I hear a noise in the distance that’s different from the sound of clattering rain drops I’ve been hearing. I move from the door way closer to the source. The rain causes my growing hair to cover my eyes, causing me to wipe my face for a clear image. Through the darkness I can see four creatures eating something on the corner of the street, not far from the house.
As I watch the plague ridden body feast on whatever it was they had killed a rage boiled within me. The image of Jimmy and Kaylee Ann’s death is still fresh in my mind, playing over and over again. Lightning flashes, illuminating the creature’s hunching over their meal. It all appears black and white in the flickering light. I find myself moving closer and closer to the undead, but my rifle is still inside the house and my pistol still rests in my leg holster, but I continue forward.
My mind feels as if auto pilot has taken control over me, forcing me to advance but no part of me resists the control. The noise of the rain and the meal before them cloaks my approach, allowing me to get right upon them without discovery. Before I know it I’m standing over the closet creature, just hovering inches from its back. Lightning strikes again, giving color and definition to the beasts before me and the meal their consuming.
The remains of a person lay strewn about in a blood heap of almost unidentifiable remnants between them. I watch on with the rain flowing over my face, streaming from my nose and chin. Another flash lights the area and a loud thunder cracks above starting the match. Without a thought or concern, only anger and hatred I reach forward and grab the head of the creature with both hands, placing my right at its forehead and left at the back. I feel the creature take notice; a sudden stiffness in its head alerts my hands he knows I’m there. I release a deep primal roar and pull both hands in opposite directions with all my might.
I hear the sounds of bones cracking and can feel them pop through my hands. I release the plague carrying corpse and let its body slump to the ground. Breathing heavily and with my mouth hanging open, I stare into the eyes of the three remaining waiting for their reaction to their fallen comrade. I wait inviting them to take the next move. I’m out numbered three to one and would run under normal circumstances, but the deep hatred and tiredness of seeing this god awful plague walk the earth a don’t.
Simultaneously they arise. I reach for the closest one on the left and grab its heavy wet shirt and heave it into the one approaching from the right. With limited cerebral function they quickly fall to the ground. The third rushing straight for me, is greeted with a powerful right haymaker. Its head sharply snaps back farther than any living humans would have, due to the decaying muscles supporting its head. Its neck breaks bringing the odds to two on one.
I turn and rapidly pounce on the two others pinning one below the other. I grab the back of the head to the one on top, the one I’m sitting on. I pull back its head gaining momentum and the space I need to forcibly slam it into the head of the other creature trapped under us. Repeatedly I collide the two heads, like a super collider does to atoms. The heads thump loudly over the sound of the rain, and flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder seem to increase with my anger as each blow is hard and more forceful then the last.
The heads begin to crush under the tremendous force of each ensuing blow. Blood splatters my face and hands, and in the blue tint of the flashing lightning, the blood reflects darkly, differing itself from the clear clean droplets of water. The creatures head on the bottom is the first to cave having nowhere to soften the blows. They both stop struggling and go limp in my hands and under my body, but I continue colliding their heads repeatedly into one another.
The only reason I stop is because the creatures head I was using as a tool to bludgeon the other turns to mush. The rear of its cranium is all that remains intact in my hands. I use all the remainder of my strength to tare the tiny piece from its broken neck. I raise the rest of its head up in the air with both hands and let out the loudest, deepest scream I can muster, which isn’t much. My lungs were already strained from the energy needed to repeatedly ram the heads into one another.
Exhausted my rage hands my tired body back over to my control, leaving my enough energy to roll of the two corpses and lye on my back in the wet street. As I lie in the street, my hot body steaming in the cold air, and my heart pounding as it never has in my chest, I let the cold rain cool me down. I close my eyes and let the rain bounce of my lids causing me to flinch with each almost painful strike. After a good ten minutes my body calms down and I’m able to get to my feet. I never look back at the four creatures I had just terminated with my bare hands; I just walk towards the house.
As I enter the doorway, soaked to the bone, I can see everyone quietly sitting around eating cans of food they had scavenged from the kitchen. No one notices me as I stand there quietly just watching them, seeing the good the world still has to offer in this time of darkness. I hear Carl in the kitchen ask Doc where he got his medical training from inside.
“I was a surgeon years ago’” he says. “But I needed a change. So I did a few years in the Peace Corps in Africa, and then I joined Stacy archeological dig team about four years ago, in Canada.”
That’s when it hits me, and I remember where I had heard Oak Island before.










 

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