Wednesday, May 29, 2019

#057: STRAWBERRIES




SHE COULDN’T DO IT.

She wanted to, needed to help Adam. She didn’t want him to turn any more than he did. The thought of Adam becoming one of those creatures made her want to scream. Yet, the thought of ending his life made her want to turn the gun on herself.

“Tracey,” Adam said. His eyes closed tight. “Please.”

“Okay,” she said, the shaking in her voice more than obvious. “Here I go.”

But then, before she knew what was happening, the gun was snatched from out of her hand.

“What the crap is going on in here?”

It was the guy in the fedora. Norman.

“Stay out of this,” Adam said.

“Not gonna happen, son,” Norman said. “Ain’t we got enough out there to deal with without y’all shooting each other? Now tell me what’s going on.”

“He’s been bitten,” Tracey said. Her eyes were on the floor. “We know what that means. He’s going to turn.”

Norman, to her surprise, erupted in laughter.

“This isn’t funny,” Adam barked.

“Yeah,” Norman said between guffaws. “Yeah it is.”

It took him a few moments, but eventually Norman got his laughter under control. Tracey’s eyes remained pointed at the floor. As the laughter stopped, she looked up.

The pain no longer shone on Adam’s face. It had been replaced by anger as he watched Norman.

“Y’all have seen too many movies,” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes. “These ain’t like those zombies on the tee-vee. They bite you, then you’re just bit. You ain’t gonna turn.”

“You sound pretty sure,” Tracey said. “What makes you the expert?”

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, pocketing the gun. “You get the officer here all bandaged up, and then I’ll explain everything to everyone. I don’t like repeating myself if I don’t have to.”

It was then that she noticed that he was carrying one of the store’s plastic bags. In it were some of the first aid supplies from off the shelves. He handed it over to her.

“I have some of that antibiotic stuff in there that you can put in his wound,” Norman said. “And gauze pads and wrap.” He turned to Adam. “We need to get you to the hospital, but we need to get out of here first. These will do for you until we can.”

With that, Norman left.

Tracey worked in silence as she bandaged Adam’s arm. Adam, thankfully, didn’t say a word through the whole procedure. Once done, the two stood there together in silence for a moment or two. Neither one wanting to be the first to speak, or just not knowing what to say.

Adam lowered his head and looked up at Tracey. Then, to her astonishment, he stuck out his lower lip, looking for all the world like a child who had just dropped their ice cream cone into the dirt.

“He took my gun,” Adam said.

She wanted to smile. But she couldn’t tell if Adam was serious or not.

“He’s stupid,” Adam said.

Then she saw it. A ghost of a grin flickered across his face.

“He is stupid,” she said, then smiled.

Soon they were both smiling. It would take more than a moment of silliness to dispel the cloud of awkwardness that now hung over the two of them, but it was a good first step.

“We should probably get out there,” Tracey said.

As Tracey and Adam left the restrooms for the store, Dan and Luke were moving a large bit of shelving to block the double front doors. The row of shelves—about five feet high and six feet wide—was on wheels so that it could be moved around the store to showcase items that needed a quick sell. Each of the wheels had a braking mechanism so that once the mobile shelf was where it needed to be, it could then become more stationary. Given everything else in the store, Tracey could see that it was their best bet for keeping the creatures out.

With that task complete, Norman gathered everyone together as a group near the front counter. The strange man in the fedora stood before them, his back to the front wall. They could all see the creatures outside, clawing at the glass like hungry robots.

“I think it best, before we talk about just what’s going on outside,” Norman began. “That I tell you all who I am and what I do.”

He paused long enough to look them each in the eyes. When he got to her, Tracey found comfort in his gaze. She could sense a strength there, a resolve, and it told her all she needed to know about the man: He’s been through this before and if anyone can get them out, it’s him.

“My name is Norman Oklahoma,” he began. “I’m a private investigator who specializes in the supernatural, the unexplained, and the just plain weird.”

“Define weird,” the old woman said.

Norman aimed a thumb over his shoulder and the things outside.

“Ah yes,” the old woman said, then smiled.

“Monsters exist,” Norman continued. “Vampires, werewolves, zombies, they’re all real and they’re living among you.”

“Oh, come on,” Luke said. “You expect us to believe that?”

Once more, Norman aimed a thumb over his shoulder.

“Okay,” Luke said. “Point taken.”

“It’s important that y’all understand this,” Norman continued. “Most monsters are, in many respects, like you and me. They have jobs, they pay taxes, they send their kids to the same schools as everyone else. They just have this little extra something about them. They’re part of a hidden world that most people don’t even know exists. But it does, and you’re aware of it now, I’m afraid. I’ve brought this all to your doorstep, I’ve forced you into this, and I’m not even sure why.”

“You brought this to us?” Tracey asked. “What does that mean?”

“It’s not really important. Not right now. What’s important is what we’re facing and how we get out of it. Which, to toss a bit of good news your way, is gonna be more than a little easy. Those, well let’s just go ahead and call them zombies. Those zombies out there, they ain’t like what you know from television or the movies. They can’t turn you into one of them, which is good. But they also can’t be taken out with a shot to the brain, which is bad. These’re folks who have been dead and buried, most for a good long time, and they have now been reanimated for nefarious purposes by a necromancer.”

“Okay,” Adam said. “Hold on. We can’t kill them? You shot one of them, the one who had me. It fell, I saw it.”

“It did fall,” Norman said. “And then it got right back up again.”

Tracey couldn’t help but look out the windows at the creatures, the zombies, pressed up against the glass. She didn’t see the one that had bitten Adam’s arm, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t out there. The shelf blocked the sight of most of them anyway.

“The only way to really stop one of these zombies is to set it on fire and let it burn until there ain’t nothing left but ash,” Norman said.

“So when do we get to the good news?” the old man asked.

“A necromancy spell, such as this, only works when the sun is down. All we need to do is wait them out. The sun will be up in two hours, and then the things out there will drop and we can leave.”

“What about this neco-wafer thing?” Dan asked.

“Necromancer,” Norman corrected.

“Yeah, that,” Dan said. “What’s going to stop him from getting in here?”

“Well, we don’t know it’s a him,” Norman said. “Could be a her. Not that it matters. But no, I don’t think they will try to come in here themselves. Any wizard willing to use necromancy to hurt someone ain’t got the guts to do it themselves. No, we’re safe in here.”

“Why don’t I just call in for backup?” Adam asked.

“Because then all your little cop buddies are gonna die,” Norman said. “Didn’t you hear me? You can’t put these things down. They are unstoppable killing machines.”

“Unless you set them on fire,” Luke said.

“Look, all we have to do it wait them out. Two hours. We can do that.”

They all nodded in agreement. Everyone, Tracey noticed, except for the old woman who was looking around with a concerned look on her face.

“Ma’am?” Tracey said. “Is everything okay?”

“It’s Emily,” she said. “She was right next to me just a moment ago.”

“Emily?” Tracey asked. “The little girl.”

“She’s our granddaughter,” the old man said. He too was now looking around in concern.

“She’s okay,” Luke said, pointing down one of the aisles and smiling. “She’s over here having a snack.”

Yet, as Emily’s grandmother approached, her face went white.

“Emily, what are you eating?”

“Candy bar,” the little girl said holding out what looked like a half-eaten granola bar.

“Oh no,” said the old man as he took the bar from her. “It’s got strawberries in it.”

“That’s bad?” Tracey asked.

“Emily is allergic to strawberries,” said the old woman. “We have about twenty minutes to give her a shot before her throat closes up and she stops breathing.”

“Okay,” Norman said. “Give her the shot.”

“We can’t,” said the old man. “It’s out in the car.”






Are you caught up on Volume One? Wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook, paperback, or both?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One now.

JUST CLICK HERE or click the cover below.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

#056: A CHOICE




ADAM’S SCREAM WAS ALMOST inhuman.

Still behind the counter, Tracey could only watch as the creature bit down on Adam’s arm. She saw the blood at once. So much of it. She shouted her friend’s name and nearly passed out. She wanted to help, but her feet felt permanently affixed to the cheap tile of the floor.

Dan and Luke added their voices to the din, their shouts like panicked children running from a barking dog.

The sound of a gunshot cut through it all, ending the horrific cacophony like pulling the needle from a record. When it happened, when the deafening noise brought a moment of silence, Tracey had been watching the thing gnaw at the flesh of Adam’s arm—it wasn’t human, it couldn’t be. When the shot rang out, the creature’s head jerked to the side and it let go of Adam, falling off of him.

“Pull him in!” Norman called out. He crouched there next to Adam in a shooter’s stance. One knee down, arms extended and holding a pistol. He fired three more times and the monsters outside dropped.

Dan rushed forward and pulled Adam free as Luke held the door.

“Lock the damn door!” Norman barked. “Now!”

Before she even realized that she was moving, Tracey was there, taking the keys from Adam. She quickly selected the correct one and slid the key home, locking the doors. Then she knelt next to Adam who was moaning, eyes shut like clenched fists, and holding his arm. Norman was already there beside him.

“Just hold on,” Norman said, then his eyes met hers. “You have first aid supplies?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Behind the counter.”

“Grab them,” he said.

“Okay,” she said sniffing.

There was something wet on her cheeks. She swiped at them as she rushed to the counter. Tears. She was crying. Well, why wouldn’t she be?

She returned with the first aid kit and Norman started going through it. There wasn’t much there. Some ibuprofen, a small packet of burn cream, and a variety of adhesive bandages, the kind you put on minor cut and scrapes.

“No, this is no good,” he said. “We need something to wrap his arm.”

“We have bandages on Aisle Three,” she said. “There isn’t much.”

“Is everything okay out here?” It was the old man. She could see his bald head sticking out from the doorway to the office.

“Don’t come in here,” Norman said. “Keep that child back there, she doesn’t need to see this.”

She watched as the man’s face went from scared, to curious, to concerned. But he didn’t ask any questions and soon his head disappeared back inside the office.

“In fact,” Norman said, looking up. Luke and Dan where standing over them, watching the bloody scene with frightened faces. “Everyone back up. Give us some room here.”

“Where did you get the gun?” Luke asked. Neither he, nor his friend, had moved.

“It’s mine,” Adam said through gritted teeth. “Taking an officer’s side arm is against the law, you know. I could arrest you.”

Tracey could see that Adam wasn’t serious, though his attempt at a smile was more grimace than anything.

“If we get out of this alive, I’ll turn myself in,” Norman said, sliding Adam’s gun back into the holster at Adam’s side. Then, turning to her he said: “Take him back to the bathroom and wash out that wound. I’ll get some of those bandages back to you.”

She said nothing as she helped Norman pull Adam to his feet. The tears continued to fall.

“We can carry you,” Luke said, stepping up.

“I can walk,” Adam replied, a look of annoyance cutting through the pain.

“I’ll help you,” Tracey said, putting his good arm around her shoulder.

Together they hobbled back past that office and into the men’s restroom. Adam sat on the domed trash can next to the sink as she turned on the tap and waited for the water to warm.

“Tracey,” Adam said. His voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “I need you to do something for me. Before it’s too late.”

“How about we just wash this out,” she said.

She didn’t want to look at his arm. She’d never been squeamish before, movies full of gore never bothered her. But this, now, it was all too real.

“Look,” Adam said. “He’s going to be in here with those bandages soon. We don’t have time.”

“Time for what?” She asked. The water had gone from cold to lukewarm.

“I need you to take my gun,” Adam said. “End me before I turn?”

“End you?” She asked. “Just stick your arm in the water, it should be okay now.”

“Dammit, Tracey. You know what those things are just as much as I do.”

He stood and pulled his side arm, holding it out to her.

“What are you asking?” Tracey said.

“I was bitten,” he said. “By an honest to goodness zombie. It’s only a matter of time before I turn.”

“Turn?” She wasn’t thinking straight.

“Into one of them,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen. I want you to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

He was still holding the gun out to her. She looked from the gun and then into his eyes. She could see the pain there, it was as obvious as the letters on a stop sign. But underneath was a different sort of pain. Not physical. That too was all to clear.

But still, there was more.

Underneath the physical pain, beyond the emotional, she could see acceptance. Then it dawned on her just what he was asking.

“You want me to kill you?”

It had come out of her like a laugh. And once she’d said it out loud, now that it was out, hanging there between them, the laugh increased. It just sounded so ridiculous.

“I’ve been bitten by a zombie, Tracey.”

That only made her laugh harder.

“You know as well as I do that that’s it. There’s nothing more to be said. I’m going to turn into one of them, and then I’m going to try and kill you, and everyone out there in the store.”

She nearly fell over. She’d never laughed so hard in her life. She couldn’t help it. She knew it wasn’t funny. There was no humor to be found in this situation. But somewhere inside her, locked deep in the rational part of her brain, she knew that he was right.

In that split second between understanding and acceptance, she could see herself taking the gun from him. It all played out in her head like a movie. She watched herself take the gun out of Adam’s hand. Watched as she pressed the barrel of the gun to Adam’s temple. He mouthed the words ‘thank you’ and they both cried. Then she pulled the trigger.

It had all happened in her head. Yet still, she couldn’t help but jump as the imaginary gun went off, thinking in that moment that fear had become reality.

But Adam was still there. A boy, standing before a girl, his eyes pleading with her to shoot him in the head.

The thought only brought out more laughter.

“Tracey,” his voice cracked again. “Please. Don’t let me turn into one of them.”

He was right. She knew he was. She felt that were she in the same situation, she would ask Adam to do the same for her.

So, without a word, just like how she’d seen it in her head, she stepped forward and took the gun from his hand.

“Thank you,” Adam said, his voice nothing more than a whisper.

She couldn’t speak. All she could do was cry as she put the gun to his head.






Are you caught up on Volume One? Wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook, paperback, or both?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One now.

JUST CLICK HERE or click the cover below.