Keeping Watch – Part Three – Horror – Rated R

By now, Carolyn may be a fixed part of some of your minds.  I hope so.  I intend for her to be around for awhile.  I have received some very positive feedback and I would like for her character to become much more complex and cared about.  We shall see.  For now, here is part three.  This is, definitely, going to be my topic for the next few weeks.  Oh, Merry Christmas!  Nothing like a good scare before sleeping. 🙂

Part Three

Leaving the main streets of the city and wandering into the more suburban area on the outskirts might have seemed risky, but to Carolyn all her thoughts centered on getting away from an area that was filled with people when Hell Day became official.  She knew that it may sound quiet now, but the city was teeming with night crawlers and staying there was the best way to end up as one of them.  She was still convinced that, eventually, they would all die, a good working vaccine would be created, she would get it, and all could begin to head back to what could pass for normal.  That is, if you considered normal being surrounded by technology, none of which worked; having to do everything by hand again; and traveling by foot, bicycle, and any other means that did not involve electricity.  Cars worked, for now, but the longer they sat, the less chance they would start up without repair work she could not do.

She shifted the holster on her hip so the Beretta was snugger and did not chaff so badly when she walked; not wearing the gun would be a ludicrous idea.  There had been too many times in weeks’ past where that gun had saved her life; the medical center earlier was a prime example.

It was hard to walk down these streets and realize that in a few hours she would have to be, once again, somewhere she had checked out and secured, so that the night’s playthings did not include her as part of the entertainment or midnight snack.  At the moment the lowering sun still lit up the area and she could see the beauty of the neighborhood and kind of ignore the unsettling quiet.  She knew how bad things had to be.  This was “smalltown”, USA and it had been hit hard enough that she had not seen a single person in weeks.  She tried to use some of the math skills she had loved in high school to figure it out.  If a town of nearly sixty thousand had been reduced down to such a low number of normal people, then a world of over six billion would be…what…less than a few million, if that?  She knew what really scared her.  She was wetting her pants realizing that the night crawlers had way outnumbered normal people weeks ago.  Now, she could not help but wonder how many they had killed since that time.  Perhaps, she was the only…no, she could not go there just yet.  She would collapse and curl up into a ball of depression.  There were more people.  There had to be.

She was tired, near exhaustion.  She began to look around a bit for where her night’s stay would be.  Carolyn did a combination of walking and dragging her tired self down the stretch of highway that used to be full of traffic, but now would allow a person to sleep on the middle line if desired.

A slight movement and short noise caused her long-term rhythm to break and the hunting knife slung across her chest flew from its sheath to her hand and she turned to face the danger.

The feral man staggered relatively slowly across the grassy edge of the forest and headed toward her with a jagged step and no soul shining in his eyes.  She could not tell what type of person he was, had been, except that he wore what would have been very nice clothing in the world she used to be a part of.  Perhaps, he was one of the doctors that had worked at the clinic she just robbed.  He could have had the day off or left early and had not become part of the ghastly staff whom she had killed.  She watched him perform a macabre type of dance as he half-shuffled, half-slunk his way toward her.  Her timing was getting better along with her patience.  Carolyn stepped toward the creature and, when close enough, silently moved to the side and brought her blade to bear down hard on its throat, burying the hilt upwards through the brain, before pulling it out and returning quietly to her tired rhythm on the pavement toward the setting sun.

A new worry had started to nag at her mind.  She had left the city because it was so very full of night crawlers.  Now, she began to rethink and to realize that the suburbs would be just as full, if not more so, than the city.  These quaint, pretty homes might house hundreds of housewives who had been waiting on their husbands to come home or their children…she shook that image out of her head.  She had, so far, managed to avoid seeing any children night crawlers.  The part of the city she had stayed in had been a working area, full of adults.  The idea of having to shoot or stab a child retched at her stomach and she felt a bit dizzy.  They could be everywhere out here.

“No matter,” she thought.  “I’m here and can’t go anywhere else before dark.”

That thought filled her with some dread, too.  The sun was almost behind the tall trees of this area.  Darkness was falling.  She only had less than an hour before the evening romp began.  Her senses jumped and she looked harder at all the buildings around as they now appeared much more menacing and evil.

With time as an enemy here, Carolyn selected the nearest house that was relatively small.  She decided it would take less time to search and secure as well as, probably, having the least chance of more than one person and, hopefully, not a child.

Her eyes scanned the area more like a trained scout than a used-to-be department store clerk who took some college classes at night.  The fear of failing an exam had definitely taken a back seat in this world.  She saw no swing set in the yard and no sign of bicycles or big wheels, no sign of children.  She was not certain she could handle a night crawling child at all, so best not to take any chances.

Carolyn looked through the windows, well aware of the darkness beginning to creep over her shoulders.  Seeing no one and hearing nothing, she took out her picks and ever more deftly opened the door.  She left her doctor’s bag and new found treasures right outside the door, just in case.  She would retrieve it later.  She really doubted if anyone would steal it even overnight.

“Think of the money I could have made with these skills,” she allowed herself a small smile before moving through the door after exchanging the picks for her knife.

The living room and dining room were both empty as was the kitchen.  She checked the door leading to the garage, but did not open it.  She did not intend to go in there so why open it and let something know she was here?  Moving to the laundry room, she found it deserted as well.  She headed down the hallway to the bedrooms.

The décor in the kitchen had been cheerful, but there were no crayon drawings on the refrigerator and no meal on the table.  Her mind was heading down a possible fatal hope that no one was home at all.  She fought a bit to keep herself keen and clear, focused on the hunt.

The first bedroom had been converted into a study-library.  There were shelves of books, mostly science texts and nursing manuals.  She realized she had seen no evidence of a man having lived here.  She supposed, what with the books, a nurse or nursing student might be here, though it was a bit on the expensive side for a single female in college.  Her mind went to her own nursing classes, a hope for a career somewhere down the road that would not have meant skimping by on little more than minimum wage and a few scarce commissions.  She almost did not hear the wispy breath behind her.

The night crawler had been quieter than most of them, though Carolyn realized that she could have simply lost attention for a second.  Her blade came up, but this time the crawler had managed to get too close, its arms getting inside the blade’s kill zone.  Carolyn had never really had to fight one yet; most had been easy to kill.  She found they were a bit stronger than they looked, sinewy and rigid.  She kicked her knee up into the groin of her attacker, but pain was mostly gone with the nerves and it only wiggled in closer, smelling the freshness of Carolyn’s life.

A low, feral grow issued forth.  Carolyn scarily realized it was coming from her.  Adrenaline, something the creature did not have, poured into her limbs, she dropped her knife, and grabbed the head of the night crawler, forcing it backwards.  Then she lifted the monster a few inches off the ground and shook it until its grip released. With a growl reminiscent of a bear, Carolyn threw the brain-dead thing to the floor, picked up a huge nursing dictionary, and dropped to her knees, slamming the heavy textbook flat onto the creature’s face.

She lifted the book and struck three more times until there was no more movement under the tome.  Then she rolled back into the shelves behind her and her shoulders heaved as she began crying uncontrollably, the house finally safe and secure.

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Pam Grout

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