Keeping Watch – Part Ten – And then shall come the Battle – Horror Rated R

Well, part ten follows in this post-apocalyptic tale of Carolyn’s journey.  All of the parts are on “Carolyn’s” page listed on this blog to the left.  I now have three beta readers to check over the story when I am done.  That “done” part, by the way, will be next week in part Eleven.  Carolyn has seen fit to show me the end and after some thought I have decided that I like it.  I hope you do too.

Source: Google – licensed for reuse.

And, then shall come the Battle

By Scott L Vannatter (1500+ words)

The next morning found Carolyn having to explain to the girls why they could not go with her to look for food and weapons.  She really had not wanted to even tell them she was looking for weapons, but Jenny, the oldest at fourteen, had figured it out and questioned it.  She was also the one who felt she should be allowed to go with Carolyn.

“Here’s the thing,” Carolyn carefully began, trying to remember all she knew about parenting and children and psychology.  “Sheila needs you all to help here because there is so much work to be done.  You have the basic tools from the maintenance room, so there’s no need for any of it to wait.  Jenny,” Carolyn looked the upset teenager in the face, “You are needed here most of all because you are the biggest and strongest.”  She leaned into the girl a bit and whispered.  “And, you are the oldest and need to help Sheila keep things in order.”

Mollified, Jenny smiled for the first time that morning. “Okay,” she said, then turned to the others.  “You all need to listen to Carolyn here.  She’s right.  We have a job to do and we are gonna do the best darn job we can.”  All stood in awe of the teen and just nodded.

Sheila walked over to Carolyn.  “You know, you would have made a good teacher.”  She patted Carolyn on the back and smiled.

Carolyn took the opportunity to leave without further incident.  The school was at the edge of town, but it only took minutes to reach the center of the small area.

Carolyn crept quietly through the small town looking for weapons and food to help all of them at the elementary school in case of an attack by the night crawlers.  In spite of her worries and concerns, she was so very happy to be part of a group, even a small one such as they were, and being able to stay in one place and have a fairly strong sense of security and comfort, something she had not had in a while.

The memories of Jordan and Billy, especially Billy, were strong in her mind, but she found her step a bit lighter than before she arrived here, her eyes taking in the cold sunshine, and she actually looked forward to the evenings spent cooking supper, eating, sharing, and playing with the children before they all went to bed, just Sheila and Carolyn taking turns keeping watch through the night.

This first tour of town was very eventful, if not as fruitful in nature.  Carolyn found the grocery store, the hardware store and the clothing store.  There were items in each building; the owners had left in a hurry and the doors were not locked.

The grocery store had yielded some items for a stew, provided they cut off the bad parts first.  There were some canned goods and some flour, sugar, and spices.  Carolyn smiled.

“Well, at least, the soup will be tasty,” she thought looking at all the spices.

She continued on to the hardware store with somewhat better results.  The business had left in a hurry and she was able to gather nails, screws, a few loose tools, and four bolt-type locks that appeared easy to install.

The clothing store had the most to offer.  She did not really understand why it had not been broken into and scavenged over the time this had been going on.  But, she did not complain.  She had the sizes of everyone and was able to get a coat for each and a few other items and pack them into a box she could drag by a rope; noisy, but functional.

It took nearly an hour to drag the box back to the school; a mere few minutes without.  She was attacked by the group when she brought the box labeled “McKalan’s Fashions” into the building.  The girls sorted quickly and found their sizes, seeming to appreciate the underwear more than the coats.  Carolyn supposed that was reasonable.  It would be the first new pair she had worn in many weeks.

Jenny looked imploringly at her; it took Carolyn a few seconds to figure it out.

“Sorry, ladies couldn’t get to the drug store yet, so make-up isn’t in the spoils.”

A few groans punctuated the general high over the catch, but all went away happy, hugging their new clothes.  Sheila smiled and put on her new sweat shirt.  Carolyn did the same.

“Feels good to change clothes,” the older woman commented.  “A woman needs a few things to help her remember she’s a person.  Carolyn agreed.  Then they went to fix supper for everyone.

It had been weeks, and while the deep cold of Midwestern winter was settling in, the even colder fear from night crawler attacks was nicely absent.  Carolyn was becoming at home, though she still had to continually tell her mind she was still being careful, knowing that joy could breed carelessness which could bring about a swift death.

Carolyn was out searching for weapons and food for the fourth time this week.  She knew Sheila and the children could handle getting the elementary finished up security-wise.  She just wanted to spend time talking to all of them, her family.

She checked the home for night crawlers, then headed to the kitchen.  The shelves held flour, a little out of date, and sugar, along with salt and some spices.

“Boy, they do love spices in this town,” she whistled to herself.

The sound of the bell in the distance had her running.  It was the alarm for trouble.  She only knew of one type.

Carolyn ran like the wind, trying to reach the Elementary where her new family was and where the alarm bell had just been sounded.  Seconds passed like hours as she pushed herself to move even faster.  She felt the wind rush over her face and hair and remembered it had felt just that ecstatic and breathless the one time she skydived and her cord had refused to come out for a few precious seconds.  Now, it was Sheila and the four girls who could be suffering at the hands of the night crawlers. Carolyn aged.

She realized it was only mid-afternoon.  If it was them, why were they out in the daylight?  Then, a horrible thought struck her:  what if they were dying from the intense cold of winter and had become restless or even panicked?  What if they had abandoned their old ways because of starvation?  The winter cold that she had hoped had killed all the night crawlers now seemed more of an enemy to the small band of humans than to the sickly near-corpses they fought.

She rushed even harder, her breath losing the battle to keep up.

She came down the street to the school and stopped eyes wide open and breathing very hard.  The front of the school was a mass of night crawlers, perhaps thirty of them.  They were all pressing on the doors and windows.  Carolyn knew the girls and Sheila had barricaded them and reinforced them with wood, but the openings would not hold forever.  She was unsure of what to do until she heard a small scream from inside.  Her mothering instincts kicked in and she pulled her knife and ran toward the pack.

The overwhelming smell of fresh meat inside the school apparently kept the general  group of night crawlers from noticing Carolyn until she was in their midst.  She began at the back and planted her knife in the skulls of whatever was in front of her.  One after another, they dropped, five, six, then seven.  There were still too many if they all decided she was dinner, but something was off.  They seemed intent on getting into the school, nearly ignoring her.  The ones immediately near her turned, but it was slow and haggardly, without the vigor they normally had.  After a few minutes, Carolyn had a thought.  The cold was indeed killing them; they could not function as they had when it was warmer.  She decided that the weeks of near-zero conditions had ravaged the night crawlers worse than her own group.  She attacked with even more vigor.

Carolyn heard the door cracking, the wood beginning to splinter and come loose from the hinges.  She had killed more than half of the would-be killers, but there were about a dozen yet to deal with.  The door crashed and the night crawlers straggled into the building.  Carolyn killed three more before they got in.

She rushed into the building still hacking and stabbing to see the Sheila bringing up a gun to bear on the nearest one.  The shot rang out and the night crawler dropped to the ground.  They group saw Carolyn and cheered, but the happiness was cut short as another night crawler staggered toward Sheila.  Carolyn continued to fight her way forward.

She saw Sheila shoot and hit the diseased being in the shoulder, slowing it but not stopping it.  Then, another shot rang out and the creature dropped.  Jenny shook with nervousness, but held onto the firearm.

Down, to only four night crawlers, Carolyn, for the first time, held hope they might handle this attack without human casualties, until she realized the group could not fire at the rest of the onslaught because Carolyn was in the line of fire.  She struggled trying to decide what to do.




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