Excerpt from Hellspawn Odyssey by Ricky Fleet
Peter and Braiden turned their ignitions off once the engines had heated and the hollering started, carrying through the floor and steel doors. The noises of the dead battering on the metal diminished and finally stopped altogether. Kurt was nervous, he desperately wanted to take their place, but he didn’t have the skill to pull it off. He would just as likely crash into the other vehicle, killing them both. Or roll straight off the edge of a precipice, falling to his death on the rocks below in a tangle of twisted metal. Swallowing his pride, he waited patiently for the zombies to move away and the all clear signal to be given by John.
“GO!” His father shouted.
“Now,” Kurt called to Gloria and Sarah who pulled on the door chains, opening them to the daylight.
“Good luck!” Gloria yelled as the two rolled past her, giving her a nervous wave.
They squinted into the bright morning sun and as soon as they were clear the doors closed, sealing the openings like two closing eyes. They were on their own now, and would lead the crowd as far away as possible when they had, hopefully, been successful and the doors would blink open again. Peter felt like he was going to be sick when the flood of bodies rounded the building and made directly for them.
“Fall in line!” Braiden shouted, beeping the deep horn of the dozer and pointing to his rear. Peter nodded and pulled in behind, following the tracks of the heavier machine.
The horde was filing around their base which worked in their favor. Braiden drove to the far side of the open area and doubled back. The snaking line of horror was perfect and Peter assumed that Braiden would roll straight down it, killing most of them in one pass. Braiden took the safer option, he trusted the vehicle, but there was no room for error. He cut to the left and then sharply right, intersecting the pustule riddle procession, cutting through it. The heads and bodies connected with the massive blade, splattering gore and blood indiscriminately. The heavy caterpillar tracks dragged the dead down and crushed them, innards spewing from mouths and noses before the heads were pressed into the gravel, exploding from the forceful pressure. Braiden was cheering as the machine trundled on. Peter aimed the excavator, mopping up as many as he could that gave chase. The half squashed bodies that had escaped the full weight of the bulldozer reached out, unable to peel themselves from the graveled ground. The tracks of Peter’s vehicle finished them off, compressing them like half rolled tubes of toothpaste. Braiden turned and cut another swathe through the lines, the smell of spilled decomposition was getting through the windows, making his stomach churn.
“Doing great!” Braiden whooped, looking back at Peter and punching the roof of the cab with excitement.
The enthusiasm wasn’t shared. Peter felt increasingly nauseous at the stink and the sights he was following, the glistening piles of ruptured meat and splattered blood, still retaining their basic human shape but squeezed to an inch thick. The mass of figures was getting thicker, the line converging on the exhaust snorting monsters. Some tried to find purchase to climb, but the rotating metal tracks brushed them aside and they too fell under the massive weight.
“Oh no!” Peter muttered fearfully. When Braiden had slowed to make a turn, the zombies had scrambled onto the rear of the cab. They were trying to get at the youngster who was oblivious to the impending threat because of the noise. The sudden turn tumbled one sideways and he was dragged into the churning cogs of the tracks, gradually being minced as they continued with the carnage. Peter accelerated and raised the digging arm, stretching it out. Matching the pace of the dozer he dropped the metal bucket and pinned the corpse, scraping it clear in a smear of green ichor which dripped from the rear.
“Thanks!” Braiden yelled, still smiling and putting his thumb up. How could he be so cheerful? Peter wondered.
They were getting close to the main building and Braiden swung away, leading the gathered horde towards the furthest point, readying himself for the final run into the waiting garage. Hundreds had fallen beneath the tons of steel. The caterpillar tracks drew crazy wet lines between crushed piles of the dead.
“You did awesome Pete!” Braiden called out as they waited, engines idling while the crowd converged on them. He gave three heavy blasts on the horn, signaling they were making their return journey.
“Can’t hear you,” Peter shouted, pointing at his ears. The JCB was saturated with unspeakable fluids and fragments of splintered bone that had hit against the cab. Struggling not to vomit, he focused on the steel doors, watching as they opened welcomingly.
“Ready?” Braiden mouthed to him and Peter nodded. They revved and punched forward, hitting the incoming tide with a sickening crunch, slime and blood splashing upwards like a wave hitting a breaker. Bouncing and rocking over the huddled bodies, the tracks started to slip on the dozer and it ground to a halt atop a pile of vileness. Braiden gunned it but the machine just churned the flesh into a paste, he didn’t have time to free himself, the zombies were already surrounding the stricken dozer. Peter hesitated, staring at the safety of the garage and the solid doors, the new friends he had made were waiting for him. The inner coward almost won, but with a bestial shout he turned, crushing more of the dead.
“Just go! Get out of here!” Braiden was shouting, pointing madly at the open doors.
Peter ignored him and raised the arm once more, dropping the toothed bucket and grasping the dozer blade with a resounding clang. Shifting into reverse he pulled as Braiden pushed and the vehicle came free, much to the disappointment of the hungry corpses who gave chase. Instead of repositioning himself Peter stayed in reverse, watching over his shoulder and breaking loose of the other machine at the last minute and backing it expertly into the waiting mechanical bay. Braiden parked up and the doors came clattering down just in time, the sounds of fists on metal quickly commencing again.
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5, Zombies More Recent Dead, Shadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com