Date: November 11, 2014. Time: 1345. Location: Mulberry, KS.
The church is packed with the same faces as the evening before. The only one missing is the woman who had brought them their breakfast. As they enter the Father Flagg is well into his sermon. They take seats in the last pew, coincidently the only empty one. First Velma then Shaggy. Scooby sits in the aisle Shag's hand on his neck. "Okay we're here. Now wh-wh-what?"
"Look around Shaggy. Look for anything unusual."
"Unusual." He scratches behind the dog's ear, "You hear that Scoob, in a land of zombies this place is the most unusual around." The dog lets out a small huff of air in response.
"Have you looked at the windows."
"Yeah just like every other church."
"No. Really look at them." The worry in her voice causes him to look up.
The windows depict various scenes from the Good Book. Apostles and martyrs performing legendary deeds. "Like, I said, normal." Velma grabs his hand and looks at Shaggy. Her intense stare makes him uneasy. "No Shaggy. Really look."
He turns back to the windows. Unsure of what it she means by really look. He strains his eyes trying to see what she does. In bits and piece the truth reveals itself to him. The windows don't represent passages from the Bible. They depict grotesque monsters and the horribly mutilated dead. The first shows a massive winged creature with a body similar to that of a man and squid for a head. It is shown pealing the skin off of screaming man while stomping on the bloody corpses of the deceased. More horrid images appear in each window. Decapitations, eviscerations, and hangings all at the hands of despicable creatures of nightmare. "Do you see them?" Velma knows the answer, Shaggy's pale skin and large eyes are all the verification she really needs.
"Wh-wh-what's going on here V?"
"I'm not sure Shaggy. Look at the people."
Shaggy does as he's asked thankful to look away from the terrors of glass. What he sees shocks him to his core. The people who were once dressed to the nines are now…
The men wear brown waist length tunics of rough fabric. The women wear nothing. Men force themselves upon the women who respond with a mixture of agonizing screams of horror and delightful yelps of pleasure. The men take turns, sometimes more then one at a time. All the while Father Flagg stands before them donned in his finest vestments. Upon his chest an image of a green eye, stark against the pitch black of the cloth. The dais he calls from is made from stained skulls and what look like arm bones all held together with cracking sinew and tendon. The Priest chants in an even tone words which should never be spoken. Words of the lost alphabet. Words that in their utterance unlock power. Behind him hangs an image of a terrible creature, the same massive green eye that dons his surplice only now it is surrounded by black tentacles in the grip of which are gory remains of once living beings.
"Wh-wha-wh-what… is hap- hap…" Shaggy's nervous words trip over his tongue the sounds catching the attention of the Priest before them.
The incantations cease. Raising a crooked finger towards them the Priest screams, "The blasphemers know. They must be punished. Seize them!" The congregation moves as one. Shaggy and Velma rise bringing Scooby to his feet. The dog is confused all he sees is his friends from yesterday coming to give him more good things. The Priest repeats his command, "Stop them." They have no time to escape the mass of people floods over them. Hands pin them to the ground. Others claw at Velma's clothing tearing it from her body. exposing her to the lecherous men. In the background Scooby watches his people play. He wonders when he'll get to play. One of the men comes over with a piece of meat for the big dog. He quickly swallows it. His eyelids get heavy as he lies down for a nap, he'll play with his people later.
The cave is just as in their dreams. They see it in bits and pieces as they fight unconsciousness. It's the screams that finally pull them from the darkness. They awake to find themselves tied to chairs. In horror they watch as the Priest pulls out the intestines from a still screaming toddler. The words he speaks are ancient, from before time. He drapes the innards on one of the idols placing the child over the top then forcing the statue through the small body and out the other side. At each of the pillars the ceremony is repeated. Above each graven image hang more young, some still wailing as life leaves their fragile forms, dripping fetid ichor on the things below. Other dead young ones are cast about the ground at the base of the podium. The juvenile flesh lying mutilated, skinned and tortured. Shaggy chokes on vomit held back by the gag in his mouth. Unseen hands remove the tightly tied cloth. He wretches, the contents of his stomach landing in his lap. What he's witnessing is almost too much for his mind to accept. He looks to his right and sees Velma. Tied in a similar manner, clothing gone, eyes wide. She hasn't even the willpower to struggle against the bonds. A warm thick fluid lands hitting Shaggy then Velma. He turns to see the Father Flagg holding a vessel, a small human skull, into which he dips his fingers before flicking the thick liquid onto the two captives. Shaggy can see the red streaks left behind as the droplets run down his bare arms. He dry heaves. Velma chokes back tears. The Priest steps closer his voice growing louder.
"Please let us go. We won't tell anyone just let us go." Shaggy pleads tears streaming down his cheeks.
"I'm afraid it's far too late for that. You have been chosen by the Great Old One. You shall be his seed. She his vessel."
"Please." The one word repeated again and again louder and more shrill with each step the Priest takes. The terror so great in his soul that a puddle collects at his bound feet. "Please." His begging goes unanswered. A chorus of voices erupts from behind him. The sounds reverberate throughout the grotto. More unseen hands unbind him and force him to his feet. He struggles to break free feeling this may be his last chance only to be met with a swift kick to his knee. He falls to the ground. He turns on his back, in a crab walk he tries to escape the mass of beings coming towards him, shrouded in dark hooded robes their bare feet leaving puddles of red with each step. He watches as the blood is quickly absorbed into the ancient rock. "Please let us go." He looks towards Velma, her battered body held securely by many hands forcing her ever forward. "Please." Shaggy back peddles coming to an abrupt stop as his hands hit the sticky life fluid of the young. Behind him the defaced bodies and cold stone of the platform upon which sits the sarcophagus.
Hands grab him. They make quick work stripping him of his clothes. He screams in sheer terror. His screams echoing about as he is tied to the lid of the sarcophagus. They drag Velma kicking and screaming towards him. They force her on top of him face down. Their unclothed bodies pressed against each other. Ropes bite into their skin as they are pulled taut forcing their bodies ever closer. Velma's blood flows and mixes with Shaggy's to be quickly consumed by the creature within the ancient stone casket. The Priest stands over them a knife raised over his head.
"With your blood the circle will be complete. Our GOD of gods shall forever have power as will the Vaeyen who serve and protect our master." He continues on in the language of the gods. The power in his voice growing.
His attention is completely fixed on the task before him. He prepares to plunge the blade into the sacrifices. So entranced is he in serving his master he is completely unaware that the primeval door far behind is shattered.
Date: November 11, 2014. Time: 1237. Location: Mulberry, KS.
Shaggy and Velma wake to warmth of sunshine on their cheeks. "Where are we." Shaggy asks groggily.
"I'm not sure Shag." Velma rubs her eyes and searches for her glasses.
"Here ya go. They were on the nightstand."
Hearing his people Scooby shakes himself awake. He spreads his jaws in a deep yawn and stretches his back. "Hey Scoob." Shaggy reaches for the dog and pats his back. "What's going on Velma? Last thing I remember we walked into that church…"
"Yeah. After that… That's all I've got Shaggy."
The door to the room opens. A woman enters carrying a tray of food. "Father Flagg thought you might be hungry. I brought you eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice all freshly made." She sets the tray down, her smile never diminishing.
"Thanks." Velma's reply belies her suspicion.
"You're very welcome. After you've eaten Father has invited you to morning service." She does not await a reply she simply leaves the room quickly closing the door behind her. The aroma of the fresh food fills the room. Shaggy's stomach audibly grumbles followed quickly by the sound of Scooby's. "S-s-so you think it's safe to eat?" He looks at Velma questioningly. She looks over the food carefully. Eggs. Bacon. Toast. Orange juice. Three carefully laid out plates. 2 glasses. And a bowl of water. She looks at the food uncertain of whether to eat it or not. Her stomach follows Shaggy and Scooby in the symphony of rumbling.
"Well I don't remember the last time we had fresh eggs and bacon." She turns towards Shaggy, "I don't know about the food but I know I'm as hungry as you are so I say we eat it."
"You don't have to tell me twice." Shaggy immediately grabs two plates placing one on the ground. "Go for it Scoob. It's all yours." The dog sniffs the food once then attacks the meal as if it was his last. "Looks like Scoob thinks it's okay." Shaggy takes a bite of the eggs savoring the taste. Then quickly follows up with a piece of bacon. The three eat the only sounds being those of clinking silverware and satisfied appetites.
"That was delicious."
"Sure was Shaggy."
The two sit across from one another, Shaggy in a stiff backed chair, and Velma on the bed. Scooby lies between them his stomach satisfied and content.
"So, like what now?"
"Well Shag, since we still don't know anything I guess we go to the church."
They gather their things to leave when they open the door the woman who brought their breakfast stands before them. Only her smile has been replaced with a look of dreadful worry. Her presence startles Shaggy, "Woah there. Don't do that."
"I'm very sorry sir. I didn't mean to." She looks from side to side nervousness plain upon her face. "You.. You need to leave. Get in your van and go. Don't look back. Don't speak of this place. Just go."
Velma steps up and looks at the woman with concern, "What's wrong?"
"You need to go."
"We came to help."
"No one can help us. We are a town of the lost. How you found us…"
"We can help." Velma looks at the woman then back at Shaggy. He simply shrugs. "Come in and talk to us."
"I can't, he will know." The look of fear growing each second she stands in the hallway.
Velma opens the door more and places her hand on the woman's elbow, "Please let us help." She looks into Velma's eyes, shakes her head, then steps in. Velma closes the door, "Shaggy sit in front of the door."
"You got it V." He pulls a chair over to the door and sits. Scooby at his side. Both have their eyes fixed on the woman. She looks around the room. At each of the occupants. Then the floodgates open.
"You don't remember do you?"
"Sure we do. We went to the church. After… well to be honest that's a bit blurry."
"Yes you went into the church. Did anything stand out to you?"
Velma looks at Shaggy who shrugs again. "No. Not really. Everyone seemed pretty nice."
"Do you remember the windows? Or what hung over the dais?"
"Well, stained glass just like every other church."
"It's too late. He has you."
"Wh-wh-who?" Shaggy asks from his chair.
"The Great Old One. Your minds are clouded by him. You don't remember because he doesn't want you to."
Velma reaches out placing her hand over the scared woman's, "I don't understand. We came here to help the woman with the baby. The one we saw yesterday…"
"That was many days ago."
"Like, w-w-what do you mean 'many days ago'?"
The woman turns towards Shaggy, "What I mean is you have all been here many days."
"Impossible. We just got here yesterday."
Turning back to Velma, "Suit yourself."
"Look, all we want to know is where the woman from last night? Where is her baby?"
With a heavy sigh the woman replies, "I do not know. Women and children… They… One day they are here. The next… I don't know where they go. I know that all the children… They are no longer here." The woman shakes her head, "You don't understand. You shouldn't be here. This place can't be found. We have lived on this land for centuries. We are born here and die here."
"No one has ever left?"
"Why not? Why don't you just walk out of here?"
The fear in the woman's eyes replaced by pity, "No one leaves. We are here to pay tribute to the Great Old One. All who come here must pay tribute."
"I do not know"
Velma sits back up, "You're not making any sense."
"Let me start from the beginning." The tale spans time itself. She speaks of gods and devils, "These are not the gods of the ancients these are the GODS of the gods." She says trying to reinforce the importance of the statement before moving on. She goes into detail about hymns and services, missing time and memories. She tells of the missing children. About the Priest, Father Flagg, who arrived one day saying he had been instructed to lead the flock towards redemption in the eye of their GOD. The woman speaks of the fear of the people who wake up each morning feet bloodied. She talks of nightmares. "They are real. We all face them and many, many do not come back from them." The yarn she weaves leaves her in tears, "I have said too much. I must go." Without another word she walks to the door. Shaggy stands in her way.
"Shaggy, let her go." He moves the chair and she quickly opens the door then passes into the hall. Shag closes it behind her locking it.
"What do you make of it all Velm?"
"I don't know Shag. Talk of missing time, trying to convince we've been here almost a week. Gods and demons. Sounds more like fantasy and delusions."
"Yeah but what if its real? You know what they say, legends are born from some truth."
"I just don't know Shaggy. But we need to find out. And I think the church is as good a place as any to start."
Date: October 29, 2014. Time: 1237. Location: Mulberry, KS.
"What now Velm?" Shaggy looks cautiously over at his partner.
"We do what we came here for Shag." She pushes her glasses up her nose, straightens her sweater, stands tall and begins, "Sir we're here to help the woman who ran up to us this morning. She said that her baby was in trouble."
The man to whom she speaks looks at the two with suspicious eyes. Turning to his flock, "This will take but a minute. Please continue." He turns away. The people inside the old fashioned white clapboard church return to their seats. An organ is heard from outside followed by the melodies of people singing. He stops at the bottom of the stairs. "Now what's all this talk about a woman and a baby?"
Velma clears her throat, "Sir…"
"Father." He corrects.
"Sir…" She says, making the word sound almost rude.
"As you wish. I understand there are blasphemers among us who are incapable of respecting a man of God."
"Sh-she-she means no disrespect Father. It's been a long day."
"Shaggy!" Velma looks at her friend offended.
"Tis alright my child. She may ask her silly questions. She is but a girl."
"Alright enough. Father we're here for the woman and her child who asked us for help this morning. Are you going to assist us or not?" Frustration plain in her voice.
"You say she asked for your help this morning. Yet here you are now. It's well after noon. You mean to tell me you abandoned this woman in her time of need? Clearly if you wanted to help her you would have." The Priest replies with a villainous smile upon his face.
Shaggy confused turns towards Velma. "Look. We were scared okay. She caught us off guard. We're here now. Where is she?" Anger spilling out in her words.
"Well my child, I am afraid you must be in the wrong place. We have no women with children here. In fact the only children we do have are the children of god. Might I suggest you join us in prayer. You are obviously troubled. We offer solace to those in need."
Velma looks at the man who stands before her arms by his side, smile upon his face. She knows in her gut he's lying she just needs to prove it. After several moments she drops her shoulders and looks to the ground, when she looks up her face is a mixture of sadness and confusion. "You're right Father. I am sorry for being so rude. We've been on the road quite some time. Perhaps communing with God will do some good." She begins to walk toward the man whose smile has spread. As she steps forward she is stopped by Shaggy and Scooby. Shaggy grabs her by both shoulders and lowers his voice to a whisper, making sure to keep eye contact with his friend, "Velm… Is that you?"
"What's going on Velm?"
"Shaggy do you trust me?"
"You know I do."
"Then come with me." She steps around her two friends. As she does the big dog lets out a small whimper. She stops at the foot of the stairs. The Priest puts his hand out, "Please take my hand and join my flock." Velma complies. In turn she looks towards Shaggy and puts her hand out. "C'mon Shaggy. This will be good for us." He shakes his head looks at his four legged friend, "Well Scoob, she needs us." And steps forward taking her hand. Scooby follows close behind.
Upon entering the singing stops. All eyes turn towards the new comers. Scooby lets out a nearly inaudible whimper as he walks next to Shaggy, pressing his side against his man's leg. Shaggy reaches down and scratches behind his ear. The church is unexceptional. Bright white walls. Pews of a light wood on either side of the aisle. A small dais at the front adorned with a green cloth. Candles burn adding a warmth to the small building. Sunlight filters through the stained glass windows that line both sides of the building casting various colors and shapes all about. The pews are filled with the people of the town, gentlemen wearing their finest suits, women their Sunday dresses and hats adorned with various flowers. It all seems so normal and yet off. The Priest leads Velma by the hand to the front row. Without a word the people there move allowing Velma and Shaggy the whole row, "Please be seated." Velma and Shaggy sit while Scooby lies at his human's feet tail between his legs, ears down, shivers running down his body. The rest of the congregation follows suit, sitting as one. The silence catches Shaggy off guard. He leans into Velma, "I really don't like this." His voice below a whisper. In response she puts her hand on his. He sits silently looking at his friend who is staring at the Priest before them. In short time Shaggy has his eyes fixed upon the man as well.
He stands before his flock behind the dais. Arms raised to the heavens he begins, "My children we welcome these newcomers to our congregation. They have come looking to help. They have come in search of someone in need. They have come with clear intentions yet muddled minds. Their trip has not been an easy one. They have traveled through these lands searching for those in need of succor." He turns his eyes on Velma and Shaggy he points a long finger at them, "Yet they do not HIS work. They know not HIS greatness. They must be taught." His words are hot. Each punctuated by his waving finger. The crowd behind sits perfectly still, they make no noise. "My children. HIS children. It is our duty to show these outsiders the way. The one way. The only way!" The people stir muttering. "What say we my children? Shall we lead these lost sheep to the salvation only HE can provide?" The noise of the group raises, someone shouts an "Amen!" Others follow suit. All the while Shaggy sits terrified next to the relaxed Velma as Scooby forces his way further under the wooden bench.
After the words of the Priest the service had continued much like any other religious service. Hymns were sung, passages read, praise given. At the end of it all each member of the congregation introduced themselves and welcomed them to the town. The Priest introduced himself as Father Randall Flagg. Lunch and tea were served like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Finger sandwiches made with fresh baked bread and smoked meats served with homemade iced tea and lemonade. The townsfolk won over Scooby with bits of meat and ear scratching. Shaggy and Velma chatted with the people who were all smiles and pleasantries. It all felt so normal and yet…
When all had eaten they shook hands and parted ways. Shaggy, Scooby, and Velma the last to leave. They shook hands with the Priest, "Thank you for coming."
Velma answered with a smile on her face, "It was our pleasure Father."
At the end as they left the church they found it to be dark. It had been only after noon when they arrived. They thought nothing of it as they walked down the road hand in hand with Scooby frolicking like a pup in front of them. They make their way to one of the many doorways and enter. They find stairs leading not to the upper levels but down into utter darkness. Shaggy leads the way with Velma behind and Scooby taking up the rear. The stairs start out like all stairs; even rise and run, the clack of feet on wood. They quickly change. Their texture and size become uneven, the sound now that of stone. They wind their way down the stairs making their way into a passage darker then a starless sky. They navigate its many twists and turns with ease. Walking for nearly an hour they remain side by side, hand in hand, Scooby running ahead from time to time only to run back and playfully jump upon his master. Upon coming to a heavy oaken door Shaggy retrieves a key from around his neck. He puts it in the heavy ancient looking lock and gives it a turn. With a loud click the latch releases. He pushes the door open. Scooby runs in jumping and prancing. "Welcome home dear." Shaggy makes way for Velma . As she passes she stands on tip toe and gives him a peck on the check, "Thank you my darling." They enter the cavern. An ancient underground chamber opens up before them. Cut from the living rock before the dawn of time, the crypt has sat home and prison to Great Old One. Spoken about in whispers and hushed voices. Light emanates from torches set high in the walls which cast an insipid green light. The floor has been worn smooth over the millennia by the feet of creatures both human and not so human who have come to pay tribute. The only things that could be called furnishings being five statues each sharing similar vulture like qualities and yet uniquely their own. Carved from smooth stone the statues reflect the sickly light. They sit upon dark podiums stained with the blood of the ageless and the vulgar. In the center a rostrum upon which a dark sarcophagus sits. Hanging from five unseen corners of the ceiling hang iron chains stained with rust and vital fluid. They meet above the tomb. Each chain passing directly over one of the five idols. In the center hangs the remains of the woman they came to save along with her child. Their skin flayed and held to the chain by twisted hooks set between the links. Their blood having been given to the demons within the stone totems. The grey lifeless bodies sag under their own weight pulling skin further from muscle and bone.
Shaggy and Velma walk towards the hulking sarcophagus. Scooby lies at the foot of the podium upon which it lies. He lets out a deep contended breath before closing his eyes for sleep. Shaggy helps Velma climb atop the lid. Once settled she lends her hand to help him up. "What a lovely day."
"I couldn't agree more my dear. Wonderful indeed." Velma rolls to her side and again kisses Shaggy upon his cheek. The two curl up in each other's arms, close their eyes, the light goes out, and they sleep.
Date: October 29, 2014. Time: 1237. Location: Mulberry, KS.
All the windows are smashed their grates pealed away like scabs off a wound. Hands grab at the occupants of the van. The screams of Velma and Shaggy mixing with the howls of Scooby. She is helpless as grey appendages pin her to the seat. She is forced to sit helplessly and watch as hooked claws tear into the skin of Shaggy's arms. Blood pours forth as muscle is cut. Bones are exposed only to be snapped like twigs. She hears the grunts and growls from the back. In the rearview she sees Scooby attempting to avoid the things trying to snatch him from the van. He bites and snaps. His jaws close on a hand. He shakes at it pulling it free of the arm it was attached to. More of the red hot crimson liquid pools in the van. Soaking the mattress and rising. Ever rising. She watches in horror as Scooby's teeth fall out one by one. His big paws scrape at his muzzle. Skin and fur pulled from his jaws. She screams as the big dog, her companion and protector rots into a puddle of black ooze. Shaggy is gone. His seat stained with the same thick black ooze. And just like that the hands are gone. The windows are back as are the grates.
She tries to undo her seatbelt and is unable as the van continues to fill with viscous fluid. The bubbling black threatening to drown her. The van shakes. She looks in the side view mirrors. Nothing.
The relentless pounding…
The rising liquid…
The increasing slamming on the van…
She strains her neck trying to keep above the blood. It covers her eyes as she cranes to keep it from her mouth. She has no luck. If fills her. Pouring down her throat. Choking her. She gags. She feels it entering her lungs. She knows when whatever it is that makes her unique is ready to leave her dying form. She says no prayers.
"Velma?" She's back. Sitting in the back of the van with Shaggy and Scooby. Both look at her with concern plain on their faces. "You okay?"
"No… Yeah… I don't know…" She looks around. It's the same as it's always been. Supplies stacked and labelled. The smoke from Shaggy's last joint still fills the air. The box of empty Scooby Snacks at his side. "What… What were we talking about?"
Shaggy cocks his head, his bloodshot eyes trying to focus on his longtime friend, "You were gonna tell me your plan. You sure you're okay?"
Velma shakes her head, "Yeah, must have been a contact high or something."
For the first time in millennia the Great Old One moves. Just the barest twitching of muscles. Some would think it involuntary but they would be wrong. There is nothing involuntary where it concerns those who shall not be known.
Outside the crypt the disciples recite incantation after incantation. Paying tribute to the Vaeyen with the blood of a first born and its mother. Tied from five points; arms, legs, and head their blood drips onto the five Vulturine effigies which house those who imprison and protect the one within the crypt. The believers hope that the offering is enough to charge those who watch over their god with power to enforce its sleep.
The invocation of their leader rises above that of his flock. His cassock blows in a wind that does not exist. His eyes glowing a power that is not his own. He raises his hands in supplication hoping to appease his god so as to be saved from its judgement. His words find their way through the Earth. Rising into the night sky looking for one who would challenge, who would defy, who would blaspheme his master.
It's all happening again. Velma finds herself driving the Mystery Machine down the empty street. She tells herself she won't stop in front of the Post Office. Yet she does. They step out. Just as they already have. She says what she told herself she would not say. The words coming from her mouth despite her efforts. The reply comes as before. As does hers. She yells out, "We're not leaving. We've come to help the woman from this morning. She asked us to help her. We're here to do just that."
"YOU CAN'T HELP ANYONE." A different the voice booms down the street.
"Got it." The words barely above a whisper.
"Yeah?" Velma responds in kind.
"Yeah. Pharmacy. Two buildings down. First floor."
"You know it."
"Okay Shag." Velma straightens up and raises her voice, "We're not leaving without the woman who asked for help. You want us to leave you'll have to make us." Only this time the horde of people does not emerge. They continue waiting. Nothing.
"I don't see anything Velm."
"Neither do I. What's weirder is I don't hear anything either." She turns towards Shaggy to say something but the words never leave her mouth. Before her hangs the bodies of a skinned man and a dog. She screams.
"HA HA HA!" The laugh is not one of joy. It echos out of nowhere and everywhere. Velma turns in circles. The bodies, the van, the town, all gone. Only darkness remains. The laughing continues growing louder. She covers her ears and immediately pulls her hands away, she looks at them. Blood covered. The sticky flow goes up her arms. She screams. She falls to her knees unable to stand. Then it stops. The darkness replaced by a sickly green glow. She raises her head. Before her is a being of pure evil and disgust. A glowing green eye surrounded by a body of tentacles made up of living darkness. "You will be mine." From where the words come she does not know. The language is not English yet she somehow understands them. Terror tugs at her soul.
"Velma." Again. She looks around the back of the van incredulous. "This can't be happening. It can't be." She grabs Shaggy by the collar of his shirt, "This is bad Shaggy. Really bad."
He looks at her, disbelief on his face. "O-o-okay V. You're freaking' me out."
"You should be freaked out Shaggy."
The chanting in the cavern ceases. The blood has long stopped flowing. The power collected. Fed to those who would be so brazen as to hold back the power of a Great Old One. The leader rises to his feet. His flock follows suit. Without a word they exit the cave. The afternoon sun glares from on high. The deep hoods of the flocks garments protecting their faces. Barefoot they weave their way out of the thick verdure of the forest back to the glass riddled streets below. One by one they enter darkened doors and alleys. At the last building, the former church, the leader stops. He speaks to no one and to everyone, "They come. Be prepared."
The van approaches the town. Making its way towards Main Street. Shaggy sits behind the wheel. "It's quiet."
"Sure is Shag."
He stops the van at the end of the street, in front of the church. After Velma explained everything they both had agreed that it be best for Shaggy to drive and decide when and where to stop. "Are you sure you're up for this Velm? Th-th-there's nothing wrong with turning around."
"I know Shaggy. But we have to do this. Whoever or whatever is controlling this town, it needs to be stopped."
"Okay. Then let's go." They step out of the van, Scooby following close behind Shaggy. They go around to the front of the Mystery Machine. Velma turns to Shaggy. She nods. He cups his hands around his mouth and shouts, "Hello! We're here to help."
Rather than silence the doors to the church open. A man steps out wearing the vestments of the cloth. The smile on his face more predatory then welcoming, "There is no need to shout young man." Behind him crowd a collection of men and women in their finest Sunday attire. "Now who are you here to help exactly?"
Date: October 29, 2014. Time: 1237. Location: Mulberry, KS.
"I changed my mind. I don't wanna die today."
The crowd of men and women inches closer. All eyes fixed on Velma and Shaggy. Dull sunken orbs of the defeated.
"Velma…" The strain in Shaggy's voice apparent.
"I know. I know."
They raise their weapons scanning back and forth, unsure who to target first. Scooby locks eyes on one, his lips peal further back, his growl ceases, and takes a step forward. "Scooby wait." The big dog stops in his tracks eyes never leaving his intended victim. As if by some command heard only by them the group stops. Neither the men nor the women shows any signs of emotion. As one they turn eyes down the road. A lone man walks down the center of the road towards the group coming from the same area the woman had come from. The man wears a traditional Cassock however instead of a white collar his is green. A green simultaneously brighter then leaves after a Spring rain and darker then the Arctic sky. His eyes are the same un-Earthly color. As he reaches the pack it parts in biblical fashion. All eyes remain fixed on him, heads moving in unison. He stops ten feet from Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby, raises his palms up and smiles. Unthreatening in outward appearance his presence sends waves of unease and nausea through the three before him. "You were asked to leave. You need not be here." As he speaks Scooby vomits at Shaggy's feet. He cowers behind Shaggy, tail between his legs whimpering. Shaggy feels ready to join his four legged friend barely able to keep his stomach in check. He reaches out to pat the big dog as he had a thousand times before when the Scooby unexpectedly snaps at his human companion. "Scooby?!" Scooby lies on the ground a combination of whimpers and growls escapes his throat. "Velma?"
"I see Shag."
She turns her attention back on the man before her. The smile still there she finds herself slipping into the chasm that is his eyes. The colors swirl around her engulfing her in a long passageway of ephemeral light. The tunnel is both soothing and comforting while also terrifying and sickening. She drops her weapon. She steps forward. Stepping out of her boots. Her socks. She removes her gun belt and skirt. She pulls her grungy sweater over her head. Lastly her underwear finds its way to the ground. Looking down she finds herself in a gown of green. Her once bare arms now covered in gloves the deepest black and brightest white. She continues towards the man at the end of the tunnel. He puts his hand up stopping her in her tracks. "Thank you for coming Velma. Now leave."
"How… How do you know my name?" She wants nothing more than to reach out and touch the man in front of her yet is terrified to do so.
"I know all and nothing."
"Who… No what are you?" As she asks the question she fears the answer.
"I am all and I am nothing."
"What does that even mean?"
"You know what it means Velma. Now leave."
"Please take me with you. Please." Tears well in her eyes.
"I will do no such thing. I prefer my subjects… younger."
She trembles before the man and yearns for his touch. "This isn't right. It's not real."
"You don't believe that. You don't believe anything."
Velma drops to her knees. Her dress now a swirling red black. Blood begins to flow from beneath the dress soaking into the tunnel. Blending. Mixing. Darkness sucking all light into its abyss. All that remains is the man before her. Glowing in his purity. Burning in his wickedness. She reaches down, the blood coating her hands. She pulls them back watching in disbelief as the ooze spreads up her arms. "I have warned you Velma. Leave."
"Velma?" Shaggy reaches out and grabs her by the shoulder, "Velma." In an instant she is back. The touch snapping her out of whatever it was that had caught her. "Velma?"
"I am now." She turns to look for her dropped weapon only to realize it never left her hands. She stands in the same spot in her dingy clothing. She carefully looks back at the thing standing before her in the guise of a man. "What are you?"
His smile never fades. He ignores her question, "You must leave. No one here needs your help."
"Well the woman from this morning said she…"
"Mary isn't well. She's been ill since the baby arrived. Post Partum is what I believe your doctors would call it."
"We'd like to see her."
"That is not possible."
"She's been sent to the hills to seek forgiveness."
"I have been as accommodating as I can be. Now I ask you to leave our town in peace."
"Peace? Do you know what's going on out there? Hell you have bodies in the road."
"Yes. We are aware of it all. Now I ask you to leave. I will not ask again." As one the horde of people turn back towards Velma and Shaggy outright terror plain on their faces. Two step forward, one on each side, their intense stare never leaving Velma and Shaggy as they open the doors to the van. Scooby is in the van before either Velma or Shaggy have moved. His whimpering growing louder. "Velm. I think we should go."
"Yeah, I think you're right Shag."
They carefully back their way towards their seats. They slam the doors closed. The feeling of unease taken root in their bones grows. Velma turns the key. The van sputters but does not start. She tries again. "I said LEAVE." The horde closes on the van as Velma frantically tries to start it. They bang on the sides, the grates over the windows. The van rocks back and forth under the weight of the many hands slamming into it. "I said LEAVE!" The banging gets louder. Scooby begins crying loudly in the back. Shaggy shakes back and forth in his seat incompressible muttering coming from his trembling lips. The anxiety grows in Velma. She screams a blood curdling noise. Shaggy follows suit. Scooby joins in the cacophony. The sounds turn animalistic. The grates from the windows torn off hands smashing through the glass with ease. Hands grabbing at the two inside. Velma screams above the rest, "NOOOOO!!!"
|Posted by The Spectre on November 25, 2012 at 12:40 AM||comments (2)|
Recording From Recovered Alien Craft (Translated By Dr. B. Banzai):
“It all went to shit so fast. Only a few short hours after the terrorist attack, the virus was planetwide. The infection spread so fast that it could not be contained. The only hope was to leave the planet. I loaded up my freighter with as many “paying customers” as I could stuff into the cargo modules and broke atmo just as the Imperial ships arrived to quarantine the planet. They warned all ships attempting to leave the surface to turn back or be destroyed then opened fire on any that did not obey the order. Several ships of all classes were vaporized by the Star Destroyers’ turbo laser batteries and proton torpedo volleys as the Interdictor Cruisers began setting up their overlapping interdiction fields. I knew that if they got their fields set up, escape was impossible. I didn’t have time to program jump coordinates. I just dialed in random numbers and punched the hyper drive into action. I made it out just in time.
During the jump, I could hear bloodcurdling screams coming from the ship’s comm system. There must have been some “infected” among the hundreds of “passengers” in the modules. With nowhere to escape as the modules are sealed off from the main superstructure of my ship, they were goners. After awhile, the screams stopped…and THEIR moaning began. My ship was filled with THEM.
As I reverted to realspace, I truly realized how bad of a situation I was in. Instead of the streaming stars reverting into familiar pinpricks of light, I exited hyperspace into a maelstrom of cascading colors. I had no idea where I was, the space visible through my windows was a nightmare of spacial anomalies. Energy vortexes, rifts, wormholes and Gods know what else they were filled my entire view screen! Instruments were useless as the conflicting readings they were showing made no sense at all. Before I could react, my ship was caught in the gravitational pull of the closest anomaly!
The pull was too strong and I was pulled through the event horizon of the anomaly and the universe went crazy! Time had no meaning. It felt simultaneously like only a moment had passed and that thousands of years had gone by. As the ship tumbled through the swirling multicolored vortex I knew I was screwed royally. Who knew where in the Universe I would end up?
After an eternity which could have been an instant, I have finally emerged from the anomaly above a medium sized blue/green planet. None of the instrument readings are familiar to me. There are no galactic navigation beacons broadcasting and none of the signals I am receiving from my antennas are in any of the known galactic languages.
Oh shit! Something’s coming right at the ship! Controls are still offline…I can’t get out of the way…(static)…(transmission ends)”
High above the Earth, an explosion lights up the sky. A NASA probe returning from Venus has just collided with an unknown alien vessel and both craft are now locked in earth’s gravitational embrace and begin their decent to the ground in a long sweeping arc. As the alien vessel begins to break up, several cargo modules violently rip free of their moorings, dropping to the Earth below in a path that deposits them across almost the entire northern hemisphere of the planet….
Several Miles Outside Cardiff, England:
The countryside is littered with debris from the still mostly intact rectangular container. Several soldiers in green fatigues sift through the wreckage, collecting everything. Among the debris are metallic crates and canisters filled with unknown chemicals and devices, all of which are labeled and put into the backs of several covered trucks bearing “U.N.I.T.” markings.
Lt. Hyde-White, the senior officer on site asks for a status report.
“Sir, the technologies are nothing like that used by any of the catalogued species we have encountered in the past. It’s not Dalek, Cyberman, Zygon, Sontaran, any of them. We found one device we thought might have been a Silurian weapon, but the design is not quite the same.” answered Pvt. Schiffield.
“Then I assume we can expect a visit from our “Scientific Advisor” before too long. He always seems to show up when something like this happens” comments the Lt.
Schiffield hesitates a moment and adds nervously “There’s something more, sir. We found what appear to be tracks, lots of them. Some appear to be staggering and some appear to be dragging themselves or others. The tracks are heading towards Cardiff….”
Hyde-White rubs his temples, the beginnings of a migraine taking hold. “Call all of this into HQ and take a squad to investigate the tracks. Call up some reserves from Action Force if you have to. Also, you had better alert those nut jobs at Torchwood. Let them know that trouble is heading their way….”
An Undisclosed Location In The California Desert:
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. clean up a crash site in the middle of the desert. Two VTOL “Quinjets” depart the scene loaded with wreckage from the cargo module. On the ground, a small group of unmarked trucks are also being loaded with pieces of the module and it’s cargo. A small, wiry agent directs the cleanup operation with an air of confidence.
“Tag everything. Make a full manifest of all debris, containers, etc. and make sure we know where every speck is going. I want every nut and bolt accounted for.”
The agent, Phil Coulson, knows his men will do their usual impeccable job. Most of the recovered artifacts will be sent to S.H.I.E.L.D.s many scientific research labs while others will be sent out to their various “consultants” such as those at Stark Enterprises, the Baxter Building, and the Banzai Institute.
As another truck is getting buttoned up, two Men in identical black suits and sunglasses appear in front of Coulson and the assembled agents. “Good job gentlemen, but we’ll take it from here” says the first Man, a tall, craggy looking Caucasian. “Just who do you think you are?” asks Coulson.
“S.H.I.E.L.D., Division Six” replies the first Man. “I am Agent White and this is Agent Black” he says pointing to the second Man, a tall, skinny African American. “There’s no Division Six…” Coulson begins to reply but is cut off by a blinding white flash.
The second Man angrily turns to the first “What did I tell you about that racist bullshit, Kay? How about next time I go first and introduce you as Agent Cracker?”
The first Man, Kay, simply points to the series of tracks leading away from the crash site, tracks nearly obliterated by the wash from the Quinjets’ thrusters, that head off into the desert towards the distant lights of one of the many small towns that dot the desert landscape. “Keep your mind on the mission, Slick.”
Kay pulls out his gleaming chrome communicator. “Zed, we have a problem…”
Somewhere In The Countryside Outside Pittsburgh PA:
A large crater has been blasted into the side of a hill. Most of the fires have gone out, but a few small brushfires still burn here and there both inside the crater and nearby where bits of debris landed and ignited the grass. In the center of the crater sits the twisted remains of an unknown alien spaceship. A large flatbed sits outside the crater waiting to receive it’s load. An enormous crane begins to lift the wrecked craft from it’s resting place.
“Careful with her, she’s not in the best of shape and I’d like to get her back to the Ranch more or less intact!” shouts a tall, dark-haired man clearly in charge of this operation. Another man, tall, bleached blond and impeccably dressed walks up to him. “Buckaroo, do you think it’s Lectroids again?” asks the second man.
“Naw, Tommy, not Lectroid tech. This is something new. World Watch 1 got reports that this little lady broke up in the atmosphere and dropped pieces of herself all the way from jolly old England to right here in PA”. Tommy, looking perplexed, replies “How’s that possible, Boss? There’s nothing between the UK and here but the Atlantic Ocean and New Jersey”. “She took the long way around, Tommy” replies Dr. Buckaroo Banzai.
A tall, muscular woman walks up to the two men laughing. “Good thing you are so pretty Tommy, because you sure are dumb.” Buckaroo looks amusingly at the woman, Long Tall Sally, and replies “Tommy’s Perfect, that’s why I have kept him around so long. Now let’s get this show on the road. I want to get back to the Ranch before Mrs. Johnson’s New Year’s Eve Party starts.”
Banzai looks up into the darkening sky. “Tonight we say goodbye to 2009 and welcome in 2010. I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting year…”
Date: August 28, 2009. Time: 2115. Location: MIrage Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.
A well known stage magician before the end came, Potter's reputation and renown rivaled, surpassed even the greatest illusionists Vegas had to offer.
With a flair for the dramatic mixed with the mystery of the arcane, Potter was an international star.
His fame was rising fast and there were no doors that his boyish good looks and school boy charm couldn't open. Nor were there legs.
Photos of his exploits and conquests flooded the pages of grocery store tabloids. It did little to detract from his fame. In fact both his Manager and his Press Agent encouraged the behavior saying people craved the drama. They were right as every night he performed to a sold out crowd.
After the SHTF Potter found his world turned upside down. Gone was his parade of personal assistants, stylists, drivers, PR reps, and all the other flunkies who try to make their livings on the backs of the talented. He found himself relying once again on his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They had accompanied Potter on his tours around the world, Ron running the show behind the scenes, Hermione playing the role of Potter's "lovely assistant."
It's all thanks to an era of modern transportation that the over 3000 miles of American country side could be traversed in mere hours. Hence the unheralded speed of the infection as it ravaged the our nation and beyond. It was bedlam. A sight once only visited on the silver screen or the mind of greats like Romero, a sight after which one could return to their secure homes and warm beds was about to unfold at the sold out performance of the The Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter Master illusionist and Escape Artist all taking place in the majestic Mirage theater.
As he began his last illusion of the evening, a death defying trick whereby Harry would escape the ropes and shackles of the Shadow Eaters, stage hands trained in how to tie the necessary trick knots, before being dropped onto a bed of razor sharp blades, multiple unknown assailants entered the auditorium and began attacking anyone they could grab. The first being the ushers and security guards who tried to subdue them. At first the crowd thought it was all a part of the show. Harry was after all known for his love of the macabre. That disillusion quickly wore off as the hot arterial blood of an usher spurt onto the face of a mother and child. Her screams shot panic through the crowd. The theater quickly became a buffet. Attackers sampling their meals before moving on to the next tasty morsel. Those who were savaged in the initial rush rose and tackled others. Within moments pandemonium had overrun the theater. Potter's handlers rushed to get him out of danger but quickly found themselves in the grips and between the teeth of the newly turned.
The plague had made its way quietly across the country in days. The media was quick to report the attacks as a result of "bath salts" or some other drug induced nightmare. They looked into the cameras and read whatever pre-scripted government approved fairy tales appeared on the teleprompter. It's no wonder that while Idaho was collapsing into anarchy Potter kept playing to packed houses on the Sin City Strip. Thus how he ended up in his current predicament. Fighting to survive.
"Hermione! Ron!" Harry shouts as he struggles to keep the gnashing maw of his former hairdresser from sinking into his jugular.
His struggles are answered by a thud to the creature's back. Momentarily stunned Harry is able to toss it to the floor as Hermione brings a large floor candlestick down on the beasts head. Once. Twice. It's head splits like a melon. She continues smashing it spreading it's grey matter all over the backstage floor. "We can't leave without the book!" Without so much as a thank you Harry runs toward a door, not an exit out of the building that's quickly filling with mindless creatures set to dine on his flesh. No. It's the door leading to the private elevator to the top level penthouse reserved for whatever entertainer happens to be headlining the luxury hotel.
"What? Screw the book Harry we need to get outta here!" Ron grabs Harry's arm in an attempt to drag him from the infested building. Twisting away, "No Ron. We can't leave without the book. If someone else gets it…" The words trail off as he pushes through the door and breaks for the elevator. Ron and Hermione follow.
"Hermione help me block this door." Together she and Ron gather the small collection of furniture in the hall and do there best to barricade the door. As they lay the last piece of cheap decorative furniture in front of the door it shudders under the impact of unseen hands.
"Harry, Ron's right we need to get out of here."
"Hermione the book is all that matters." The doors to the elevator open. Gleaming steel and glistening marble great the trio. "Get in." Hermione quickly enters the elevator taking her place behind Harry as Ron hesitates. "Ron we need the book. You know it as well as I do. Now, let's go before those things get in here." As if on cue one of the hands that had been beating on the barricaded door breaks through. The flesh of the hand tears as it is forced through the small splintered opening. Black ooze smears the door as it goes down the door tarnishing the painstakingly hand polished imported wood. Ron stumbles back into the elevator as Harry pushes the Close Door button again and again. "Damn it it always works in the movies." He curses under his breath as a second hand smashes through the door. The hole is now large enough that a face can be seen. Coated in blood. Eyes maniacal. Mouth twisted in a demonic snarl. "Oh god." The doors shut and the elevator begins its journey upwards. The distance is covered in seconds as the express elevator makes only one stop. The doors reopen into the antechamber of the Performer Penthouse. Opulent and resplendent the suite is the finest that the money of the disenfranchised of the casino floor can buy. "Get the book."
"Harry. Maybe we should stay up here. Just wait for help."
"Ron first you want to leave now you want to stay."
"I'm just saying the police have to be here by now…" As he talks he walks toward the floor to ceiling windows, what he sees stops his words. The panoramic view it offers is not one of the wide strip lined with grand casinos lights so bright they can be seen from space. The night sky is still lit by the famous drive but now it's tinged with the glowing red and orange of numerous and growing fires. People, looking like ants, run wildly in the streets, packs of snarling creatures launching themselves at the slow and weak. The flashing of police cars, ambulances, and fire engines can be seen. The noise unable to penetrate the soundproof glass so many stories above the ground. The rising black smoke will eventually choke out the night sky as the city of sin burns to the ground. The three take it in. Jaws agape. Hermione is first to break the silence, "Harry go get the book." He struggles to pull himself away from the view of society unraveling at the seams. Finally making his way to the large safe anchored into the floor of the room provided at the insistence or the Harry's Contract Rider. Entering his combination and placing his hand on the biometric security pad the door opens. Inside is only one item. A heavy wooden box, a near perfect three foot square, covered in ornate carvings of human figures and languages long since lost. Harry turns to find his companions still standing at the window hand in hand. Frozen in disbelief as they witness the beginnings of a horror for which there was no warning or preparation for. "We can't carry the box." Harry says to no one in particular.
Turning back to the box he opens it. Inside the book sits. Where it has slept for a millennia. Some say it's older than mankind as the skin from which the covers and pages are wrought from are not human and remain unidentified. Harry hesitantly reaches in, cautious not to let his fingers near the mouth on the cover. As he picks it up the eyes open. Expecting the scream that normally accompanies handling the ancient text Harry is mortified when it simply smiles. "Not good. Not good at all." Harry mutters under his breath. "The Necrinomicon is happy."
Date: September 15, 2014. Time: 1747. Location: Lanexa, KS.
"Where did they go?"
"I'm, I'm not sure. But we should get out of here."
"Nonsense. It's just a few of them."
"Well where there's one there's always more."
"Look under normal circumstances I'd agree. However, we need supplies. This place is our best bet. Now stop your whining and get looking."
"O-o-okay. Let's go."
The trio set off down the darkened hallway. The woman leads the way followed by the man and their dog. Two red beams pierce the inky darkness the light gives the already creepy location an ominous feeling. As they walk they pass multiple closed doors. They stop only to check if they are locked. If not they quickly scan the room and leave, always mindful to turn the knob locks as they go. They don't want anything surprising them from behind. For most that is a lesson learned only after the shit hit the fan. For these three it has been standard operating procedure since they were teenage kids investigating strange happenings. They'd never have imagined that the ghouls they always searched for and debunked would one day rise from the dead. They make good time down the long dank hallway.
"There." The woman points her light toward a set of double doors. Blood smears one of the small high set windows.
"Look. B-b-blood. Listen I think this place has been picked clean. We're not gonna find anything. We should just t-t-turn around an' go back to the van." The tall thin man shakes visibly. His shaggy hair falls in front of his eyes. He absentmindedly pushes it aside with his left hand. In his right he holds a well worn Mossberg shotgun. It's handmade sling wound around his firing arm. It's rail mounted light shining down on the floor. His left hand returns to the weapon held at the ready. Ready for what?
"We have to check. This is the first one we've come to that still has it's gates down. It took us forever to get in now we're here. We have to check." The woman pushes her black rimmed glasses up. Her eyes taking in the door while simultaneously scanning the hallway. In her hands is a custom military issued M4. Her tac light never leaving the doors in front of her. "Besides if anything were there Scoob would tell us. Right Scoob!" At the sound of his name the Great Dane's ears prick and he looks his big dark eyes in the direction of his human. His tail wags just barely. He doesn't know what the two are saying but he knows he'll stay with them no matter what. "See Shaggy. No need to worry. Scooby Doo's got our back. Now let's go."
The pair inch ever closer to the door. After each movement they make they stop, listening for the sounds of THEM. Silently they make their way. All that's left is to open one of the doors. The woman turns to look at her partner, they speak no words, their eyes conveying all they need to say. Her hand goes out to the door knob. It turns making no sound. She whispers, "On three. One. Two. Three." She quickly pushes the door open. She brings her weapon up as she puts her back to the door making sure it opens to the wall, ensuring no unwanted guests are behind it. Her partner enters shotgun up, scanning side to side. Taking his cue from his people the dog brings up the rear. Ears ever vigilant for the sounds of THEM. The giant warehouse stands before them. Each aisle a darkened alley where the unknown assailant could lie in wait. That's not what strikes them first. No. It's not the visual. They expected the warehouse, after all it is a COSTCO. No what takes them by surprise is the smell. Rot and decay hold the air hostage. The cost is nearly wrenching with each intake of breath. If it's bad for the people it's 100 times worse for the dog. His brain realizes that his nose, his most trusted sense will be useless. He lets out a small whimper. As if hearing the dog's thought "It's okay Scoob. You'll hear 'em." The man pats the big dog on it's head.
"Okay Shag. This is good."
"Good? I think I'm gonna puke."
"This means that there was food left. There might be something left for us. Now we need to find the canned section. And if we can we need to find water and perhaps toiletries."
"Well if it's like every other Costco the cans should be down that way." Shaggy shines his light in the direction of aisles. The red beam unable to penetrate down the never-ending corridor.
"Scooby come." The dog responds to the command. Looking it's human in her eyes. "Scooby. We need you to be in front. You gotta listen okay. Use those ears. Listen." The words are indecipherable to the dog but this isn't his first time with these people. He's been at it a long time. "That way Scoob." The dog turns in the direction of the woman's hand. Together they move as one. Shaggy brings up the rear while the woman takes the front. They work their way down the side scanning the aisles as they pass. Everywhere is evidence that someone else had been there before them. The security doors may have been down but the disarray inside speaks volumes. Empty cans are strewn about. Glass bottles broken. Boxes torn open."Here." They come to the end of an aisle. The sign reads canned goods. It's no different from the rest. The lower bays have been stripped bare. Most of the upper levels look to be in shambles. The visions of pallets filled with cases of food are far from realized. "Look for anything we can use."
They work down the aisles looking in each bay and grabbing any can that is still sealed. Scooby stays with Shaggy as he goes. He finds an unlabeled can and brings it to his friend. "Good job Scoob. Who knows maybe that's some Alpo for ya." Another pat on the hand and the dog goes on looking.
As Shaggy fills his backpack he scans constantly. Making sure to know where his partner and his dog are at all times. At the end of the aisle he looks up. His dog comes trotting up to him another can carefully carried in his large mouth. Nudging the man's hand with his big head. "Good job Scooby." He looks but can't see his partner. He watches intently feeling an ever growing knot form in his gut. "Velma." No response. "Scoob where's Velma?" The dog looks around as if he too is worried. "Velma? Scoob this isn't good." From deeper in the store comes the sound of crunching glass. As if it was stepped on. The pair turn their eyes in the direction of the noise. "Velma. This isn't funny." The sound of something hitting metal resounds through the big space. "Scoob." The sound resonates again. The man walks back into the canned goods aisle without he dog following behind. He stops in front of the bay he last saw his partner checking. "Find Velma." The dog puts nose to the stained and darkened concrete and circles searching for a scent trail. He goes stiff as he finds it. Pointing towards a bay labeled as once holding a pallet of pork n' beans Scooby looks back to his person. "Good boy. Go." The man and his dog make their way into the space and through it, into the next aisle. They cross two aisles. Going through the bays stepping over now empty pallets. MIndful of each footfall not through worry of noise but injury. A twisted ankle here could be the end. Through three bays. Four. At the fourth the large dog stops. Its hackles raise, lips pull back revealing a set of large sharp teeth. A low, almost imperceptible, growl emites from his throat. Shaggy freezes in his tracks. Shotgun to shoulder he brings his light to bear in the direction in which Scooby's eyes are locked. Scanning from eye level down he settles it on something moving. It's hunched over something. No someone.
It turns at the sound from the dog. It's eyes sunken. Lips torn away showing broken, cracked, and mangled teeth. It responds with it's own gurgling growl. Un-swallowed blood pouring from it's mouth. It struggles to stand. Its left ankle set at an unnatural angle from being broken long ago. It wears the soiled uniform of an employee. The tactical light showing it in sickly shades of pink and red. Shaggy knows that it's really black and brown from blood and bile. He keeps the light of his weapon set on the head of the thing unable to see who the victim was. As it gets to its feet Scooby's growl grow louder. "Easy boy." Without warning the thing lunges. It's movement is answered by the shout of the shotgun. A hot slug entering its head and blowing out the back. It's now truly lifeless body hits the ground as hot tears begin to stream down Shaggy's cheeks. He knows he must look. He must keep his promise to never let one of THEM turn her. He gathers the courage and lowers his light at the half eaten shape on the ground. The corpse before him is that of an old white male. Also wearing the Costco uniform. His head is split where it looks like he was smashed with something. No not smashed he fell. A clump of hair and skin dried on the support structure of the aisle. A sigh of relief goes through Shaggy. He can see it all in his head.
The two employees were probably working when it all went south. Maybe cleaning floors or unloading some now long gone delivery truck. They locked themselves in here and have been trying to survive ever since. Somehow one of them got infected. Perhaps they let the wrong person in. Nevertheless the young guy got bit, turned, and chased down his coworker. He lowers his weapon and reaches for his dog. "It's not her." His hand making circles on the big dogs head. "Where is she."
"Where's who?" Shaggy turns bringing up his weapon. Light revealing his small friend behind him. "Woah. Hey it's okay Shag. I heard the gunshot. You okay?" The shotgun falls to his side. He runs and lifts his partner, his friend, off her feet.
"Don't you ever do that again. Okay."
"What?" Confused she looks at him. The indirect light from the flashlights making it hard to see his features. But the shaking of his body and the choking of his voice let's her know he's crying.
"Just don't do it again. Promise." He puts her down. She brings her flashlight to bear seeing pain in his eyes. She's not sure what he wants her to say but she can see that it's important.
"I promise Shaggy."
"Can we get out of here now?"
"Yes. Let's go."
They make their way carefully back to the van. Grabbing a few more things along the way. After they load their gear the three drive off. To where? Wherever the mystery leads.
September 2, 2014. Time: Unknown. Location: No Man's Land.
I've been on the road now for I forget how long, days blend together, as do the seasons. I came from the remains of Miami following a story. A lead. Little more than a rumor actually. I have been tagging along with a small band of out law bikers. These guys barely made it out of the Prospect stage before the shit hit the fan. They tolerate my presence, just barely. If it wasn't for the incident back in Tallahassee I don't think they'd keep me around. After what went down there… well… let's say we now have a more mutual understanding of one another.
Bound to one another by a blood oath these three Dreadnoks Hadjo, Brutus, Rascal, and the "old lady" Runway make their way West in hopes of locating their leaders, Zandar, Zarana, and most importantly Zartan. That fits my designs perfectly. I've been looking for him. I've interviewed hundreds of people over the years who, even before the shit, spoke of the man as if he were a demigod. Even now, with the dead walking the Earth people still speak his name in hushed voices while looking over their shoulders more scared of him then the beasts lying in wait to devour their flesh.
Zandar and Zarana the insane lieutenants of their older brother Zartan. None of them are actually Dreadnoks themselves but somehow they have come to command the loyalty of these hardened criminals and degenerates to a degree that even these newly initiated cretins feel absolute devotion to them. So much so that they have travelled hundreds of miles among highly infested territory steeling and pillaging anyone who got in their way. They have also sent a great many of the walking dead to their permanent grave, along with more than their share of bleeders, a term they coined to describe the still living. The walking dead as you undoubtably know don't bleed. They ooze dark puss, a coagulated brew of body fluids. Being 'Noks these men and their woman shoot first and never ask questions. So when the tell tale crimson of the living fills the air rather than the black sludge of the dead, well they commence to enjoy the spoils. It turns my stomach even thinking about it.
This brings me to my current location. Somewhere between the Badlands and Death Valley. Now known as No Man's Land. How appropriate actually. Once the bread basket of America now a dead zone. If the dead don't get you the nuclear fallout, rampant disease, unpredictable weather, roving packs of feral animals everything from dogs gone mad to escaped big cats, LAMOEs, mutants, or freaks might. Those aren't even the worst of it... At the onset of the fall there was an uprising of Sioux led by, of all people two former G.I.Joes, Spirit and Dart. They ended up succeeding in chasing off the military and forming what they've dubbed the Unified Nations. Basically it's a collective of as many remianing Native Americans that can make it the area. They work together to secure their boundries with ruthless efficency.
Along the way I've been able to gather snippets of information, I used the last of my DDDs just last week and now I'm down to bullets. DDDs really do get the best intel (note to self get more DDDs). From what I've gathered it's not only the 'Noks looking for Zartan, it's everyone. You see even facing the end of the world the rumor mill still turns. Only now it's no longer relegated to the office water cooler. Now it's anywhere the living come together. The rumors started almost immediately; government conspiracies, extra-terrestrial involvement, the Illuminati, and most recently the quest for a cure. Not a vaccine mind you, a full blown cure. At least that's what the rumors say. They also talk about who has it. About who controls it and why. The rumors point to one man knowing the truth, if it exists. I'm here traveling with the only group that might be able to find the man in question. If they can find the siblings, find Zandar and Zarana, if they can be found, then maybe we can find Zartan.
Date: July 23, 2014. Time: Unknown. Location: No Man's Land.
"I've heard of you. You're that damn reporter. The one who keeps chasing after the Dreadnoks. I've read some of your stuff. You wrote the piece on the Dollar Debs. I ain't telling' you shit. No way man…
You need to get on out of here…
I don't care if you can pay…
Wait those real DDDs?
What do you want to know?"
That's generally how each interview starts. Some jackass full of himself, thinking he knows shit about the 'Noks. Half these guys act like they are 'Noks. I bet they'd all piss themselves if they ever met one of the brothers.
I never ran with them, I'm not a 'Nok. I'm a reporter. A photojournalist. I've been compared to some character in a pre-shit comic about a war torn New York. I guess I'm like that kid, except this was my assignment: follow the 'Noks. I guess the PR firm and lawyers they hired thought it would be good publicity, they obviously didn't know their clients.
I've been following them since before the dead started walking. I've seen just about every kind of criminal act committed by these guys; murder, rape, sodomy, grand theft, larceny, you name it. One thing even these guys will never do is hurt a kid. They may beat their "old ladies" but if any touches a kid, even their own kid, well it's not a pretty sight.
If those dudes up in NYC are 1%ers, the 'Noks are 1% of them. The worst of the worst.
At the beginning of the shit the 'Noks, like so many criminals and gangs, fell off the radar. We had a more important enemy. Hell the reports coming in were that the Dreadnoks were helping rid the streets of THEM. As THEY spread and time wore on rumors started popping up of 'Nok serfdoms. Local chapter presidents taking upon themselves to rule over people in their areas. I've been following these leads. Found most of them are bullshit. Most have been 'Nok wannabes. I have found a few of the real deal. Found one of the founding members, Torch. He had another guy, Ripper, on a god damn dog pole, you know the kind that dog catchers used to use to catch crazy mutts. Only this was all modified with chains. Ripper had turned. Become one of THEM. But ol' Torch, he just couldn't let his buddy go so he kept him at arms length.
So what brings me out here? Out to No Man's Land? I'm looking for the leader. The real leader. Zartan. Stories, rumors, reports, all say he's somewhere out here and that something big is happening. I intend to find out what. It's what I do. It's in my blood. Who am I? You can call me Hatch.
I'll record whatever happens for the future. If we have a future.