Chapter 2: Dominos

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 166

 

CHAPTER 2

 

DOMINOS

DAY 1

 

Back on the streets, on the other side of downtown, at around the same time Johnny was waking up to the base sirens, the commotion was already starting. As innocently as the day might have started, no one in their right mind would figure this would be the direction it would take. The dominos fall, the water ripples and the day begins to take a turn for the worst.

Maybe this is simply the butterfly effect in process? Somewhere down the line in our history something simple triggered the domino that brought us to today? And it may have very well been an innocent start, just as innocently as today started. But an innocent thought is so close to an indecent one.

Some got up to the morning and kissed their families goodbye before they headed off to work. Others planned on doing what they put off yesterday and figured that they would have all day to finish it – or started planning to put if off again for just one more day. And after all, who really thinks the end will actually come? Well both simple and complex thoughts are about to be thrown through the dashboard.

 

A driver of a newer model Mercedes, stopped at a signal, notices an oddity over the shoulder of his passenger, and just like that, becomes the next domino in line. Not sure about what he just saw, but he can’t help but be drawn to what appears to be a homeless man acting – somewhat different. Not the normal weirdness that often infects one who have lost sanity due to years of neglect and abuse, but more of a loss of sense. As if his brain is in the middle of being – rebooted – as if he is attempting to collect his thoughts again. He silently stares at the tree in front of him, as if he’s attempting to figure out what it is.

As the passenger continues the conversation, neither one notices that the light has changed. Still, even if the driver did notice now, it’s too late. Drawn in by the strange behavior of the man, he gets more and more transfixed and as the moments pass he notices the man starting to twitch back into reality. He sees a jogger, wearing the usual bright colors that seem to be what a jogger wears today, coming down the same path and before he can blink, it happens, like a tiger that has spent the better part of an hour slowly creeping up upon her prey, the man pounces on his victim and takes him down. As soon as the first witness to the beginning of the end of this unfortunate world can think, before he has time to even form a single word or even point, he feels it – the impact of destiny as it comes in the form of a van, an old beaten up van that has now taken up residence within the trunk of his Mercedes, to be left there for all of time as another riddle.

 

#

 

Ronnie knows he has a good thing going when he sees it. Barely the beginning of the week and he already scored two jobs that should keep his wallet full and his thoughts happy for the next couple of weeks. Finally, he can take in a breath of fresh air and relax. He’ll be able to pay his rent on time and will still have enough money left over to pick up his twelve year old son the following weekend. It’s hard not having his boy every day, been hard since his wife picked up and left for her moms, but how can he blame her? He has been out of a job for months now, slowly decaying into depression. It was only a matter of time before his wife got smart and decided once and for all that as much as she loved her husband, she loved her son and herself more.

But he can’t live in the past now, he has to focus on tomorrow, and now he has two jobs lined up to help with the focus, plus they are willing to pay him upfront. One of the jobs, the one on the east side of town, is actually willing to pay him the entire summer upfront. Very rare for a man in his line of business, usually his clients don’t pay until after they see their pool nice and blue, and that payment is only for that week. Guess it’s his luck that mosquito season is around the corner and the banks have now been charged with making sure the foreclosed homes are up to code. Who would have ever thought that the simple luxury of pools would become a breading ground of potential diseases and become his gold mine?

The van rounds the corner and begins heading through the west side of the park and as he looks out the window to enjoy the view of the park he notices something strange. What appears to look like a man being over powered by another man? All he can think about is that this isn’t actually happening, especially not in broad daylight. As he considers pulling over and coming to offer aid, it’s too late. Before he can nudge to the side of the road he sees it. Red break lights at a green light, his second thought is to stop, but he’s a second too late to do that. At the moment of impact Ronnie figures that the money he was going to make this weekend has just been spent in the form of a lawsuit.

 

He can’t believe it, one minute he is on his way to a month of financial freedom and the next minute his van has been fussed with another car. Broken glass and metal surrounds them as the smoke from the engine rises. He can make out the airbag in the car upfront and prays whoever is sitting there is still in one piece. It takes him a minute to regroup and figure out what just happened. He looks to his left and he sees people heading towards the scene. He looks ahead and can still only see the steam coming from the front of his hood. The Mercedes didn’t even know what hit them, hell Ronnie doesn’t even know how it happened let alone what happened. All he can remember was looking over into the park at a possible mugging and now he has a two inch gash on his forehead and a headache that won’t quite.

Reality starts to leave and the out of body experience begins. That feeling that no matter what you see in front of you, cannot be comprehended. As if you are witnessing the outcome rather than experiencing it. He could be shown a video of himself in the act of robbing a bank and he still wouldn’t believe it.

The door of the van opens up with what little power he can muster and he stumbles out, allowing the pain to him know what really happened. He attempts to make his way to what looks like a newer model Mercedes, but on wobbly feet it’s easier said than done. He needs to see just how bad off the people are and if there is still a chance he can help. But before he can manage, he has to feed his curiosity. What happened to the man in the park?

After all, that was the reason that distracted him long enough to not see the car. And that was probably the reason why the driver didn’t notice that the light had changed. What else could have distracted both of them so bad that they forgot what they were doing?

“Is he ok?” Ronnie musters above the sound of tires screeching. His own tires that haven’t screeched in over several minutes, yet he still hears them loud and clear.

“Just take it easy buddy.” The bus driver, who was nice enough to put down his coffee as he was sitting in his bus waiting for the next route to go, says as calmly as can be.

“Did you see that?” Ronnie asks.

“Of course I saw it.” The bus driver says as he reaches the van, “you just smashed into that car man.”

“No… not that, did you happen to see that guy getting mugged?” He barely finishes the sentence with a whisper as he leans on the hood of the van, he can feel his energy level slowly leaving him as he feels the heat coming off it.

As the witnesses look closer at him, he realizes he must be in shock. “Look man, have a seat on the curb and wait for help.” Witness number two, a young Asian man who looks like he is barely of age, tries his best to calm him down.

But Ronnie can’t simply sit down. He knows he needs to find out what happened. This wasn’t something that just happens, even in the city. Nobody attacks somebody like that man did. Nobody attacks somebody like they were getting prepared for supper.

“What’s your name?” Ronnie says as calmly as he can.

“Adam, Adam Nguyen.” The pedestrian turned witness states with strong conviction.

“Well, look Adam… that guy in the park was being attacked. He looked as if he was about to get an arm ripped out.” Ronnie, trying not to scare Adam, hopes somebody will start listening to him.

“Dude…” Adam says looking confused, “you’re going to have to calm down and have a seat until the paramedics arrive.”

He can understand if he sounds like a nut, and knows remaining calm is the last thing on his mind, how could it be? When you witness something as savage as the scene that just played out, how can you mentally move away from it? Especially when the very scene that distracted you is no longer in the spotlight? As he scouts the center of the park and sees nothing but trees he realizes that he is now the spotlight. The only scene around that people are interested in is the scene of his run in with the Mercedes. He tries to focus back on the accident, praying that the people are ok.

Before he knows it, the police arrive at the scene. Not sure where they came from as he doesn’t recall any sirens, he sees the first officer out of the car and heading to the scene of the crash. The officer reaches the front and nods as he motions to his partner that he’s going to check out the van. The second officer nods back as he continues calling it in, and Ronnie can only think that if they turned down the street a few minutes earlier they would have had front row seats to the accident themselves.

As smoothly as a man whose ran across plenty of crime scenes, the first officer scouts out the area as he calmly reaches him. “How are you doing sir, I’m Officer Henderson and I’m here to assist you until the medics arrive.”

 

Henderson can’t help but look into the blank shocked stare of the driver of the van, as his partner makes his way to the front of what is left of the Mercedes. He can hear the driver, alive but fighting unconsciousness as he keeps asking for a Martha, probably his wife. Not knowing that his wife of twenty years, who but five minutes ago, was sitting right next to him, is now lying in a puddle of blood, right in front of his hood, as silent and as motionless as a child’s doll.

There’s really no one to blame, accidents happen every second of the day, and death is often times the end result, especially when you mix in vehicles. But Ronnie can’t help but feel sick as he thinks about what just happened. Curiosity got the better of him, and even though he had the mind set to assist, it was that same curiosity that caused this accident. Just like he has a son, he can’t help but wonder how many kids the couple in the Mercedes might have, or had.

“Is that the man you were talking about?” asks Adam, bringing Ronnie back from twilight. “If it is, he looks fine to me.”

From the car wreck you can see his side view of the jogger as he stands dazed staring at the trees in front of him. A calm and silent look, like he’s trying to make out his surroundings – as if he was a child that just came to the age when the world is no longer simply black and white. Ronnie can’t help but keep his eyes on this strange sight, as if this man has suddenly been knocked to the first grade.

This is too strange, like a shot to his head his mind starts running with confusion. As much as he wants this story to end on a good note, something is terribly wrong. He knows what he saw, it’s not like he barely started driving last week and the slightest disturbance would make him loose control of his surroundings. The only thing that could do that was the scene that he saw minutes ago, a scene so savage that he is now sure it was the same scene that made the Mercedes pause in horror. Suddenly, Ronnie doesn’t feel so hot, and it’s not just because of the accident.

“Sir, can you tell me what happened?” Henderson says while moving his flashlight back and forth from Ronnie’s eyes.

“Something is… wrong”, Ronnie starts to tell the Officer. But Henderson, with his nice blue suit, looking as if he just started his shift, although is looking for answers he’s just not looking for the answers that Ronnie is trying to explain to him.

“The accident sir, what happened?” Officer Henderson starts again.

“That man over there...” Ronnie does his best to point toward the center of the park. “He was being attacked by a crazy man, I noticed it… and I know the Mercedes noticed it too… they must have.”

Henderson is a bit confused, and he knows there has to be more to the story than what he sees before him. But he knows if there is indeed a crazy man, it might be the one that’s slumped over in front of him.

“Tell me exactly what happened, try your best and start from the beginning.”

Officially, Henderson has to be neutral, but unofficially he wishes he would have called in sick on what started out to be a beautiful morning. This nut just drove into another car and he seems to only be focused on something that might have happened inside the park.

“I’m telling you, there was a man being attacked, I noticed it and was about to pull over when I ran into the Mercedes. But the light was green… the car was stopped at a green light.” He wheezes the last part out and wishes he didn’t have to put the driver of the Mercedes on the spot like that. But wasn’t it true? If he wasn’t stopped Ronnie would have the green and would have continued on. At least until he stopped, if he finally did come to that conclusion. But now, thinking on it, he doesn’t know what he would’ve done after all. Maybe he would’ve hit a pedestrian a little further down the road?

Before he can continue, he takes a couple of deep breaths as Adam starts telling the officer that the man in question as he points towards the park at the man, who is still pretty easy to spot in his bright yellow shirt. The man in the park begins to slowly tilt his head to each side like he’s taking in a van go painting and trying desperately to see what everybody else sees.

As he turns from staring at the tree, you can see his right side stained in blood. What was bright yellow on the left is now a dark red. And as Henderson looks over Ronnie’s shoulder to view the victim he hears his partner scream in terror, before he can look over in the direction of the screams he sees the attack happening from the corner of his eye as something jumped on his back attempting to make lunch out of him. A precise chomp on Hernandez’s neck and the blood spurts out like a geyser – spraying into the air.

A perfect attack, not one that was done blindly, the attacker came from behind in stealth and caught Hernandez off guard as it tilted his head to the right and sunk the first bite. In the real world of nature, you can’t take a slight jab and expect it to be enough. If you blow a chance at lunch you just might starve until the next day. And that is what the attack on his partner looked like. One that was made with thought and care intending to not miss a meal.

As Henderson attempts to process what he just witnessed he hears a scream to his right and as he turns he can see why. The man in the park snapped back into reality and is running full speed in his direction with a look of vengeance. He can see the craziness in his eyes too, even from this distance. Either too hungry, or not as smart as the first attacker, he doesn’t rely on stealth, instead going for a straight frontal assault. But that too is probably a smart move for somebody who has no fear and no clue what a glock can do to a human body.

 

His first thought is to assist his partner. His first action is a shot at the torso of the man. The shot is text book, but somebody forgot to mention that to the man. It is enough to take him down, but it just wasn’t enough to keep him there. With only a momentary shrug he is back up and continues heading straight for the group. He knows he needs to be seeing what the first attacker is doing, but one has to watch his own surroundings before checking on the rest.

He takes aim and fires off two more rounds, back to back, one high in the shoulder and the second in the leg and down goes the man again.

“RICO!” Jim screams in the direction of his partner. No word back, just grunts and heavy breathing. Hernandez’s position is on the other side of the Mercedes, on the opposite end from where Jim stands. Since he went down he’s lost total visual.

The first rule of engagement is to be sure your area is cleared, than you can start securing the perimeter. Time ticks and Jim’s gun is drawn at the jogger as his eyes continue scanning for his partner. With the jogger still moving, means he is still a threat, regardless of how many bullets he has taken, a threat is a threat.

“Rico, what’s your situation? Talk to me!” Hernandez is lost and Jim knows it, but praying for a good reply is all he can do for the moment. All he can rely on is good thoughts that Rico might be just knocked out cold, unconscious from the loss of blood.

“Fuck this” Jim says as he leaves the security of the truck and makes a nice distance move away from the back of the van to clear around and away making sure nothing surprises him. With his pistol pointing toward the direction of the second man he can’t keep his eyes away from looking towards the direction of his partner. He continues approaching Rico and as he starts clearing the wreck he sees the legs first. Dressed in police blue and with a pool of blood slowly forming around his lower half can only mean Rico has lost a lot of blood. He knows he’s too late. The boogie man has come and went, leaving in his path the dead body of one Ricardo ‘Rico’ Hernandez – and now Jim has a new issue to face. A perp on the loose that just killed his partner has made this an extremely dangerous situation.

“Stay back!” Jim screams to Adam and the other civilians, “Other side of the road, now!” Not sure of the first attacker all he can do is handle what he can see first. He makes his way to the second attacker, the one running for him, realizing he’s still a threat and needs to be neutralized before any other action can be taken. All he needs is to have the perp finish his break and attempt to finish off Jim while his attention is focused on his elsewhere.

The man is a mess, dry blood coating his mouth, neck and fingers, but considering he’s still showing signs of aggression means he cannot be taken lightly. Jim comes upon him and sees his eyes are bloodshot and crazed. He comes to a sudden understanding that there is no way he is getting any closer.

The movements are like a ravaging, starved animal with no care for self interest. No worries of dying or being hurt. Like the only worry is to starve and by any means it won’t allow that to happen – even in death. What he’s looking down at can’t even be considered to have once been a man. Just a mangled mess with veins pulsing, hot air being growled out and beady eyes that shows no fear. The shots it took aren’t bleeding much, amazing since its breathing so hard. The sound it makes is unbearable, but luckily one of the wounds it took was close to the throat so it’s only a low gurgling that can barely be heard. It reminds him of a scene out of the Dawn of the Dead movie, where a zombie is laying on the ground with no legs or arms yet still moving toward its victim, motioning with his mouth, as it continues to take a bite of empty air.

“Fuck the report.” And with that Jim aims at the knees and shoots off two more rounds.

He starts reloading and with the second threat neutralized, he concentrates on the first threat – the one that took his partner down, the one that can be anywhere by now, anywhere but over the body of his former partner, who was more than just a partner – but a friend. He slowly nears Rico, begins to wonder where in the hell is his backup? Rico’s body is a mess, not even worth checking a pulse but Jim has to see him up close just in case there’s a chance.

One thing about being a cop is the training you receive. As an officer of the law you run into many scenes that are intended to prepare you for all situations. But the scenes you come across of are of people unknown to you. Very rare would the scene play out with your partner being the one lying in a pool of blood, and when it happens in front of you, you really can’t throw in any comfort that if you happened to have been there you could have prevented it. No, not this time, Jim doesn’t even know what just happened let alone how he could have made the outcome any different then the way it ended. If Rico would have made a move to take the report of the man driving the van it would have been him lying in a puddle of blood. Becoming the third victim of the morning? Decisions always come with consequences which most times leads straight to regret. Regret that will follow Jim for years to come.

 

There was nothing more he could do, it happened so fast. A routine wreck turned into a death trap – So fast yet so slow when it’s played back in his head over and over again. All he could do was react even though you’re trained to act first as thinking is pushed aside so you always remain focused. Acting first is what trained individuals do best. Who knows, maybe he could’ve saved his partner in time if he just jumped into action a bit sooner, slid over the wrecked cars and came to his aide. To bad for Jim you can’t plan in reverse.

As he begins coming down to earth he jumps on the radio again. He needs assistance and he needs it fast. With one attacker still out there time is ticking away. He can’t leave his partner like this without assistance. The situation has to be stable before he can pursue – if he can pursue. He is a cop not a tracker, the man has been gone several minutes now and as fast as he was he’s probably several blocks away by now.

“Officer Henderson, do you copy?” The radio sounds off, “Officer Henderson do you copy?”

“Yes!” Jim screams back not letting his fingers off the radio. “Repeat, I have an officer down and need back up. I--”

“Officer Henderson, please be advised you will have to secure the scene, back up will be delayed.”

“Delayed?” Jim repeats. “I have an officer down, repeat an officer down. I have two civilians that require medical attention. I have one perp subdued and one still on the loose.”

The radio remains silent, long enough for Jim to start thinking that perhaps they didn’t catch everything he said. Long enough for him to start thinking just what the hell is he going to do if no back up arrives. He paces around his dead partner wanting to scream like hell but the shock won’t let him.

“Officer Henderson, back up will be delayed, please secure the scene and await further instructions.”

He can’t believe what he just heard; an officer down should mean a city wide alert. It means hell for the surrounding neighborhoods and nothing stands in the way of the investigation. As he begins processing the situation he’s able to hear commotion on the streets around the park and as much as he doesn’t want to believe it, it would make sense. The situation is spreading, especially with the attacker still out there. Who knows how many other victims there can be out there since the situation has ended here.

As he considers all this he hears the grunts coming from the man he took down and realizes just how lucky he was. He starts walking toward the direction of the man and realizes the shot didn’t do much but piss him off. Either in pain or satisfied with his attempts of trying to attack, the man has began to crawl in the direction of a covered garage on the other side of the park, attempting to get away. Henderson jumps on his radio again and begins asking on the paramedic. If he can’t get back up at least he can get everybody medical attention and his former partner a ride to the hospital. Time is short in situations like this, if the driver of the Mercedes isn’t checked out for internal bleeding he could be sleeping in the morgue instead of recovering in a hospital room. How things play out – who would have guessed this is how the day would continue from an ordinary start. And the thoughts of how the day will end won’t cross anybody’s mind until it’s too late.

 

#

 

From far away the sound of Fire, Police, and Ambulance vehicles can be heard in futile attempts to assist the now many. No one could imagine this is how it would be, it seems the action hasn’t even started, but with so many slowly turning, there is only so much the city officials can do. At first, it’s the normal ones that throw a wrench into the system. Tying up the lines with emergency calls and crippling the assistance. Ten people on their cell phones calling the same number, screaming and yelling for help and the number of calls continues to grow as more and more come face to face with the monsters from hell. Forty turns to sixty then to eighty and so on and so on. The dispatch operators attempt to start sending patrols out, but with so many incoming phone calls flooding the system, even the trained and experienced dispatchers can’t keep up with the demand.

Second part came in the form of collisions. Soon after, people start loosing control as they begin ramming into phone and power lines. Further crippling communications and now cutting off power one grid at a time. Fires come next, caused by those very wrecks and carrying on with a life of their own.

You can start seeing the smoke from Jim’s position, a fire that begins to brighten even in the morning sky followed by the black smoke as it rises up and meets the sky. With the city now on fire it could pass as the reflection of hell after all.

 

The bus driver was the first to come to his senses. Call it great timing, age or simply common sense, but he was the first to say what everybody else was thinking. “This shit isn’t for me.” And with that he was on board and heading down the street. At least he was nice enough to let passengers on board. If it wasn’t for the business they intended to complete that morning, or because of the shock, Henderson, Adam, and a couple of other witnesses would have left with the bus driver. Right now the real commotion seems to be across the other part of the city. And based on what he got from dispatch that is holding true. He didn’t join the force for just the benefits that came with the job; he joined because he wanted to help people. Responsible for people or not, Jim realizes that there are several from the bus that stayed. A couple of shops opening up early is good, luckily it was still early enough that more businesses weren’t open yet, maybe some people can make it out of this nightmare after all. What Jim doesn’t understand yet is that they might have to fight their way to safety.

“Alright everyone, listen up” Jim says as he heads back to the crowd, “I’m going to need your statements about what you saw here but that can wait. Right now I just need you’re info so I can contact you later on to complete the report. Once you give me your info you are free to go.”

“Officer?”  Adam says in shock, “what if we don’t know what we just witnessed?

Jim looks over to the crowd and for a quick moment realizes that he is covered in sweat. His shirt has changed color to a darker blue due to the sweat. “We’ll worry about that later, right now I just need you’re info.”

“Officer…”

Jim turns to see who else is asking for him but can only see shocked eyes staring back from the crowd. Each one looking like they just seen a ghost, looking as pale as the ghost they probably think they just saw. He looks up to the sky and that is the only thing that looks normal. Just a nice clear blue sky above them as if nothing is wrong.“Officer…”

Jim snaps out of his daydream and looks at the crowd again. “Yes, what is it?”

“Officer… your partner… his leg just moved.”

 

#

 

His partner dying in front of him is one thing, but his partner rising from what seemed like death, with chunks hanging from his upper body no less, is an entirely different situation. One he would never have thought possible before today and for the first scary seconds almost didn’t allow himself to believe it actually happened.

“What did you say?” Jim looks toward the group and notices a young blonde girl pointing in the direction of his deceased partner. “You…” He points at her. “What did you say?”

“Your partner,” Terri repeats, “His leg… it just moved.”

From where the group is positioned they can only make out the legs of Rico. Jim wish he had a full blanket to cover him with, but all he could come up with was his jacket, so that left his legs in plain sight.

Terri, though still in shock, at first only thought the movement was an involuntary move. Something she heard about in one of her college courses she had taken last semester. But with all rules thrown out the window, who says what can and can not happen anymore?

He turns and follows Terri’s finger till he sees what she looking at. A slight twitch from his late partners left leg and on instinct, Jim reaches for his side arm. His first thought is that the attacker is back for seconds and the continued biting is what’s making Rico’s body jerk. He looks back at the group and brings his right pointer finger to his mouth in a hush move. If the bad guy is back then he can finish off part of his open ended goals. If it is what he’s hoping for though, that Rico is still alive and kicking, then his hopes came true. He draws his gun and starts moving around the back side of the wreck to get a jump on the situation. With his heart racing he almost doesn’t make out the groans coming from Rico. He licks his lips as he thinks how he could have missed the vitals. If Rico is still alive there is still a chance to save him.

You don’t sweat much until your heart races at full speed – that cold sweat that suddenly brings on lightheadedness followed by a little nausea. You start feeling you’re skin turn pasty white and your hair on your arms salutes – like an early warning device.

Jim nears the front of the wreck but no Rico, just blood. He swings his body around with one quick turn of his legs and starts scouting the area. At this position he’s in a blind spot, he has no visual of the group and now he has lost sight of his partner. In times like this, even if you wanted to whisper – you can’t. Something feels lodged in your throat and you don’t dare cough it out in fear of giving away your position. He wipes away the sweat from his brow, removes the safety on his gun and starts moving back the way he came. If he can’t put a finger on where his partner is, he needs to get a visual on the group again.

Then he hears it – a scream that could shatter glass – coming from where the group is. He takes the remaining steps in quick stride, turns the corner of the van, and is face to face with his partner – standing about fifteen feet in front of him.

 

“Rico?” He barely is able to say.

Rico, who was making his way slowly to the group, is now turning to the direction of Jim, slowly – more slowly then the first attackers but fast enough for Jim and Terri to know it isn’t some involuntary twitch.

He’s covered in his own blood, dark red with flesh hanging from the neck wound and a blank stare coming from his dead eyes.

“Rico…” Jim can’t find the words to finish the sentence. His gun is pointing low, staring at his partner but there’s no recognition – just that damn dead stare.

He looks over to the group and they’ve scattered a bit. Terri, the one that alerted everyone about Rico’s leg has taken refuge near the sidewalk with Adam. The rest have taken up behind a parked car to the left of them. Jim, standing in the middle of the street now has his gun pointed directly at his partner – his partner who is covered in so much blood that he shouldn’t be alive let alone be walking.

But he is, and he’s just standing there as he finally starts making his way towards Jim. His arms rise up, sticking out in front of him, as if he was walking in the dark – reaching out for a wall.

He doesn’t know how to handle a situation like this. This isn’t something you read about in the officers training manual. This isn’t something you could guess at without second guessing the decision later on. Then he hears more – from the crowd – those two words that don’t make sense. “Shoot it.” Shoot it? But it’s not an ‘it’, it’s his partner – his friend of more than four years. He turns toward the crowd to reply but reply with what? How can he even think about taking a shot at his partner?

“Stay back!” He screams as he motions with his free hand held up high, “I’m handling this, everybody… just stay back.”

“Rico…” Jim clears his throat, “Rico can you hear me?”

“Officer, Officer… that isn’t you’re partner.” This time it’s an older man about fifty years of age saying this. He noticed him earlier, reminded him of a tougher than nuts veteran who has seen his share of wars, but nobody has ever seen anything like this so how can he be giving advice?

“Officer!” Retired Sgt. Reynolds screams again, “Remember the man in the park, your partners turned to something like that!”

Turned into what? Jim can’t seem to focus enough to figure out what the hell is going on. All he can think about is that this isn’t possible, any of this – from the homeless man, to the man in the park, and now his partner. He looks over to the park and he can make out the man still there, still struggling. He looks back and forth from Rico to the park and attempts to rationalize everything.

Rico’s body continues moving towards Jim, a little slow with it dragging a twisted leg. Probably got it twisted when the thing took him down. He looks straight ahead at Rico, and tries again, “Rico?” But again to no reply.

“For Gods sakes man, shoot it!” Sgt. Reynolds screams again.

Jim looks over again at the old man and nods his head no. “I can’t… he’s my partner.” He looks back at Rico, as he continues sliding his leg and inches closer to Jim. “Rico… can you hear me?” He pleads but still nothing – just empty eyes – empty dead eyes.

As Rico gets within ten feet of Jim he begins motioning with his mouth. Jim will forever think that words were going to come out, but he will never know. Instead brains are splattered onto the road between the two of them as Rico drops to the ground and falls motionless.

 

He didn’t even hear the gun shot over the pounding of his heart. To Jim it was like Rico’s head just exploded from the stress of walking while being dead. That would have been better then the shot he took from behind.

He turned to the crowd and sees Reynolds holding up a gun. Shock on his face, he sees the look in Jim’s eyes and immediately drops it and puts his hands up in the air.

“Turn around and keep your hands up where I can see them!” Jim orders as he looks down at Rico’s body.

“Officer… I’ve dropped my gun… I’m…”

“Shut the hell up!” He screams at Reynolds as he rushes towards the old man, “Just shut the hell up!”

“Officer,” Reynolds repeats, “That… that wasn’t your partner…”

“I told you to shut up!” He reaches Reynolds, kicks the gun away and grabs his left arm to swing it behind him. “I’m arresting you. You have no idea what you’ve done.”

“Officer?” Adam, coming from the right says, “Officer, he’s right… that wasn’t your partner… I don’t know what tha…”

“And how do you know that?” Jim interrupts him as he turns to face him. “Just how the hell can anybody know that? He was… he was…”

He can’t finish, he doesn’t know what to think but now he’ll never know. Was Rico going to call out his name? Ask for help? He’ll never know now. And what is he left with? A scene out of a horror movie with no help from anyone coming any time soon.

He looks around the crowd and doesn’t know what to think, what to do. He hears the commotion on the surrounding streets and realizes that whatever this is, it’s far bigger than him. “Alright” He looks at Adam and throws the keys to him, “Release him, gather you’re things and just get out of here… everybody… just leave.”

 

#
 

The sirens can still be heard, but now faint, as if they’re moving away from the areas they’re needed at and Jim knows they aren’t coming back. He doesn’t have to be a former boy scout to make out the fading sirens. If what dispatch said is correct, and he doesn’t get any assistance any time soon, his duck is cooked. If it’s indeed because similar situations are happening on the East side then he doesn’t even want to picture what could happen with a small army of those things. The official word is they are experiencing a heavy volume of emergency calls. What really is being said is, “Shit – what the fuck is going on out there? Can’t you guys handle it?” He can hear the stress in their voices but he can’t sympathize, whatever they’re going through it isn’t near the stress level that he’s going through. With chaos breaking out, he doesn’t have too many choices. One choice he wishes he had was seeing to it that his partner got to the hospital. But that doesn’t look likely.

Not that it’s a full raging inferno, but attacks of this magnitude, is a pretty serious and pretty shocking matter. Several bank robberies could have happened and school shootings, but law enforcement wouldn’t blink an eye. After all, it would be a normal day at the office. But this – what happened to Hernandez is not normal and indeed is an extremely unknown situation. When you have a potential pack of man eating humans running around you have to be somewhat left in a shocked state of mind. Especially when one of them, you’re partner, was a sure goner before he got up and tried to take a bite out of you. If similar situations are happening across the city, it’s not surprising how the police departments got swamped so fast. And this is the sort of scene that can turn veterans into squirming green nosed rookies.

 

Jim was told to hold position until further notice. He doesn’t have any family local to run to, but how can he possibly think about leaving the scene? Two bodies laying in the rubble and the man in the park still kicking – there is no way he can leave his post, even though this is a job for the Army.

The witnesses heard the commotion on Jim’s radio broadcast. Scared and unsure what to do, I guess they are looking for an authority figure to lead the way. He wishes he could tell them that they’re wrong.

“Officer? What should we do?” Ms. Riley states from across the street. She wasn’t one of the first ones out here this morning – her bus let her off shortly after. Far from home, the only reason she was out in downtown was because she had to make it to the VA offices. Now she’s probably wishing she had stayed home – if only it was any other day.

He stares at her and then looks at the rest of the witnesses, Adam included, still hanging back probably due to shock. “Go home, each of you. Go home and get off the streets.”

“How?” Another voice from the crowd, not sure who it was, Jim addresses everybody. “That’s up to you. Once I hear back from dispatch and get the scene wrapped up, I’m off to the next situation.”

He wants to tell them straight out that they’re on their own, but he can’t bring himself to be that way. Maybe the city cops can get everything under control before the day is out. These civilians are reaching out for hope, even after they witnessed the most horrible thing they could ever imagine. How can he rip their hearts out now?“Alright, listen up people.” He says as he waves the refugees over. “Can anybody reach anybody on their phones?” Not one raised hand. “Ok then, it’s going to get pretty hot around here but the good thing is we still have the day. As you heard, it doesn’t look promising and as much as I hate to say it… I believe we are on our own.”

“Who lives around here?” Nobody answers so he knows this isn’t good. “Alright then, I say we start moving out to the next station, I can take four people at a time and then we can figure out what to do there.” He looks around to see which of them should go first and realizes that they are indeed screwed.

“Alright, let’s get the first group in the car…”

“Sir… and what about the one in the park?”

Jim thinks hard about that question and doesn’t really know what to think? He almost forgot about the man.

“He’s not my concern anymore. You guys are, now let’s move. The rest of you take a seat in that deli across the street until I come back.” And with that the first four head to the car for safety. Mrs. Riley takes the front with Jim and three other’s grab the back seats. Adam, Terri and another older man, a Mr. Enriquez, along with five others are left to wait for Jim to return. Nobody armed, and even if he wanted to he can’t leave his sidearm behind.

Mrs. Riley looks over to him and can’t help but smile. “Thank you Officer, I don’t know what we would have done without you.”

“Don’t thank me too soon Mam, we aren’t out of the woods yet.”

“Do you really think it’s going to get worse?” Mrs. Riley says, attempting to look deep into his eyes for comfort.

“I don’t really know, but I’m sure the Guard will be called if needed. I really want to get to a TV and see what’s going on.” He says as he maneuvers through the street. “As you can hear from the helicopters and sirens it doesn’t sound too good. If it’s anything like what we experienced in the park then I would say the day is going to get a lot worse.”

They seem to be listening, still in shock but at least still in the game, even Ms. Riley. But like most (including Jim) you just can’t shake the thought of invincibility. As if nothing can really hurt you. Sure things have happened to us, but for some reason it’s easy to forget the bad. Pretend that it never happened, because deep down inside we feel like it can’t happen. Not to us, we aren’t some third world country – we are one of the strongest countries in the world.

As they drive down the street, away from the park, Jim starts to realize just how desolate the area they left actually is. Not a bad area, but not one that has the normal dozen corner markets and coffee shops spread throughout it. He turns onto Pine Street and he begins to start seeing more people, which if it was any other day would be considered a good sign. If he was to warn them he would loose time with his own group, and as much as he wants to, if the dozen sirens can’t get the curiosity kicking and get them to a T.V., then telling them himself won’t do any good. But it turns out he doesn’t have to, these are the curious that always seem to be in plenty, the ones that appear just before the storm starts, wanting to take pictures – the ones that are going to end up lunch.

It’s amazing how curious we can be even in the face of danger. He recalls a time when he took the family of a potential Mrs. Henderson to the National park and all the cars were stopped to see a bear and her cubs. People actually got out of their car to take pictures up close. No matter what people hear on the news or on national geographic about what extent mother bears will take in order to protect their young. Nope, these people would rather take the chance of being maimed just to click a picture. Humanity has been doomed since the day curiosity started outweighing common sense.

 

Barely mid way down Pine Street and you can see it starting. City life has just taken a drastic turn. The main intersection has car wrecks littering the street and he barely has enough time to slow down before being trapped. Without a second thought he starts planning to turn the patrol car around. He can make out the smoke coming from the cars at this distance and everything else he can’t make out is just fine that way. Fire and smoke, screams and sirens – people running and people chasing. Something Jim and company don’t want any part of.

As he comes to a well deserved sudden stop, he barely looks back as he throws the car into reverse and presses on the gas. He can turn the car around a little down the road; right now he just wants out of this and wants to head back down the street, back the way he came. Away from the present danger and into the arms of old danger is just fine for him. The problem with officers of the law, especially officers that have been doing the job for so long, is that they are cocky as shit. Luckily Jim doesn’t fall into that category – he knows that he can’t save them any more than they can save themselves. He may not be able to help what happening in front of him, but he sure as hell has a chance to help out what’s behind him.

Before anybody says a word the patrol car reaches the group standing outside the deli and Jim jumps out of the car before a complete stop. Time is ticking and time is crucial.

“Alright group, we don’t have much time and we need to get out of here.” He runs it out of his mouth as fast as he can say it. Pine Street is a mere four blocks away and it’s only a matter of moments before the street they are on starts looking like it. There’s no time for pleasantries as that went out the door when Hernandez went down. It’s time for survival and since the police department on the west side is out of the question, Jim needs to figure out what else can be done for them.

“We need to gather our stuff and head down East.” Jim says. “And we need to move now!”

“What happened over there?” Adam can barely squeak out from the corner of his mouth.

“It’s a war zone, plain and simple, whatever happened here this morning is happening across downtown but on a bigger scale and it’s already spreading to the south side.” He barks as he reaches into the car grabbing his shotgun. “I saw several of those things running around and taking people out. So we need to handle our own situation and worry about ourselves. And that means we need to head out now.” He stops for a moment and looks at his crowd, and barks. “Just what the hell were you guys doing in this part of town anyway?”

Why would anybody want to come downtown so early in the morning? Where’s the common sense there? Oh sure, downtown has gotten better, the city has started to rebuild and re-beautify it with shops and condo’s but it’s still downtown.

“And why are you guys outside? I told you guys to wait inside for me?”

“We did.” Adam says. “We were in the deli and watching the news about what was going on and then once the owner noticed it was close to his backyard he kicked us out and closed up shop.”

Jim looks over Adam’s shoulder into the shop, now with the bars drawn over the windows. Can’t blame the owner on that call, probably the best call anybody has made today. “Alright, we need more transportation.” Jim hollers at the group as he heads for his hood. It always seems easier for a cop to think near the hood of a car, all he needs is a map to unfold and lay out and he’d feel right at home.

“Adam right?” Jim looks at Adam and gets a confirmation nods back. “Check that truck to see if it’s unlock…” and before he can say anymore, the sound of his car going reverse distracts them as they looks up to see the patrol car being driven by Mrs. Riley. As she stops several feet ahead of the crowd to throw it into drive, you can see her attempting not to look towards their direction. If she did, she would have seen Jim and company screaming and motioning for her to stop.

“Why, that old bitch!” Simon yells as he’s pointing at the car. Simon usually doesn’t say much, but times have changed as the minutes click and he just doesn’t feel like holding back any more – especially when you’ve just been deserted by Mr. Rogers’s mother. What was supposed to be a nice stroll through downtown, an early one that would allow him time before the office of Health opened up – allowing him an early bite to eat before standing in line has now turned into a bad dream. “Just what are we going to do know?”

“We look for transportation,” Jim looks around again and catches a glimpse of Rico, “and we start now.” Jim says with no hesitation. What’s done is done and sure, he could call that nasty little hag every name in the book. But this guy called it perfect – She is an old bitch, one that may not see the end of any more days let alone this one and what she did is inconceivable, but it’s done and they still need to head towards safety. But boy, would he love to catch up with her and kick that walker out from underneath her.

“Who knows how to handle a gun?” Jim’s question leaves Adam out of the equation. Sure, if Jim’s question was “does anybody know what a gun is?” then Jim could have a possible daily double. But handling a gun is beyond Adam. Guns have never been needed in his life of school and studies. Sure, maybe they’re needed, but he still never wanted to have one. Why else are the police around? Why need access to a gun when you have access to a phone? Ronnie is still out of the question as well with his head still banged up, he’s managed to get his bearing straight again, but Jim knows his head is going to be ringing for a bit more. That leaves Grant, the butcher from his local grocery store, and Reynolds, the man that put a bullet into his partner, who isn’t the best choice, but with other green horns in the group he is the best candidate for the job. Jim decides to give Sgt. Reynolds his gun back, as he reaches out to hand it to him he holds on to it for a brief minute, before finally letting go. He pulls out his second gun from his leg holster and passes it to Grant.

“Alright, the plan is still the same.” He says. “We walk until we find wheels. I’m not sure what’s going on but whatever it is… it isn’t friendly. Whatever happened back there happened with the help of several more of those things… those things-“ Jim stops mid sentence as he remembers the downed man in the park. “Adam, you mentioned you caught a glimpse of the news, just what did they say?”

“They said there’s rioting going on and people are looting and killing. But that was about all I heard, once the owner heard the word looting he waved us out...”

“Hold on right here.” Jim stops Adam, and begins walking to the man in the park that turned psychopath.

“Officer, you’re not seriously thinking about messing with that thing are you?” Adam says this, worried about even looking in the direction of whatever the hell that thing is. All he knows is he doesn’t want to see anymore, wounded or running. And he doesn’t want to worry anymore about this one.

He walks calmly up to the wounded man, points the shotgun directly at it and fires one shot to the upper body. Report or not, he can’t chance leaving that thing alive.

 

With a wounded man in there hands it means the group can’t move as fast as they would like. Hence the reason Jim was hoping to get a truck with a flat bed. With a wounded man it turns your already serious situation into a volatile one, which means that even with a flat bed they are still without a paddle, and with time of the essence a wounded man could mean death for everyone in the group – but where would the humanity be if they were to walk away from him? Sure, it could be done, but most bad things we do seem to always tuck themselves away in the attic and crawl back down from time to time to remind us of our evil deeds.

Life is all about decisions, doors if you will. Each door you take leads to more doors. What you want to do in life is take the right doors that leads to a nice enough living, leading to more doors that will allow continued support for that nice living. You can still live life going through the wrong doors, but the more wrong doors you take means the farther away you are from living a healthy life. Redemption gets harder and harder if you continue down the wrong path and that’s one thing Jim doesn’t want to have this weigh on his soul.

The group starts down the street in search of a truck. And Ronnie, who has managed to come back from the dead – so to speak – happens to find a truck that they don’t have to break any windows. One thing Jim mentioned was try to leave all the windows intact just in case they happen to run into any more of those devils. Ronnie swings the hotwired old thing back to the unconscious driver of the Mercedes easy as pie. Oh sure, Ronnie could have earned a new nickname as “That young bastard!” from the owner of the truck, but the thought of leaving anybody behind never crossed his mind – especially the old man that he has since made him a widow. In the end we all die, but how we live is what really matters.

Sure, if you are strong minded enough you can beat back the guilty thoughts, but for how long? And if you do finally see the light and want to correct it, it may end up being too late. And that i


Submitted: February 10, 2012

© Copyright 2020 Luis Torres. All rights reserved.

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