“Haros defined as the modern Greek word for Charon, the boatman that delivered the dead across the river Styx.
“Why are you slowing down Dad?” Ben asked in his annoyed 9 year old boy voice.
“Looks like a car accident, Ben. Relax we’ll still get to the park in plenty of time before it closes.” Dad says. Dropping his video game in his lap and forgetting about the water slides for a moment, Ben sits up and outstretches his neck to try and get a better look.
“What happened?” he asks. He pulls against his seat belt as he tries to see past the half a dozen cars ahead of them. All he can see is the lights of the emergency vehicles as more of them race past them on the shoulder of the highway.
“Hard to tell, I can see a semi-truck on its side, but I can’t see anything else.” Dad says.
Mom wakes slowly from her nap in the passenger seat and ask “Why are we stopped?” Answering her before Dad can “Oh”.
She sits upright and like Ben is trying to see over the cars ahead of them. “I hope no one died.” She says. Her question seems to be answered by the siren of a large black armored SUV that whips past them on the shoulder to her right. Mom and dad exchange the same look of distress which does not go unnoticed by Ben.
“Who is that?” Ben asks.
“That’s the Haros, son.” Dad says with a sigh.
Ben was grabbing his game losing interest in the accident until his dad said the word, Haros.
“Tell me that story again.” Ben says excitedly.
“I wish you wouldn’t.” mom says, but then again she says that every time Ben asks, and every time, Dad gives her the same answer. “He needs to know the world we live in, so he can be safe.”
So Dad tells the story for what seems like the 100th time to his son.
“About twenty years ago, the dead began to come back to life. At first there was great panic, mass confusion; many people thought it was the end of the world. Anyone who died was coming back, and attacking the living. Within minutes of dying the body was reanimated and goes berserk, trying to kill, maim or destroy any living thing in their sight. They weren’t trying to eat flesh or brains like in the old movies, they just wanted to kill. The person that had died was gone and what rose was a homicidal animal bent on destroying whatever was in front of them.”
“Many people died in those dark days, the recently dead would attack the living and kill them, and those would rise minutes later to cause more death and destruction. Millions died, whole countries and governments collapsed, before order was restored and we were able to take back society and restore order. It took months and even years for the government to restore full order, some areas of the country were completed abandoned, devoid of life and others were “cleansed” by the government in order to contain the outbreak.”
“Why did people become zombies?” Ben asks knowing that everyone including his father hated that word, although the term “berserker” or “zerker” for short wasn’t much better.
“Well no one really knows where it came from for sure; maybe the government knows and won’t tell us. What we do know is when you die your brain begins to activate again, something triggers in the cells in your brain, makes your brain “misfire””Dad says.
“Misfire?” Ben tilts his head.
“Um, remember when we were camping with Uncle Adam and the 4 wheeler, would start? It kept chugging, smoking and trying to die and start again with loud bangs?” Dad asks.
“Yes!” Ben gets in now.
“The scientists say that’s what our brain is doing when we come back. So once your brain begins the misfire, we come back to life, but who were before we died is gone, all that’s left is a creature, a mad, crazy creature that only wants to destroy.” Dad stops for a moment, looks at moms disapproving face and waits for a second before resuming.
“Before those dark days, we were able to mourn for our dead loved ones, we would have things called “funerals” and “wakes” where we would gather with family and friends to tell stories and talk about the loved one we lost. Now we have to burn the bodies and the “Haros” are the ones that make sure we are safe from the undead.” Dad stops to wait for the next question that he knows is coming.
“What are the Haros?” Ben asks, already knowing the answer but loving the story.
“Well the Haros, are the people that keep us safe. Their job is to make sure that anyone who comes back from the dead doesn’t hurt or kill anyone. They have the most important job, to protect us all. Like the police or the army they protect us, but instead of catching bank robbers or criminals, their only job is to wait for someone to die, and then they make sure they don’t come back. “Dad says.
“Just like Uncle James!” Ben yells excitedly. “Was that Uncle James in the black truck?”
“Yes just like Uncle James.” Dad says with sadness. “No that wasn’t James he lives very far away from us in another city. “
“Why does Uncle James look sad every time I see him? He protects us, everyone must love him for it” Ben asks.
Dad knows that to be exact opposite of how everyone thinks of the Haros. These men and women do protect society and people from harm, but they are more feared and loathed then loved. Like the angel of death the Haros wait in the shadows, and when anyone dies anywhere, it is their job to deliver that final blow to the brain to make sure that person doesn’t come back. There is no time for mourning, crying, or to even say goodbye sometimes.
His mind drifts to the day his mother died 5 years ago, the cancer had ravaged her body for years had finally beat her and he barely made it in time to say goodbye before the pain meds eased her passing.
Once her heart had stopped, the alarms started, even knowing what would happen, he tried to grab her hand for one final kiss goodbye. The nurse arrived and tried to pull him away but he refused to move. A male nurse arrived and violently pulled him away from his mother, all the while yelling “I’m sorry”. Another male nurse bursts into the room and grabs him and the two of them drag him from the room, while he screams and cries. They make it as far as the doorway before mom wakes up.
When the dead come back, it’s never quiet, pretty or peaceful. The creature that used to be “mama” sits straight up screaming in a voice that isn’t human, the eyes are blank and grey, and when she sees the 4 people near the doorway, she lets out an even louder scream that only come from a demon straight from hell. She tries to launch herself off the bed at the closest person in the room, but becomes tangled up in the IV’s and other cords that previously kept her alive. She hits the floor hard and let’s out another demonic scream as she claws at the closet human. The female nurse, who surprisingly keeps her calm more than anyone else, hits a large red button on the wall, more alarms go off.
The other two nurses have dad spun around and shoving him out the doorway when the path is blocked by a massive man dressed in black. He slams into the black armored chest of the Haros and nearly falls backwards taking the two nurses with him. This doesn’t even faze the massive man in black, with one hand he grabs the shoulder one male nurse and pulls all three of them to the side and behind him. With the other hand he unholsters his weapon as he steps into the room.
Dad has falling on the floor in the hallway in a pile with the other two nurses. Unfortunately he falls so he head still faces the hospital room doorway so he can see it all. “Mama” is almost free of the tangled mess of IV’s and beginning her run for the female nurse. The Haros steps in front nurse and with his free hand shields her and pushes her behind him as he levels his large pistol on his target.
He hears himself screaming no, and the creature that gave birth to him, turns to that scream and they lock eyes. He didn’t know what he hoped for in that final moment, but all he got was this demonic scream and then the loud crack of the Haros pistol. The “Haros Hammer” as they are nicknamed is designed for one thing, to put down the dead. The large caliber bullet is designed to hard penetration and maximum damage.
His final memory of his mother is her screaming, a large flash to the right and her left side of head exploding all over the hospital bed and floor. The huge bullet entered her temple on the right side and upon entry exploded in hundreds of fragments with the purpose of destroying the entire skull.
Many people get a quiet “retiring” of their loved ones, with a cleaner and silent kill, those are the lucky ones. This final goodbye will forever be burned in his brain; the best he got was that the nightmares have subsided after a few years.
“Hun!” his wife screams, snapping him out of this memory and back to reality. Behind him car horns are going off and Ben keeps saying “Dad? Dad?” realizing that the cars in front of him are gone, he grabs the gear shift and violently snaps into in drive.
“Are you ok?” his wife asks, knowing dam well where his mind was.
“Yes, I’m fine.” He says annoyed. He concentrates on the road, hoping not to cause another accident as he slowly drives passed the flagging officer thru some grass and around an ambulance.
As he slowly passes the ambulance, he sees EMTS treating a crying woman sitting on the back, he takes his eyes away quickly only to see the Haros standing beside a squad car, wiping blood off his coat.
The two of them lock eyes for a moment and the Haros nods, he knows that look, and he knows it too well.
Dad looks away, wiping a single tear from his eye. Ben announces he wants to be a hero and protect everyone like the Haros when he grows up. He wife begins to protest such an awful thing, she asks Dad to back her up on this, but he doesn’t hear any of it.
© Copyright 2016 cmatts40. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Horror
Short Story / Science Fiction
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