tagErotic HorrorLiving In The Dead Of Night

Living In The Dead Of Night


"You unlock this door with the key to imagination. You're on a journey through a dimension that leads beyond the boundaries of sight and of sound and of mind."

"Yeah, yeah." Barbara Talbot pushed her Jeep Renegade up the slope of a steep hill which ran along on an off-road livestock trail which passed the old cemetery. The news team on the radio station she'd been listening to, decided to blare out the old Rod Serling series introduction as a prelude to their own newscast.

"That's the signpost up ahead, you've just crossed over into..."

"Been there," she muttered, switching the radio off. "Done that."

The twenty-eight year old red-head hated this portion of the route. Seven out of her last eight runs had ended with incidents as the county health and enforcement officials referred to them; so Barbara took her eyes off the two track dirt trail for just a second to check the passenger seat. She wanted to make certain that her twelve gauge shotgun rested securely on the seat cushion. She'd broken down the side by side barrel so that it wouldn't fire prematurely, but Barb felt reassured that it'd take only a moment to snap it back into position if the need arose.

In spite of her better judgment, Barbara volunteered for evening patrol one more time. "What some girls won't do for money," Ben used to tell her. Benjamin Wick used to say a lot of things. Given the opportunity, he'd have probably commented about "going off prematurely." Not that he'd ever done that, of course, or not that he'd admit it, if he had. Damn thinking about the way things used to be with Ben made her dampen her panties.

"I'll always be part of you, you know."

Those had been the last words she remembered hearing Ben Wick speak. Somehow, even dead, Ben found a way to talk her head off. A lot of the good ole boys out in the countryside resented the fact that Ben couldn't seem to keep his mouth shut. But that was part of what made Benjamin Wick who he was.

"I'll always be part of you, you know."

"Yeah," she said to nobody in particular or maybe to Ben's memory specifically. "I know."

The sun would be dropping down in an hour or so, but right now she could feel it burn her face, her neck, her arms and her shoulders. That's the trouble with being a genuine redhead, she thought. A gal had no choice in the matter...you go from white to freckle to burn with no inbetween and no chance in hell to actually tan. That's another reason the good ole boys resented Benjamin Wick. Ben had been born with one hell of a natural tan, and Barbara had fallen hard for a "darker cowboy."

She'd even written a simple country ditty about him--The Darker Cowboy was an uncomplicated "C, F, G progression" about riding the ranch trails in a western style saddle in the daylight, and then riding bareback in the bunkhouse all night. Life with Ben had left her with some memorable moments. Barbara scooted in the driver's seat to try to move the seam of her jeans from the place where it was now trapped right up the middle of her own naturally moist seam. Damn! This was one of those delicious pain in the ass problems unique to women.

They'd had so many good times. But that was before the sewers to Hell backed up and all the sludge bubbled back up to blight the surface of the Earth.

Suddenly a figure crested the hill just along the fence to the cemetery, and Barbara slowed her Jeep to a crawl. Looked like a male, she thought. Watching carefully as the strolling figure suddenly changed his gait, she reached for her shotgun. Now he was running frantically toward the narrow gully off to the west. Then gracefully he jumped from one edge of the ravine to the other. The landing wasn't quite so graceful since the jumper lost his balance and skidded face down into the dirt, but from all outward appearances he appeared to be quite human. Barbara sighed in relief, left the shotgun sitting on the passenger seat, and pushed the jeep forward into the brush off to the northwest.

If she took one last swing around the perimeter of the cemetery, and a quick drive by the old Celeste farmhouse, Barbara knew she could call it a night. This evening had offered an uneventfully mundane patrol. Thank God for small favors.

Now another figure ambled along the fence with a leisurely pace, apparently following in the path of the first hiker. Maybe a little too leisurely--almost calculatedly natural, she thought. Barbara stopped the jeep by a small grove of some spindly looking aspens and waited. Damn, if only she'd hadn't mislaid her binoculars, Barbara could've ascertained this one from afar. Oh well, the sun still sat above the horizon, and technically she was still on the clock.

Amble, amble...lurch! Amble...lurch...trip! Shit, Barbara thought. Pick your sorry ass up and walk, God-damn it! Amble, lurch...stumble...amble...lurch. "Fuck!" Barbara spat the word out and slammed her hand hard against the steering wheel. "Fuckin' zombie. Fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck!" She hadn't even reached the old Celeste farm yet, and already she'd encountered the walking dead. "Why don't you get your blue tinged ass back to Florida where nobody will even notice you?"

"Please, God, just the one tonight, okay?" Barbara carefully took hold of the pistol grip stock and snapped the SKB 485 sport shotgun into firing position. Those words were engraved right onto its ID plate, and they made Barbara Talbot laugh every time she read them. "Sport shotgun." As if she was going off to shoot skeet or clay pigeons. "Hello, Mister sport shotgun," Barbara said in a singsong cartoony delivery. "I'd like you to meet my friend Clay...Clay Pigeon and, over here, hidden behind the grassy knoll, is his Uncle Skeet."

Barbara exhaled a long growl, and putting the Renegade into low gear, she growled: "Get 'em up! Move 'em out!"

"You unlock this door with the key to imagination," she parroted the deadpan monotone which Rod Serling had made infamous. She and the jeep bounced along the two track road at about twenty-five miles per hour. Probably not the safest idea she'd had all day, but Barbara wanted this encounter over and done with as soon as possible. She stopped within seventy feet of the lumbering, stumbling wretch and shouldered the shotgun. "There's the signpost up ahead..."

Damn! The zombie wasn't a man at all. She had been dressed in men's clothing. Before she really had time to think about what she had to do, Barbara shouldered the shotgun and fired.

BLAM! The first shot hit the zombie above her right hip. The dead woman spun completely around and fell to the ground. The second shot apparently shattered part of her...its right thigh. Reluctantly, Barbara climbed out of the jeep to see if she'd killed the thing. Killed it--uh-huh. How do you kill something that's already dead?

"You shoot it again and again, that's how," Benjamin's voice reminded her somehow tickling the back of her mind right behind the ear.

"Oh sure," Barbara replied. "That's easy for you to say. You don't have to squeeze the trigger."

"Want to trade places?" the voice in her head asked. "I'll do the shooting, and you go to your grave."


The zombie rolled along the ground like an animal which had been hit in the rear end by a car and had her hip broken. At least Barbara felt she could put this animal out of her misery. Cautiously as she approached, she ejected the spent shotgun shells along the side of the road and reloaded.

"Hey," she shouted at the squirming dead woman. "Were you part of that bunch that killed my husband-to-be?"

The zombie hissed back at her with a gasping cry of hunger and pain and sheer madness.

Barbara Talbot sighed. "How come I can never get a straight answer from you uglies?"

Then the creature turned over to look Barbara square in the face with those dull, milky white eyes. That face. Damn, she'd known that face for most of her life. Why did it have to be her?

"Know what?" Ben made matters worse. "I think that might be your cousin, Cindy."

She couldn't let that stop her now. Barbara slowly allowed her finger to squeeze the trigger. "It's not Cindy."

"Looks like her."

"Shut up! My cousin Cindy is human," Barbara said. "This thing's just walking dead."

"Are you so sure? How do we know for certain that the zombies are less than human?"

"I'm sure. A dimension of no sight...," Barbara took aim at the creature's head and muttered: "...No sound...," Then she fired, and with a splatter of red and white gelatinous material, the woman's brains burst over the surrounding ground like fresh vomitous. "...And no mind."

"That was droll."

"Shut up. I gotta get some pictures." Barbara knew that there was a disposable camera in the glove compartment with a couple of photos remaining to be shot. Since the necessity for burning the corpse outweighed any delays or foolish attempts to bring in tangible proof, a photograph was the only proof required for Barbara, or others like her, to collect the zombie bounty.

"Say, how about double prints for friends and family?" This time his words got to her.

Barbara gagged, fighting back the urge to vomit as she walked back to her jeep. If anything, she hated this next part even more than the shooting, but it was necessary. The county kept her jeep filled with five gallon containers that held a volatile mixture of gasoline, kerosene, and a separate packet of some kind of military phosphorus designed to fully cremate these mobile toxic waste carriers. They took this precaution so that natural carrion eaters wouldn't become infected as well. Even as little as the tip of a finger left from a zombie could spread the plague to a brand new host. But Barbara figured nobody on this Earth had done a thorough enough job to keep the infection from really spreading. Whatever the microbe or virus or sorcerous incantation which had developed the disease in the first place wasn't going to be so easy to immobilize, let alone destroy. But she got paid to make the attempt, and the extra bounty money wouldn't hurt either.

"Takes balls to blow away your own cousin," Ben's voice asserted.

"Balls?" Barbara snorted out a short laugh in an attempt to keep her stomach from wrenching. "You of all people know better than that. Besides I've had to do worse!"


"Whoever she might have been once, she's dead meat now," Barbara retorted as her accelerant struck flame to the inflammable mixture. "That's all that counts."

"Is it?"

Please, shut up! she thought. "That's all that matters--today."

"Lord, I'd hate to be born into times like these."

The smell of burning flesh nauseated Barbara, making her quite short tempered. "C'mon Ben, knock it off!"

"Testy, aren't we? You haven't even gotten to the Celeste place yet. Wait'll this job gets rough."

"Shut up!" Besides, she told herself. I'm not going to the Celeste place.

"What do you mean you're not going? You know as well as anybody that the job is never complete until you've looked in on the Celeste Farm."

"Stop eavesdropping on my thoughts."

"Sorry! Can't always be helped you know." Ben paused, but only for a moment. "But you know I'm right, don't you."

She wouldn't dignify his question by answering it. But she continued to follow the two track trail which she knew lead back to the Celeste farmhouse. "Fuck you, Ben."

"God, I wish I could, Barb. That's the part I miss the most."

Barbara bit down on her lower lip to keep her eyes from succumbing to unnecessary tears. Yeah, she thought. Me too.

"You know, I loved you, Barbara."

"I loved you too." Her mind drifted off for a moment. No matter what, she thought, I guess you'll always be part of me.

"I'm counting on that."

From the top of Cemetery Hill, Barbara could see that the Celeste farmhouse looked like every other large homestead on this side of the state. Sprawling haphazardly with an occasional abrupt change in architectural style due to additions built in different eras. Of course, the whole building had been whitewashed with that classic midwestern outdoor enamel a number of years ago, but now the faded, peeling paint gave it that abandoned, neglected look which eventually made the structural differences hardly noticeable for their inevitable similarities to every other sorry-assed abandoned urban legend house she'd ever seen. She hated that house--despised it. After all, Ben died in that house. In spite of that, one room held a particularly loving memory for her. Who'd have guessed?

"The sun's dropping below the horizon,"[/i] the voice in her head pointed out. [i] "You'd better hurry."

"A quick look-see around the barnyard, and we're outta here," Barbara muttered.

"Be careful."

"You bet your sweet ass I'll be careful." Barbara chambered two more shells into the shotgun and snapped the barrel back into position.

"I didn't know I had a sweet ass." Ben's voice purred inside her mind.

"You didn't exactly shit honey, sweetheart, but you had a lot going for you below the belt." Barbara stopped. She thought she saw a movement by the storm cellar door. Damn! What was that thing?

For some reason the plague toxins were stronger out here than nearly any other place in an area encompassing eight states. If a bird died on a high voltage wire and fell to earth here, it would raise itself up like a winged Lazarus just long enough to infect something equally as innocuous. One or two could mutate and infect dozens, then hundreds, and eventually thousands of organisms--insects, animals, humans--continued to infest the area. It took military and civilian health officials months of investigation to try to determine where the local source for the plague had been incubating. In the end, it had been here at the old Celeste family's homestead all this time--here at the last place she'd seen Ben alive.

Thus the patrols--four or five times per day at first and then down to three, and now once in the morning and once in the early evening. For some reason darkness made things worse and the incidents became more frequent. That's why Barbara agreed to the evening shift. It paid better.

"Shit. Is that a raccoon or a rat?" Barbara snarled out loud. "Damn thing looks like a mini-coyote with fingers."

"It must have slipped through both the sonic pest control perimeter and the electrified fence," Ben's voice suggested.

"We can always hope that it's still alive," she said without conviction.

"Fat chance of that."

"Maybe it's just passing through."

"You don't believe that any more than I do."

Barbara let her shoulders slump. "No," she muttered. "I guess I don't." Maybe she wouldn't be able to get inside.

"Aren't you carrying the padlock key to the storm cellar?"

"Yeah, I am." She'd forgotten about that little fact. Of course, good ole Ben always reminded her of these things. "I'll have to phone it in to security. They'll want to know why I tripped the alarm and switched on the circuit breakers."

"Can't be helped," he told her.

No, Barb sighed. It can't be helped.

Barbara Talbot hadn't been inside the old Celeste farmhouse since the very first night the plague had flared up--the night the dead walked out from the cemeteries and into her nightmares. That night Barbara shot her very first human being--both from a distance and at close range. Unfortunately, it would not be her last time. They said the killing would get easier. It didn't. But, eventually Barbara became desensitized to it.

Barbara descended the plank steps down into the old root cellar. "I can't see anything," she whispered. "Any ideas?" She felt loathe to put the shotgun down just to grab her flashlight.

"Looks like the door's been pried open to the basement proper," Ben's voice noted. "I imagine that would be the next logical place to check."

Great, she thought, a rat that can pry open locked doors. There's a comforting thought.

"Just watch your step."

Nothing of any consequence happened as Barb slipped through the root cellar door and into the basement. She was thankful for that. But at the top of the steps to the kitchen entrance, she noted that the other cellar entrance had been pushed ajar.

"When is a door not a door?" Ben asked.

"Shush!" Barbara retorted. "Any sign of that damn thing?"

"You're asking me?"

Taking a deep breath, Barbara lurched through the basement doorway, pointing her shotgun first to the right and then to the left as she scanned the old fashioned kitchen and the tiny mudroom attached to it. Nothing! Slowly she released her breath. The dining room would be next.

"Ah, the dining room," Ben's silky voice whispered through the recesses of her mind. "This is where it all happened."

A battery cable had shorted out on Barbara's Jeep Renegade (the same one that sat outside the farmhouse this evening), stranding her way out on the edge of Cemetery Hill road that first night; so she'd walked down toward the Celeste farm. Her car trouble had been merely a minor inconvenience at first. It was a simple matter to use her cell phone to give Ben a call at the ranch. She figured it shouldn't take him too long to drive out to the Celeste place to pick her up--after all, they'd arranged a crucial appointment for that night.

Unfortunately, Ben's arrival coincided with the moment that Hell decided to vomit up its excess population, and the rest, as they say, was horrifying history. Unknown to any of them, later accounts would determine that the central focus for the zombie plague would converge directly on the Celeste homestead. They would be seven people against several hundred walking dead.

Out of the seven people huddled inside during the terrible siege of the Celeste place, six of them eventually perished. Most of their deaths were slow and painful, although the intense fire and heat of an unexpected gasoline explosion took out both Ben's four-by-four pick-up and a very surprised young driver, a woman named Dawn. The fact that poor Dawn took at least half a dozen zombies with her certainly didn't make up for the sorrow of her loss or the loss of the last working vehicle.

"Well, the old place hasn't changed much has it?"

"Maid must have the week off," Barbara said. The old boards and broken furniture which had been used to barricade the windows against the assault by hundreds of creatures that night had been broken or removed by this time, and twilight dwindled in the empty dining room as Barbara searched for signs of pawprints or animal droppings, anything to show her where the creature was hiding. "I need to get out of here," she said.

"Hold it," Ben's voice said. "Looks like something over in the corner there."

"I don't see it," she replied. Cautiously Barbara tiptoed toward the west windows, her shotgun at ready.

"Off to your left."

This time she saw the curtain move. Barbara squeezed off a shot. BLAM! The scatter shot pretty well disintegrated the bottom of the old drapes. There was nothing there. Only the remnants of the old bay window. "Well, that didn't work."

"Dry cleaning them might have been more efficient."

"Ha, ha...funny man," she grumbled. "As Daffy Duck used to say, 'It is to laugh.'"

"Remember that bay window ledge?" he asked, suddenly distracting her.

"How can I forget it," she said, walking over to the dusty window and placing her fingertips gingerly on the once smooth wooden surface. Eighty-four nights ago, Barbara stood guard on her side of the house, peering through a small visual slit where they hadn't been able to cover the bay window entirely. Once darkness descended, she found herself on her knees, leaning forward across the window seat, her ass sticking up in the air, and Ben's shotgun resting quietly in her arms as she peered out into the malevolent night. Looking out over her shoulder at the night, Ben leaned against her with his brown-black hands and arms resting on either side of the red-headed woman. Then his right hand playfully reached out a single finger and caressed the tender, slightly sunburned skin at the base of Barbara's neck.

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