Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stalker-Part 2

Unbeknownst to his captors, the outsider regained consciousness shortly after they shackled him to the pillar that holds him. He observed surreptitiously his captors as they stripped naked and got into the baths prepared for them; the woman, girl and boy-children stood out by comparison and thus attracted his attention. The older woman quickly revealed by behavior who she was and how she stood amongst this survivor community; that, in turn, quickly revealed to him how the girl and children related to the men. Within moments, like a wolf amongst a strange pack, the outsider analyzed and deduced the relations of the people living here. He knew, therefore, that none of the men here had what he smelled from miles away some days ago; seconds later, he caught that scent again—the scent of that which was not ordinary—and followed it to its source: Sally, the budding woman. He knew, and smiled.

Not long thereafter, Tom—whom the outsider now knew to be the leader—approached him. The outsider sensed that Tom expected him to be awake, if not lively, so it suited the outsider to play that role for now. Tom, wearing welding gloves, gripped the outsider by the jaw and pulled his face up to meet Tom in the eye. Tom brushed aside the dirt and grue smearing the outsider’s face as he examined what manner of man, if the outsider were such, he beheld.

“My brother led the party of men that subdued you and brought you here.” Tom said, “He said that they came upon you as you ate the flesh from the corpse of a butchered zed.”

By his eyes, the outsider signaled understanding.

“Good. I hoped that you weren’t deaf, or unfamiliar with English.” Tom said, releasing his grip, “Now, I would like to know by what name you go by.”

The outsider paused a moment, and then said, “Call me ‘Ken’; it’s a suitable name.”

Tom looked at him with a jaundiced eye. “It’ll do.”

Ken softened his countenance, smiling at Tom. He glanced beyond Tom, noticing that the other men now stood—at some distance—around watching their conversation. Tom quickly moved his gaze toward the farmhouse, but the setting sun spoiled his view; all he knew for certain is that those inside only feigned disinterest.

“Now, Ken, I would like you to explain yourself.” Tom said, now noticing the men nearby.

Ken now fixed his eyes on Tom. “Be specific.”

“Who are you, what are you, and why are you here?”

Ken saw that the men didn’t regard him kindly, but that Tom wasn’t so quick to judge.

“I am Ken, a man, and once—before—I was like you. “

“Are you alone?”

“Yes.” Ken said, “So far as I know, I am the only one of my kind.”

“What’s with the hunting, killing and eating of zeds?”

“The fires changed me. I can still eat and drink like I used to, but I don’t get much—if anything—out of it. I have to kill zeds, or things like zeds, to actually feed myself.“

“You’re a mutant.” Tom said, “As I’ve got reliable testimony to your eating habits, I am inclined to believe you, but that doesn’t explain what brought you to my land.”

At last, Ken got what he sought- a crack to squeeze through. This, plus the way that the men behaved earlier—and now, as he sees some of them react poorly to Tom’s ownership claim—provided Ken with what he needed to get at what he wanted: Sally.

“I’ve stalked more than just zeds.” Ken said, “Not all unnatural things are walking corpses.”

“Go on.”

“There are people that can wield powers like they came from a superhero comic book.” Ken said, raising his voice just enough to be heard by the men, “They have a different scent to them than zeds, or those bitten by them.”

“Like you?”

“I can’t say. I’ve never met another like me, but I’ve met others. I caught such a scent days ago on the wind, and I tracked that scent here- to one of you that live here.”

* * * * *

Sally watched her father interrogate the outsider from within the farmhouse. Her mother, with the boys helping, finished cooking dinner for everyone. Her uncle went outside to get the men together and begin setting up the tables; Uncle Rick told the men that she got to work right away on drawing the water for doing the dishes after dinner, which was close enough to the truth. She kept her eyes fixed on the interrogation going on outside, unable to hear but nonetheless picking up the gist of things.

Just then, her eyes locked on to the outsider’s gaze. She gasped and dropped the bucket that she had in hand. Her mother immediately came over, grabbing Sally by the shoulder, and without thought Sally turned away from the window and took her mother’s hand.

“I met his gaze, Mom.” she said, “I saw him, he saw me, and I felt like he burned into my soul with those eyes.”

Jane took her daughter’s head into her hands, and then she looked over to the boys; without a sound, they brought Jane a handkerchief.

“Boys, go get your uncle. Tell him that he’s got to serve dinner tonight, and that you’re helping him. He’ll understand.”

The boys nodded and ran outside. With them out of the way, Jane turned her attention to Sally.

“I know that you watched your father talk to that thing.” Jane said, “What were they talking about?”

Sally, handkerchief in hand, wiped away the nervous sweat on her brow.

“The outsider’s name is ‘Ken’. Ken’s stalked more than just the dead, Mom. He’s stalked, and killed, other monsters out there.”

Jane, concerned, made Sally look up at her.

“What do we do, Mom?”

“We keep this quiet. This ‘Ken’ isn’t stupid; he’s trying to con your father, somehow, and I think that by now he’s noticed that the men don’t get along harmoniously with us. If the men get the idea that you’re not normal, then they’ll use it somehow to their benefit. We can’t afford a fight.”

Just then, Rick and the boys came into the room. Jane looked over at them, pointed to the waiting pots of food and stacks of plates, and waived them back outside. Once gone, she returned her attention to Sally.

“Can Uncle Rick be trusted?”

“It’s best that he be kept out until needed, just like the boys. They don’t need to know what’s going on right now.”

“Can Uncle Rick be trusted?”

“It’s best that he be kept out until needed, just like the boys. They don’t need to know what’s going on right now.”

Sally felt her mother’s anxiety acutely, the unease and uncertainty flowing underneath her speech and movements. Then, just then, Sally sensed a thought not her own: “Are the boys like her? That would explain why they’re so quiet, but still so easy to deal with- for now.” She immediately started sobbing, as her own suspicions suddenly slammed back into her face as confirmed, and then felt again her mother’s anxieties mixed with fear wash over her.

“Get up, dear. I think I ought to take you to your room.”

Sally obliged. Minutes later, lying on her bed upstairs, Sally’s sobbing ebbed just as her mother locked the door upon exiting Sally’s bedroom.

* * * * *

Rick and the boys served the evening meal to the men. As Rick and the boys did their utmost to keep the men’s attention fixed on eating and evening chores, Ken and Tom continued their talk.

Ken, still chained to the pole, took a long and deep breath. After exhaling, he smiled a big grin of satisfaction.

“It’s not common for a prisoner to find mirth in his situation.” Tom said.

Ken chuckled. “Neither is it common for a man to so easily confirm that what he’s come for is so easily at hand.”

Tom’s face betrayed his incomprehension.

I found the one whose scent drew me here. She is inside, and her scent betrays both her youth and her potential.”

Tom’s face instantly changed into a grimace of restrained rage. He stepped forward, into Ken’s face, and punched Ken in the gut- knocking the wind out of the stalker.

“That’s my-“

“-daughter.” Ken said, gasping, “Typical.”

Tom had to pause, as the commotion drew unwanted attention, and Rick needed a moment to distract them.

“All right.” Tom said, “Enough dancing. You’re here and alive because I heard about you, and I need someone to do something for me.”

Ken kept his satisfied smile on his face, for he had finally provoked the response he wanted.

“You need me to guide you someplace?” Ken said, regaining his wind, “Someplace you think I’d have good reason to go?”

Tom gripped Ken by the neck, but Ken wouldn’t stop smiling, so Tom released the grip.

“You need me.” Ken said, “You confessed it. You need me to either find you women for those men, or to somehow bring them to heel, because you won’t give them what they want. What’s the excuse? The men won’t quit you for another community; they don’t know of any, and they’ve got all that they need here already. What pretext do you need to attempt this gamble?”

“We need something from the city, something we need to keep this place going, and we don’t have the numbers needed to do it ourselves. You’ve been there, repeatedly; lots of zeds there, so you must have hit the place a lot- you have to know your way around. I want you to guide a team into the city, help us get what we need, and then cover our exit.”

“I get your daughter in return.”

Ken stared at Tom, who looked at Ken in disbelief.

“That’s the price.”

Tom nodded, agreeing. He had no choice.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Stalker-Part 1

When Tom’s men dragged the unconscious outsider up to the steps of his porch and dropped the man with a nod of his head, the outsider slumped to the dirt face-first with a loud thump. He looked up at the men and saw that many of them bore bruises and cuts about their arms, faces and chests. Some of them nodded towards him, acknowledging Tom’s authority, as they passed him by seeking someone to dress those same wounds. Just then, Tom’s brother—Rick—arrived with the rest of the party.

“Rick, is this the man you found?” Tom said, keeping his eyes on the outsider.

“He is.” Rick said, “I suggest that we bind him before he comes to; this guy moves like a cat.”

Tom pointed to two of the men. They turned him over, putting the outsider on his back. Now Tom good a very good look at this interloper: bald, unnaturally-colored skin all over, lean and fit like a man long-time in the wild, eyes that reminded Tom of top-tier predators and a mount accustomed to eating meat and marrow from the bone- bits of rotting human flesh hung from the corner of the outsider’s mouth.

“Bind him.” Tom said, “Anything that feeds on zeds like zeds eat people ain’t anything I want running free around me or mine.”

Rick nodded at the two men next to the outsider and tossed them a chain.

“Tom,” Rick said, “I’d chain him to the pole for now, and I’d hurry. I’m thinking that this one’s got more than guts and a damn thick skin going for him; I’m expecting him to come around real soon.”

Tom nodded his agreement; he thought it reasonable that anything that hunts zombies for food wouldn’t be human himself. The two men detailed to bind the outsider quickly bound him hand-and-foot, gagged him with a scrap of leather and dragged him away to chain him up to the thick stone pole that Tom used as a flagpole.

“You men get checked out and then go clean up.” Tom said as he turned to Rick, “Rick, you come with me.”

Rick grunted his assent and followed Tom through the porch and into the house, where they passed Tom’s wife and daughter going out the door with medical supplies and water buckets. Tom stopped them.

“Sally,” Tom said, looking at his daughter, “you go in and get one of your brothers to carry the buckets. You stay close to your mother; she’s not to be carrying more than the baby in her belly.”

Jane sighed, but Tom cut her off; “No backtalk. Do what you’re told.”

Resigned, Jane waited for Sally to come back with one of the boys and together they went to see to the men while Tom and Rick settled in the living room.

“What happened, Rick?”

“We’d reached halfway in our patrol, having found a few zeds in some of the pits we dug earlier and gunned them down along the way. We came upon another spot where we dug some pits, and from a distance one of them clearly had something in it. When we got closer, we found that a zed not only fell into it, but also got out again.”

“Is that what set you on the weirdo?”

Rick nodded affirmatively.

“He killed the zed, dragged it out and hauled it away?”

Rick nodded again.

“Does this answer your question about what’s been messing with zed patterns?”

“I’m certain that this is the answer.” Rick said, “He’s shadowed zed packs, culled from them and fed off them.”

“I see.” Tom said, “Ever since the world went to Hell, I’d been expecting more than living out ‘Night of the Living Dead’.”

“What do you make of him, Tom?”

“That skin color ain’t paint. No one’s born with that color, and no one can tan their way to it.”

“You think that he’s diseased?”

“No. I think that he’s some kind of mutant. He’s about as old as we are, which means that he was—at the least—in high school when the shit hit the fan. Something happened to him right when it all went down, something that made him go feral like that.”

“The men aren’t going to want him around.” Rick said.

“I don’t either.” Tom said, reaching for his pipe, “But I do want to keep him around long enough to determine if he’s any trouble for us.”

“You think that he might?”

“That depends.” Tom said, packing his pipe.

“You mean if he’s doing more than just hunting and eating zeds?”

“That’s part of it.” Tom said, lighting his pipe off a lit candle, “You said that you couldn’t take him without every man going at him at once?”

Rick rubbed his own bruised shoulder. “Yeah, I did. He’s fast, mean and tough. He fought like he’d scrapped frequently for years, a real street-fighter. No guns, but he had a hatchet and a knife and he sure knew how to use them. We had to entangle him first before we dog-piled him and beat him down.”

Tom took a long, slow drag off the pipe as he gazed out a window, watching the women—now aided by all of his little boys—tend to the men’s wounds, taking in their soiled clothes and drawing baths.

“Rick, it seems to me that you men got lucky.”

Rick joined his brother at the window as Tom let a smooth flow of tobacco smoke flow from his lips.

“Between one man’s bolo and another man’s taser, we closed quickly and got within his reach to grapple him and beat him down. Those tricks won’t work on him again, Tom. Count on it.”

* * * * *

The men gathered about the farm’s well, dragging large tubs into place and preparing the ground for a handful of fires. Jane and Sally tended to the men’s wounds while Jane’s young sons move around the men, taking their soiled clothes and drawing baths.

“You men look like you fought a bear.” Jane said.

One of the men, an older man whose white hair seemed premature, turned about to look at the woman of the house- much to Sally’s annoyance in her attempts to check the man’s bruises.

“Mrs. Jones, you saw that queer-looking man that we dragged back here, right?”

Jane nodded. Another man, younger by a generation, now joined the conversation.

“That zed-eater acted more like a beast than a man!”

Several of the men grumbled in agreement.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Tom and Rick were trying to get us killed.” The younger man said, “That monster clearly killed the zed that we tracked, and we caught him literally red-handed eating the corpse.”

The older man nodded. “I don’t see what Rick wants with it. We should’ve blown that thing to bits and burned the bits to ash, like we do to zeds.”

“That thing ain’t human!” another man said, “Why are we keeping it around?”

“Maybe Tom and Rick want to know what it knows.” Jane said

The younger man scoffed. “It’s a beast, woman! Even if it talks like a man, it ain’t a man. It neither looks or acts like a man; it eats the dead, moves like a lion and fights like a tiger- and that ain’t natural at all.”

“There ain’t nothing out there anymore worth knowing.” The older man said, “We’re on our own here, and probably the only people left in the world now. Fifteen years gone and no one else comes our way? No, we’re all that’s left of Mankind. Everything else is a zed or worse.”

Sally shook her head, and the men rolled their eyes at her.

“Don’t be stupid, girl.” one of them said, “It’s not like this farm is that hard to find. We were an easy one hour drive from the city. Your father was not someone that no one ever heard from; he was a pillar of the community, and known state-wide due to his involvement in politics and society, as was his father—your grand-father—before him. Hell, this farm was your grand-father’s farm before the world went to shit; ask your mother- she watched as your grand-father’s shambling corpse lurched towards us, just as we leveled our guns and blew him away.”

Sally looked over at Jane, who nodded in confirmation.

“They haven’t told you a damned thing, have they?” the younger man said, “No wonder you’re not much better than a child at damn near anything. Whichever one of us gets you for a wife will have a hell of a time fixing you.”

“What makes you think that Sally would marry any of you?” Jane said.

“One way or another, Mrs., Jones,” the older man said, “one of us will take your daughter for a wife and he will get to work on siring our own brood of children.”

Another said, “Your husband knows this. That’s why he entertained many offers from us; he knows that we’re all he’s got to work with.”

“Don’t I get a-“

As one, the men turned on Sally and said, bellowing, “NO!”

The older man returned his look to Jane, pointing at her. “You don’t get one either. Now that we’ve got things are back to the way that they should’ve been all along, there ain’t no way that we—or our sons—will let society deviate from the way that God intended ever again.”

Just then, another of the men—who stayed out of the discussion and instead focused on making sure that the fires and water were ready for bathing, banged a brand against the rim of one of the tubs.

“The fires are ready and the water is just right. Let’s get on with it.”

Without shame, a few of the men disrobed and stepped into the tubs. Jane and Sally handed the naked men some soap and brushes, then stepped away.

“Get used to it, girl.” The older man said, waiting his turn, “You’re going to see it a lot, especially when you’re with your husband and sons.”

Sally turned away from the men, and looked at her mother; Jane saw her daughter’s distraught demeanor in the girl’s face, and then looked up at the gathered men.

“Sally and I are going back inside now.” Jane said, “We’ve got to get the evening meal ready; if you need anything, call for the boys.”

Without comment, the men waived Jane and Sally off; the women hurried inside and into the kitchen, where they began gathering ingredients and implements, before Sally turned to her mother.

Sally again looked at her mother, silently imploring her, when Tom walked into the room.

“Dad!” she said, “Did you see what happened?”

Tom nodded affirmatively.

“But Dad, I don’t like any of them!”

“Didn’t you hear them, Sally?” Rick said as he entered the room, “You don’t have a say.”

“But it’s my life!” she said.

“You heard them.” Tom said, “You’re the only young woman left.”

“Tom,” Jane said, “you don’t know that.”

“I don’t?” Tom said, “We’ve kept watching posts all this time, and we’ve kept the radio going all this time. We’ve never seen any other survivors, and we’ve never heard from any other survivors- not in all of our 15 years.”

“We’re it, Jane.” Rick said, “Sally’s the only girl after you. None of the other women and girls made it; they’re all either dead or zeds now.”

“That doesn’t make it some kind of retribution from God.” Jane said, “Yet you’ve done nothing to break them of that myth, Tom.”

Rick sighed. “Tom’s tried, Jane. So have I. The problem is that everything we’ve seen and heard validates their beliefs, and we didn’t have anyway to prove otherwise.”

Jane and Sally looked at each other, then at Tom and Rick.

“Is that why you have that strange man brought here alive?” Jane said.

“He’s the first thing we’ve encountered that wasn’t a zed.” Rick said, “Tom and I agreed that we had to take the gamble and bring him in for questioning.”

“You’ve seen it, Jane.” Tom said, “The older men aren’t happy with us; they and their sons are the shit-stirrers. They’ve got a lot of stroke with the rest of the men, and a lot of that is due to the way we deal with you and Sally.”

“If they got their way, they’d be passing both you around like party favors whenever they didn’t need something cleaned or cooked.” Rick said.

“So,” Sally said, “you’re hoping that this stranger can somehow convince the men that there are others still out there somewhere?”

Rick and Tom nodded.

“Not only that,” Jane said, “but you’re also hoping that he can tell us about groups that work like how things were before and are doing just fine, right?”

Again, they nodded.

The women looked out the window at the big pole, where the outsider remained both bound and unconscious. Tom moved next to Sally and placed a hand gently on her shoulder.

“A father that doesn’t want the best for his daughter is no father at all.” he said, “I don’t think that any of the men are good for you. I really want there to be another option.”

“Do you think he’s that option, Dad?”

“No,” he said, “but I think that without him you’ll never find it.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009


"In the years immediately after The Great Scouring, before the Wars of the Damned, there came abominations and other things changed by the Scouring. One of them was the Stalker, father of his race, a cunning hunter and killer of others changed by the Scouring. This is the story of his emergence from the wilderness, and how he entered the Annals of Man."- the Chronicles

This is a post-apocalyptic adventure story. Featured are mutants, zombies, survivors and plenty of cunning. I hope that you enjoy it.

About the Chronicles

This is my outlet for the genre fiction that I write. I will follow the concept of the old genre fiction magazines of my grandfather's generation, between 1900 and 1940, and publish my stories in the serialized style of that day. Initially, I will update this 'blog once a week on Thursday or Friday, and each episode in the serial will run about 2000 words; if this doesn't work for you, then I want you to say so and suggest alternatives to me. As this is a genre fiction outlet, but not one specific to any given genre, please expect me to shift gears once I finish one story and begin another. Also, I write without the benefit of an editor; those of you that write in a semi-professional or professional capacity understand the disadvantage that this imposes upon me, and I ask your patience as I get my legs and develop my skills in this discipline.

The format for each serial is that I shall start with an introductory post, giving the story's title and plot summary; this will be used as an anchor for you, the reader, so that when you want to find the story you can go straight to the beginning and start reading from there. Each episode thereafter will be "(Title): Part (X)". If you like what you're reading, then spread the word and link back to here.

The subject of the Chronicles employs a framing device, the "Corinth" of the title, derived from the first username I took when I logged into my first BBS back in my highschool days when 2400 baud modems were state of the art technology. The stories themselves shall range all over in terms of tone, theme, genre and mood; what matters is that I--and, in turn, you--enjoy what I write down and are entertained by it. For that to work over the long term, I will rely upon you to tell me what's working and what isn't- and why. I look forward to a long, fruitful relationship.

--Bradford C. Walker