Friday, October 30, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 21st 2028

That damn fool Billy took it one himself to head down to Springfield to check things out. He left early this morning. The sound of the Divco's ancient motor starting up woke Beverly and I. We had spent the night in the Uni again. I ran out to see what was going on. I don't run too fast anymore so Billy was already pulling out of the church parking lot by the time I got out there. He yelled back something about a note on the church bulletin board. I just want to be on record as saying I think this is a bad idea. Billy is a genius at fixing and building things, but a bit of an idiot in the real world. I would have felt much better if someone was going with him.

I stood there for a moment while snow melted through my socks cussing at Billy under my breath.

Beverly called me in and after we finished getting dressed we both headed into the church. The rest of us had a little meeting that morning and discussed this new problem over coffee and breakfast. Thank God we still have coffee.

Jewels and I had discussed this before and had already decided that someone was going to have to go down there and actually take a look. I think Billy is convinced that these men are responsible for killing the Tudor girl. Admittedly, this is a statistic probability, but I think that Billy's judgement may be clouded in this matter.

After breakfast we once again resumed our hunting. We have not seen as many infected creatures as before. Perhaps it will prove to be a seasonal thing.

I saw something while we were out hunting today. It was some kind of insect attached to one of the deer we killed. But it was not like anything I have ever seen before. It was about two inches long, black with red spots and only had four legs. It was attached to the deer like a parasite. It has a heavy seamless carapace and no wings. I managed to brush it off into a Pringles can Mike had left in the back seat of the truck. Mike was a little irritated because there was still half a can of chips in there. I'll make it up to him sometime. I gave it to Katherine as soon as I got back. She agreed that it, like the wraiths is not of terrestrial origin. She does not know if the came from the same place as the wraiths but what are the odds that they came from someplace different. I wonder what kind of new nightmare those will be.

The weather is starting to warm up and Dee is wanting to go outside and play, but I can't let her unless she is supervised. Stacy is down with the flu right now and Jeanette is too busy with the baby right now. Dee is being so good about this, but I know that eventually her patience will wear out. There has to be a solution.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In God We Trust, unless you work at Home Depot

I just read a story about a former employer of Home Depot. Was he fired for stealing, harassing customers, refusing to help customers or maybe even running around the Home Depot parking lot with nothing on but an orange apron and crocs?

No, Trevor Keezer was fired on October 23rd for wearing a pin with the words "One Nation Under God."

Apparently this is against Home Depot dress code. They are so afraid that one of their customers might possibly be offended by this pin that they had to fire him. In my opinion any person offended by this pin must spend their days looking for things to be offended by. I am damn tired of everyone trying to avoid offending the thin skinned, self righteous and willfully ignorant people in this world. I think that as a society it is our duty to offend these people as much as humanly possible. Maybe this will toughen them up some. Or at least drive them so far into seclusion so that they don't reproduce.

The picture of Trever Keezer shown in the story I read showed a clean cut man with no visible tattoos or facial jewelery. He looks like he could have fallen out of an episode of Leave it to Beaver. I cannot picture this man doing anything to intentionally offend anyone. I am frankly more offended by the careless attitude, incompetence and poor hygiene of some of the other employees I have encountered at Home Depot.

Too many people think that the Constitution guarantees freedom FROM religion, but in fact it guarantees freedom OF religion. This means that we can worship as we see fit. This does not mean that we can prevent others from worshipping in ways we disagree with or even worshipping at all. In fact it means the opposite. We cannot legally interfere with another's legitimate mode of worship. But in all things a little common sense must be applied. If your form of worship involves ritualistic human sacrifice then maybe you should refrain from practicing it at work (unless the chosen sacrifice is perhaps that goon two cubicles down that is always stealing other peoples lunch from the fridge and picks his nose in full view of the entire staff). But I see no harm in a little pin that says "One Nation Under God," I mean really, this is in our Pledge of Allegiance and if I remember correctly the phrase "In God We Trust" is printed on all our money. I wonder if this offends the powers that be at Home Depot too? Well I better not risk it. I will just take my money to Lowe's instead.

Dead Land Journal February 16th 2028

Yesterday was a repeat of Valentine's Day. Billy, Mike Jewels and I headed out early and in the truck hunting deer and anything else large enough to host a wraith. We ignored anything that ran away from us. The host creatures become aggressive towards anything that could be viewed as competition. Had a scary moment when a friggin' buffalo attacked us. Some of the ranchers in southern Missouri keep buffalo and hybrid buffalo/cattle. This monster was 2400 pounds of mean. It hit the truck hard on the left front fender. Bits of fiberglass and plastic showered the ground in front of the truck. But that was not enough for it. It kept ramming the truck. Each time it was like being hit by a small car. We were trying to lean out the windows and shoot it. But only Jewels and Mike were able to get clear shots at it from the drivers side windows. On the fourth impact Mike dropped his gun out the window. Jewels kept shooting, but that just seemed to piss the buffalo off even more. Billy got fed up with our inability to kill the thing and jumped out with his missile gun. He only uses it for special occasions. The projectiles take a while to build and he has to go into Lebanon to get what he needs to make more. But I guess this warranted him pulling out the big guns. Once I understood what was happening I told the others to keep the buffalo's attention.

It's not like a standard gun you just point and shoot. Billy could not help but show off his invention to me one day while he was toasted. First you have to boot it up. Yes like a computer. It even runs on a modified version of Windows XP. Billy refuses to use anything later than that. There is a helmet that he has rigged up with an HUD display operating off a camera on the muzzle of the gun. It can be used without it with the little built in screen. After the computer boots up and automatically loads the targeting program you have to select the target. This is done by lightly squeezing the trigger. It will focus on the object and highlight it. If that is the correct target you squeeze the trigger again and it loads the image onto the projectile before sending it on its way. Even if you already have the thing booted up it can take up to ten seconds to be actually acquire the target and fire the missile. And the missile itself is relatively slow too. So during this time the weapon operator is somewhat vulnerable.

Billy walked out about a hundred yards from the tow truck and took careful aim. He fired a single well placed shot to the abdomen. The buffalo of course took note of this. It whirled around with more grace than any creature that size has any right to and began to charge. Billy stood his ground supremely confident in his invention. By the time it had covered 75 yards it became obvious that something was wrong. The creature was still charging. Billy realized that he was now in serious trouble. He tried to fire another shot, but it was coming too fast. The thundering hooves were enough to make a bull fighter lose nerve. The second shot buried itself harmlessly in a snow bank where it melted about 4 cubic yards of snow. That was when Billy broke and ran.

The buffalo was close on his heels, and Billy screaming for Jesus to come take home. We thought Billy was a goner when he tripped and fell. But at that moment the buffalo staggered. It shook its huge horned head in confusion and belched. And then with a mighty fart, it fell over, dead. Right on top of poor Billy. It took all of us and the tow truck to get the evil thing off him.

And you know what? It was not infected. It was just naturally mean. But at least we have a few hundred pounds of buffalo meat.

Katherine thinks that this infected migration is a way for the creatures to spread their population without risk to themselves. This means it is very important for us to hunt them down whenever we can. Come Spring we are going to be up to our assholes in these things. Can't wait. whoohoo.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 14th 2028

It's Valentine's Day.

We have killed 50 head of deer today and 12 cows. The bonfire is still burning. And probably will be for a couple of days.

Two days ago we were out hunting. Our first kill popped open like something from the Alien movies. But instead of one little beast, seven little monsters came out. They attacked Billy, but Mike was able to beat them off. I shot the little beasts as fast as Mike could get them off of Billy. They were each about the size of a possum. What they lacked in size they made up for in claws. Billy got away with only a few cuts thanks to Mike.

Really we should have known something was wrong when Mike brought it down. Its belly was huge. The skin stretched grotesquely over the belly, so bad the hair was no longer able to protect the skin from elements. Red patches of frostbite and scrapes riddled the doe's sides. Since then we have made it point to take down any deer that just looks a little too pregnant. We then burn the bodies before the fuckers can escape. They usually seem to take about half an hour to wake up after the host is dead so we have time to get them taken care of. Wandering cattle are given the same treatment.

But this presents a problem. Deer and cattle are our primary source of meat now. Of the 62 animals we have killed only two were not infected. Katherine assures us that eating the meat will not transfer that "infection" to us as long as the meat is cooked. But by the time the beasts are ready to come out, the meat is ruined. We tried eating some of it and it was foul. Not even Emily would touch it.

Mike has noticed some aberrant behavior that will clue us in to an infected animal. Cattle become solitary, shunning the company of the herd, while the herd also shuns the infected cow. It will stop allowing calves to suckle and in fact its milk dries up. Deer become aggressive and attack any other animal that comes near it, even killing its own offspring.

Without large game we will have to rely on smaller animals. Katherine says she does not think that any creature smaller than a large dog can carry one of these to "term" as if we were talking about a pregnant animal and not a parasite. She thinks she can devise a vaccine for the animals so at least we can protect out local cattle. Not really a vaccine, but a drug like vets use for preventing worms in dogs and cats. She tried to explain the chemical processes but it just went over my head.

This was not how I wanted to spend the day. I had plans for the evening with Beverly, but right now, all I want is a shower and to go bed. I don't even want to eat. The thought of eating, especially meat, makes me feel somewhat ill.

Back from my shower.

I just wanted to check the radio. The CB transmissions from Springfield have stopped. I don't know what that means. Have not heard a peep from them since about a week after we got back from rescuing Kyle.

I feel much better since my shower, and I think I see Beverly coming out from the church.

Maybe we can salvage Valentine's Day after all.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dead Land Journal February 5th 2028

Been busy this last month. Have not even had a chance to sit down at my typewriter. I just finished typing up some entries from handwritten notes. My handwriting sucks so it takes a while sometimes. Mike just gave me the notes I wrote while I was down in that hole a couple of days ago. He assured me that no one had told Beverly the purpose of my trip. I am relieved and little embarrassed. That entry was a little self pitying. Despite the temptation to edit I typed it in just as I wrote it.

Been very busy as I said, but not much to write about. Just basic chores, hunting, gathering and the mundane necessities of survival. There are three events of note.

First Beverly and I are engaged. I asked her a week ago and she said yes.

I enlisted the aid of Jewels and Billy to get the small Italian restaurant ready. I even got Katherine to help. Turns out she can whip up a fantastic lasagna. Billy and I cleaned up the restaurant while Jewels made sure a generator was hooked up so we had some lights and power so Katherine could cook. Between her and Jeanette they made the lasagna, bread, some sauteed peppers and onions. Ice cream and canned strawberries for dessert. Mike even put on a waiter's uniform and served our meal. Although we had power I chose to eat by candle light. Jewels even found an excellent bottle of Champagne. Might have even been Dom Perignon. I'm not a wine snob, in fact I really know nothing about wine, but Jewels always uses the right tool for the job. He won't use a pair of pliers when he should be using a 5/16 open end wrench. When he found out what I was wanting he spent the afternoon out scouring the city to find just the right thing. Stockton is a small town. I think there are maybe four or five bars in town if you count the VFW hall and maybe two liquor stores, and these are not exactly upscale establishments. I think he finally found what he was looking for in a private residence.

After the meal was finished I got down on one knee, being careful to set my cane nearby, and pulled out the ring box. Beverly was already tearing up and nodding yes before I even managed to get the question out.

We set the date for April 10th. That was her maternal grandparents anniversary.

Kyle and Jeanette are now officially married. This was at Jeanette's insistence and happened shortly after we got back from rescuing Kyle. Pastor Tom was overjoyed to be able to officiate. I think that part of him as felt like he has been presiding over a an unending funeral service for the human race. I stood as best man, Dee was of course a flower girl and Beverly was a bride's maid.

And finally Jeanette had her baby yesterday. A healthy baby girl, 21 inches and 8 pounds 9 ounces. Mother and child are doing fine. Father has a broken nose. A contraction caught Jeanette by surprise and her hand came down on a tray by the bed, just a little too close to the bed rail. The tray popped up and caught Kyle in the face. But that is not what broke his nose. He was bending down to pick up the tray and rammed his forehead right into the bed rail. He stood up and became entangled in the curtain around the tiny delivery room of the mobile clinic. Not being able to see he smacked his head into one of the stainless steel wall cabinets behind him. He then pitched forward, once again hitting his face on the bed rail, this time breaking his nose. And he still has not fully recovered from his plane crash. He looks like he was catapulted face first into a brick wall. But despite this he is still wearing that goofy grin that Jewels says all new fathers exhibit.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dead Land Journal January 9th thru 10th 2028

Transcribed from handwritten notes.

January 9th 9:13 am

Got an early start this morning. Still snowing when we headed out. Before we left I handed Pastor Tom a gun and asked him if he would have a problem using it. He told me that the wraiths were not of God and anything not of God's creation was fair game. Then he pulled the slide back, checked the barrel and the magazine before holstering the .45. He obviously knows a thing or two about handguns. As for coming up against any human opposition he said that he could shoot in defense only, but would try to broaden his definition of self defense as the circumstances demanded.

Before I could object Emily hopped in the open back door of the tow truck. The floor of the truck is just over three feet so it was actually a pretty impressive leap. I was afraid that Dee would object, but she told Emily to take care of Daddy. Emily has made herself quite comfortable in the back seat.

The wipers are having a hard time keeping up with the snow. Its a damn blizzard. The heater in the towtruck is doing a good job of keeping up so far. Tom is a good driver but we are having to take it slow. Of course the road has not been plowed and is almost invisible under the snow. We catch brief glimpses of the blacktop where the wind has scoured the snow off the road, but unless the road is lined by trees, most often our only indication that we are even on the road at all is a road sign here and there, some mile markers and cars piled up along the side of the road.
We are taking MO-32 east and then north on MO-OO or "MOO" as the voice directions my computer pronounced it when I was printing out the map. Moo will take us to 64 and that will put us within 3 miles of where Billy lost Radar contact with Kyle.

Even with the grey skies I am wearing my sunglasses. Everything is white and my eyes are having a hard time. In anticipation of the headache I know I will get otherwise I have already taken three Excedrin. Washed down with the coffee from the big stainless steel thermos Beverly handed me this morning.

We spent the night in the Uni last night. It was far more private than the church and what we were doing out there, really should not be done in a church. I slept pretty good after that with Beverly there beside me.

Right now the Beatles are playing on the CD player. I am a little surprised by Tom's taste in music. I expected gospel or maybe some old symphony. Tom just looked at me when he slid the CD in and said "Hey I'm human." He even confessed to liking the Rolling Stones and ZZtop.
The towtruck has a plow mounted on the front and Billy explained the operation to both me and Tom. He also gave us a pack of some other gear that might come in handy. A pair of night vision goggles, a flare gun and a few other goodies I hope we won't need.
Wonderful, looks like we got a tree across the road.

2:30 pm

Managed to get the tree pulled out of the way with no problem. I took over driving for a while. had to drive barefoot because my socks and boots were soaked through. Got the boots set up in the back with one of the rear heater vents blowing into them. Tom's boots were set up on the other side the same way. Emily quite thoroughly investigated both sets of boots. I warned her that her life would depend on how she treated my boots. She huffed and left them alone. Fortunately I brought a couple changes of clothes. You never know what may happen and it's too friggin cold out there to be parading about wet clothes.

We stopped at a Sinclair station in Boliver and syphoned some diesel out of a van sitting at the pumps. Just topping of the tank really. We have only covered a little over 30 miles. Emily took care of her business while we were setting up the syphon pump. We had lunch in the cab of the truck with the motor running while the wind whistled around the truck. Every now and then a gust of wind will rock the truck.

Going to have to find some dog food for Emily. I did not plan on her when I was provisioning the truck.

8:45 pm

We have managed to cover another 30 miles since lunch. As much as I hate to, we have had to stop for the night. The weather is still bad and if we try to drive any further we would wind up missing a turn and wrapping the towtruck around a tree or something.

We are at the crossroad of 32 and Moo. There is a a Conoco on the northwest corner and a farmhouse on the northeast corner. The farmhouse has a fireplace and stacks of wood out back. So we will be warm tonight. Emily checked out the house for us, sniffing all around the house before finally going to the front door and scratching for us to hurry up and open the damn door, cause its cold out here.

I sure hope that Kyle has found shelter. I shudder to think of anyone forced to endure this with only the thinly insulated fuselage of the plane between him and the unforgiving elements.
I have found out a lot about Tom in this time. He served in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2005 as a field medic. He tried med school after he got and found that was not for him. During that time he got involved in a local church, got married. To the wrong woman as it turns out. Two years later she cleaned out his bank account. He'd had over 32 thousand saved up, mostly from his unspent military pay. She took their daughter to California and refused to allow visits or communication. The girl OD'd on his ex-wife's pain medication. His wife was hooked on Oxy and was careless about where she left them. His daughter Olivia was Dee's age when she found the "candy" her mother usually kept in her purse, just sitting on the coffee table. She was cold by the time her mother woke up and called 911.

Tom confessed that as much as he preaches forgiveness, he has a hard time with that himself and is still angry at his ex-wife. But he did find himself more immersed in the church than ever and that eventually led him to where he is now.

We found plenty of food in the pantry and we will be having a hot meal as soon as Tom finishes cooking it in the fireplace. Nobody really seems impressed by my attempts at the culinary arts. There was even big plastic bin with Kibbles & Bits for Emily.

9:30 am - the 10th Monday I think

The day broke bright and clear this morning. I am confident that we will be able to reach the area where Kyle went down by this afternoon no problem.

We moved a pair of couches close to the fire. Before turning in Tom said prayer asking God to watch over Kyle and guide us to him, as well as watch over our loved ones back in Stockton. He is so down to earth at times it is easy to forget that he is a Pastor.

We were up and 4:30 this morning. Emily saw to that. She was barking and whining to be let out. Tom fixed breakfast while I searched the bedrooms for some warmer socks. Both pairs of socks I had were getting a bit smelly and they itch. I also grabbed some warm clothes for Kyle when we find him. It was only supposed to be a few hours at most so I don't think he brought any spares along with him.

My leg was really bothering my this morning so Tom is driving.

6:37 pm

We spotted the plane wreck around 2 pm. It was not as bad as I expected. He landed with the gear up. I don't know whether that indicates he lost power completely before landing or if he decided trying to land in the snow with the gear down would cause the plane to flip. Kyle is an experienced pilot so I imagine that may be the case. There were what appeared to be bullet holes all along the right side of the small plane.

The plane came down on the south side of 64 moving southwest. It narrowly missed some winter bare trees and skidded through an empty field. He could not land on 64 itself as there is an overturned tractor trailer rig across the road. It slid about 500 feet coming to a stop less than twenty feet from a line of trees. One of its wings were clipped off by a tractor but the rest of the little Cessna was intact. We found tracks leading east. We trudged through the snow on foot. The snow and wind had done a pretty good job of filling them but they were still faintly visible. Emily bounded ahead of us and raced back seeming to urge us on. There was a big house just past some trees. The tracks lead there. Why he headed for this house, over one hundred yards away when there was a trailer park half that distance away. But I guess a trailer park is not as inviting.

About 50 yards away Emily suddenly stopped. Her bladder cut loose and she hunched over like she had been smacked. There is only one thing I have ever seen her react so strongly too. But Kyle's tracks clearly lead to the house. My heart sank. If they found him already injured then he did not stand a chance.

But we had come this far we had to at least check it out. I signaled Tom to stand back with his gun ready while I checked it out. I crept up as quietly as I could. The snow muffled the sound of my cane quiet well. Normally it thumps loudly enough that I can be heard walking all across the church. Tom kept watch with the rifle held ready and the .45 visible in his holster. I crept around to the front of the house. One of the two garage doors was open. I paused there a moment peering into the darkness. I could see little past the big SUV parked there with its driver side door open. Tom signaled me that he would keep an eye on it while I checked the front door. I did not want to get caught in that garage with little room to maneuver if I encountered a wraith. There was a big bay window to get around to the front door which recessed giving the porch a sheltered area. There were a pair of tall windows on either side of the door. I could see signs that someone had been inside recently, but could not see Kyle. I had to go all the way around to the back before I saw Kyle, apparently sleeping on a couch in the family room. A fire was burning low in the fireplace. But there were no signs of the wraiths.

That was when I remembered the CB transmissions I intercepted from Springfield about them sleeping in basements. The first basement window I found was covered by a thick mucous like substance. At the second I found I could barely see in at all. I almost jumped out of my skin when Tom tapped my shoulder to hand me a flashlight. I again peered into the basement, but now I could see them huddled one on top of the other. In the darkness it was impossible to tell where one black mass ended and another began. But I would say that there had to be at least thirty of them.

Now, how to get Kyle out without waking the wraiths. The house was starting to warm up. The snow was already beginning to melt off the roof. When it got warm enough the wraiths would smell prey and find him. Already some of them were beginning to stir. I peeked into all the rest of the windows to get a better feel for the layout of the house. Then I sent Tom back for the pack Billy sent with us. I already had a plan.

I fully expected Emily to go back to the truck with Tom, but she stayed with me. You just can't get that kind of loyalty from most people.

Tom arrived with the truck quicker than I thought. Without a word he tossed me Billy's pack and started dropping the sandbags from the back of the truck into the basement window wells. He had obviously already caught onto my plan. We would have to get more sandbags for traction later.

I took one of the little explosives packs Billy had given us and removed the explosive. I just needed the little thermal detonator he told me about. The little explosive could not be guaranteed to get them all and the goal was to get Kyle out not blow him up with the house. But the stairs were wooden and accessible through the kitchen which had a door into the garage. There were two five gallon gas cans in the garage. I left my cane outside the garage and limped across the kitchen floor with the gas cans. I crept as far down the basement stairs as my trembling legs would allow and began emptying the gas cans on the stairs. Simply blowing them up might have allowed the beasts to leap up and out of the basement. I wanted them to stay where they were. Tom, during this time was entering through the front to retrieve Kyle. Tom is 55 but still very fit. He could get an adult man in a fireman's carry and get out of the house with him, but I could not. As soon as I was up the stairs I took the detonator and set it for thirty seconds. I intended to set it on the top of the stairs, but my hands were trembling a bit and the blasted thing rolled down the stairs. You would not think such a little thing would make so much noise. It came to a stop in a puddle at the foot of the stairs right under the snout of a fully awake wraith. The abomination sniffed at the puddle of gas , looked up and howled up at me. I could hear each second tick on the wind up timer. It would be on me well before the time wound down. I started backing out of the kitchen as it was coming up the stairs. I heard Tom shout from outside "Clear!" At least I knew two of us would be getting out.

At the top of the stairs the thing paused as there was an audible click from behind it. I turned and ran. I actually dove across the tiled kitchen floor. Before I had slid halfway across flames were erupting from the basement stairwell. The wraith tried to leap clear but was engulfed in flame. I hit the screen door between the kitchen and the garage knocking it off its hinges, thanking God for cheap, crappy, Chinese timers as the wraith howled in pain behind me.
Running out of the garage in an almost blind panic I was tackled by Tom. He quickly got off me and flipped me over on my back. I heard a sizzling hiss as the fire on my backside was put out. I will be wearing a hat for the rest of the winter or till my hair grows back.

He handed me my rifle and ran around to the backside of the house. Together we both stood watch, shooting any wraiths that tried to escape the burning house. Only when we were both sure that their were no survivors could we afford to turn our attention to Kyle. He was awake, sitting on the drive near the truck.

He's in pretty good shape with just a few cuts and bruises. He might possibly have a cracked rib but that's it. We did not waste any time getting out of there.

The Springfield community is more like a small gang of thugs according to Kyle. The are gathering food and supplies, but even from the air it is easy to tell there is not a lot of true cooperation. The only thing they have in common is that they appear to be unwilling to share anything with anybody. They started shooting at him as soon as he was spotted. He confessed that he did not maintain radio silence entirely by choice. The radio was the first thing hit when they shot at him. When it became obvious that his fuel system was compromised he tried to make it as far as possible and burn off as much fuel as he could before setting down.

I needn't have worried about the clothes as he keeps an emergency pack in the back of the plane with a first aid kit and cold weather gear. A pilot buddy of his had to set down in Alaska once because of engine problems. It was two cold days before he was found shivering in a light denim jacket and jeans.

He had no idea he was sitting on top of a nest of the beasts.

My hands are cramping from all this writing so I will put this away for now.

Will be home soon.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dead Land Journal January 8th 2028

It's 12:43 in the morning. Kyle never made it back. Billy was able to track him on radar throughout his flight plan. Everything was going fine. He made the circle around Springfield made his approach dipped low over the town and off radar. This was planned, but still made for some tense moments for Billy watching in the tower. After six minuted and twenty-two seconds he came back up made his turn towards the airport, made and approach as if to check out the strip and then veer off to the south west. He had circled back for the return trip and was over and then just east of Lebanon he suddenly dropped off radar. Prior to that he had been flying somewhat erratically according to Billy.

Looking at the map of the area, my best guess was that he would have tried to land on MO-64. It has a reasonably straight section that he could land on. He maintained radio silence throughout the trip so apparently he did not like what he saw. The fact that he would rather risk being lost to us rather than possibly give away his position is scary.

By the time we can get there it will be far too dark to search. There is a full moon tonight, but the weather is turning against us. Why is it when something like this happens, the weather always turns foul. I cannot risk letting anyone go out there searching for him. Jeanette did not seem too understanding and started yelling and throwing things. Katherine was ready for this and had a syringe of Diazepam prepped for her. As soon as she was out I asked her if it was really necessary and safe. She said that it was ok at this stage as long as it was a one time use, and that her emotional distress was more likely to be harmful that the sedative. I don't like using any medication unless necessary. I know I take too much Excedrin but considering that Katherine has repeatedly offered me morphine for my headaches I think I am doing ok. We put Jeanette to bed and I ordered everyone else to get some rest.

I intend for Pastor Tom and me to be on the road by 5 am at the latest. Looking at it practically, the pastor and I are the most expendable. Mike is a good hunter and can provide for the rest, between Billy and Jewels I don't think that there is anything they can't fix.

We will be taking the tow truck. It is the most capable vehicle we have for these conditions. I would feel more comfortable with the Uni but it is a little top heavy for use in snow.

I can't sleep, it helps to write so I am sitting in the Uni typing away. I will let the Pastor drive the first shift and see if I can sleep then.

This is my fault.

Someone just came out of the church heading this way. I think it's Beverly. Probably coming out to bring me in.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dead Land Journal January 7th 2028

I had a talk with Kyle a couple of days ago and he has agreed to to a little aerial reconnaissance of Springfield, maybe see if he can find out what is going on down there. But we would have to wait till the weather warmed up enough for us to clear the runway. Billy wanted to go south and check them out but I figured this is the best bet. I think it would be too risky to go by car.
This morning the sky was clear and the weather warm. By eleven Mike and Billy had plowed the runway and Kyle had the Cessna gassed up and checked out. Jeanette was there to see him off. She was worried but trying not to let it show. I gave them a little privacy for their goodbyes.

The Cessna's motor fired up right away and he taxied the small plane down the runway, throttled up and took off. Jeanette watched as his plane disappeared to the east. The plan is to circle around and come at Springfield from the south to avoid giving away our position. He will make a clockwise path there and a counter clockwise path back. Circling around, he will maintain a distance of 40 miles. This will be far enough out to not be seen or heard in town.

Mike asked if it would not be a better idea to circle out 50 miles instead of forty. I pointed out to him that we are only 40 miles out from Springfield. If they could see or hear us at that distance why bother going to the effort to not be seen or heard only to give ourselves away on takeoff and landing. It would add about a hundred miles to the trip use more fuel. Kyle wants to have as wide a safety margin with his fuel as possible. And I don't blame him. Car runs out of gas, your stranded on the side of a road with gas can in your hand and your thumb out for a ride. But in the air your options a bit more limited.

He says he will be able to do that without having to refuel. The Cessna has a range of about 700 nautical miles or just over 800 miles. Why can't a mile just be a mile. Why do we have to have nautical miles, international miles, survey miles, not to mention a different "mile" for every major country. Anyway we figured it up on the Google Earth and his projected flight plan would be about 400 to 425 miles. After doing his flyover he will head south west to further throw them off his trail. The Cessna is a fast plane to and will be well out of sight before they can get another plane in the air and that is if they have a pilot and a plane ready. Which is doubtful.

Jeanette was quiet on the return trip. She is worried that Kyle won't come back. I tried to reassure her. When Lisa got pregnant she was worried that something would happen and she would lose the baby. I told her that everything would be OK. I promised her. She needed almost constant reassurance. The morning of the accident I again swore to her that everything would be alright. Anyone reading this journal knows how that turned out. I don't make promises like that anymore.

I left Billy back at the tower. There is a backup generator for he tower and we got it running. It's a diesel so there were a few calls back to Jewels for advice. Billy has a knack for just about anything electronic. So he was able to figure out the tower's systems in short order. He sure missed his calling. He will be monitoring the radar and watching for Kyle's return.

Kyle estimated that it would only take him 3 hours flight time. He left at 12:30 and according to my watch it's 3:45 now. Billy has not reported seeing him on radar yet. But I told Kyle to take his time. I have to tell myself not to get too worried just yet. I hope I did not make a mistake sending him down there.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dead Land Journal January 1st 2028 New Years Day

It's a brand new year. We had a rather small celebration last night. Really, none of us felt like partying. Why celebrate something as empty as the passage of time. Billy did have a bit too much to drink and made a few passes at Katherine that were shot down faster than a French soldier can run up a white flag. The kids shot off some fireworks at midnight. Billy somehow managed not to blow up anything he wasn't supposed to although his big fireworks finale involved launching a small garden tractor into the air with a home made catapult and detonating a C4 charge in it's fuel tank. Fortunately he got the trajectory right and the debris landed well away from anything vital.

I think Billy has been given waaay too much free time.

At midnight Kyle and Jeanette were curiously absent and when they did show up both looked a little ruffled and flushed.

After the smoke cleared Pastor Tom lead us all in a prayer. It was a beautiful and moving prayer. But I was too fuzzy to remember any of it this morning.

I don't drink.

I Don't Drink.


I have been drunk exactly 12 times in my life. And each time I tell myself this in the morning. My head feels like it was used as a golf ball and then screwed back on too tight and crooked. I am trying to type quietly because the typewriter sounds like a hammer striking an anvil, inside my skull. I wonder how much Excedrin I can take before my liver claws its way out of my belly to die peacefully under a table somewhere.

I don't drink because I don't know when to stop. I don't think I made too much of a fool of myself. My bad leg pretty much kept me seated most of the evening. I'm not sure, but I think I serenaded Beverly last night. Around 2 in the morning she helped me into bed talking to me as one would a small child. She undressed me and I think she even tucked me in.

Katherine has been entirely unsympathetic this morning. Not just to me but all of us poor souls that overindulged in spirits last night. She greeted me like she was addressing a lecture hall full of students with no PA system. Sounded like a damn bullhorn in my ear. But she did promise to give me something for the hangover.

I do NOT drink!

I think I need to go throw up now.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dead Land Journal December 24th 2027

Finally snowed day before yesterday. There's at least 8 inches on the ground. Dee is thrilled, she spent most of the day out playing in the snow. Katherine assures us that the wraiths would be dormant in temperatures below 35 and the highest temperature that registered on the thermometer today was 29. Beverly and I took Dee sledding this afternoon. I think Katherine wanted to come, but she chose instead to spend the day in her motor home going over some research. Mike and Stacy tagged along too. Stacy put Dean down for his afternoon nap before accompanying us. We all took turns going down he hill on the sled. I only made two trips down before my knee decided that it'd had enough. It wasn't really the trip down, but trudging up the hill was too much. I did not make the trip up the second time. I shouted encouragement at the bottom of the hill as the others shot down the slope. I snapped a few shots of Dee and Stacy coming down together on the sled. One is a real keeper. Stacy had lost her hat and her blond hair was streaming behind her, cheeks and nose red from the cold, huge grin on her face as Dee squealed the whole way down.

I was wondering how I would make the trip back up the hill until Billy came out in one of the ATVs and gave me a ride up.

After half an hour Stacy decided to head back. Dean was surely awake by that time. I tried to assure her that Jeanette would be more than happy to take care of Dean while she was gone. But I think that may have been the problem, she is afraid that one of us well meaning adults will take Dean from her. I have no intention of doing so. She did a superb job of taking care of him by herself for so many months. But I do want to make sure that she has all the help she needs to take care of Dean and that she herself has a chance to just be a kid sometimes, like today.

Dee wore herself out after two hours and Jeanette took her in. By this time Mike had found a snowboard from somewhere. I don't know whose bright idea it was, but a rope was soon tied to Billy's ATV and Billy was pulling Mike up and down the hill and jumping snowdrifts. I figured someone needed to stick around to call for help if one of them broke their damn fool neck.

Miraculously no one was severely injured, although the ATV failed to make it back in one piece. I felt sure that we would be burying someone as one of the Kawasaki's front wheels rolled past me. I hobbled to the scene as fast as my bad leg would carry me. But by the time the snow settled it was already apparent that no one was hurt.

I gotta be honest, I was a little jealous. I did my share of stupid stunts when I was a kid. Like the time I quietly climbed out the rear window of my Dad's station wagon and rode on the roof with my feet hooked into the cargo rack. Arms spread out for balance and the wind in my face. We lived in a little subdivision of town homes and there were speed bumps throughout the neighborhood, so we could not have been going more than 25 mph. But still by the time we got home most of the neighbors had seen me on the roof of Dad's '65 Chevy Wagon. Not really an inconspicuous vehicle. By the time we got home my Mom was standing on the porch looking furious. My Dad got out of the car, glancing back just in time to see me climbing down from the back of the station wagon. I was never in so much trouble in all my life. But I would not trade that moment for anything.

I ushered Billy and Mike back to the church, scolding them for destroying the ATV. But I don't think either one of them was really taking me too seriously. The snowballs they pelted me with were a pretty good indicator. That's OK I was a 9th level snowball warrior back in grade school and clobbered them both.

Tomorrow is Christmas, so after Dee is asleep us adults will do the final decorating and set the presents under the tree.

I love Christmas.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dead Land Journal December 12th 2027

Stacy has shown herself to be more than just a precocious twelve year old girl. She has a sharp mind and an ability to cut through complex problems and find a simple solution. While I was struggling with pumps at gas stations, she was simply syphoning gas from cars. She taped wood blocks to the pedals on the SWAT van so she could reach the pedals better. She taught herself how to drive and shoot. She went to book stores and found out everything she could about taking care of a child.

Katherine did a complete exam of the toddler and found him to be clean, well fed and in excellent health. But Stacy refused to submit to an exam.

She is fascinated by Billy's guns and demolition gear and Billy is happy to have a protege. Katherine disapproves, but she disapproves of everything. I think she is afraid that Billy will molest her or something. I don't think we need to worry about that though. Stacy would probably drop light bulb in his pants and kick him in the groin if he tried. Besides Billy may be a horndog but not a pervert. I think he is pining for Katherine. So that confirms he is not a pervert, just a masochist.

Dee is thrilled to have someone a little closer to her own age and Stacy is more than willing to babysit. As tough an image as she tries to project, she is still a child, and still yearns for a sense of normalcy and family. Just my startling insight at work.

We've got the church all decorated for Christmas. Dee wanted to put a tree in every room but we settled on one big tree in the sanctuary and a smaller one in the nursery.

Dee asked me if Santa would still come this year since everyone else was gone. Then the started crying because she was afraid that Santa was gone too. Beverly told her that Santa was eternal and would always come where there were good children and that seemed to reassure her.

The weather has been crappy lately. We have had a couple of snows, but now the weather is warm and the snow has melted leaving the ground a muddy quagmire. It has been raining almost constantly. The sky is the color of slate the seems to hang low, almost feels like you would scrape your head on it so you wind up walking with your head down and shoulders hunched. The light that filters through seems to be exactly wrong for my eyes and the greyness seems to stab at them.

I have had an almost constant headache. I have been taking Excedrin three or four at a time up to six times a day. I feel like my right eye is about to pop out of my skull.

I wish it would either snow or clear up. Anything for a change.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Story Update - new title?

I started this story when I was twelve. Back then the title sounded cool. Hell, I thought the TV show Quark was cool. I was just a kid so I can be excused for that I think. But now I am looking for a new title and would welcome suggestions.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Dead Land Journal December 8th 2027

Beverly and I had a successful holiday shopping expedition yesterday. Some might argue that the ability to just walk into any store you want and walk out without having to worry about money somehow cheapens the meaning. But they have never had to worry about being eaten on the way to the mall. Boliver is southeast of Stockton, well away from the settlement in Springfield, so we headed there. Beverly told me there was a Wal-Mart there and just about everyone in Stockton would go there for anything they could not get at Dollar General or Woods Market.
Dee was initially upset that we did not take her with us but Jewels pacified her by promising to play one of her new Disney movies and some Tom & Jerry cartoons.

By the time we made it to Boliver I had pretty much blabbed my life story to her. She listened quietly, asking gentle prodding questions when I lapsed into silence. I even told her of the nightmare I had when Dee was taken.

The stretch of road between the Stockton and Boliver has already been cleared by Mike and Billy in the tow truck. Evidence suggested that Billy used some creative methods for removing some of the vehicles. Recently burned and blown up vehicles littered the road along MO-32. At least there were signs that one of them had the good sense to use a fire extinguisher.

At Wally World we found everything on our lists. I think we went a little overboard on gifts for Dee. Candyland, a personal video player loaded with a little over a hundred Disney movies and cartoons, about four dozen plush animals, a pink Power Wheels Corvette and a sturdy rechargeable flashlight/lantern. Her fear of the dark has magnified to epic proportions since our incident in that basement on Chestnut.

Several times I caught Beverly staring at me. I have to admit that I am finding her more attractive the more time I spend with her. I don't know what she sees in me though. I guess when the only other males around are a skinny 17 year old boy, a 77 year old man, Billy Parsnips and a 47 year old married man. Stacked up against them I guess I do look pretty good.

I remember holding a big stuffed dog with floppy ears up and asking Beverly If she thought Dee would like it. Beverly said she did not know which was cuter, the dog or me. She left the already overflowing shopping carts and moved in closer to look at the dog, or so I presumed, but when she leaned in to read the tag, she kissed me instead. It was shy and tentative at first, but it quickly became more aggressive. I don't even know who started undressing who first. I vaguely remember thinking that it was dangerous to allow ourselves to get this distracted. Afterwards we found it difficult to imagine giving any of the remaining stuffed animals to Dee. They had all been witnesses. The ones in the cart were still innocent as there was no way they could have seen. Sometimes I think I watched Toy Story too many times as a kid.

She retrieved my cane and helped me to my feet. Yes, I am using a cane. May be for a while too, at least till my leg heals a little better. But it's a helluva nice cane though. Jewels made it for me. Sledgehammer handle with a U-haul 2 5/16" quick change tow ball for the head. Makes a real comfortable grip.

We also found a 12 year old girl coming in the main entrance of the Wal-Mart. She was carrying a toddler in camouflage Kangaroo pouch and an M-16 slung over her shoulder. I did not even know they made those Kangaroo pouches in camo. As soon as she saw me she brought the gun up and chambered a round. The only thing that kept her from cutting me in half with a stream of bullets from the M-16 was Beverly's presence. I have found on more than one occasion a woman or child's appearance can have a calming influence.

Her name is Stacy Phillips. Once she found out we had no hostile intentions she was eager to talk. She has been taking care of the boy since she found him at the hospital. He was just three months old when she found him. She was in the ER after bumping her head on a side pillar of mother's minivan. According to his wristband his name was Dean Griffitts. She did not know why he was there, but her and Dean were the only ones in St. Johns' Hospital in Lebanon. She fled Lebanon, not because of wraiths, though she has since encountered them, but because the town's one remaining survivor thought that God had left her there as a reward for wishing the human vermin off his Garden. He called her Eve and tried to take her back to his "Garden of Eden". She grabbed a toaster that had been knocked out of a wrecked moving van. Using the cord to swing it by, she beat him senseless and made her escape. That was when she started carrying the M-16 wherever she went. It really came in handy the first time she met a wraith.

She and the baby are in great shape, both clean and well fed. She is driving a damn SWAT van that she gasses up from gas syphoned off from other cars. There is even a proper car seat belted into the passenger seat. The van does not have airbags so I guess that is ok. She was a little reluctant to come with us till I assured her that we would not be forcing her to give up Dean. She has become rather attached to him and has done a fine job taking care of him. But to be perfectly honest, I think she would take a crowbar to my knees if I tried. That girl had mean streak to her. Kinda reminds me of a younger version of Katherine. But I guess that is what it takes to survive now.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Story Update - Correction

During my writing tonight I became aware of a typo that could cause some confusion. The error has been corrected. It was in the 9-22-09 entry titled Dead Land Journal October 1st 2027. The entry originally stated that Beverly Bledsoe was 37 years old. This should have been 27. The error has been corrected, so no one has to e-mail me pointing out the errors in my math.

Dead Land Journal December 6th 2027

I have been spending a lot of time with Beverly lately. She really took care of me after my ordeal in the hole. Well, Katherine patched me up, but it was Beverly that changed my bandages, cleaned my wounds and helped me get around. She really opened up last night about herself and her past.

Her biological father was killed in Hurricane Katrina. Her stepfather was a friend of the family that took Beverly, her mother, brother and her two sisters in. Her youngest sister was sick with pneumonia. Her future stepfather was a nurse and helped take care of the child. Despite numerous hospital stays several courses of antibiotics she continued to get worse. In the spring of '06 she passed away. By July her mother and stepfather were married.

It did not take her stepfather too long to show his true colors. And as eldest child Beverly took the brunt of it. I won't go into details here though.

Like most child abusers, her stepfather was adept at making Beverly feel like the abuse was all her fault.

But when her stepfather was caught stealing drugs from the nursing home he was working at he lost his job and lost control. He beat up Beverly's mom so bad she ended up in the hospital. She filed charges and he skipped town. Beverly never saw him again.

She spent most of her high school life trying to avoid drawing too much attention to herself. So she was caught completely off guard when Steve Bledsoe, aka Steamroller, began showering her with attention. He was the running back on the high school football team. He earned his nickname obviously by his ability to steamroll his way through opponents lines.

They married right after graduation and in '20 a baby boy was born. They named in Joshua after Steve's grandfather. He took a job selling cars at his father's Toyota/Lexus dealership. She became a stay at home mother, wife and prisoner.

Her husband turned out to be a kindred spirit to her stepfather. This particular breed of monster seems to leave marks on their victims that others of their kind can read. Her husband told her in no uncertain terms that he would kill her if she left him, he even threatened to make Joshua pay for her sins. He had a big family, his father was one of the wealthiest men in the county and two of his brothers were sheriff's deputies. She was trapped but good.

But, his drinking and steroid use in high school contributed to his declining health. He was diagnosed with diabetes and congestive heart failure a couple of years after they were married. After years of "walking into doors" and "falling down stairs" she found life to be easier if she always made sure that was plenty of whiskey and beer in the house. As a diabetic he was supposed to stay away from alcohol but he would beat her when there wasn't booze available. The alcohol would lower his blood sugar and he would eat a few Snickers bars to compensate. If it overdid it with the candy, he would shoot up with insulin. This kind of up blood sugar roller coaster really took its toll on his health. By '25 he was dead.

She moved to Little Rock and Leanne Bledsoe, her former sister in law, a woman quite aware of her brother's abusive nature and the only sympathetic member of her deceased husband's family, took her under her wing and taught her accounting and tax preparation so she could support herself. At the time of the disappearance they were full partners in a thriving little business with close to 250 regular clients.

Despite everything she is a remarkably resilient and caring woman. She is stronger than she thinks and has absolute patience. Where other women would have broke and run, she watched and waited. When the time was right she saw to it that he had what he needed to put himself out of her misery. All it took was just to make sure that he ran out of candy bars some time when the family knew he had forbidden her to go shopping for some reason or another, and make sure he had plenty of whiskey. It was not a clean death, but it was a mess of his own making.

At the time of the disappearance, she was sitting in the operating room of an oral surgeon's office to get a tooth pulled. Fortunately they had been finished. She woke up alone and nauseous from the anesthesia. She wandered the building for a few hours not even sure how to find her way outside. She wound up sleeping on the floor of the waiting room for a couple of hours. When she awoke the second time her head was clearer, but the hole where her molar had been was hurting like mad. She found her prescription at the front desk and filled it herself at the pharmacy on the first floor before heading out. She left payment in cash for medication at the desk. It did not even occur to her at the time how much trouble she could get into for going behind the pharmacist's counter. Her first thought was that the building had been evacuated for some reason. But the Park Plaza Mall was huge and would not have been easily evacuated. The mall was completely silent except for the fountains and a muzak system in one of the nearby shops. She tried to call out on her cell phone and only got voicemail and recordings. 911 was just giving out a recording.

Leanne had given her a ride in and was supposed to pick her up. Beverly's car was still at the office. She had no transportation. Out in the parking lot it was evident that there would be no cabs or buses running. The parking lot was a mess of wrecked cars. The intersection of Markham and University was a mess and there were several car fires burning there under the traffic lights. There was a bus lodged in the IHOP. She went to the parking garage and found a key fob for a small electric scooter. She made her way as fast as she could to Joshua's school, but no one was there. Paint and brushes littered the floor of the classroom. They were in the middle of art class. She found Josh's backpack at his desk. It was open and his drawing tablet was on his desk. A picture of a horse was laid out on the table. It was not quite finished but it was still good. Joshua loved horses.

She pulled the picture out of her purse. She smoothed it out. There were tear stains on the paper, and I knew there would be more before we were done. The kid shows or showed some real talent for a 7 year old.

She cried on my shoulder, I comforted her as best as I could.

On a more positive note, Beverly and I are going to go Christmas shopping tomorrow.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dead Land Journal December 5th 2027

It is with a great regret that I am discontinuing the automatic radio broadcasts. I presented the recordings of the CB transmissions to the rest of our group, it was put to a vote and the general concensus is that it would be too risky to attract the attention of the Spingfield community. Until we know for sure that they are not a threat we will discontinue long range radio transmission and will rotate the radio frequencies we use on a daily basis. Won't do much good it they have a scanning monitor like I do.

Katherine just delivered her autopsy report on the adult wraith she has been examining. She seemed shaken. It takes a lot to rattle Katherine so this can't be good. Below is the full text of her report. Most of it goes right over my head, but what I do understand I don't like and some of it scares the shit out of me.

NAME OF EXAMINER: Dr. Katherine Cooper
DATE: 11-23-27
TIME: 22:31

The deceased is a specimen of unknown species or genus.
Body Weight: 136 kilos (302 lbs)
Length: 158 centimeters (62 inches)
Gender: both (see internal exam notes)
Age: unknown

The body is cold, rigor not present with the exception of the digits on the forefeet. Lividity is not visibly present (skin of subject is coal black). Hair is same shade of black as skin and very coarse, restricted to a heavy mane on top of head and extending down back to base of tail. Skin has a rubbery texture. The irides are black. Each pupil measures 1.75 cm. in diameter. The sclerae are black. There are no teeth, in their place are two pair of long flat appendages (2 cm wide 1 cm thick), very flexible and tough, covered with tiny but extremely sharp scales in arrayed down their entire length which measures 45 cm. At rest these appendages are curled tightly in the mouth. The tongue is broad and flat and can extend out about 45 cm. The esophagus is heavily muscled and very elastic like a snake's. Subject appears to have completely isolated nasal and esophageal passages. Head is roughly the shape of a flattened egg with broad flat nose and large lidless eyes protected by heavy scales. Ears are large and protruding like a bat's but musculature suggests these can rotate and fold flat at will. Mouth is a vertical slit. There are no bony mandibles and mouth is very elastic.

The thorax is symmetrical and barrel shaped like a horse. The abdomen is heavily muscled. Creature is essentially a quadruped but appears to be able to use forepaws as hands. Forepaws have six digits on right and five on left, although one looks to have been amputated in a nonsurgical manner on the left. Paws have large flat pads that seem to aid it in moving silently. Center two digits have radically over sized claws measuring 35 cm. Outer digits are flexible and capable of opposition. Hind paws have six digits, but without the opposition ability or exaggerated central claws. Tail is very thick and heavily muscled. There is both an anal opening at the tip of the tail and a hollow tipped stinger like appendage. There are no external genitalia.
I am having a hard time maintaining professional detachment. This creature is stirring up feeling of revulsion, anger and fear but mostly fear. Possible pheromonal involvement.


The thoracic and abdominal organs are arranged very differently from human or anything else I have ever seen. Opening the chest cavity one sees that the most obvious differences are two pairs of lungs and the apparent absence of a heart. The peritoneal and pleural cavities are almost totally devoid of serosanguinous and what is present is a milky blue color. This absence is most likely due to three deep penetrating wounds to the chest and abdomen by .45 caliber armour piercing rounds. The stomach is large and very elastic with an approximate 8 liter capacity when fully distended. The intestines appear very similar to human, but on a slightly larger scale. There are ovaries about where you would expect them to be but no uterus or cervix. Fallopian tubes carry the eggs through to a chamber at the base of the tail. A pair of testes are located under the skin amidst a very complex network of blood vessels whose function seems to be to regulate temperature. The eggs are fertilized in this chamber. The eggs grow here for a few days and develope a tough leathery shell about half a centimeter across. The eggs then move to the stinger where a venom gland will drive the eggs through the stinger into their new host.
Cardiovascular system.

This creature has no true central heart but instead, numerous small simple single chamber hearts throughout its body. Pericardial surfaces are smooth with no signs of abnormalities. I cannot make judgement on condition of the hearts without a average reference. Each major heart weighs 80 +/- 5 grams, but they range in size down to 5 grams. Hearts are placed in pairs along all the major blood vessels. There are only two simple valves in each heart measuring 10 mm in diameter for the largest in the abdomen and chest down to 1 mm for the small ones serving the digits. The endocardium shows no subendocardial hemorrhage, discoloration, fibrosis, plaques, or vegetations. The coronary arteries are patent. The pulmonary arteries are patent but with evidence of emboli. There is no evidence of discoloration, hyalinization. The renal arteries are unremarkable. The portal and systemic veins are smooth and widely patent.

I am unaware of any creatures other than Cephalopods that have a similar circulatory system. This arrangement would make catastrophic blood loss nearly impossible, it could shut off blood flow to any area that registered a drastic drop in blood pressure.

Respiratory System.

There is no larynx or epiglottis. The lungs weigh 318 grams each. The pleural surfaces are smooth and glistening. On cut surface, the pulmonary parenchyma is red-purple, congested, exuding a slight amount of blood and frothy fluid. The lower right lung has severe trauma damage and was filled with blood.

Gastrointestinal System.

Adhesions are not present on the peritoneal surface. The esophagus is heavily ribbed with strong elastic muscle. Color is tan. The stomach is lining thick, without rugae or ulceration. Contents suggest that as well as humans these creatures consume small animals whole. There was a partially digested rat and a small dog, terrier I think. Stomach acids are very strong and foul smelling. Lack of teeth explain both the consumption of small animals whole the internal organs of animals too large to swallow. Their unique mouth structures allow them to quickly remove and swallow the internal organs and leave the rest of the carcass virtually undisturbed. The small intestine reveals that the mucosa is not remarkable, and the serosa is free from metastasis. The large intestine is unremarkable. The liver weighs 2312 grams and lies within the costal margin. The hepatic capsule is smooth and glistening, covering dark red-brown parenchyma with no focal lesions noted. The gallbladder measures 8 cm. and contains yellow-green-brown, mucoid bile; the mucosa is velvety and unremarkable. The extrahepatic biliary tree is patent, without evidence of calculi. The pancreas is apparently absent.

Genitourinary System.

As with the lungs there are four kidneys. They are placed in the customary location for a quadruped but there are two pairs. The multiple redundancies in this thing are astounding. Each weigh 130 grams. The cut surface is red purple, with normal pyramidal architecture. The pelves are not dilated. The ureters are probe patent and do not appear dilated. The ureter travels down the length of the tail to an opening just under the anus. The bladder contained 350 milliliters of urine. There is no hypertrophy of the bladder wall. The mucosa is tan-gray, smooth and unremarkable. The prostate, seminal vesicles and testicles appear healthy but again I do not have a base comparison.

Hematopoietic System.

There is no visible spleen. The lymphatic system is extensive but appears to be inflamed. One of the nodes was nicked and seeping a thick yellow fluid. A sample has been taken for analysis.

Endocrine System.

The thyroid weighs 35 grams and is unremarkable. The right and left adrenal gland weigh 5.5 and 5 grams, respectively, and they are unremarkable. These consist of both the cortex and the medulla plus an additional structured of undetermined purpose. There are only two adrenals located on the inside kidneys.

Musculoskeletal System.

I have tried to X-ray this monster, but the images are coming out blurred and useless. I have a limited supply of film so must rely on surface exams until I can strip the carcass for a better skeletal exam. I can say that the creature has unique skeletal system. The skull is broad and flat, but the cranial capacity is actually greater than a human's. As stated before, there are no mandibles or teeth although there is a cartilaginous structure to the mouth to support the tongue and eating apparatus. The spinal column is heavily built but very well articulated allowing for a 90 degree bend using only three vertebrae. Two of the cervical vertebrae (C2 and C3) are shattered and the meninges and spinal nerve are shredded. The ribs can fold flat compressing the chest cavity to less than 10 cm vertically or horizontally.

Central Nervous System.

The brain is 1607 grams. Structure is radically different from human and will require further study before I am ready to put anything down on paper.

This creature is not of terrestrial origin and has no place in the terrestrial ecosystem. Indications are it is highly adaptable, intelligent and extremely resilient. Extreme aggressive behavior suggest this is an apex predator.

Cause of death is traumatic injury to the C2 and C3 vertebrae and corresponding injury to the spinal nerve.

To any possible medical colleagues reading this I apologise for my lack of professionalism in this, but I am not an medical examiner and this thing is really creeping me out. I challenge any of you to do better. I am heading to the shower as soon as I finish this.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dead Land Journal December 3rd 2027

I have hooked up a scanner that can read and convert printed documents into a text files compatible with most word processing programs. I am scanning all my journal entries into them as I go so I can edit later if I need to. The backup is on a 64 gig memory card in my wallet. I still type my journal entries on the Smith Corona, but I can now re-enter them on my computer without having to retype them.

Katherine is now using an old Underwood desktop typewriter to type up her records now. Her hard drive crashed and she lost some data. She confessed to me that she cannot afford to trust her computer now and her handwriting is not legible enough for even her to read. Most of it was backed on memory cards but there was some data loss. I was not aware that she had that much in the way of records, but apparently she has been keeping medical records on all of us, plus her research notes on the wraiths. She is preparing a report on the adult wraith that was still intact after they retrieved me. She has promised me a copy of it and I will add it to my journal when I get it.

I have been working on the radio setup in the Uni this week and am actually pleased with the progress I have been making. The setup is similar to that I was using back in Independence. It scans shortwave, am/fm and citizens band. As before everything is recorded and stored digitally for review later. I get a lot of false broadcasts on AM and FM that turn out to be just static. I am starting to pick up some shortwave broadcasts, most of them are foreign language, but there is a faint one I picked up three days ago in English. Very strong British accent though. I will need a more powerful transmitter before I can make contact though.

But what has really got my interest though is the CB transmissions I have picked up. CB is strictly short range so I don't think these can be more than 50 miles away.

After a few hours of going over the recordings I think what I am hearing is a stationary base dispatching a couple of scouts and foraging parties. The dispatcher sounds angry most of the time and there are frequent arguments. From what I have picked up from their conversations they are based at the Springfield Marine Corp Reserve training base. They are systematically hitting all the houses and stores in the area cleaning out all the food and supplies in the area. I have not heard more than seven distinct voices so I don't know what they can possibly do with all that food. They are also gathering all the guns and ammo they can find too.

They have had several encounters with wraiths and have one dedicated hunting party. The wraiths are nesting and possibly hibernating in the basement of houses now. Groups as large as twenty-five have been found huddled in basements. They are firebombing houses where they are nesting and just letting them burn to the ground.

The fact that they are killing the wraiths is not something I have a problem with, but the hoarding of food and weapons makes me uneasy.

I am getting a very bad feeling about this.

I will bring this up to the others in the morning, but it's late I should close up here in the Uni and go inside.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dead Land Journal November 25th 2027 Thanksgiving Day

It's Thanksgiving Day. Billy, Beverly and Pastor Tom have worked their tails off to prepare a fantastic feast for the occasion. Really, everyone else pitched in too, but those three were really the driving force behind it. I would have done more but everytime I try to do anything more strenuous than walk across the room Katherine scolds me.

It has been a solemn feast but I think despite the hardships, the others are starting to see that we can make it and that we do still have much to be thankful for.

Scratch's death was a blow to morale but we did gain another two people. They came in while I was down in the hole. Kyle and Jeanette Wilson. They are no more officially married than I am officially Dee's father. And there is a third Wilson on the way. In about three months. It would appear that the two of them met quite soon after the disappearance and took their duty to the continuation of the species to heart.

Katherine performed an exam shortly after their arrival and pronounced mother and daughter in perfect health. The expected arrival of a little one has been a tremendous boost to our spirits.

Both of them are New York City natives. Jeanette was born and raised on Manhattan Island and prior to 99%+ of the world population checking out with no forwarding address, she had never been off the island for more than a day trip to visit relatives in Queens. She's an architect and at twenty seven she was already studying to get her Masters of Architecture II degree. Kyle is a lawyer, specializing in fiduciary law and but he is also a pilot that used to fly as a hobby. Though he seems to have worked very hard to rid himself of it he still has a bit of a Bronx accent when he is agitated. There is a twenty year age difference between the two.

They have really had it rough though. In early May there were twelve survivors in their group. But they are the only ones of their group that made it out of New York.
Manhattan Island has a population of over 2.1 million people as of the 2020 census. We have estimated that between .01 and .1% of the world population might be left. Billy gives an overly optimistic figure of one percent and Katherine, our resident Pessimists Club President, insists it's closer to the .01 percent. So depending on who you believe there should be between 21,000 and 210 people left on Manhattan Island. I've split the difference and am leaning towards .1% leaving about 2100. It's a relatively small island but very densely packed.

It still has a large population but a population of wraiths.

Kyle put it like this. "Back in '93 my parents and I lived in a shitty tenement in the Bronx. Place was fucking infested with cockroaches. You would walk into the kitchen at night flip the switch and what looked like black and white marble counters would come alive, thousands of roaches would flee the light and when they were gone you would see that the counters were actually white, well except for the little spots of bugshit they leave everywhere. What you call wraiths are like that some places in New York."

By the mid June they were down to eight. The first was lost to appendicitis, then another fell down a flight of stairs and broke his neck. One died from food poisoning. One was beaten to death by another man (not a member of their group) for the crime of foraging for food in his territory.

It was becoming obvious by this time that they could no longer stay in the city. Jeanette put in that they could no longer walk past a bodega or market without holding their breath. There was plenty of water and food, but no sanitation. Rats were suddenly everywhere, worse than ever before. Fires were raging in spots throughout the city. And there was a growing sense of dread in the group, especially at night.
This got my interest as I noticed the same phenomena. None of the others seem to have mentioned this, but they were from small towns and farms. Now that I think of it Jewels did mention that during his trip to KC to find his daughter and grandson.
Their first encounter with a wraith resulted in two deaths. That was on June 21st. Probably the fact that they were a larger group had kept the wraiths away at first, but as their numbers dwindled they seemed less of a threat. The morning of June 22nd saw them packing up to leave.

The heavily congested streets were bad enough before, but now they were virtually impassable. Even a motorcycle or bike were often impossible to maneuver around. The subways were impassable. When Kyle mentioned the possibility of going through the tunnels he and I both shuddered. I wonder he read "The Stand" by Stephen King too.

By the time they reached the Tappan Zee Bridge they had lost another member of their party. The Tappan Zee was the closest intact bridge left to the west side of the Hudson. A large commercial cargo plane had taken out the George Washington Bridge. But to get there they had to get past the fires raging in Upper Manhattan. I remember reading once that with not one to stop them, fires would roll across Manhattan Island for 5 years before there was nothing left to burn. At the Henry Hudson Parkway Bridge an older woman wandered from the group, climbed the chain link fence and threw herself into the river.

Kyle said "As heartless as it sounds, we decided not search for her. If she truly wanted to die then that was her decision. I would not let the few survivors we had endanger themselves in a vain search for her. It would have put us all out well after dark in an already dangerous situation."

He looked a little ashamed but Jeanette gave his hand a squeeze and he continued on.

Once over the bridge they took refuge in the Simpson Memorial Living Christ Church. I think it's interesting that our two groups have routinely taken refuge in churches. But a church is often referred to as a sanctuary. I'm sure that Pastor Tom has some theories on that too.

There was an argument between Kyle and one of the other men of the group and he left with another woman. She came back the next day severely injured telling of another attack by the wraiths. She died of her injuries. That was the last straw for the remaining third member of their party. He left saying he'd had enough and was going the fuck home. Kyle and Jeanette made their way to a small airport where Kyle kept his vintage Cessna 210.

They have been hopping from from small airport to another looking for survivors. The scanner on the plane eventually picked up my original broadcast. They landed at a Lees Summit Municipal. Kyle said he learned after the first few tries to avoid larger airports as there were usually at least one or two planes down on the runway. That also happened to be the day after I changed my radio message. Once they heard that the left the KC area and headed south. The camped a few weeks before hearing my broadcast from the radio in the Uni. They waited until weather cleared and here they are.

Things are really starting to look up I thing, but what the hell do I know. Everytime I think things are looking good, shit hits the fan.

But it's Thanksgiving, must keep a positive attitude.

Back to the Feast. And a feast it was too. Wild turkey, venison roast, a couple of rabbits and a goose were all on the table. Candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole and a cheesy corn casserole, cornbread and fresh butter. For dessert, pumpkin pie and ice cream. And I almost forgot the cranberry sauce. This was in following the Nash family tradition left in the refrigerator and forgotten about. Of course all the fruit and vegetables were canned and the potatoes came from a box.

Tom led us in grace and each one of us in turn told of one thing that we were most thankful for this year.

Pastor Tom was thankful that God had seen fit to keep him here for those that would need him.

Mike thanked God for helping him to escape from the monsters. I'm pretty sure he did not mean the wraiths, but he did not elaborate.

Jewels was thankful for a well placed box van and a finicky Ford tractor.

Katherine was thankful for her kid brother's scraped knees and bloody noses. I would love to hear the story behind that.

Billy expressed his thanks for Katherine's ability to stitch him back together.

Beverly wanted to thank God for her ability to remember the tiniest details when they mattered the most.

Kyle and Jeanette were thankful for making it out of New York and finding each other.

I'm thankful that I didn't jump

But Dee was thankful for ALL of us even the ones that aren't here anymore. Especially Scratch.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dead Land Journal November 22nd 2027

Time: 20:03.
Date: 11-22-2027

For the sake of clarification I should start out by introducing myself. I'm Dr. Katherine Cooper. I'm sure James has mentioned me. We have been a constant thorn in one another's side since we met. I am making this journal entry on behalf of James Nash as requested by Mr. Fisher.

So I am sitting at this antique writing machine trying to figure out its operation.

We found James or to be more specific Mr. Parsons found him in the basement of a local house that was in the process of being swallowed by a sinkhole. After much difficulty he was retrieved from the hole he was lodged in. It took all the manpower available. The first obstacle was an infestation of the creatures James has dubbed "wraiths" to be dealt with. Mr. Parsons happily took care of them. His methods were crude but effective. Secondly a large chunk of concrete was resting on top of him. It was decided that it would be quicker and easier to break it up than to try to remove it whole. Mr. Fisher, who is surprisingly spry for a man of his advanced age and disability actually climbed down in the hole. He briefly surveyed the piece of concrete then drew an X on it with mud and told Mr. Parsons to hit it right there with a sledgehammer. The concrete shattered with the first blow. That was when we found the steel reinforcement rods running through his right leg. One above and one below the knee. Beverly and Pastor Tom were dispatched to the nearest hardware store for an appropriate power saw and extension cords. In the fifteen minutes they were gone Mr. Fisher and Mr. Parsons cleared as much rubble out of the way as they could without bringing more down on James. I stayed with him to monitor his condition.

The boy calling himself Scratch was dead at the scene. The cause of death was a massive head trauma. All of his internal organs were absent. But this occurred post -mortem. This phenomena has been described to me a couple of times but this is the first incident involving a human that has been seen.

The power saw made quick work of the steel bars, but the vibration caused the wounds to start bleeding again. During the extraction from the hole, James cried out only once and that was pathetically weak sounding.

In addition to the injuries to his leg, he has numerous small injuries and has suffered severe blood loss and hypothermia. I performed surgery on the leg to remove the steel bar and repair the arterial damage. The rod narrowly missed the saphenous nerve. Damage to this nerve would have caused severe loss of sensation in the leg. It was fortunate I was there, for had Mr. Parsons tried to remove the rods from James' leg it would have shredded the nicked femoral artery. As it was the bar was applying just enough pressure to slow the blood loss.

But what concerns me most is that James wants to die. The brief moments that he has awakened he has cried out to me to let him go and he has called out his dead wife's name numerous times. I have seen this too many times in the E.R.

I am going back to relieve Beverly as I have recruited her to watch James while I take a break.

Time 22:15

James is doing much better now. He is awake and his color has improved slightly. I credit his turnaround entirely to his adopted daughter Dee.

She was sitting on the edge of his bed babbling away happily when I came in and James was crying and smiling at the same time.

It should have been obvious to me. He must have thought Dee was dead. She was with him when fell into the hole in that basement. While there she encountered a trio of those beasts. She managed to hide under the basement stairs long enough for Scratch to find her. Scratch was looking for James to tell him that a small plane had been seen heading towards the local airport. Scratch grabbed Dee and physically threw her up the stairs. He could have easily escaped himself, but he chose to put himself in harm's way to rescue Dee. He shot one of the beasts before another attacked him from behind. Dee managed to escape by slamming the heavy wood door and running as fast as she could. She made it to James' motor home where she radioed for help. She was able to only give a vague description of her location. Fortunately she was able to see a firetruck protruding from a nearby house and eventually describe it to us. Mr. Parsons remembered seeing it while out foraging earlier this week. It did not take long to find her after that.

It took longer to bury Scratch than it did the Tudor girl. The ground is nearly frozen solid till you get down a couple of feet. Mr. Parsons made another elegant bronze headstone. He wished, as we all did that we could put Scratch's real name and maybe his birth date on it, but none of us ever knew it and he didn't have a wallet on him. That is not really too unusual now. I think the only one of us that still carries a wallet anymore is Mr. Parsons and it is chained too his belt. What use is cash, credit or ID anymore?

I expect James to make a full recovery. He will have to stay off his feet for a week or two. I am exhausted and my hands are not accustomed to using this primitive contraption. I wish James would use a computer or at least get an electric typewriter. I mean really, it's the 21st century Damn it!

I should have used the computer over in the clinic. But I have not been able to find the correct ink cartridge for the printer. I think I will just get another printer and hook it up.

That will be a pain in the ass.

Crap, I'm beginning to understand why he uses the typewriter now.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blogger Google and Webcomic Blues

Just spent half an hour fighting with Google and Blogger trying to get them to remember that I actually do have an account. For a few minutes I was afraid that all my content was lost. Have I ever mentioned that I HATE COMPUTERS? I mean they are great to work with when they work like they should but when they don't they can just suck the life right out of you.

It all started when I was trying to add a link to one of my favorite webcomics. You really should check it out. Girls with Slingshots. But then it wanted me to switch everything over to a new Google account because they are making BIG CHANGES with Blogger. That usually is not good. Then it didn't want to recognise my account info and when I tried my bookmarked link it told me that blog was deleted. Now is perfect time to panic! AAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!! I still have a double backup of everything, but it would be a pain in the ass to get it all back up again.

And then when I finally did get things back up and working like the should I checked the link I was trying to add only to find that GWS won't be posting a new comic for another 4 DAYS! Danielle Corsetto is taking a few days off to work on her new book covers.

I guess it's Karma the Friday cliffhangers I like to throw out on my story.

Dead Land Journal November 21st 2027

This is most likely my final entry. I am hoping that it will be found later and added to my journal...

Fuck that, I'm hoping that someone pulls me out of this hole. I don't want to die down here alone, in the dark. Even though I deserve it. But I know that eventually they will find me. I can hear them chittering and snuffling from up above. It is only a matter of time.

I have not been able to get a signal on my walkie talkie. My legs are banged up and pinned. Literally pinned. There are two pieces of steel rebar driven through my right leg. I have lost quite a bit of blood but I think that the rebar is actually plugging a hole and keeping me from losing even more blood. I have even considered cutting my own leg off, but even if I had a knife capable of cutting through my leg before I passed out from blood loss, I would be doing good to get out of this hole with both legs. Plus there is a big flat hunk of concrete from the floor across my lap that I can't move. I am using it as a sort of writing desk as a lay here.

I am in the basement of an old house on Chestnut, well actually about twelve feet under the basement floor. At least the foundation is old. Beverly told us that nearly the entire town was leveled by a tornado back in 2003. A lot of new houses went up on old foundations. A busted water main undercut the foundation of this house. I noticed the cracked floor coming down the stairs but did not think anything of it till a section collapsed under my feet.

Dee and I had been looking for a birthday present for Beverly. She has been wanting a sewing machine for quilting. I had found a few older used machines but nothing special. Not many places sell sewing machines anymore. At a supermarket bulletin board we found an ad for a woman offering sewing and alterations from her home. So Dee and I came here.

I would request that whoever finds this not tell Beverly why we were here. I don't want her to feel responsible for this.

The sewing machine was in great shape and I felt it would be exactly what Beverly wanted. So I was gathering up the miscellaneous boxes of thread, needles and other attachments while Dee played with some self propelled ball. It would roll itself around the room and bounce off the walls and other obstacles. I think it was supposed to be a cat toy. I did not notice that Dee had wandered off till picked up the sewing machine to carry out to the Uni. She was not anywhere upstairs or on the front porch. I heard her crying downstairs and went down to bring her up.

That stupid ball. She had chased it down to the basement when it rolled down the stairs. She had dropped the little electric lantern she was carrying and it broke. Paralyzed with fear of the dark and unable to even find her way back to the stairs she had curled up into a ball crying. I came downstairs, took three steps and here I am.

Dee stayed at the top of the hole in the floor and refused to leave. That was when I felt its presence. Dee suddenly cried out "Daddy Help!" and started screaming. I could hear everything as she tried to get away, boxes thudded to the floor causing more loose dirt and a couple of chunks of concrete to rain down on me, glass shattered on the floor. I heard gunshots and more screaming. The screaming abruptly ceased and then I heard a sound like loud slap and looked up into Scratch's dead eyes at the mouth of the hole before he was dragged back. This was followed by a sound like long zipper being opened up fast, and then a loud sucking, slurping noise. I pictured in my mind the dog being eaten by the wraith Jewels encountered, this was replaced in my imagination by Scratch. This in turn was replaced by n image too horrible to put down on paper.

I don't even know why Scratch was here.

That was hours ago. I think there is more than one but can't be sure. There has been a lot of coming and going. I'm sure that when one of them gets hungry enough it will come down here for me. They know I am not going anywhere.

Pastor Tom would be telling me that now would be a good time to start praying, but I really don't see what the point would be now. I completely failed Dee and everyone else. For the last hour I have been toying with the idea of just giving my leg a hard wrench to the side and letting myself bleed out. But the human survival instinct is a powerful thing. As much as I hate myself now I cannot bring myself to rush into that final punishment that awaits failures like me.

It's quite down here. Not a calm and peaceful quiet. More like a waiting and watching kind of quiet. There is the sound of dripping water that just makes one feel chilled just listening to it, occasionally dirt and pebbles will rain down on me from above and then there is the light scuffing of padded feet on a gritty cement floor or a raspy huff of breath.

It's so cold down here.

The battery in my flash light just gave out so I am writing this blind.

Maybe Tom was right.

This entry was transcribed from handwritten notes found later at the scene by Micheal Eastland.

© 2009 R. Keith McBride