Friday, April 1, 2011

Land of Shadows: Chapter XXIII - Oklahoma

Puck helped Sandy up into the truck. He had no idea why he did this, she was perfectly capable of climbing into the cab by herself. She smiled at him as she slid into the driver's seat of the of the big flatbed tow truck. He found himself momentarily mesmerized by the curve of her backside and the fit of her jeans. He tried to put himself in a clinical frame of mind by analyzing the musculature of her leg, but that backfired as he found himself remembering how strong and athletic she had been just this morning and a felt a rekindling of lust. This was tinted by a strong desire to see her smile at him as she had afterwards. That one smile had elicited feelings in him that were unfamiliar and frightening. Lust he understood, but not this. On impulse he reached out to snap her neck and once and for all put an end to this madness. Instead his hand caressed her neck and idly traced the shape of her ear. She shivered and told him that if he kept that up they would never get moving. He reluctantly fastened his seat belt and dropped his hand down into the seat between them. She turned and smiled at him saw the look on his face and the smile melted away.

"What's wrong, handsome?" asked Sandy as she turned back around to face him. But he had no answer for her.

* * *

Dee found the old relic in a recreation of an old trapper's cabin that had been built in the east wing of Bass Pro Shop. It was a 1930 Underwood portable typewriter. It was not as refined as her father's Olympia but it seemed to work fine, a little stiff from sitting but a shot of a aerosol carburetor cleaner in the segment and the escapement would loosen it up. A good machine oil applied sparingly only if needed because oil attracts dust. The ribbon was dry, but her father had taught her a trick to fix that. She should be able to find everything she needed here.

As the blizzard raged outside she found a quiet corner of the huge mall to update her journal. It was that or hang around camp listening to Allison and Olly bicker back and forth.

Dee closed the case on the liberated Underwood, leaving the half page she had typed in the case. Then she looked down at her fingers. It had been a bit messy but the WD40 had done the trick. A little bit sprayed on the ribbon had brought the ink out nicely. Now her fingers were stained from handling the ribbon but some alcohol would take care of that.

Tomorrow they would be on the trail again, but tonight she planned to unwind a bit.

* * *

Stepping across the Kansas Oklahoma border was like stepping from winter into summer. 

They found a big cinderblock building just off the highway that turned out to be a gun store with an indoor shooting range. Elias and the girl both took the opportunity to replenish their stock of ammunition. The guns were all perfectly preserved in the dry climate. Elias selected a vintage Winchester rifle. It was a model he was familiar with and he could almost always find ammo for it. He tested it out on the firing range after a thorough cleaning.

In the basement behind some crates he found a steel door. There was a huge padlock hanging loose from the hasp on the door. He considered just closing the lock but didn't like the idea of sleeping here without knowing what was on the other side of the door. Inside he saw what looked like an old Cold War era survivalists bunker. It was well stocked with canned goods and dried foods.

A huge old rat was gnawing open a box of old crackers nearby, unfazed by his presence. But a rat this size was actually a good sign. No wraiths nearby. Elias tossed a rusted and swollen can of beans at the rat missing completely. The rat looked at the can, looked at Elias and waddled lazily off, unimpressed.

Back behind some large shelves and racks was what appeared to be a well decorated little girl's bedroom. There was an expensive digital camera on a tripod aimed at the bed. On a desk just outside the taped off "walls" of the bedroom was a computer and printer, also on the desk were a few hundred round .22 ammo boxes filled not with bullets, but micro SD memory cards. Easily hidden, easily erased. He had little doubt what he would find were he to open the files they contained. An open folder under the desk with some color prints confirmed this. He looked behind him and sure enough she was shadowing him. She had said maybe ten words to him since she had shot her father. He sometimes tended to forget she was even there except when they were riding. She would sit behind him with her arm around him or clinging to his coat. She was terrified of Penny.

He quickly ushered the girl out of the bunker and locked the door before she could see photos.

After checking all the doors and windows they turned in. Penny was stabled in the shooting range and they were camped in one of the gun shop's stock rooms. Elias was confident that they would be within spitting distance of Houston within the week. If they survived that is.

* * *

The haze of smoke from the fires surrounding them was making it difficult to see what they were shooting at, but the fire was the only thing giving them any light. A wraith burst through a glass window to Dee's right but was dead before it hit the ground, its head reduced to a pulpy mass by Olly's pump action shotgun.

"I'm out!" Ally shouted from behind the counter she had taken refuge behind. Dee yanked a .45 from her belt, clicked the safety and tossed it to her. The gun crashed through the glass display case in front of Ally. Carefully avoiding the larger shards of glass that threatened to sever arteries if given half a chance and ignoring the smaller pieced that bit into her fingers, Ally snatched the weapon, disengaged the safety and fired a couple of rounds into the head of a wraith that was being held at bay by Duke. Dee's rifle clicked on an empty chamber so she switched to her sawed off shotgun. It was a short range weapon that had to be broke open after each shot, but would knock down a charging bull elephant with one shot. She might be able to get one or two of them before she was out. Then they would be on her.

The wall to Dee's left exploded out, raining drywall and splintered two by four studs out. The biggest master wraith she had ever seen, with claws nearly 2 feet long, burst through and landed right in front of her. She pumped her remaining two shells into the head and neck of the thing before she realized that it was already dead. Light was now blazing from the whole in the wall as the roar of the Hummer's engine filled the room.

Dotty leaned out the door and yelled at them to for Christ's sake get in. They did not need a second invitation. But before they could get in Dotty suddenly stiffened and tried scream. Two long curved swords erupted from just under her breasts and all she could get out was a sputter. The claws yanked upwards pulling Dotty out of her seat. Another pair of claws lashed out and decapitated her as neatly as a guillotine. There was, mercifully, no spray of blood from her severed neck as her heart had already stopped beating. The beast was dead from four gunshots to the head before Dotty's head hit the floor. There was no time to grieve or even to gather her remains before they had to flee. Dee sadly had to yank Dotty's body from the driver's seat and leave it there on the tiled floor next to the wraith that had killed her.

© 2011 R. Keith McBride

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