Machines of the Dead 2, page 5
They knocked off a local meth lab, stealing $50,000 worth of the drug. His cut was two grand. No one had gotten hurt. The place had only one guard and he was taken out non-lethally, just as Jay had promised. Cable decided to stick around. The job situation wasn’t going to improve anytime soon and the money was too good to pass up. “What and when is the next gig?” he asked Jay.
“We do it all, brother. Whatever someone wants, we get it done. We also do a little for ourselves.”
Cable went on to steal cars for chop shops, broke into people’s homes for their cash and valuables, and even slung a few bags of crack here and there.
It was during a cold November night that Cable’s luck started to run out.
He’d been doing a home robbery—the family supposed to be out for the night— when he was surprised by one of the house’s occupants. Cable threw the silhouetted figure to the ground. It was a young kid, maybe a teenager. The kid stared at him, then started screaming. “Help, help.” Cable told him to shut up, that he’d be out of there fast. But the kid kept screaming. Cable saw red, envisioned the cops coming, the neighbors calling the police. His life would be over. If only the kid would shut up so he could do what he had to do. Before he realized it, he was on top of the kid, squeezing the life out of him. He heard a snapping sound, and the kid’s eyes bulged from their sockets. “No, no, no,” he shouted. “Wake up, wake up.” He tried CPR but the kid was dead. He’d crushed his windpipe.
He started using drugs, taking from the shit he sold. The jobs became sloppier and Jay told him to get control of himself, then come back to him for work.
“I need the money, man,” he pleaded. “Please, Jay.”
“You killed a kid!” Jay said. “I get it. Shit happens. But damn, you’re all fucked up. I know you’re using. I can see it in your eyes. You’re jittery and shit. You’re a liability. Get yourself cleaned up and then come back to me.”
Cable got on his hands and knees. “Please, man. I need work. I need cash. I’ll kick this shit. Straighten myself out.”
“You look pathetic, dog.” Jay spat. “Get the fuck out of my sight before I put a bullet in your ass.”
Cable felt something inside of him shut off. He went numb, the tears on his cheeks felt like ice water. He grabbed the knife from his belt and plunged it into Jay’s gut. The man’s eyes widened in disbelief. Cable got to his feet and cranked the knife, twisting it in deeper, grinding his teeth. He stared his old friend in the eyes. “You’re just like the rest of them. Use me up, then toss me away.”
Jay let out a squeak and collapsed to the floor. Cable brought the knife to his mouth and licked the blade clean. He’d done this before, in Afghanistan. He wasn’t sure why, but it made him feel like a demon. Invincible. He cleaned out all the cash and drugs from Jay’s stash.
He went out and got high, then decided it was a good idea to show his wife the bag of money he acquired, totaling just under $30,000. She’d be proud of him, he thought. Of course he’d leave out the killing, saying he earned the money playing cards—a one time thing.
She didn’t believe him.
“Tell me where you got this money, Mathew,” Leela demanded, staring at the bag of cash. “I’m not having stolen money in my home.”
“It ain’t like that—” he tried telling her.
“Bullshit it ain’t like that,” she shot back. “Someone, and not someone friendly, is going to come looking for that cash. Put that shit back and pray no one knows you took it.”
“I earned this. It’s ours.”
She stepped up to him; glared into his eyes. “Are you fucking high?”
“What? No, baby.” He went to touch her, but she batted his hand away.
“Don’t fucking touch me,” she told him, a look of utter disgust on her face. “You’re on drugs . . . and show up with all this cash . . .” She shook her head.
“It’s all good,” he pleaded. “No one’s going to come looking. I took care of it.”
She shot him a cold look. “What do you mean, ‘you took care of it’?”
“I mean nobody’s going to come looking for this. It’s ours.”
She eyed the bag carefully. “Is that blood?”
“I cut myself, that’s all.”
“You repulse me,” she spat. “Get the hell out of my house!” She picked up the bag and threw it at him. “And take your drug, blood money with you.”
Rage burned inside his head. He’d done whatever he had to do to take care of his family, to provide, and now his wife was throwing him out? Making him feel small, useless. Pathetic.
“I should’ve divorced your ass years ago,” she said, viciously. “You were a no good loser then and you’re a no good loser now.”
“Come on, baby,” he said, holding back the need to scream. “You and Kyla are my world. And we got another on the way. Take the money. We can use this.”
She smiled, but it wasn’t warmly. “You sad sack of shit. Kyla isn’t even yours. And neither is this one coming.” She patted her stomach. “Had an affair when you were away. Would’ve left your ass too if he hadn’t died. A fucking car accident of all things. So I just kept my mouth shut.”
“You’re just saying that.”
“Really? You think that one time you were home you got me pregnant? That one, short, less than a minute romp you gave me? Got me a new man on the side who wants to marry me once I leave your ass. He can’t have kids and loves mine.”
Cable didn’t understand where any of this was coming from. Yes, he knew things were tense between him and his wife, but not this. Not cheating. And wait, did she say his kids weren’t his?
“Kyla isn’t mine?”
“You stupid ass. You really are an idiot. That’s what I said. So there’s no need for you to be here or be in our lives. I want a divorce and I want your sorry, pathetic excuse for a life out of ours!”
The room went red. He’d experienced this before. It had happened overseas and when he was with that kid during the break-in. He lost control, became the demon. Before he knew it, he was on top of his wife, stabbing her in the gut, killing her and some other guy’s baby. He stared into her eyes, knowing now what he truly was. He was a monster. A killer. “Fuck you, bitch.”
She didn’t die right away. He let her bleed out, but not before his daughter came home.
Cable welcomed the girl, opening his arms wide, bloody knife in his hand. She tried to run back out the door, but he caught her by her ponytail and yanked her back inside. She screamed for help, and he wrapped her up in a bear hug.
“Please . . .” his wife said, raising an arm toward him.
“You can have her,” Cable said, and ran the blade across the girl’s neck, then tossed her on top of her mother.
The police arrived ten minutes later, the neighbors hearing the screams. Cable was sitting in the kitchen eating cereal, the milk having reddened from the blood dripping off his hands.
When all was said and done, he was sentenced to life in prison. Knowing how to fight, being former military, and weighing over two-forty, all muscle, his time inside went without much of a problem. It was the boredom he hated. He needed to be commanded. To kill on the battlefield. He mostly sat alone in his cell, going back to the desert, back with his squad where he felt his best.
Then the world changed. The dead came back to life, and to make matters worse—they were hungry for human flesh.
Reminiscing on life, Cable could’ve imagined a lot of things, but a world-ending apocalypse wasn’t one of them. The prison went into full lockdown. Guards weren’t permitted to leave. That lasted about a day, and then the underpaid patrol officers scrammed, leaving the prison unguarded. A group of inmates freed themselves, opened the prison, and it was adios from there.
Now, in this new world, this world of death and mayhem, Cable was reborn. He was back in his soldier frame-of-mind, but times a hundred. There was no one enemy; everyone was an enemy. He was a killer, and needed to be. The demon inside was let loose, liberated
Cable was at his best when he was a soldier and working under the command of another. He enjoyed being part of a team. For now, that team was with Cannibal—a truly sick man—and his crew of former inmates. It felt good to be a soldier again, taking orders and doing what he did best—killing.
He slowed his breathing, feeling the excitement of battle closing in. The falling snow practically sizzled against his skin. His orders were to take the newcomers alive, but if he had to, he’d kill them all.
The ugly man called Scars came down the stairs. He visited often, eyeing the women in the cage with delight as he licked his cracked lips and rubbed his crotch, but he never assaulted them, at least not in the basement. The women were nothing more than chickens in a pen waiting to be taken, never to be seen again.
Scars held a gun in one hand as he unlocked the cage. It was time for another woman to leave. Jill Hannigan, along with everyone else, backed away. The man grinned and pointed. “You,” he said. “Come here.” She shook her head and begged him to choose someone else. He stared at her with utter hatred, then told her he wasn’t going to tell her twice.
The captives had seen the results of what happened when a person didn’t obey. The last woman was yanked out of the cage and taken away by force, punched and kicked. The next day Scars came to the basement with a bucket and pulled out her severed head, holding it by the blood-matted hair. “This is what happens when you disobey.” The women and men, including Jill, screamed.
She couldn’t believe how quickly her life had changed. The virus, or whatever it was, had spread so rapidly. Everyone in her household—mother, father and brother—were dead.
She had been hiding out in the house with them, keeping quiet and fighting off anyone that tried to come inside. She was lucky, she thought at the time. So many people were dying or dead, families ripped apart, literally. Jill’s house had a large storage closet in the basement, filled with canned and jarred foods. But eventually supplies were needed. Her brother had gone out and gotten bitten. The idiot hadn’t told anyone, but half a day later, he showed signs of the sickness, the same symptoms the news talked about, when there was news. His skin paled, his bones showed in places they normally didn’t, and he had a high fever. Knowing he was a dead man, she and her family spent every second with him. It was the most painful thing she had ever done. She held back tears when she was with him, but always bawled when she left the room.
“We can’t let him suffer like this,” Jill’s dad said to her and her mother. “We’ve seen too many people die like this. There’s no coming back from it. He’s almost dead . . . and then he’ll come back and he won’t be our Brian.” Tears glistened on their cheeks as they decided. “I’ll make it quick,” he said, then picked up his rifle and left them in the downstairs living room.
Jill and her mother sat together, crying and shaking, waiting to hear the shot. It seemed to be taking forever, and then BOOM! They both jumped and squeezed each other tightly, their tears running together. When Jill’s father didn’t come down, she grew concerned. She told her mother to stay where she was and went to check on her father.
He was standing in the hallway leading to the bedrooms, holding his forearm. Jill saw the blood leaking between his fingers. His face was pale, in shock. “I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I just couldn’t do it. Not until he turned . . .”
Jill did an about face and went back downstairs.
Later that night when her mother was sleeping, her father woke Jill. “I need you to come with me,” he whispered. They went upstairs to her brother’s room, his body having been removed. The bed was stained with gore where her father had blown her brother’s brains out.
“I need you to kill me,” he said, holding out a small revolver. “Before I turn.”
She shook her head rapidly. “No, no, no.” Even as she did this, she knew her father was a goner. People who were bitten didn’t recover.
“I’m dead. It’s just a matter of time. I’m sweating. My bones ache. I don’t want to hurt you or your mother.”
“I can’t,” she said through tears.
“You have to.” Her father swayed and sat on the bed. “I don’t know how much time I have left. You aren’t killing me; you’re saving me. I’d do it myself, but I want to go to heaven.”
Jill wasn’t very religious. She believed in something, some force that was responsible for everything, but not like her father who was brought up Catholic. He only went to church on Christmas and Easter, but held onto the things he was taught as a child. Suicide was a sin and would keep him out of Heaven. Jill felt anger building within herself. How could he ask his little girl to do this? To kill him? Would she be committing a sin? In his eyes, she might be, but in hers, she wasn’t.
“Please,” he begged, holding out the gun in a shaky hand.
Her insides grew cold. She went numb. The man before her was still her father, but not completely. He was half monster now, soon to become a full-fledged monster, and one that would crave her flesh. She was the last thing between saving herself and her mother. By tonight, her dad would be a member of the undead.
“Don’t you want to say goodbye to Mom?” she asked.
“She won’t be able to deal with it. Just tell her I love her.” He paused, then looked Jill in the eyes. “I love you.” He looked away. “Now do it.”
Jill knew how to use a gun. Her father had shown her. Having a gun in the house, he felt his children, once they hit the age of twelve, should know firearm safety. She cocked the hammer, then pointed the gun at her Dad’s head.
He glanced at her. “Not like that,” he said. “You need to be closer.” He reached out, grabbed her hands and placed the barrel of the gun against his temple. “Squeeze, but don’t look.”
Her breathing was shallow. She felt light-headed. This was it. She was going to kill her dad. No, she couldn’t think of it like that. She was saving people, and ending her dad’s misery. She was an angel, doing the tough work that angels did.
“I love you, Dad,” she said, then squeezed the trigger. The gun roared. She closed her eyes just as her father’s head jerked away. She barely heard the impact of his body hitting the mattress, then the thud of his corpse hitting the floor. She stood there, waiting. She didn’t hear anything. No cry for help. No pleading. No sign that he was still alive. She opened one eye. Her dad was face down on the carpet, the side of his head where the bullet had exited was staring at her. She closed her eyes and turned away, but it was too late. She saw the pulpous, gory hole—the damaged she’d caused. She would never forget it.
She walked into the hallway, fell to her knees and wept.
“Jill!” her mother was calling. “Jill!”
Jill looked up, wiped her face. What the hell was the lady doing yelling like that? She raced down the stairs to the living room.
“What happened?” her mother asked.
“Dad was bit. He wanted me to kill him so he could get into Heaven. So I did.” She had no idea why she came straight out with it. But she did. And now that it was out, she felt better. No pussy-footing about anything.
Her mother stared at her, as if she didn’t understand what she had just heard. Then she said, “Oh, okay. Well, getting into Heaven is important.”
When Manhattan was originally quarantined, Jill’s mother hadn’t taken the news well. They had no family or friends there, but the event itself was shocking to everyone. Some took it in stride as best they could, others flipped out. Her mother was one of the ones that didn’t take it so well. She had a breakdown, hadn’t been the same since. Jill almost thought it comical that the one member of her family that was the least able to handle what was going on was the one to survive.
She sat next to her mother and held her. “We need each other now more than ever. We’re going to get through this. I promise.”
Jill was awoken that night by a gunshot. She looked around and didn’t see her mother. The revolver was gone. Fearing the worst, she searched the house, ending up in her brother’s room, not wanting to go there, saving it as the last place she looked. Her mother lay next to her father, a bullet hole in her head.
She spun to leave, feeling the contents of her stomach needing release, when she heard a moan. Turning back around, she saw her mother. Her eyes were open, her jaw moving slightly.
Jill’s knees gave and she sank to the floor. Her mother was still alive. Jill pulled herself up and tiptoed to her mother’s side. One pupil was blown; blood trickled from her ears and nose. She was trying to talk, the words unintelligible. The gun lay next to her head in a pool of blood. Jill picked it up, ignoring the warm fluid. She was angry again. Angry at the world, at her stupid father for being weak, and angry with her stupid mother for being weaker. Leaving their deaths in her hands. For a moment, just a moment, she thought about letting her mother suffer. Show her how stupid she’d been. But then Jill raised the gun and fired a shot into her mother’s eye. She didn’t look away. She needed to watch, to make sure she’d never do such a thing. Ending her own life wasn’t an option.
After that, she packed up a few things, loaded her father’s rifle, leaving the revolver in the pool of blood, and headed out into the world, hoping to find some friends, or at least people she knew.
All she found was trouble.
Men from the prison had captured her and taken her to a house up on the mountain. She’d managed to shoot one in the arm, but that was all. She was stripped of her clothing and brought before a huge, grotesque man. He called himself Cannibal. The guy eyed her up and down as he licked his thin lips. She thought she was going to be raped, but was instead given her clothes and locked in a cage in the basement along with a number of other people.
Women came and went. A few men were brought to the basement also, but kept separate from the women. She and the other prisoners were well-fed and allowed to bathe. No one knew what happened to the ones that were taken away. It was assumed they were raped and killed.