Created and Edited
Created and edited by Jeremiah Donaldson.
All stories copyright 2016 by their respective authors.
All rights reserved. Any resemblance to persons you know is reality playing tricks on you.
Table of Contents
Escape by Jeremiah Donaldson
Lisa pushed her feet into the moist carpet and squeezed her back into the corner of the dark room. She'd seen the layout enough during daylight to picture it in her mind. The attic was long, narrow, had two sections with a round window in each wall, and stairs led down on opposite ends. It'd been used for storage and contained folding tables, chairs, leftover drywall, broken but fixable cleaning equipment, wall art that had worn out its welcome, partially full paint cans, and dozens of other odds and ends that'd been stored away and forgotten about. The room was pitch black with the windows showing as lighter spots from the feeble glow of the moon and stars.
More than 50 people had been forced into the attic. Sick cult members, sick inductees, and others like Lisa who'd been sent up to die for some reason. Moans and groans were punctuated by wet coughs and vomiting that added to the gore already soaking the carpet. Several people cried in the darkness while those with strength to do so hissed at them to 'Shut the fuck up'. Squishy footsteps sounded from someone pacing back and forth like a caged animal, stopping periodically while the person sneezed.
Hair tickled Lisa's face, but she refrained from brushing it back with hands she knew to be covered in the various body fluids from the carpet. She'd stood for as long as she could, nearly 24 hours best she remembered, but eventually sagged to the floor with her back in the corner. Her shoes were sodden, along with her socks and pants. Her fingers stuck to her palms from the tackiness left behind when the blood and gore dried. She had to shift her position every few hours to keep the blood flowing. No one had given them any food or water since she'd been shoved up the stairs. Even those not sick were getting weak. The air reeked of piss, shit, and rotten body fluids, but she barely the noticed the smell after being saturated in it for more than a day.
The door opened and smacked against the wall at the bottom of the stairs closest to her.
“Get the fuck in there, bitch.” The voice sounded as though the owner would shoot the target of his comment without another warning.
“Fuck you,” a raspy woman's voice said.
The sound of a meaty slap echoed up the stairs.
“Fuck you, you fucking fuck.”
Another slap sounded.
A flashlight beam moved chaotically across the ceiling and wall opposite the stairs as the new prisoner walked up. The door slammed when the woman was halfway along. The same had happened with Lisa and everyone she'd seen entering.
“Stupid, fucking bastards,” the woman stumbling up the stairs said.
Lisa recognized something in the voice. “Amy?”
The steps paused. “Lisa?”
“Yeah, bitch. Why the fuck did you say I was going back to Moss in the other building?”
The pause continued for a few seconds. “Because I thought you would.”
“You just wanted to fuck the Preacher and get in good with him.”
The unsteady steps continued. “How long have you known me?”
“Fuck off and die. You know that's what we're up here for, right? Can't you fucking smell that?”
“Not really, my nose is sorta smashed with my face.”
The resounding steps on the wooden stairs turned to squishes. “The hell is this shit?”
“Liquid dead people,” Lisa said.
“I figure we won't have to worry about it for long.”
“Where are you?”
“Fuck off, I'll see you when it's light out.”
Moss woke to see colors splashed across the clouds hanging over Tampa. Black ash covered the boat and marina walkways. He wiped his face and noticed the hairs on his arms were visible from the soot on them. Wiping a hand over them just smeared black into the sweat that'd formed because of the humid air.
His face throbbed along the stitched wound, and his head pounded from the hit it'd taken. Blurred vision made the water around them look smooth despite the movement of the boat saying otherwise. It didn't clear until he wiped at it with his shirt several times. The notebook he'd been writing in lay to the side, damp with sooty dew that'd fallen. The almost empty pen had rolled away after he'd scratched the last few lines into the paper and sat it down. He looked around and seen John sleeping against the pile of stuff he'd hauled to the deck. His hand rested on the AK next to him while his other gripped a cheap bottle of Russian vodka between his legs.
“Good,” Moss said to himself. “I wasn't dreaming.”
He found the half-full bottle of water from the night before and swished with a mouthful to wash the grittiness out. The water was black when he spat it over the side. He gulped most of what remained to fix his scratchy throat before digging his pipe and bag from one pocket. Christa's pills made him sick. He needed natural pain relief.
The first couple hits made him cough hard from rawness causing by breathing in soot. The pain in his face and head flared with each hack, but eased off within seconds of finishing the bowl.
“You're smoking that shit this early? Need a drink with that?”
Moss looked up and over his right shoulder to see John holding out the bottle of vodka. “Fuck yeah, to the first question, fuck no, to the second. That barely looks bottom shelf.”
“All the good stuff was gone.”
“I bet.” Moss packed another bowl. “No one wanted that shit.”
“Probably not. I don't.” John took a swallow. “Let's get this bastard started and move on. My gut is telling me to bug out.”
Moss took a hit and held the smoke before speaking. “Mine too, but let me finish this.”
John rolled his eyes and slung the AK over his shoulder. “I'll get us loose while you do that.”
Moss gave him a thumbs up.
John untied the cabin cruiser and pushed them away from the dock with his foot. He turned to the pile of supplies and started carrying them into the cabin where Christa slept.
Moss tapped the ashes in the bowl onto the deck and stood. His entire body screamed at him to stop moving, but it'd shut up soon enough. He put his water and notebook on the bench seat and brought the engine to life. The low growl rumbled over the water. He let it warm up while John finished moving the stuff below.
Lisa jerked awake to see the morning light coming through the windows. It looked sick and dreary. She pushed against the wall to stand. The sound of her jeans pulling from the damp carpet followed the movement. Part of the gore had dried from her body heat where she'd sat.
Several of the other prisoners had died during the night. Their bodies lay in various positions on the floor with a circle around them that marked the last fluids they'd expelled. Some could've been sleeping, but others had bruises and black areas on their visible skin. A few were dissolving into the carpet.
She didn't see Amy.
Lisa walked over to the window and looked out. What she'd mistaken for fog was smoke hanging in the humid morning air. Only an outline marked where Moss's old apartment building sat. A few people moved around the messy parking lots. Black smoke billowed into the sky to the east.
She shook her head. “What the fuck...” A groan from the left drew her attention.
She stared at the figure on the squishy carpet. Blood matted most of the woman's hair down. Her face was busted up with lips three times the size of normal. The voice was raspy. “Amy?”
Lisa laughed. “You got fucked up!”
“Fuck you, bitch,” Amy said, flipping her off. “That fucktard Moss hit me with his car.”
“Serves you right for screwing me over.”
Amy looked away from Lisa's gaze.
“Now, you're fucked like I am.” Lisa pointed to the nearest dead body. “Bet I outlast you.”
“Maybe. Moss about broke my neck.”
“Too bad he didn't.”
Amy flipped Lisa off again.
Lisa shrugged. “Whatever. Keep fucking with me. I'll fuck you up worse than you are. I'm not sick yet.”
“You wouldn't hit your best friend.”
Lisa kicked Amy in the shin. “The hell I won't.”
“I see how it is.”
“I already did.”
“You would've done the same thing,” Amy said.
Lisa kicked her again. “More bullshit.”
Amy rubbed her leg and turned away.
Lisa looked around at the passed out and dead prisoners scattered throughout the attic. “No one else seems to notice the city is on fire.”
Amy looked up at her. “The city is what?”
Amy struggled to her feet and looked out the round window. She shook her head for a few seconds before speaking. “The bastards did it.”
Lisa let a nervous laugh escape. “Did what?”
“They wanted to burn the city and leave an island in the middle of the rubble for them to control.”
“That's crazy,” Lisa said. “Fire doesn't work like that.”
“No shit, they're crazy. You met some of them.”
“You're like them. You killed me by getting me stuck up here.”
Amy glared at her before sitting back down against the wall. She laid her head on her drawn up knees and didn't respond.
Lisa snorted and looked out the window. The Preacher and his entourage walked out the front door of the other building, staring at the black smoke in the sky. The Preacher stood with his arms crossed over his chest while his bed sheet robe rippled in the light breeze. Those around him talked among themselves, as though aggravated, until the Preacher made a slicing motion across his throat and they ceased. The Preacher spoke to them and they nodded in agreement with whatever he'd said. Several of the men walked to the vehicles in the parking lot while the Preacher and others went back inside the building.
Those who went to the cars and trucks pulled them up to the front entrance of the apartment building and walked in. Others walked out the door carrying bags of supplies. Two of them emptied their arms and started towards the building Lisa and Amy were locked up in.
Lisa's heart gave a jump. The fire had messed up the morning routine. Random visions of escape raced through her head.
Moss put the boat in reverse and gave the throttle a nudge to back them away from the dock. The engine drowned out all the lower noises of the morning. He put it in neutral while John set a GPS route on the map to take them south and into the open gulf. Eventually. They had roughly 42 kilometers of water to traverse to get out of Tampa Bay and south of Highway 93. He eased the throttle up so they moved at a rate that'd maximize fuel economy, but would get them to their destination in good time.
John held onto the side of the cockpit with one hand and kept his AK ready with the other. He scanned the water around them.
Little was required of Moss but to match their course with the computer screen in front of him. A blinking yellow arrow indicated their location and direction. Numbers surrounding the icon showed their speed and heading. Digital readouts on the control panel indicated their fuel level, fuel consumption per hour, and engine rpm. A compass built into the dash showed their geographical bearing. Several switches to the left of the readouts controlled the lights. John had made him promise to not touch them. The key and engine kill button were on the right side of the panel, and the throttle lever jutted out of the dash under them.
Moss looked around.
As if. Too noisy.
The sound of the engine and hull against the water wanted to lure him to sleep without anyone to talk to. Christa remained below in a pain pill fueled stupor. John hadn't slept much and constantly gripped the railing on the side of the cockpit to keep himself from nodding off.
Moss checked the time. The trip had only began. He tapped John on the shoulder. “Want to change places?”
John shook his head, and yelled, “In a few. We just got started.”
“Yeah, but I'm high and this is putting me back to sleep.”
“Well, I'm half drunk and don't know what to tell you.”
They looked at each other for a moment.
“Fair enough,” Moss said, lighting a cigarette.
John nodded. “I'd say.”
Ginny Bowman lives within the confines of Missouri with three children, a cat, and an independent film company that's fed on scripts. When not writing on her own, she's probably writing with her partner or donning a catsuit for Comicon. Life is, after all, nothing without variety. She can be found online at: www.facebook.com/shaneandginny.
Jeremiah Donaldson is a science fiction/horror writer, editor, game designer, artist, free thinker, and corporate slave working from London, Ky, where he lives with his daughter and cats. Plague: Ruination is his second project as editor. He can be found on the web at: www.ephiroll.com.
Jenner Michaud is a Canadian speculative fiction writer with a leaning towards the dark recesses found at the edge of reality. She enjoys weaving stories that push the boundaries of the possible, even when they go bump in the night and keep her up. In addition to featuring in Plague: Aftermath, the second book in Ephiroll Productions’ Plague series, her short fiction has most recently appeared in the horror anthologies Paying the Ferryman and The Corpse Candle and Other Nightmares (all available from Amazon). Follow her writing adventures on Twitter @JennerMichaud.