The story so far:
I stood staring, my mouth gaped open like a giant cave in a mountain wall. My sweet Caroline. Treize stepped up beside me.
"Pull it together, boy. That's not your wife. It's a beast sent straight from Hell and it's up to you to destroy it."
I turned and looked into his sun-beaten face. The look in his eyes was grim and he extended his hand to me. A military issue, nickel-plated .45 rested in his palm. He nodded and I took the handgun. It felt strange in my grip. Caroline crept slowly down the stairs, snarling and baring her teeth.
"Do it, you goat-smellin mama's boy!" One of the old-timers shouted at me. "Do it now!"
I raised the gun to a ready position as tears flowed from my eyes. Treize placed his hand on my shoulder. "You can do it, son."
My hands were shaking and my knees were beating out "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". The handgun dropped to the ground and I slunk to my knees. I couldn't do it. I couldn't watch her die. I buried my face in my hands and cried like a school girl. Several shots rang out. A howl pierced the air from just a few feet in front of me. I raised my head just in time to see Caroline lunge to her left and disappear into the night.
"Ya goddamn pansy!"
"What the **** were you thinkin?"
The veterans were standing around me, furious at my inability to take action. Treize helped me to my feet.
"Regain your composure, soldier, we got work to do. Now, everyone, listen up! Get back into fireteam formation and let's secure the area. There's no tellin how many of them goddamn things are lurking about and we can't afford to be taken by surprise again."
"Sir, yes, sir!" came the cry in unison.
We reformed our groupings and continued slowly down the main street of town. The howls seems to come from everywhere at once. I gripped the shotgun so tightly that my knuckles were white as milk. The nickel plated pistol was tucked safely into my belt, just in case. The scratch on my arm burned like a son-of-a-bitch.
As we made our way to Town Hall, all the lights in town blinked out.
"No worries, boys, I had a feeling this might happen. I brought some M6 TLI's," he looked at me. "That's tactical laser illuminator, FYI."
He passed out the small instruments and the old timers expertly mounted the devices to the ends of their rifles in the dark. The instruments were lit up and we stood in a wash of white light as Treize helped me mount a gadget on the barrel of the shotgun.
"This wasn't exactly meant for a shotgun, but we're a man short and since you're pretty green, I don't want you wanderin in the dark firing blind."
Shots rang out as we were making sure the laser sight was secure on the shotgun. I turned in the direction of the sound and watched as four of the old-timers brought down one of the beasts. They stood watching in awe as the furry body transformed into it's "true" form. The nude body of a young girl lay on the pavement.
"My gawd," mumbled Harold 'The Butcher' Milton. "That's Carrie Wells. Thought she died, must've been three years ago."
'The Butcher', who was one of the oldest of the group, recieved his nickname in Korea. His platoon had been overtaken in an ambush and fired their ammo dry trying to stay alive. Milton, according to some accounts, snapped his bands of sanity and sliced and diced his way through the remaining enemy combatants with a bayonet.
"Yup," agreed Clem Wilkins, "been three years, but they never found her body. Buried an empty casket after she disappeared."
"Enough reverie, boys," Treize broke in. "Let's get moving. We're sittin ducks out here. We need cover."
Screams snapped us all back to the reality of the situation. With all that had been going on, we had almost forgotten that the rest of the townspeople were here and would be wondering why the power went off and why shots were being fired.
"Move! Move! Move!" Treize shouted as the entire group of us began to trot down the street, weapons at the ready.
Shadows began to move on either side of us. The scratch on my arm felt as if it had been baked in a pizza oven. I knelt and tore the makeshift bandage from it as shots rung out. I could see dark figures moving all around us and the howls were becoming deafening. I returned my gaze to my arm. Thick hairs were protruding from the scratch and what appeared to be maggots moved freely about the wound. Using the shirt, I wiped the little white specks from my arm.
"Get up and fire that goddamn thing!"
"There's too **** many of em, we gotta find cover now!"
"The general store, we can hole up in there and take a few of these bastards down!"
The random cries from our group were being overpowered by the Howls coming from all around us and the non-stop gunfire. I wondered how much ammo these old coots had and how long it would last at this rate.
"Fall back to drug store! Now!" Treize commanded.
We retreated, still firing at the moving shadows. Treize kicked in the giant display window of the drug store and we all filed through in reverse, keeping our eyes peeled and rifles ready. The inside of the small drug store was creepy as hell with the only light coming from the gadgets on the rifles. Shadows rose and fell at every turn.
"Okay, men. Shut your cockholsters and listen to me. For some of us, like poor ole George, this will be our last hoorah. We're not all gonna make it through this, but, by gawd, we're gunna take as many of them with us as we can. I got me a stockpile of silver bullets. Saved 'em up from the last time I come across these **** things. Eight-five, that was, in the mountains of Tennessee. Believe it or not, that goddamned 'Preacher' was there then, too. He got away from me once't, but I got 'im this time. Before we head back to the hunt, we're gunna do an ammo check. I got about two thousand rounds in my pack here, but we may need more. I ain't as young as I use'ta be and this damn thing's gettin heavy, so, I'ma pass out what I got. If we need more, it's in my basement."
Everyone started gathering rounds from the small pack, but, unfortunately for me, there were no shotgun rounds in there. I was down to seven rounds with no reserve. Of course, I still had the handgun, but I didn't see any .45 rounds either.
"Whaddya want, Peter? Make it quick," he said, impatiently.
"Any rounds for either of these?" I asked holding up the two weapons.
"Nope. Conserve and only shoot when necessary. You done proved ya can't squeeze the damn trigger when it matters, anyway."
We made our way back to the front of the store. As we came up to the shattered window, the sound of children laughing broke through the darkness behind us. 'The Butcher' spun around and spilled his light onto the faces of my two lost offspring. The burning in my arm became more intense and the wound began to itch so bad I thought I'd go nuts.
"Come join us, Daddy," the children said in unison. "We can be a family again. Don't you want to be a family again, Daddy?"
I reached out my right arm towards my beautiful offspring. I wanted to go with them and leave the world behind.