William Allen sent in an except from his upcoming continuation of the "Walking in the Rain" series. Posted 8/8/2016 Whoop!
LINES IN SHADOW A WALKING IN THE RAIN NOVEL By WILLIAM ALLEN Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.
The jungle was a riot of noise and color. Never silent, except for when outsiders came stumbling into the green hell, and then the lack of animal noise clued him when to hide. He’d gotten good at reading the signs. When next came the warning quiet, the ragged Marine snuggled beneath the lacy tendrils of a spiky fruit plant nestled against a fallen tree trunk. Mouthing a silent prayer that no snakes found his hiding spot, he fought to stay awake as the insects droned in his ears. Sleep was death, but the hunters had dogged his heels for days, and the Marine was so tired. After what seemed like hours but must have only been twenty minutes, movement out of rhythm with the jungle caught his drooping attention. He saw the faint shape of worn and tape patched boots as one of his pursuers crept past the position. Gripping the rifle close, the man hoped these hunters would not search too closely. Since he’d managed to kill what he thought of as their tracker the day before, the Marine still figured his position had some small chance of going unnoticed. They’d started out with nine men, but he’d whittled down the numbers a little at a time. Unless they somehow picked up more men, the Marine thought there were only four left. Maybe three if the one he’d lung shot two days before had either been left behind or succumbed to his wounds. His plan was to hold up and break contact, changing directions before they sent in more reinforcements. The Marine only had two magazines left for the M16, and then he would be reduced to using Ritter’s Beretta. Of course, that was assuming the abused rifle would even fire. Twice the damned thing had jammed on him since this terrible ordeal had begun. One of the hundred worries plaguing him at that moment was whether the temperamental weapon would even get off one shot before he was left banging the forward assist. The guerilla said something, but his words meant nothing. The local dialect was so different from the classroom Spanish the Marine learned in school that their words would have been meaningless even in ideal circumstances. Didn’t matter. The watcher could figure out the meaning from the frantic tone. The fugitive came up firing, his first two bullets lashing the speaker’s chest at a range of three feet. Before the man had a chance to register his death, the Marine was on the move, rolling over the rotting log and facing another of hated pursuers. He was dressed in threadbare peasant garb but carrying a meticulously clean Soviet-made AK-47 rifle that was nearly to his shoulder when the Marine fired again. The shot took him under the chin and snapped his head back in a shower a blood. The spray looked nearly black against the contrast of the deep greens of the jungle. As the rifle tumbled from the dying man’s suddenly nerveless fingers, the Marine spun looking for another target. Every time, every single replay in his mind, the desperate Marine thought he clocked the shooter first, but he was always too slow. The other one always fired first, and then it was too late. He took the first bullet in the side, low down at the waist, and the second was a ricochet that caught him in the upper left arm, pinging off a hard tree trunk to his left. In memory, the pain was there, but at the moment the bullets struck, the Marine did not really register this hurt. He finally I caught view of the third member of the group that had been dogging his heels for days, weeks even, and shot her twice, center mass, before she could bring the rifle back down. In her haste, she’d gone full auto and sprayed half a magazine into the branches overhead. He triggered another shot, blowing out the side of her head, and then the rifle jammed yet again. The nightmare should have ended in his death, of course, to be a real screamer of a nightmare. That was the rules, or so he thought. He’d experienced that version of the nightmare many times, too, of course, as his brain played out a different scenario. His capture, his torture, and eventual execution. Pretty graphic, and blood curdling in the details. No, the real horror to this nightmare came to the tattered, sore-covered and bleeding Marine as he lurched forward to claim the dead girl’s rifle as his own, and he stopped to regard that bullet ravaged face. Because now, every time he stopped to look at the girl on the ground, he saw Isabella. This was his Isabella, the tiny daughter he’d sworn to protect, now dead at his own hands. He looked down again. And then he screamed… “You alright?” Perkins asked the question in the same soft voice he used for everything. He was one of the guys from Branson, come in with Scott’s nephew Glenn, and one of the steadier gunhands the older man had to work with. He claimed the bunk next to Scott in the barracks and didn’t seem to mind the nightmares. Heck, everybody had them, Scott realized, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Just part of the new normal. “Yeah,” Scott mumbled. “Sorry.” He saw an indistinct motion in the darkness and read it as a shrug. “No big. I gotta get up in a half hour for guard duty anyway.” Scott checked the luminous dial on his self-winding watch and saw it was just coming up on two thirty in the morning. All around, he caught the sound of snores and grunts in the night as men who’d worked hard all day tried to get some shuteye. Ignoring the interruption. “You want me to take it?” Scott offered. He’d gotten nearly four hours sleep and knew from experience that the dream wasn’t going to allow him any more. “Nah, that’s okay,” he replied genially, “I gotta go hang out in the woods and watch the front approach.” Scott knew what Perkins meant. He knew that stretch of woods better than anybody, almost. Played there as a kid, in fact, and hunted it when he had the chance as an adult. All part of his brother’s farm, but this patch was wild and had never been developed in living memory. Scott’s kind of place, in other words. “Look, I’m not going back to sleep anyway. You want the seven to eleven walking the ‘house instead? I’ll update the chart if you want.” Perkins considered my offer for a moment before softly replying. For a city boy, manning the blockhouse at the end of the road would be a much more suitable, and pleasant experience. “You sure you don’t mind? Get’s awful lonely up there in the woods.” Scott chuckled darkly at that comment before answering. “No, I don’t mind. I like the alone time.” Which was true enough. If he wasn’t spending time with his daughter, Scott would just as soon be left to his own devices. Always been that way, he knew, but more so since the lights went out. Or so he told himself, wishing it was true. In reality, Scott knew there were times he wondered if he ever really came home from the jungle. That green hell.
CHAPTER ONE The intruder came from the south, winding through the tightly bunched trees like a wraith in the dark. Scott watched the newcomer’s progress and debated taking the shot. South of the homestead was more forest bordering the county road, and he knew of no one living that way for many miles. So, most likely not a neighbor. The half-moon gave Scott all the light he needed, his dark adapted eyes making out the shape even as she drew nearer. She, he knew, from the way she walked. Women walked differently than men, he’d observed, and most women never paid enough attention to disguise their gait. So, he held the intruder in his crosshairs for another long moment, and then set about scanning the area around her once again. If she had flankers out, or reinforcements behind, he would have shot without hesitation. A group moving at night would be up to no good, he reasoned, and he was their last line of defense outside the wire of the homeplace. Most of the stragglers who passed through were stopped at the blockhouses that guarded the routes into the tiny community. These heavily reinforced log structures were built to stop road traffic, be it vehicle or, most often, afoot. A few trespassers, like this one, tried to overland route and were stopped and sternly warned to turn around or directed to the shelter in Gentry. Not exactly a five-star hotel, but the small farming community did their best to furnish food to the church-run safe house set up in the mostly-deserted nearby small town. Again, nothing fancy, but a person could live on beans and cornbread if starvation was the alternative. The shelter was open to residents of the town and provided a twenty-four hour respite to travelers seeking a safe place to sleep. At night, though, all bets were off. So Scott scanned the woods, looking for those telltale signs that would alert him to others approaching. Straight lines breaking the shadows, or movement where there was no breeze to stir the bushes or disturb the grass. Night sounds that didn’t fit. Scott was searching for all these signs, and coming back with a big fat nothing. What did disturb Scott was the manner in which this woman moved. She wasn’t trying to be particularly quiet, after all, and instead seemed to be in a hurry but with stiff, almost pained movements indicating she’d come some ways in her travel. Could this still be some kind of trap, he wondered, and if so, what was the purpose. Deciding he needed a closer look, Scott radioed in the contact and asked for an alert team to be prepped. That meant getting a four man fire team up and geared out, even though he didn’t think the woman herself was an immediate threat. Heck, though, he’d been wrong before. Especially when it came to women. Easily gauging her distance at one hundred meters from his position and estimating her rate of advance, Scott silently shimmied down from the hunting perch he’d placed on the side of an old oak tree and stepped out of the rope harness. Most hunters used a ladder to scale the tree, then hoisted up the aluminum frame and canvas covered shelters, but Scott preferred using a rope for quicker descent. Slinging his long barreled Savage hunting rifle, he stopped to unfasten the retention strap on his pistol and palmed the holstered weapon for a moment, feeling the skater tape he’d wrapped around the butt of his Springfield XD. Taking a second to orient on the intruder’s position, Scott headed off to take an angle on her approach, choosing to move to his right, her left, in a looping stalk. This offered him cover in some old growth berry bushes that would bring him within a few dozen meters of the woman’s intended path. Plus, by going to her left, assuming she was right handed, she would have to aim across her body. He didn’t see a weapon, but everybody went armed these days. Everybody still alive, anyway. Moving quiet in the dark, especially in the woods, was no easy task, but Scott did pretty good at it. He’d had the practice and the knack, something that proved to be a lifesaver more than once even before the lights went out. So the watcher made his way carefully, minding the clutter underfoot and staying constantly aware of his surroundings as he took one cautious step after another. The secret was not to be silent, something only ninjas in the movies managed to pull off, and instead, to blend into the background and keep your noise down. A dog would have heard his movements, but the human ear lacked the discernment of a canine. And of course the dog, even a nose blind one, would have picked up his scent. Fortunately, the woman had no dog along to give her that warning. “FREEZE,” Scott announced, snapping on his flashlight and assuming a shooter’s stance once the intruder was twenty feet past his position, “HANDS ON YOUR HEAD. HANDS ON YOUR HEAD! LET ME SEE YOUR HANDS! SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT! HANDS ON YOUR HEAD!” The call was instinctive, the same one he used in the field as a game warden. The woman, shocked and surprised from behind, made to grasp something on her hip and Scott nearly ended her right there, again driven by instinct. “LADY, IF I DON’T SEE YOUR HANDS, I WILL SHOOT, DAMNIT!” Scott Keller had been a game warden for fifteen years. In that time, he’d seen his share of tense takedowns, usually in conjunction with drug raids on state land, but he’d never come closer to killing someone during an arrest than right that moment. That he’d killed before, several times in fact, was probably what saved the woman’s life in that second. She panicked, and he didn’t. “Please, please, don’t shoot,” the woman cried out, and her hands swung out wide to settle on the top of her head. She was scared, shaking in fact, and Scott knew it was from terror. Now that she was compliant, he risked taking things down a notch, and spoke more calmly this time. “Ma’am. I don’t know what you are doing out here, but this is private property.” “Please, please, officer,” she began, her voice thick with fright, “I’m sorry, so sorry. I didn’t mean anything. If you can…If you can just…” “Well, spit it out,” Scott demanded, though not unkindly. “I was just trying to get to Kellerville, officer. Trying to get to the Guard base there. That’s all. My bike had a flat out on the road and I knew if I cut through these woods I would be close. I wasn’t trying to do anything but get help.” “Help for who?” Scott asked, still not relaxing his shooting stance. If this was some kind of trick, she would be making her move somewhere about now. That was the reason for keeping his distance. He was just outside the “killing space” of twenty feet, and if she attacked with a knife he would empty the magazine into her before she got that close. “The camp,” she said, the air seeming to deflate from her lungs. “Oh, my God, I think they killed them all, or they will soon. I have to get the Guard, or my family is dead.” Well, hell, Scott thought, and keyed the radio attached to his jacket. This was a fine mess. He delivered a terse message, requesting someone go wake the Guard CO and his nephew Nick. They needed to be in on whatever this turned out to be. “Alright, miss. I’ve got them moving, so if you will come with me, we’ll see what we can do. I’ll need to disarm you but I think we can forego the cuffs.” “Wait, you mean…this is Kellerville?” the woman stammered, then got a grip and continued. “Yeah, I guess it would be with this level of security. I’m sorry, I didn’t think. I was in such a hurry I just cut through the woods. I heard the Guard post was at the Keller farm and I’ve been there a few years ago.” “Understood. I’m Scott Keller. You can turn around, slowly, and I’ll need to take your weapons.” Doing a quick bit thorough pat down, Scott pocketed a revolver of some type and slipped a four inch sheath knife out of its scabbard before taking a moment to examine the woman. She was about five seven, and he placed her age anywhere from thirty to thirty-five with a slender build and an attractive face showing signs of hunger. With shoulder length dark hair that looked to have reddish highlights in the illumination of the flashlight, she was a striking sight, and for some stupid reason he suddenly wondered if she was married or had a boyfriend. Woooh, boy, Scott thought, calm down there. Take it easy. Stranger danger, as he’d hammered into his own daughter. I don’t know anything about this woman except she approached the homeplace in the dark with some story of an attack. Then he noticed her eyes were the same shade of caramel brown as Isabella’s. “So, like I said, I’m Scott. What’s your name and why were you here before?” The woman seemed to take a moment to compose herself before she answered, taking a few deep breaths. “ You’re Scott, Mark’s uncle? I knew his wife, Candace. We went to college together. Roommates for awhile, actually. I haven’t seen her in ages, but I heard you guys were hosting a National Guard outpost here, so when the attack came, I jumped on my bike and headed here.” Scott nodded, but remained on his guard as they started walking through the woods, towards the driveway and up towards the front gate. “So what’s your name?” “Oh, it’s Katrina. My friends call me Kat, though. Kat Watson. I was living in Little Rock when this all happened. I walked back to Siloam Springs to be with my folks when I figured out the power wasn’t coming back anytime soon.” She paused, as if gathering her courage before continuing. “But we’ve been living at a camp set up over in the northern part of Ozark National Forest, where Highway 412 goes into the forest. You know that area?” “Yeah, Kat, I know it. So how big of a camp?” “Just a few dozen in our particular spot, but the there’s several groups set up there along the creek. Everybody kind of worked together for mutual protection. Up until tonight, we’d been lucky. Hadn’t been raided in weeks, away.” “And how many came tonight?” Scott asked softly. Sobs covered her words now, and Scott was unsure if he’d heard her right at first. “Hundreds,” she whispered. “I didn’t get any kind of count, but it was more than a hundred, easy, and they all had guns. I knew the Guard was there only hope, so I jumped on my bike and just rode as fast as I could to get here.” Hundreds? Oh, man, the old Marine thought, there’s no way. The National Guard post up the road only numbered twenty-three soldiers. Even with the community’s self-defense force, Scott knew they could never match those numbers. Well, not my immediate problem, Scott thought darkly. This wasn’t the first time raiders found easy prey amongst the survivors, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last.
The following is from M.C. Allen. It is in the raw and unedited so don't expect perfect punctuation, spelling, or continuity...yet.
"A Visit from the Past"
November 18, 1897 Boyer, West Virginia “Another night of horror,” the woman groaned to herself as she stood from her pallet by the stone hearth. She scratched at a fleeing bedbug under her left armpit with her right hand, but it escaped down the sleeve and back onto her pitiful bed of rags and tanned skins. The fire had gone out, but a small bed of hot embers started the right lighter pine slivers she fed into the cherry coals. The dream continued to haunt her even after she waited for her leftover squirrel stew to warm over the invigorated fire. She added a small log to the flames from the woodpile by the door and waited as the nightmare pestered her thoughts. She spooned a meager portion of limp carrots, potatoes, onion, and a tiny squirrel skull into her only earthen bowl. Using the metal spoon, she popped the skull until the bones cracked and cooked brains leaked out. She picked out the bone fragments and slurped at the broth and chewed at the overcooked vegetables. The brain material added to the bland broth and perked her up. The voice from her dreams crept into her thoughts. She closed her eyes and visions of primitive men slashing and stabbing at each other assaulted her nerves. A man with a war club smashed in the head of his opponent before spinning in place to strike another in the chest. She could feel the pop as the ribs snapped and the smell of the blood spraying from his nostrils as his lung collapsed brought a whimper of fear from the woman. The war club. The sinew used to wrap the granite river stone to the hardwood shaft. The shells strung in their hair. All of the minute details stood out to her at once. All of these people belonged to a single tribal family. The realization brought tears to her eyes as she cried for a people destroying themselves. Still squatting before her low fire, Marjorie Baine Washington, saw the creature in control of the aggressors. It waded through the bodies, and anyone touched by the scaly monster stopped and assaulted the untouched combatants. Within seconds, almost a score of men stood over their dead opponents. As one, they turned and loped toward the distant treeline. Marjorie watched as the group of men and the beast leading them followed a path of grass pressed down by a herd of feet and the signs of travois being dragged across the open meadow. “Can you understand me, Marjorie?” An old man wrapped in uncured animal skins rasped out from her left. Marjorie recoiled in shock and fell to the ground. From her seat in the grass, she recalled where she had heard it before. “You were in my dreams calling out to me, but I couldn’t understand you then. Where am I?” She reached for a fallen weapon, a stone knife, but her hand passed through it and the grass around it. “You are not here. This is a memory that I lived through. Look there at that man lying in his own blood.” He pointed to a small form twitching and moaning in pain. “I survived and was able to find our people before they were all overcome by the demon. We held them long enough for a small group to tramp down an obvious trail while the main part of the tribe cut away in the rocks on the hillside in the trees. I was able to tell the survivors to never let the beast touch you. His scream will make you go still, so pack your ears with anything to stop the sound.” The man turned to look at the distant hills. “Again, sir. Where are we?” Marjorie pleaded. “Not where, child. When. This happened in your past. I lived in this time.” “How should I respond to that, sir? You’re telling me we have gone back through time? I don’t understand!” She screamed at the wizened old man. He pulled the fur away from his neck to expose a gaping slash that exposed his windpipe and bared a start white bone from his spine. “I was one of ten elders who cut our own throats to stop that monster, and now it has returned to your world, Marjorie.” He leaned in and let his two hands hover above her head. “What are you doing?” Marjorie cried out in confusion and fear. “You represent one of the few living descendants who can still contact the old gods. They sent me to warn you. This demon does not belong on your plain, and the only way to rid yourself of it permanently, is by taking it back to the place where it crossed over from its home to yours.” Marjorie tried to let the information sink in as the man touched her head with his cupped hands. A flurry of images passed into her soul. Marjorie screamed in pain and collapsed to the grassy turf. She heard his raspy voice call out, “Go child, find your allies and prepare for battle.” “Yes, Uncle.” Marjorie replied. She opened her eyes and scanned her miserable shack for the old man with the sliced throat and the battered bodies. She had lived here alone since her mother died, and after seven winters spent surviving on the slopes of the Appalachian mountains, her home stood empty of visitors. The fire sparked and snapped as the dried sap from the log combusted and smoked up the drafty shed. Marjorie shucked off her stained and ripped sleeping shirt and dressed in her only clothes for the trip over the mountains between her and the creature. She took up her leather bag of herbs and supplies and left her secluded home where she earned her living making healing poultices and placing “hexes” on wayward husbands. She left the shack and shut the door behind her as she stepped off to meet the unknown.
Want to be able to read more? Sign up at the bottom of our Home page. We will periodically share some of the stories we have in production.