Randall Flood: Bring on The Magic74,128 words (complete!)
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Posted on April 11, 2014

Here's a sample of what's going on in Overwhelmed. This is a rough version of Chapter 3 with only minor edits done to it. It will get worked over more as it gets closer to publication.

Chapter 3

He didn't say much to her for the next few minutes. They plowed through the underbrush in silence. Nathan knew his last comment had hurt her feelings; he had intended it to. What could he do to stop some dark force that turned people into zombies? It was all too much.

The two of them couldn't even keep a van on the road. They hadn't even been on their own for two hours and already things had gone from bad to worse. Seeing the zombies stacked across the road like bricks had really rattled him. The power at the dark thing's command felt too much. Was the dark creature even here in their world? Did it exist in another dimension, directing its puppets from afar?

He didn't understand its motives. To do that, he'd need to know what it was. That frustrated him the most. If it was just the zombies who were the bad guys, he could handle that. If the zombies behaved in a way that aligned with science, he would knew their limits. But some massively powered force that orchestrated everything from afar made him feel small, ineffectual. No way he could fight something like that. The scope of the threat was too big.
Why couldn't Trina see that?

Because she was something beyond human. She was connected to a force for good. He knew that to be true. Of course, she also had a rapport with its counterpart. Why else could it send her nightmares.

They trudged through the woods together. Ahead, the trees thinned. They eventually found themselves in a field filled with waist-high grasses.

He looked at Trina for guidance.

She patted the folded map in her hand and pointed her bat to their left. "We go around this. Too easy for any of them to pop up out of nowhere."

He nodded but didn't move. She had more to say.

Her eyes softened. He sensed this was because she was happy he wanted her to continue. "About a mile or two we should come to a small local airport."

He frowned. "I can't fly a plane. Can you?"

"No, but maybe we'll find another car."

He again nodded. "Better hope we can find keys. I have no clue how to hotwire anything."

"Me neither," she replied.

He slipped a few feet back into the woods. Keeping the field to his right, he hiked forward, pushing back low-hanging branches and holding them in check as Trina passed through. "Why only you?" he asked.

"Why only me what?"

Why did the light bring just you back with your soul intact?"

She scrunched up her nose and shot him a quizzical look. "You think I have a soul?"
He rolled his eyes. Church and all things spiritual were not his area of expertise. "Well, yeah. You came back and don't want to chow down on us." He hated how exclusionary the last word came across and tried to rectify his mistake. "I mean, you still know right from wrong. You have a mind of your own. Why did the light just send you and the dark let loose with a whole army of zombies?"

She slipped ahead, keeping her back to him. "Maybe one is all it takes."

"What if there are others like you? Maybe doing the same thing you're doing with me, shepherding others to someplace where they can fix things."

"I don't know. Maybe. The light doesn't tell me that stuff."

"Yeah, it's pretty tight-lipped." He meant his comment as a joke.

Luckily, she received it as such and snickered.

They plodded on, fording two narrow streams and scaling a gentle slope rife with kudzu. Nathan was feeling good about their progress. They should be coming up on the airstrip soon. If it was a small-timey place, maybe they'd find a truck with its keys in the ignition. Maybe the airfield's mechanic was a retired military engineer who trusted others and left his vehicle unlocked and ready to go. He pictured a metal biplane dangling from the imaginary keychain he was conjuring in his mind.

A shrill scream cut through the air. Trina dropped into a guarded position. He gripped his bat tighter.

He vaulted forward, knowing the screamer wasn't too far ahead. It had sounded like a young girl.

He high-stepped through the kudzu, not caring how much noise his progress stirred. Two birds leapt from an overhead branch, disturbed by Nathan's crashing.

Trina snaked through the vines with far more care. She hissed at him, "What are you doing? You can't just rush in! What if it's another mob like the roadblock zombies?"

Another scream, this time more to their left.

A stand of young loblolly pines prevented him from seeing exactly what was going on. The tall grasses of the field that had been a steady companion on their right for the past few minutes were giving way to thick forest again. At least whatever rescue they mounted wouldn't involve wading into that dangerous minefield.

Trina grabbed him by his wrist and twirled him around. "We don't know what we're running headlong into."

He grimaced. "I know, but that was a little girl, I think. I can't ignore it."

Trina looked at him intently. It felt like she was measuring his resolve. Finally, she said, "Okay, but let's use a little more stealth. No sense telegraphing where the cavalry is coming from."

He nodded and moved forward, weaving through the thinning kudzu at a more cautionary speed. Soon, they had left the invasive green carpet behind and had only the low-hanging branches that populated the fledgling pines to worry about. The needles on the forest floor muffled their approach. They darted through the pines with much more ease without the ropy vines at their feet.

A break in the trees ahead allowed them their first view of the airfield. A football-field expanse of open lawn separated them from a thin landing strip and four long buildings resembling large metal sheds arranged in a tidy row next to it. From their size they had to be hangers. Two had their doors wide open while the others were closed tight. Three planes were parked in front of the open hanger closest to them.

He and Trina stopped at the edge of the woods and huddled behind an anemic bush, its leaves few and far between. If any of the zombies looked their way, they'd be easy to spot.
A tall pole with a brightly colored windsock stood guard at one end of the runway, stiff from a strong easterly breeze. Beside it, a small plane sat, clearly preparing for a take off as it faced the length of the air strip. Three zombies clawed at the plane's cabin. Nathan could make out a small figure moving within. Whoever was in the plane screamed.
He pointed at the plane besieged by the undead. "She's over there. We have to do something." He plunged forward.

Trina said, "Wait! Scope things out before we rush in. Check to see if there are any others." She was already taking in the entirety of the scene, her pale eyes roving over every inch of open ground.

Nathan froze and did the same.

A small gravel parking lot held two cars, a truck and an SUV. A small office building stood off by itself, its screen door swinging lazily in the stiff breeze. A zombie wearing overalls stumbled out of the building. Nathan's imagined mechanic. With have his face missing and his guts hanging from his opened midsection, he didn't fuel Nathan's hope that he had left his keys in his vehicle. Their luck, they were on his person.

Glass breaking shifted his attention back to the plane. A thick-necked zombie wearing only shorts had broken one of the side windows on the plane and was reaching its fat arms into the cabin. The girl darted forward, disappearing under the pilot's controls.

Trina said, "Counting overalls, the two milling around the hangers, and the three stooges pawing at that plane, we have six to worry about." She paused. "No telling if there's any in those open hangers."

"We can't wait any longer to be sure." He stepped out of the woods and broke into a run toward the girl.

Trina didn't hold back either. She matched him stride for stride.

The two zombies loitering by the hangers spied them first. From the corner of his eye, Nathan saw their arms reach up as they stumbled toward them. Both let out conspicuous moans, announcing to any near or far that more dinner prospects had arrived.

The overalls zombie veered toward them, but it fell twice, tripping over its ropy entrails. Hopefully, it wouldn't factor into their fight.

Nathan ignored the hanger zombies and focused on the three attacking the plane.
The heaviest one still had its arms in the cockpit and was flailing them about madly as it huffed and moaned. Nathan thought if it could, the manic creature would shove its bulk through the small opening without a care as to the injury to itself.

The two others, a man wearing a bright orange Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts and a petite woman in a yellow sundress raced toward them. The woman was barefoot and making faster progress across the open tarmac. The other had one sandal on, its other foot missing, apparently gnawed off to the ankle by the zombie that had turned it. The one-sandal zombie wobbled forward, hopping more than hobbling. Surprisingly, it hadn't fallen yet.

Nathan whipped his bat up over his head and charged forward. "I got her. You hang back and help me with Peter Cottontail after I deal with the beauty queen. He's too big for you to take on by yourself."

Trina said, "Got it."

Nathan let a growl slip free as he leapt into the air and brought his bat crashing down on the sundress zombie. His blow caved in her skull and she collapsed to the ground. He slipped right and ran toward the hopping zombie. Trina joined him, sparing a look back at his kill.
She said, "If only they all went down that easily."

Nathan didn't like her comment. It felt like a jinx, like commenting on their good luck would become ironic famous last words.

He drove his bat into the zombie's right ear and sprang back as it tumbled forward, its hairy forearms grabbing for him and missing. It rolled once and pushed itself to its knees. Trina came at it from behind and landing a solid blow. The creature's skull busted, spraying black sludge at Nathan. He leaned back, barely avoiding the foul discharge.

"Two down," she said.

Nathan eyed the zombie still at the plane. It was trying to wrest its arms from out of the plane's tiny window in order to go after them. We're much more appealing targets. We're exposed, Nathan thought.

He saw the girl's small head, all matted red curls, poke up into view. Her tiny eyes stared at him. Even almost a hundred feet away, he could see they were red and swollen.

He crossed the distance to the plane in record time. The zombie was still stuck, its hands trapped in a winged cookie jar.

Nathan shouted at the girl in the plane, "Close your eyes!"

He didn't look to see if she did. He brought the bat down hard on the zombie. While the big ones were not fast, he didn't want to chance it getting free and using its bulk against him. At a hundred and forty pounds, Nathan wasn't ready to take on any and all heavyweights if he didn't have to.

He slammed the bat into the zombie's skull four times before it slumped against the side of the plane, propped up by its arms still lodged tight in the plane.

Nathan gripped his knees and took in several exaggerated breaths. Trina came up beside him.

The red-haired girl eased up higher in the cockpit, obviously climbing back into the seat proper. As he caught his breath and his heart rate slowed, he studied her. She couldn't be more than eight or nine. Her curly hair was shoulder length and a fine spray of freckles ran under her eyes and across her nose. She wore a red windbreaker on and a rubberband bracelet on her right wrist. She didn't smile, but her expression looked a notch or two below the abject panic and terror she had been expressing earlier.

"Well, there's that," he said. "Guess we get her out." He moved to the passenger side of the plane, away from the quieted zombie that hugged the other side.

Trina stretched and followed him.

The girl's eyes went wide and she pointed to something behind them. The zombies from the hanger or the overalls one had her riled up more than likely.

Nathan spun around and saw that was not the case. Yes, the overalls zombie was closing in, but he still had another hundred feet to go.

The two by the hanger now had friends. Streaming from the open hanger closest to them, a horde of zombies, all children, dashed across the airstrip. Nathan saw what they had missed. It hadn't been apparent from their angle earlier. Now, from his vantage point from the plane's spot, he spied the yellow school bus parked beside the hanger.

Trina said, "Oh, God!"


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