Assembly of the Dead

📅 Published on October 13, 2023

“Assembly of the Dead”

Written by Frederick Pangbourne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 7.00/10. From 2 votes.
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The sun was emerging from the horizon like the head of some angry fire god awakening from its long slumber, when they crossed over the Georgia border from Florida. The temperature was already beginning to rise, and the day had yet to even begin. It would be another sweltering June day. The two had taken Walter’s car, a faded blue 1990 Mustang LX, for the trip since Jasper had yet to repair the flat tire on his own vehicle which sat uselessly in front of his trailer. The spare was already being utilized as the replacement to the front passenger tire that had gone flat a month prior.

“What time is it?” Jasper asked as he was awakened by the sun’s piercing rays as they sliced through the windows and into his eyes.

“About seven thirty, give or take. We just crossed over into Georgia about fifteen minutes ago.” Replied Walter as he finished the last of an energy drink and tossed the empty can out the window. “Sign back in Valdosta said we got eighty-eight miles still before Albany. Figure it’ll take us about an hour and a half to get there.”

Jasper sat up in in the passenger seat and rubbed the fatigue from his face. “As soon as you get a chance, pull over and I’ll take the wheel. Get some rest.”

“We’ll make a pit stop in Lenox and refuel. You can take over then.” Walter replied. His eyes, while still on Route 75, showed signs of exhaustion.

Jasper rolled down his window and let the warm breeze wash over him, blowing his long dark hair from his face. Jasper Daystrom would not have been able to take on this venture without Walter’s aid and was glad that the man had eagerly accepted his help when he asked yesterday. Jasper’s sister Terri had been the key objective to this road trip. Terri was two years younger than his own twenty-nine and was soon to become a single mother. Another burden thrown upon her irresponsible shoulders. Not that he was setting the world afire at the garage back in Levy County but at least he rightfully owned his trailer and that piece of shit car of his. Terri had moved in with him shortly after being knocked up. Unlike him, she possessed neither money, a job nor a place of permanent residence so, when she showed up at his place in tears and suddenly concerned about her future, he had done the only thing he could do and took her in.

The first few months had been as pleasant as they could be until her ex-boyfriend came back into the picture. He had disappeared for almost three months after impregnating his sister and like some dried up, dead tumbleweed came rolling back into her life a couple of weeks ago. Jasper would be the first to admit that though Terri was attractive with her long legs, blue eyes and long dark hair, what she made up for in physical attributes she greatly lacked in common sense. As soon as that scum bag, Chaz, slithered back into her life he wasted no time filling her head with visions of a perfect life together with just the three of them. She, as gullible as she was, fell for his line of bullshit hook, line and sinker.

Charlie Dillman, or Chaz as they called him, was as worthless as a man could be. Like Terri, he never partook in an honest day’s work in his life and relied on selling meth as his financial well. A man of that nature can never truly love themselves let alone those around them so, when he suddenly reappeared like some cheap magician’s trick, Jasper knew something foul was afoot. It only took him coming home last week and finding the trailer trashed and the front door wide open with no Terri inside, for him to know that Chaz had taken her away. With or without her consent, he could not say. Besides trashing his trailer, his only credit card had been discovered and taken. It only took the purchase of a $4.99 porn movie in a motel room up in Skeller, Georgia, which sat in Dougherty County, to appear on his card’s transactions yesterday for him to initiate his current actions. Walter only needed to be asked, and he was loading up his car for the upcoming road trip late that night.

“You sure you’re good?” Asked Walter as he pulled the car into a Sunoco station.

The words drew Jasper from his distracting thoughts. “Yeah, I’m good. Rest up, man. I’ve got the rest of the ride.”

After filling the mustang back up and hitting a truck stop for breakfast, Jasper took over at the wheel and the two continued traveling north on Route 75 and were on 82 West just before ten. He figured they should be rolling into Skeller about noon time. That gave him a couple of hours of road time to contemplate how he would handle the situation when he eventually found Terri and Chaz. As much as he wanted things to go smoothly when he confronted the two misfits, his gut told him differently; and if things got really out of hand, he brought along a snub-nosed .38 revolver he had hidden in his bedroom closet. Something that had apparently avoided discovery when his place was ransacked.

Skeller was nothing more than a tiny blemish on the Georgia map. A small hick town that if you happened to blink, you’d have driven right through it. Whatever reason those two had to get away, they sure picked a seclusive enough place. A cloak of black walnut trees and swamp hibiscus surrounded the concealed town. One lone traffic light stood in the town’s center and the ‘Sleep Well Motel’ was only a block passed it. Its red neon sign above the office flickering with the ‘W’ dead and colorless. Chaz’s black Trans Am was parked in the lot. It looked just like the one Burt Reynolds drove in Smokey and the Bandit, except his was all beat to hell with a blue primer front quarter panel on the passenger side. Jasper pulled the car into the parking lot.

“Well, there’s that son of a bitch’s car.” Walter stated as they pulled in. Jasper parked the car two spaces over next to it.

The parking spaces for the tenants was set across the lot from the motel itself closer to the street. Five cars took up spaces in the lot including Chaz’s. The motel was nothing more than a string of single-story rooms with the office attached to the far end. There were perhaps a dozen rooms and with the cars being parked across the lot, Jasper wasn’t able to get an idea which room they might be held up in. People had a common tendency to park in front of their rooms.

“What now?” Asked Walter.

Jasper sighed heavily as he thought out his next move. “Let’s check with the office. Once we get the room number, we’ll come back to the car and grab that tire iron.”

“Tire iron? You’re going in hard, huh?”

“I don’t plan on using it but, I want those two to know I didn’t drive all fucking night just to discuss the matter over tea.” Walter nodded in agreement, and they climbed out of the car.

The sun was scorching down upon them as they crossed the cracked asphalt of the lot to the office. Jasper felt as if he were an ant being put under the concentrated beam of a child’s magnifying glass, his worn sleeveless t-shirt was sticking to his him with sweat. He threw a glance at the rooms as they walked. Most of them had their blinds and curtains closed. In one of those rooms, he’d soon find them.

Inside the tiny office they found a lanky looking man about their age behind the counter. His feet propped up on the desk watching a small portable television nearby. His black hair slicked back with grease and a pair of overly thick glasses resting on his nose. The small air conditioner in the window basking the room with some form of cool comfort.

“Help you gents?” He asked. His attention not diverting from the talk show he was watching.

“Yeah, we’re looking for someone who’s staying here.” Stated Jasper as he leaned against the counter. He spotted an open registry book under the man’s shoes.

“That right? What’s their name?” Still, he hadn’t thrown the two men in his office even a glance. Jerry Springer held his attention as if the almighty himself were on the screen.

“We’re looking for two people, actually. Terri Daystrom and Charlie Dillman.”

It was only then that the man slowly turned his head in their direction. “Who?”

“Terri Daystrom and Charlie Dillman.” Jasper repeated.

“No one here by that name.” His head turning back to the television.

Jasper threw a glance over his shoulder to Walter who scoffed. Jasper turned back to the counter. “I beg to differ. Now if you’d just take a look in that book right there,” he pointed down to the book beneath the man’s loafers, “I’m sure you’ll find who I’m looking for.”

“Can’t help you gents. No one here by that name. Sorry. You sure you got the right motel?” His eyes still fixed to the television.

“How many motels you got in this shithole town, asshole? Now check that fucking book like the man asked!” Walter, larger and more muscular than Jasper, moved to the counter and slammed his hands on its surface. Even with his sudden and forceful action the man did not flinch a muscle. Instead, a scowl formed on his face and he now rose from the slouching position in his chair. The man, though lanky, was taller than them both.

He pointed and shook his finger in disapproval at them, slowly shaking his head. “You two stay right there.” Without another word he turned and disappeared behind a door connected to the office. Jasper took the opportunity to reach behind the counter and grab the book. Brushing away specks of dirt from the man’s shoes, he quickly ran his finger down the page.

“What room?” asked Walter over his shoulder.

“I don’t see their names.”

“They have to be. His car’s outside.” Walter replied now also looking at the open book.

“What the fuck is this?” Jasper’s finger stopped on room #6. A small five-pointed star within a circle was drawn in instead of a name. “This has got to be them.” He decided.

“Let’s go.” Walter said slapping his shoulder and turning from the counter.

Jasper glimpsed over his shoulder as he was walking out of the office. The lanky guy had yet to emerge from the back room.

“Why’d that guy put a star instead of their names, Jasp?” Asked Walter as they walked back into the heat and towards the car.

“I don’t know. Maybe Chaz paid that guy a few extra bucks to keep his name off the book? Wouldn’t put anything past him. He’s a slick fucker.”

At the car, Jasper pulled the keys from the pocket in his jeans and unlocked the hatchback. After a few seconds of rummaging about, he found the tire iron and pulled it out. Closing the back of the car, he moved across the parking lot toward the door marked ‘6’. “Walt, you stand to the side out of sight. Let them think I came here by myself until they open the door.”


They were about fifteen feet from door number six when the sound of a rapidly approaching car caught their attention. A dirty Skeller township patrol car plowed into the parking lot and came to an abrupt halt barely missing Walter. The two stood frozen, the tire iron still clutched in Jasper’s hand as all four doors flung open and men stepped out. The driver being the only one in uniform.

“Help you boys with something?” said the uniformed one. He was an older, portly man with short salt and pepper colored hair and a large belly that hung over his duty belt. Perspiration stains formed from his armpits. The other three men were dressed like themselves in worn jeans and t-shirts. One man climbing from the back seat was a hulking form in a Georgia University cap.

At first neither answered the officer. It was obvious now what the lanky guy was doing in the back room. “I’m looking for my sister.” Jasper finally said.

“That right?” The officer replied and spit out a wad of phlegm. His gold name tag read: LOGAN “Well, she ain’t here so why don’t you boys just head on back from where you came from?”

“That’s funny because I never told you her name.” Jasper shot back.

Logan chuckled and looked down at the pavement. “Shit. You got me there, boy.” His hand unholstered the revolver at his side and he slid the gun out. “Well, I guess it’s too late then, ain’t it? Anton, relieve this fellow of that tire iron, will you?” The weapon now aimed at Jasper.

A short skinny guy, covered in arm tattoos and standing on Logan’s left, stepped forward and yanked the iron from Jasper’s hand then stepped back next to Logan. “What’s your story, boy?” Logan now asked Walter.

“I’m with him.” He jutted his chin at Jasper.

“No shit? Like I didn’t figure that out, you dumb fuck. I want the both of y-”

“Chief!” Shouted the lanky guy from the office. He was standing in the doorway holding the receiver to the office phone. The cord’s length preventing him any more distance. “It’s the mayor. Wants to know what’s going on.”

Logan spit out another wad of phlegm which landed on Walter’s boot tip. “Tell him I got two more for tonight. I’m bringing them in now.” As the man relayed the message from where he stood Logan called out again. “Norman, lock up and drive Anton and Dave back to the station.” He turned to the enormous man. “Bobby, you’re riding with me.”

Waving the gun at Walter and Jasper, he directed them to the patrol car. “You two get in the back. Bobby, they try anything stupid, beat the fuck out of them.” He then walked to door number six and pounded on it with his meaty first. “I know you two heard everything in there. Chaz, have her down at the yard tonight like we discussed.” He then turned to the patrol car where the two men were already in the back seat behind the cage. Bobby was climbing in the passenger seat. “You two catch a ride with Norman.” He said waving off the other two men he came with.

The back seat of the car was stifling hot as the rear windows remained up and the inside of the doors were missing both handles and locking mechanisms. The two of them began to sweat profusely within seconds of being inside. As Logan was maneuvering himself into the car, he shouted out to Norman again before slamming the door closed. “Let’s go, Norman! Lock it up and get these two down to the station!”

Throwing the car into drive, Logan whirled the car back around and left the parking lot as quickly as he had entered it. The hot air blowing in from the open front windows bringing the men in the back some form of relief.

“Not that it matters much now, but how’d you boys find your way out here? That Chaz run his mouth to someone?” Asked Logan over his shoulder.

“They used my credit card to pay for a movie.” Jasper answered.

“That dumb shit.” Logan grumbled under his breath.

“What’s going around here? Why are y’all hiding my sister?”

“Yeah,” said Logan nodding his head with a smile as he pulled up a mental image of the girl, “She’s a real looker. Sweet looking young girl and pregnant too? Shit, she’s gonna do just fine tonight.” Bobby chuckled at the comment.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Never mind all that. You two will find out soon enough. Your fuck up is gonna be to our advantage. Ain’t that right, Bobby?” Bobby nodded his head and laughed.

Jasper looked over to Walter and gave him a reassuring nod. Whatever was going on in this jerkwater town was apparently some private joke that excluded them both. That was ok though. As they pulled up in front of the undersized police station only two blocks away, he remembered the snub nose back in the mustang. He just needed to get his hands on that, and the joke would be on them. He just needed to wait for the right moment.

When the car was parked out front, Logan unholstered his gun as soon as he climbed out and opened the back door. “Let’s go.” Was all he said as he waved the gun toward the front doors to the station, and they followed behind Bobby as he walked in. The inside of the station was compact and crammed with clutter. It consisted of nothing more than an open room with two desks, a few filing cabinets, a door to the chief’s office and two cells at the far wall. “Looks like we’re in Mayberry, Jasp.” Walter commented.

Logan handed Bobby a key ring from his belt. “Put one in each cell, Bobby.” He instructed.

Pulling the large Folger Adam key out from the other keys, Bobby lumbered over to the first cell and unlocked and opened the door. Walter stepped forward and the larger man grabbed him by the back of neck and shoved him assertively in, almost causing the man to lose his balance and nearly fall before securing the door behind him. “Welcome to Mayberry, asshole.” Bobby added. Jasper was locked inside the adjoining cell.

Handing the keys back to Logan, the chief walked up to the cells and slid his weapon back into its holster. “The mayor will be here soon, so you boys just sit tight. Don’t go nowhere.” He laughed at his own wit and the two of them walked outside leaving their captives alone.

“Jasp, what the hell is going on around here?” Walter asked as he pressed his face against the bars of his cell.

“Fuck if I know but, is it me or did you notice that there wasn’t a single person out in town? I haven’t seen a car on the road or soul walking around outside. It’s like there’s no one here.” Jasper had also moved to the front of his cell.

“Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen anyone beside these crazy fucks.”

“I don’t know what the hell is going on in this town or how Chaz and Terri got involved in it but, one of us needs to get back to your car somehow and get that gun.”

“I can take that big guy on if I have to. If you see a window of opportunity, take it. I’ll try to hold them off while you get out to the car. You still got the keys, right?”

“Yeah.” Jasper patted the keys in his front pants pocket for reassurance. Walter was right. He was stockier than himself and could handle himself in the bar fights he’d seen him in. When the shit hit the fan, he’d just have to make sure he hauled ass and made it to the car. They wouldn’t have a second try.


“So,” Logan continued before he took a drag off a cigarette and turned to Bobby leaning against the squad car next to him, “the penguin says to the prostitute, ‘It’s mighty frigid in here’ and the prostitute replies, ‘It’s a good thing that I got two more holes.’

Logan bellied over in a roar of laughter at his own joke before the simple punchline was comprehended at his one-man audience. Bobby laughed seconds later. “That’s a good one, boss.”

Their laughter was short lived as the sound of an approaching car was heard and a red Cadillac came into view. The car pulled up with an abrupt halt next to the police car. The two straightened as the lone occupant emerged.

“Out of all the nights, these two peckerwoods had to show up tonight? Who are these boys, Logan?” The man demanded.

“One’s her brother. The other-” Bobby began.

“Is your fucking name Logan?” The man snapped and glared at Bobby who bowed his head in embarrassment.

“Like he started to say, it’s the girl’s brother and his friend.” Logan finally answered.

“How the hell did they know she was here?”

“Apparently Chaz used a credit card that didn’t belong to him to pay for some movie at the motel. They tracked the card here.”

The man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the accumulating sweat from his face. “That moron could fuck up a free lunch. Shit! I’ll deal with him later. We can’t have anything going wrong tonight. Not tonight, ya hear? It’s going to be mighty pissed off that these yahoos showed up tonight out of all nights.” The man’s face twisting to one previously of anger to one of utter despair.

“They ain’t gonna cause no trouble.” Logan said reassuringly. “I got them both in the holding cells. If anything, it’ll be getting a little something extra with these two. Hell, being that one of them is kin to the girl, it might have some special use for him. Ya never know, right?”

“One would only hope. They say if anyone else knew about the girl? We don’t need her whole god damn family tree showing up here tonight. It’s my neck on the chopping block if anything goes wrong tonight. My neck!”

“I know, I know. There ain’t gonna be no foul ups tonight. I’ll make sure of that and it’s my ass too if it gets screwed up, ya know? Anyway, I don’t think we’ll be expecting anyone else.”

“Why’s that?”

“I believe those two drove up here as fast as they could, as soon as they found out where she was. I’m even betting no one is aware that they are here, in case they try to look for them.”

“Well, let’s hope you’re right.” Sighing heavily, he wiped the mounting perspiration from his face again before cramming the handkerchief back in his pocket. “Okay, let’s go talk to these two boys and see what’s what.”


Outside, the sound of a vehicle pulling up in front of the station could be heard followed by a car door slamming. They faintly made out the murmuring of the men talking out front. “Probably filling in that mayor about us.” Walter said.

As if on cue, the double doors to the station opened, and they walked back in. Logan and Bobby followed a man in a disheveled gray suit. He was older than the rest. Somewhere in his sixties, if Jasper had to guess, his thinning white hair plastered to his head with sweat, his face was red from the heat outside. “These the two?” He said throwing a hand towards the cells.

“Yeah, them the two.” Said Logan as he moved alongside the man.

“You boys sure stepped in a mess of shit, didn’t ya? My name is Cameron. I’m the mayor here.” Cameron paced back and forth in front of the cells. “I hear one of you is the girl’s brother?”

“Yeah. Well, whatever mess that piece of shit Chaz has her mixed up in, I’m sure she didn’t know any better.” Jasper answered.

Cameron chuckled. “Yeah, there’s no denying that Chaz is about as useless as tits on a bull but, that so-called piece of shit is my nephew, and your sister is real important to us all here in Skeller. So, with that said, her and the two of you won’t be going anywhere. You’re all in the shit now.”

“What the fuck is going on in this town?” Walter threw in.

“Boy, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I’m still trying to get a handle on all this myself, and it’s been going on for almost a year now.” Cameron stopped and turned to Logan. “Oh, I ran into Norman down at the motel. Told him and those other two dimwits to stay there in case any more family members decided to stop by.” He then proceeded to pace again. “Aw hell, I suppose letting you in our little town secret won’t hurt. It ain’t like you two are going anywhere.”

Cameron pulled a crumbled pack of Lucky Strikes from inside of his suit jacket and tapped a cigarette from it. “I own, or should I say owned, a car dealership here in Skeller. Fine lot of used cars I had. Well, I got slapped in the balls twice back in 2008. With the economy taking a shit and that hurricane flooding out my lot and parts of town, Bertha I think it was, I was damn near ruined. A good hundred cars in that lot and they were all buried in three feet of water and mud. Ruined! Well, I had no choice but to abandon the dealership and take the loss on the chin. What I didn’t know was that the old cemetery up on the hill near the lot, the place was long forgotten about back in the 30s, got washed out and all that dead shit in the ground up there was pushed right into my lot to make matters worse. Well, unbeknownst to any of us, not everything in that cemetery was dead.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? What does your car lot have to do with all this?” Barked Jasper.

Cameron chuckled and shook his head. The cigarette hanging from his lip as he spoke. He continued, ignoring the man’s remark. “Whatever was buried up there was very much alive once it was washed out of its rotted coffin and spilled out into my lot. At first it went unnoticed. No one here knew a thing and, how could they? It wasn’t until we started having people come up missing around town. Took us all,” he waved a hand at Logan, “a good minute before we knew that something wasn’t right. Then people started to make reports of strange things going on in that lot at night. Fires being lit and people who were once missing now walking around out there.”

Walter scoffed from behind the bars. Cameron continued. “I wouldn’t have believed it myself, none of us would have,” he again waved a hand at Logan and Bobby who stood leaning on one of the desks behind him, “if we hadn’t seen it for ourselves. You’ll be seeing for yourselves soon enough.”

“Bullshit! You’re saying some vampire is living out in your car lot? Come on, man! What are you smoking?” exclaimed Jasper.

“Ain’t no vampire, boy.” It was Logan who now spoke. “Shit, it would make life a whole lot easier if Ole’ Bela Lugosi were out there. We ain’t permitted to speak its name aloud but, the lord of the dead is what lives out there now. That thing controls this town. It’s the one that sucked the last of the life from this town and let a few of us live and it’s your sister it wants. The child inside her. With that kid it’ll -”

“That’s enough, Logan!” Cameron cut in. Taking one last drag from his cigarette before he dropped it to the floor and grounded it out beneath one of his brown leather shoes. “We told these two boys enough. They’re going to find out firsthand what goes on in that lot at night.” He then turned and walked to the front door. “I’ll see you all there tonight.” And vanished into the sunlight.

After Mayor Cameron had made his appearance, spun his bizarre and undoubtfully fabricated tale and departed, Logan and Bobby took turns lounging in the chief’s office watching a small television that remained out their captive’s view, while the other left the building. Jasper sat on the floor in the cell’s far corner and tried to piece together the dilemma they were in and figure out a way to get the upper hand. The notion that out of the entire town only a handful of people remained and that the rest were, according to Logan and Cameron, all dead and in the abandoned car lot was nothing short of absurd. Lord of the dead, he snickered to himself. What the hell was going on here? They spoke as if some cult had taken over the community. Probably killing those who refused to convert and anyone who was unlucky enough to stop over in the town. And even if some leader to a cult had taken control, what form of leverage did they possess that they could bend the wills of both the police chief and the mayor himself? He tilted his head back, smacking it gently on the concrete wall behind him. He would just have to play it all out by ear. There were too many unanswered questions and unknown factors to consider any type of tangible plan. He only hoped that these idiots would slip up and give him that window of opportunity to make a run for the car. The two remained silent in their cells and waited as they watched the time tick away on a dust coated wall clock near the office door.


Chester’s had once been the sole watering hole for the populous of Skellar. A quaint hole in the wall dive bar only a few blocks from the motel. Now, the dank establishment accommodated only a handful of the greatly reduced population. This afternoon, only two customers graced it’s empty, dying presence. Cameron and Logan sat quietly at the bar as Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ played on the jukebox in the corner. The two stared blankly into their half-filled glasses, both men in deep perturbed thought. It was not until the front door opened, allowing the blinding sunlight from outside to briefly exploded into the tavern’s darkness with a blazing illumination, displaying the empty array of dust coated tables and chairs set inside. The two men lazily lifted their heads to the unexpected visitor only to see Chaz enter and close the heavy door behind him, casting the room back into its glooming, cave-like normality.

“I guess I am just in time for a little pre-game celebration, huh, boys?” Chaz said gleefully as he strolled over to the two men and placed an arm over Cameron’s shoulder as he reached over the bar and lifts a bottle of bourbon, refilling their glasses. ‘Drink up, boys. It’s on me tonight.”

“Chaz, how about to just shut that mouth of yours for once? Gonna have a few more deaths on our hands tonight most likely and you’re strutting around like some prize rooster who just fucked the hen house.” Logan sneered.

“Sorry, chief, but I never did like that son of a bitch Jasper. He deserves everything he has coming to him and I’m gonna be there to see every minute of it.”

Ignoring Chaz’s boastful statement, Logan turned his attention to Cameron. “What time you plan on heading over?”

Cameron lifted his sleeve and checked his wristwatch. “Soon.” Exhaling deeply, he lifted the rock glass of bourbon to his lips and finished the drink in one deep gulp before sliding the glass across the bar to Chaz, who had moved around the other side taking the place as bartender. “Gimme another one.” He then leaned back in his stool and glanced over at Logan. His face drooping with exhaustion. “What are you gonna do when it’s your turn to run this nightmare show? Huh?”


“Yeah you. I gotta be honest with you, Logan, I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. This just ain’t right what we been doing and on so many levels. I can’t see myself continuing on like this. I feel like I’ve aged twenty years since this all started up.”

“You ain’t thinking of skipping town, are you?” Logan leaned in closer with sincere concern in his voice. “If it ever suspected you were thinking of taking off…” His words trailing off at the very thought. “Well, I don’t have to tell you what it would do to you.”

It was Chaz who now who added his own prediction as he poured a fresh drink for his uncle. “You know what’ll happen if it finds out you’ve gone missing, right? It’ll track you down for sure and if it don’t find you, you can bet your ass it’ll have those dead things out there looking for you for sure.” He gently pushed the filled glass to Cameron. “You’ll end up just like the rest of the folks here when it does finally catch up with you. Ain’t none of us got the privilege to just pick up and leave whenever we want. You know that as well as any of us.”

“Boy, who the hell do you think you’re talking to?” Cameron jabbed a finger angrily at Chaz as his voice rose. “Your sorry ass is lucky it doesn’t know about your fuck up, so you’d best keep you God damned mouth closed! ‘Cause if it comes between you or me, kin or no kin, you can bet your narrow ass it’ll be YOU walking around dead with your guts dragging in the dirt!”

“Okay, okay.” Logan interjected. “Let’s not start tearing at each other, we’re all that’s pretty much left now. We need each other.”

“For now.” Cameron quietly responded as his demeanor calmed and he partook in his drink.

“I heard from the chief over in Whigham yesterday. He was asking if we had any missing person cases pending over here.” Logan said attempting to divert the hostility.

Cameron paused then set his glass down. “Whigham?”

“Yeah. They’ve been having some folks coming up missing over there recently. A lot. Apparently, there’s reported cases of grave robbing in some of the county cemeteries too. I think it’s expanding. Reaching out to the other small towns.”

“Sweet Jesus!” Exclaimed Chaz. “What the hell for?”

“It’s growing its congregation, I’d imagine. Assembling all the dead it can.”

“For what?” Chaz asked nervously.

“My only guess is that old mining operation up in the hills outside of town. It has bodies in there night and day digging. If you happen close enough, you can hear them. Hundreds of them just digging. For what purpose, I can’t even imagine.” Logan replied before sipping his own drink.

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for memory of them is forgotten.”  The words rolled ominously calm from Cameron’s lips as he stared down into his empty glass.

Both Chaz and Logan turned their silent gazes to Cameron. Though the words were as clueless to Chaz as a child’s crossword puzzle, Logan recollected it to be some biblical scripture.

“What’s that?” Chaz asked perplexed.

Cameron simply waved off his nephew and pushed the empty glass to him. “Another.”

“Maybe after tonight, it’ll move on to somewhere else? Ya know, leave us be.”  Logan said with little confidence in his prediction. Another attempt at shedding some positive light on their dire situation.

“What makes you say a crazy thing like that?” Inquired Cameron as he watched Chaz refill his glass.

“Well, after it’s done doing whatever it’s planning tonight with that girl’s baby, it may not have any use for us anymore… or the town. Who knows? It may not have to hide out in the lot anymore and will leave elsewhere. Anywhere but here is good with me and with any luck it’ll take the dead with it.”

Cameron scoffed. “What do you think is going to happen to us when it no longer has any further use for us? Huh? You think that thing is just going to drift off quietly to some other town or wherever, and just leave the rest of us here to go about our normal business like nothing ever happened? Wake up, Logan. We are all living on borrowed time. Don’t be a fool. Once we are no longer needed, we’ll be lucky if it only kills us and not make it one of those walking corpses out there to serve it for eternity and dig in that fucking mine until we’re too rotted to function.”

A crypt-like silence fell over the trio at their very possible future. The juke box had completed its list of songs minutes ago leaving the room unaccompanied by any sound. Cameron checked his watch once more then sighed and he polished off his drink and began to rise from his seat.

“It’s about time I head out there and start getting things prepared. It don’t like to be kept waiting.” He pointed to Chaz as he started to walk from the bar. “Try not to screw up, boy, and have that girl down there on time, ya hear? I don’t need to suffer any ill consequences because of your incompetence.”

“We ain’t staying much longer.” Logan added. “I’ll make sure he’s down there on time. I’m heading back to the station in a few anyway.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you gents there.” Cameron concluded as the door opened again blasting the room with daylight’s radiance before closing.

Chaz pulled from the bottle of Budweiser he had been drinking and leaned on the bar near Logan. “You really think it’s taking people from other towns?”

Logan looked about the bar suspiciously as if the vacant furnishings surrounding them could hear and spoke in a hushed tone. “My belief is, and this is just my opinion, that back when this thing was still human, like you and me,” he pointed to them both, “it was some kind of… priest or something.”

“A priest?”

“Yeah, but not like the kind you’d see in church. I’m talking like some satanic high priest or a necromancer. Hell, that thing probably had a whole congregation of followers when it was still alive.”

“What’s a nerco ..?” Chaz struggled to repeat the word.

“Never mind. I found this on the internet. It’s what I believe that thing is. Hold on.”

Logan pulls out his wallet and scans the empty bar again before removing a folded piece of paper from it. Unfolding it, he reads. “It says, A lich is said to be a powerful sorcerer who, through an ancient necromantic process, holds death itself at bay by gaining eternal life as an undead. The lich is deathless. Though it is nothing more than rotted flesh, it still retains its knowledge and memories from its previous life. Death has brought greater changes to this undead abomination which no longer needs to eat, sleep or breath and is consumed by an infernal hatred of the living.”

Logan pauses and looks up to see if Chaz is paying attention, then continues.

“To sustain the dead husk of its newly acquired form, it must drain the essence of living beings, who in turn are transformed into its lesser undead servants.”

After relaying the information, Logan folded the paper and slid it back into his wallet. “I’ve been doing some digging into that old cemetery up on the hill just outside Cameron’s lot too.”


“It was called the Divine Gates Cemetery. Been around since the late 1800s and was closed off sometime in 1936. The cemetery wasn’t very big and once the county built a new larger one, there was no reason to keep cramming people into an already filled one. Some people are said to be buried on top of older graves, did ya know that?”

Enthralled by the story, Chaz only shook his head dumbly, letting Logan continue.

“Well, there was a small area sectioned off in the back for what you might call undesirables.”


“Yeah, you know, criminals, vagrants, murderers, all those worthless vermin of society. Your type of people. Apparently, the church involved with the cemetery was being paid handsomely under the table to covertly dispose of these people. It was there that our friend was most likely washed out from during all that that rain.”

“The internet say all that?” Chaz asked intently as he tried to pull from the bottle that he had already emptied minutes ago.

“No.” Snapped Logan irritably. “Of course not. It’s called police work, fool. But I did some snooping around out there a few months ago and came across the remains of a coffin. It had these crosses and religious designs craved all over it and it was wrapped in these rusted chains.”

“Chains? Why would someone go and chain up a coffin?”

“A precautionary measure to keep whatever was inside from getting out, I would assume. Once that rotted coffin was washed out though, it didn’t have all that dirt on top of it to keep weighed down and secure. When I found it, the side was all busted open like something inside forced its way out. I can only guess that when it died and was buried under lock and chain, it wasn’t really dead. Dead enough to bury, sure, but not really dead, ya know? Somehow its…’

Logan struggled with his thoughts, “its essence managed to survive even after death, and by some means beyond me it was able to resurrect its corpse once it was freed. Coming back to start up whatever unholy intents it failed to achieve in its past life.”

Chaz stared at the empty beer bottle in his hands, thinking hard about Logan’s informative suggestion then rubbed his stubbled chin. “Lich, huh? Then why kill everyone just to bring’em back? Why not leave them alive like us?”

Logan finished off his drink the began to stand. “It only needs a handful of living people to run the town and interact with any outsiders who pass through without causing any suspicion about what’s really going on here. The dead though, they’re just that, boy. Dead. Mindless. It can control them without any resistance. They’re its parish, its congregation. They obey it with blind obedience, without question.” Logan points to Chaz as he maneuvers from bar stool. “Like you should if you know what’s good for you. Now start closing up this place and get that girl over to the lot on time, okay? I gotta a few things to attend to then I’m heading back to the station to make sure Bobby is still holding down the fort.”

Logan had made his way halfway to the front door before he stopped and turned back to face Chaz. “And, Chaz, don’t go mentioning anything I told you here to your uncle. He don’t like the idea of me prying into matters concerning that thing. He’s a nervous wreck as it is”

Chaz nodded his head in agreement. “Chief?”


“You think my uncle will really skip town?”

Logan paused at the door. His hand on the handle and his back to Chaz. “I hope not. Only a whirlwind of hell will follow him if he does. It’s obvious that all this is beginning to take a heavy toll on him. Hell, I know it weighs on me something awful. But what happened to your aunt… I think that’s what finally broke him.” Exhaling deeply, Logan shakes his head of the dreadful thoughts of the past and clears his head before opening the door. “You just don’t forget to be there on time.”

And with that, Logan too leaves into the daylight outside. Chaz reflected for a moment on everything he had just heard, then as words of the Chief’s covert findings were eventually absorbed and made some form sense, he thought even more of his unfortunate situation. He could only hope that Logan’s feeble suggestion of it moving on elsewhere after it had concluded its business in Skellar would, with some luck, take place and they could return to the way things were before. Without the majority of the townspeople that is. He shrugged as the thoughts of a more desirable future seemed too distant to worry about at the present and tossed the empty bottle in a trash can behind the bar. As he made his way to the door, he turned off the interior lights as well as the switch to the neon sign outside, above the door.

Using a spare key to the bar, he locked the front door as he stepped outside. The sun had already begun to dip passed the distant roof tops, yet the stifling humidity still lingered as if awaiting his emergence from the air-conditioned interior of the bar and rapidly sucked at the very air from his lungs.

As he climbed into his car parked half up on the curb, he threw a quick glance at the surrounding area of store fronts across the street as he donned his sunglasses. A movement caught his attention and he squinted to an alleyway separating a coffee shop and a hardware store. It took but only a second before the movement was identified as a person slowly shuffling toward the sidewalk from the shaded confines of the back alley.

It was a man in a dirtied wrinkled gray suit. The tone of the man’s skin was a darker gray than the suit itself. It wasn’t until Chaz studied the man more intently that the side of the man’s badly burnt face became apparent. Despite the seared facial flesh being blackened and peeling off the skull, he recognized him as Albert Wallace. He owned the dry-cleaning store in town or used to. The front of his once white shirt was now stained of blood from the deep gash across his throat. The man stopped short of the store fronts and simply stared in Chaz’s direction as it swayed back and forth.

The disturbing sight quickly erased what little normalcy he had just experienced in the bar moments ago and refreshed his present nightmarish status. His lips quivered as he muttered. “Fucking zombies.” He swallowed hard as he stiffened himself and rolled down the car window. “What the fuck you looking at, Mr. Wallace? Huh?” He shouted across the street as he started up the car.  “Ya god damn freak!”

Wallace did not respond to the shouts and continued to stare from across the street, still swaying slowly back and forth as if watching. Observing. A dreadful thought then occurred to Chaz. Had the dead been ordered by that thing in the lot to watch over those still alive in town? Acting as its eyes and ears and monitoring their whereabouts? A shiver ran up his spine and he promptly threw the car into gear, tearing over the curb and squealing the Trans Am’s tires as it turned and raced away.


Cameron checked his watch again. 9:07. As he patiently waited in his car, parked across the street outside of his once proud car lot, he took another drag off his cigarette then grabbed a plastic bottle of chewable anti-acids from the passenger seat. The berry flavored tablets crunched between his teeth as his gaze wandered to the clear night sky then back to the closed vehicle gate allowing access to the back of the lot. The calm before the storm, he thought just before his line of thinking began to drift back to a time before the initial arrival of the vile corruption of his town…

Leaning back in his worn leather chair, he stretched his back and groaned loudly before directing his attention back to the disarray of paperwork strewed upon his desk. The time he spent at the car lot seemed to lengthen by the week. The silent wall clock read: 10:20 in the evening. Sighing, he sat up straight and proceeded to continue with the invoices when the phone on his desk rang. He answered in on the second ring.

“Hello? Yeah, I shouldn’t be much longer. Just trying to organize this shit show on my desk. That flood damn near ruined the lot.” He listens to the voice of his wife on the other end. “I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me. You’re preaching to the choir, woman.” He listens again then checks both his wristwatch and the one on the wall of his office. “I should be outta here in twenty minutes, no later. Yeah. Just leave it covered on the stove. I’ll get to it when I get home. Okay. See you then. Love you. Bye.”

Hanging up, Cameron begins to separate the paperwork into individual piles. It is then that the distinct squealing sound of metal grinding against metal is heard. His head quickly turns to the picture window to his right. The view outside the window granted him visibility to the vehicle gate into the back lot and a portion of the back lot itself. A lone streetlight next to the gate illuminated the area more than well enough. Nothing unusual or out of place could be seen from his vantage point, so after a few seconds his attention was back to the paperwork. It was until the sound repeated that his attentiveness was promptly directed back to the window. This time, there was something unusual.

The vehicle gate was now half opened. As clear as can be, the gate was ajar even though it was chained closed. He had secured the lock himself after the last employee left for the day hours ago. His watchful gaze carefully swept the area outside the window for any more irregularities. It was then that he spotted it. It had almost escaped his vision, standing solitary amongst the cars. A dark hooded figure stood motionless facing him. He squinted his eyes against the reflections of lighting from the office on the glass pane. Was someone in the lot?

Without warning, the radio on a nearby shelf sudden turned on by itself. The blaring volume causes him to flinch. There is nothing but static. After the initial shock of the sudden sound, he eyes quickly returned to the lot entrance. The gate was now back in its original closed position and the dark figure was no more. Before he could question his own sanity, the deafening static suddenly gave way to a voice. It was that of some evangelist in a strong southern accent.

“Ecclesiastes 9:5. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for them memory of them is forgotten.” The voice preached and then the radio died as swiftly as it had awakened.

The sound of a door closing somewhere in the unlit building beyond his office now demanded his attention. He felt himself beginning to sweat as his eyes lock on the darkened area past his office doorway. His mouth and lips are suddenly as dry as his hands are perspiring. Another sound came from within the dark work area.

“Hello?” Cameron managed to spit out between parched lips. “Morty, you still here? I told you to go home hours ago. No need to be hanging around here.”

There is no answer. Only a lingering silence. He nervously stares at the open doorway of his office until he hears furniture being pushed about, scraping across the floor. The sounds are moving closer. With a quivering hand he reaches for the phone. Looking down at the numbers, he begins to dial. When he pauses mid-way thru the number and looks up, he sees the hooded figure from outside now standing motionless in the shadows just outside the office door. The figure is as tall as the door frame. Though the cowl conceals the figure’s face in blackness, two purple glowing pins of light can be clearly seen as its eyes. The receiver unknowing slips from his grasp and falls to the floor. The office lights dim as if power is being drained from them as the figure silently glides into the office as if on air. Stopping just before the desk, it points a clawed finger at Cameron.

“Kneel and serve.” The deep rasping voice commanded.

Urine poured freely into Cameron’s trousers as he instantly dropped to his knees before the living nightmare before him. Inaudible whimpers and pleads ramble from his trembling lips. The figure waves its outstretched hand away and Cameron’s desk is swept aside by an unseen force that sends it sliding into a wall, no longer having it stand between the living and the dead. The figure moves in closer and clasps its decayed clawed hand over the man’s face. Cameron’s eyes are bulging manically with fear between the thing’s fingers. The stench of rot from the hand causes Cameron to clench his teeth to avoid vomiting.

“Your life is forfeited to me now. You will be allowed to live only to serve unto me. You are the first to be chosen. You will prepare this village for my coming. Hell has presented unto me a second opportunity and I shall not fail.”

Releasing Cameron’s face, it slowly glided backwards to the open doorway, leaving the man in crumbled heap of fear.

“Go now and serve in silence until I beckon thee again. I command it.” It’s last parting words as it faded into the darkness of the work area.

It was only then that Cameron allowed himself to cry and vomit…

The screeching sound of metal on metal caused Cameron to awaken from his disturbing daydream and turn his attention to the lot. The vehicle gate was slowly opening on its own accord. He sniffled and wiped the perspiration from his face before starting the Cadillac. As he carefully guides the car through the opened gate, numerous tiki torches placed through out the lot begin to ignite on their own casting the back lot in an eerie illumination. Cameron flings his half-finished cigarette out the car window as he pulls the car into the lot.


It was just after ten that evening when Logan entered the station. Bobby was taking his turn in the office watching the Muppet Show and laughing out loud like an overgrown kid.

“Bobby, turn that shit off. Time to get things moving.” Logan stated as he walked in and peered inside the office. “Grab an extra set of cuffs too from my desk.” He stopped just short of the cell doors with his hands on his hips eyeing up his two guests. “Well, it’s about that time, boys. Bobby is gonna throw some jewelry on you so, don’t try anything stupid. Would hate to take you out there all leaking and what not.” His hand unsecured the latch on his holster.

As Bobby moved to Logan’s side, the chief handed him his own set of handcuffs and the key ring from his belt. Both the man’s hands were now occupied with the pair of cuffs in one and the keys in the other. Logan had yet to pull his sidearm from its holster. Jasper hoped that Walter was also observing the opening they had been waiting for.

While Bobby stood in front of Walter’s cell and was thumbing through the keys, Logan was leaned up against a nearby desk. His weapon still within the holster. “Tonight is gonna be a special occasion with your sister being there and all.” His attention was solely on Jasper as he talked. “Not entirely sure what it plans on doing with her and her kid but, we went through a lot of trouble planning all this out. Chaz may be the kind of man to fuck up a wet dream but he sure-”

His words were cut short as Walter threw his boot forcefully into the cell door the moment it was unlocked, causing the heavy gate to crash into the larger man’s face. The edge of the cage door striking him between his eyes and smashing into his nose. His cap flew from his head as both cuffs and keys fell to floor. Walter was out of the cell before the two knew what had happened, including Jasper. With a sweep of his foot, he kicked the keys away, and they slid across the floor in front of Jasper’s cell. Bobby had stumbled backwards and fell into one of the filing cabinets. His hands cupping his face as blood poured from his broken nose.

Logan froze. His eyes wide in shock. He pulled his attention away from Jasper just as Walter was on him. Jasper could hear Walter landing blows on the chief as the two scuffled. Snatching the keys from the floor, he attempted to insert the correct key into the keyhole of his cell from the opposite side. Logan fell to the floor after his face had blocked several of Walter’s punches. From the other side of the room Bobby was scrambling to his feet. The lower portion of his face painted in blood. His teeth clenched in anger.

Just as Walter and Bobby were going at it, the key slid into the lock and with a twist, the cell door opened. “Git your ass out of here!” yelled Walter just before Bobby landed an uppercut to his sternum doubling him over. Logan was regaining his senses and rolling over onto his knees like an upended turtle, his hand reaching for his gun. Throwing one last glance at Walter, Jasper rushed from the station, leaping over Logan in the process.

The night air was warm and filled with humidity as he burst from the station doors. He threw quick glances to his left and right for any more opposition before he ran toward the main road in town and the motel.

For a moment he thought me may have gone in the wrong direction as nothing looked familiar from his earlier ride to the station, but the site of the lone traffic light through distant trees reassured him of his present course and he ran faster. He was soon crossing over the main road and to the motel lot. Walter’s mustang sat in the lot but, Chaz’s car was nowhere to be seen. He had missed them. The motel itself was closed. A green neon ‘No Vacancy’ light was now on beneath the motel’s name.

Pulling the car keys from his pocket he fumbled at the door’s lock. He wondered about Walter and what had become of him. The man had placed himself in harm’s way so that he could escape. With the door open, he quickly climbed inside and started fishing beneath the passenger seat. His fingers immediately falling upon the t-shirt in which the gun was wrapped in. Sitting up in the driver’s seat, he unfolded the shirt revealing the .38 snub nose revolver. He wasted no time opening the weapon, checking the rounds in the six chambers, closing it up and cramming it into the front of his pants. It was then that the bullet passed through the windshield missing his head by mere inches. Minute fragments of glass sprayed across his face as the round continued past his head and exiting through the back window, blowing a sizeable hole in the glass.

Instinctively he threw his hands up in a gesture of surrendering and held them out of the car. He could now see Logan crossing the street with his own pistol held out and pointed at him in both hands. The portly man was struggling with his breaths like a fish deprived of water. Logan must have immediately given chase after him when he left the station. As he drew closer, Jasper could see his plump red face dripping with sweat. It was probably the most the man had moved in years.

“Boy!” He called out between breaths. “Get your ass outta that car!”

Following the man’s orders, Jasper slowly emerged from the car with his hands held high. The gun in his waistband hidden by his t-shirt.

“I ought to drop you where you stand, you son of a bitch. Now toss them keys on the motel roof behind you.” He coughed the words out as he still struggled to breathe. Behind him, a block away, the patrol car was quickly making its way to them. The overhead lights flashing as it approached.

Logan was now across the street and entering the motel’s parking lot. Jasper turned and threw the keys hard, sending them sailing into the night sky where they disappeared somewhere on the motel’s roof.  “Now throw your hands on the hood of that car or so help me god I will kill you.” The weapon was still at the high ready and pointed at him.

Jasper forced a smiled. “Now I don’t know if you want to go and do that, Chief. You don’t want that graveyard boss of yours getting angry with ya.”

Logan’s reply was pistol whipping him against the side of his head when he was close enough, dropping Jasper to the ground. As gash from the blow to his temple was bleeding into his face. “Let’s go, Bobby!” He called over his shoulder. “Get your big ass over here!”

The fall had almost caused the gun to come loose from his pants and as he slowly made his way to his feet, he inconspicuously pushed the weapon back into place. The patrol car was now driving over the curb and stopping next to them. From where he stood, Jasper could see Walter in the back seat behind the cage.

Bobby started to climb from the car. “Keep your ass in there. You’re driving.” Logan spat as he walked to the car and opened the back door. The weapon still pointed at him. “Get in.”

Still with his hands held up, Jasper walked to the car and slid into the back seat next to Walter. He saw that Walter was handcuffed from behind and that his face was covered in bruises and welts. Slamming the door behind him, Logan moved to the other end of the car and climbed in the passenger’s seat. His breathing was just beginning to subside back to a state of normality. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his face. “Let’s go. The quicker we get rid of these two, the better.”

Putting the car back into gear, Bobby swung the car around the lot and exited over the curb like he had come. Jasper looked over to Walter who only shrugged silently displaying that he had tried the best he could in causing a distraction even though the two had ended up where they were intended to be anyway. Jasper flashed him a sly grin and slowly lifted the front of his shirt revealing the handgun. Walter smiled in return.

The car twisted down a series of back roads before coming upon the apparently once famous ‘Cameron’s Used Autos’ lot. The sign in front of the main building was fading and the display windows dark and covered in a film of dirt and grime. Weeds had poked their way from the cracks in the front lot adding to the properties apparent lack of use and maintenance. Chaz’s Trans Am and two other cars were parked up front. Bobby pulled the patrol in a space alongside the others.

The two men in the front exited and Bobby opened the back door on Jasper’s side. Logan stood ready with his gun draw. “This is it, boys. Let’s go.” He said waving the gun at them.

Once out of the car, the two followed Bobby around the back of the deserted building with Logan bringing up the rear. His weapon still drawn. A tall chain linked fence was erected about the sides of the main building and wrapped around the back lot encasing it with green vinyl privacy mesh woven into its links to conceal the automobiles within. Rusted coils of barbed wire were wrapped about the fence top for added security. The large rolling gate was unsecured as Bobby slid it open, a thick metal chain used to lock the gate dangled uselessly as it was unlocked by those now inside. The gate squealed as it widened, metal being pushed against metal. Opening the gate just wide enough to enter, Bobby stood ready to close it behind them as they entered the car lot.

Like Cameron had stated at the station, the lot was lined with numerous rows of cars and trucks that at some point, were drivable and desirable. Now however, they were nothing more than derelict automobiles covered with layers of dust and dirt. Some showed obvious signs of rusting on their bodies and tall grass had grown up around the vehicles. Thick mud, hardened through the years, imprisoned both cars and trucks as it held them by rising high up to the rims and some up to the chassis itself. The automobiles had been set up years ago to form a wide path through their ranks leading to a separate building in the far back. Rows of tiki torches, taken from supplies in the town’s abandoned general store, lined the path shedding light in the darkness of the hot summer night.

As the two drew closer to the small brick faced building at the end of the lot, Jasper surmised it probably was a garage used at one time to repair these now dilapidated vehicles. Standing at the bay door of the building stood a small group of men. As they drew closer Jasper identified the four men as Chaz, Norman, Anton and Dave from the motel. Terry was nowhere to be seen. Chaz was the first to notice their approach.

“Well, well, well. Looky here.” Chaz said louder than necessary. His thumbs crammed into the front of his jeans waistband as he moved away from the others to greet them. “Look what the cat dragged in.” A shit-eating grin forming on his mouth.

“Bobby let the mayor know we’re here.” Said Logan as he stood back and watched the men’s interaction. Bobby nodded and made his way to a back door into the office part of the main building.

“Hate to see ya here, Jasper. I really am. Whatever goes down tonight just remember, I never invited you out here.” The same shitty smile expanding across his face.

“Go fuck yourself, Chaz.” Jasper spit back.

He chuckled at the remark. “Yeah, well, I’m not the one being fucked tonight. Not by a long shot.”


Cameron sits slumped over behind his office desk. The shadowed office is only illuminated by a small desk lamp. In his hands, he is holding a framed 5×7 picture. It is an old, faded picture of he and his wife, Nancy, on their wedding day. Both are young and beaming with smiles. As he gently caresses his fingers over his wife’s image, tears form in his eyes. He forces a weak smile and slowly shakes his head in remembrance and remorse. He sniffles and wipes his nose with the sleeve of his suit and his mind travels back to the most horrific evening in his life…

Cameron stopped on his way up his front walk, arching his back he cranes his head back as far as it can possibly stretch and gives a satisfactory groan as the vertebrate in his neck gently pop. Despite the day’s previous heat, the night had given way to cooler temperatures and a gentle eastern breeze. He rolls his head about on his neck then continues up the walk to the front door of his house. A brief case is clutched in one hand.

Once inside, he secures the door behind him and removes his blazer and sets the briefcase near the door. The lights are on in the living room and kitchen he observes.

“Nancy, I’m home!” He shouts as he makes his way sluggishly to the mini bar in the living room, where he begins making a bourbon and coke.

“I hope you didn’t make anything for dinner.” He calls over his shoulder. “They ordered pizza tonight. That damn council meeting went on with no end in sight. Lord knows I tried to get of there as soon as I could.” He sips his drink then turns and looks around. The house is silent as it appears to be empty. “Nancy?”

With his drink still in his one hand and his other undoing his tie, he starts to walk through the rooms on the first floor. Nancy’s name is called out as he moves. As each room comes up empty, his thoughts are thrust back to the dreadful night at the lot last month. So far, only he and police chief Logan were the only ones visited by their undead and unwanted guest. Each of them being chosen to live only if they silently serve its immoral needs. An uneasy feeling was crawling up his spine as the first floor was void of his wife. Though he heard no water running through the pipes, he told himself that she may perhaps be in the shower and unable to hear his entrance. He carefully makes his way up the stairs to the second floor.

“Nancy?” He calls out again as he steps onto the landing of the second floor. He instinctively moves down the hallway to their bedroom. He sets his empty glass on a narrow hall table as he passes.

The door is at the end of the hall and Cameron finds it slightly ajar as he approaches. A dim light is on within the room. Pushing the door open, he sees that only the bed side lamp is on. He immediately spots Nancy standing in the far corner of the room facing the wall like a punished child.

“Nancy? Didn’t you hear me? I’ve been calling you?” He asks as he steps into the bedroom. With her back to him, she remains silent. “Honey, are you okay?” He inches closer and he reaches out to touch her shoulder. “Nancy?”

Before his fingertips can touch her flowered dress, she slowly turns around as if only now acknowledging his presence. Her skin is a light shade of bluish gray and her blankly staring eyes are a dead milky white. A meat cleaver is buried deep into her forehead and nose almost splitting the upper portion of her head in two. Drying blood stains and particles of brain matter cover most of her face and dress.

“I hear and obey its command.” Her voice says automatically just before Cameron screamed uncontrollably…

A knock at the closed office door jolts him from his trance and Cameron is thrust back to reality. The knock comes again. He quickly sets the picture down on the desk and wipes the tears that stream his face.

“Yeah?’ he answers in a hoarse voice.

Bobby appears in the open doorway. “Sorry to bother you, boss, they’re ready outside.”

Cameron nods vigorously and stands up. He makes a feeble attempt at straightening his suit and adjusting his tie as he regains his composure. “I’ll be right there.”

Bobby nods in silent reply and leaves. Once Cameron is satisfied that he is alone again, he lifts the picture and carefully removes the photo from the frame before slipping it into his suit pocket. Patting the pocket for reassurance, he makes his was outside to join the others.


A door slammed and Cameron was now emerging from the back of the dealership with Bobby in tow.

He was wiping sweat from his face and was for some reason again adjusting his tie as if he were late to some council meeting.

“How we looking?” Logan asked as the mayor neared.

“Everything is set.” He now turned to Chaz. “Go tell them to get into position and let’s get that door open.” Chaz nodded and walked back to the garage and the other three. Logan poked Jasper in the back with the barrel of the gun and gave Walter a slight shove. “Walk.”

“What kind of shit show do you have going on here, Chief?” Jasper asked. “A bunch of grown ass men acting like little fucking kids.”

“You’re a real hard ass, ain’t ya, boy?” Logan replied from behind him. “It’s easy for someone to have faith and act all brave in the light of day but, take that same man and put him in the cold dark of night alone and in its presence? Shit, all that strength and faith goes right out the window.”

As they moved closer to the garage, Chaz and the other men were already taking hold of the large bay door and lifting it up. As the door rolled up into the building Jasper could see nothing beyond but blackness. It wasn’t until they lit two more tiki torches, one at each of the opening, that he could make out the front of a school bus inside. The glossy yellow paint and the black grill making the vehicle obvious. After the door had been opened completely, and the torches lit, the four men backed away and dropped to one knee facing the building.  When they reached them, Logan ordered them to do the same behind them. Jasper helped Walter since he was still cuffed from the back. “If you boys know what’s best for you, you’ll keep your mouths shut.” Whispered Logan as he, with much effort, worked his way to his knee as well.

Up front, Cameron was walking to the open bay and stood alone waiting. Jasper looked about the lot and noticed that the night was deathly silent. No frogs, crickets, or even a bird called out in the darkness. Only the thick humidity seemed to be present with them.

“We are here, and we await you!” Cameron called out into the black depths of the garage.

At first there was no reply, only the silent heat. Then there was a faint mechanical sound from somewhere within. The distinct noise of the folding doors of the bus being opened and the sound of footfalls descending the vehicle’s steps followed shortly. Jasper squinted his eyes hoping to glimpse this so-called lord of the dead which had decimated this town and held its few remaining inhabitants in its grip of devoted fear. Taking form within the building’s gloomy interior, a shape grew as it neared Cameron only to stop just inside the open bay leaving it shrouded silhouette. As he squinted harder, it seemed that tiny purple lights replaced the eyes of the mysterious form. The flickering light from the torches were apparently playing with his vision.

Cameron was now speaking to the shape but, his words were inaudible. He then dropped to one knee and bowed his head before the hidden shape. As he remained there on his knee, a hand reached out from the shadows and was placed on his head briefly before returning into the dark. Then without warning a stream of colored water shot forth and splashed upon Cameron’s head. The tinted red liquid splashed noisily onto the crown of his head and ran down the back of his neck and into his clothing. It was then that Jasper realized what was taking place. Cameron was being urinated on. He was letting it piss on him! Blood mixed urine! The baptism of urine lasted almost as quickly as it had started and when the stream died down Cameron stood up and turned to the men behind him. Trickles of steaming red piss running off his head and into his eyes and mouth. The front of his stained shirt soaking in the bloody urine.

“Logan,” he called, “Bring one of them boys up here.”

Logan gripped Walter by the neck of his shirt and pulled. “You’re the lucky one, fighter. Get on your feet.”

“Get your fucking hands off me, pig!” yelled Walter as he attempted to break free of Logan. Jasper was now standing and grabbing at Logan.

“Bobby!” The chief called, and in an instant, the enormous man was present. Jasper heard the rapidly approaching footsteps and turned only to have something heavy smash into his face. The blow toppled him immediately and Bobby stepped over Jasper’s crumpled form and delivered the same blow from the handle end of a fire axe to the side of Walter’s head. Walter’s legs buckled, and the fight in him was quickly extinguished. With Bobby’s help, Logan dragged Walter away and passed the rank of men in front of them.

“Chaz, go sit on that one.” Said Logan jutting his chin to Jasper as he passed. “Norman, fetch the bucket. Anton. Dave. Help us keep this one still.”

Jasper was still seeing a barrage of flashing stars before his eyes and having difficulty finding his balance when Chaz pushed him back to the ground on his stomach and pressed a knee in his back, his hands pinning his shoulder and head down. At the garage, Norman was grabbing a metal pail from a nearby car and came rushing back to the others. Three men held a still dazed Walter in place on his knees while Bobby took a step back, still holding the axe. Norman dropped the bucket in front of Walter and moved away. Bobby positioned himself next to the secured man and looked up to Cameron. Cameron gave a quick nod and with that the three tilted Walter forward, his head dropping down exposing the back of his neck.

Chaz grabbed a handful of Jasper’s long hair and pulled back hard, lifting his face to witness what was about to transpire. “Like I told you, Jasper. I’m not the one who’s going to be fucked tonight.” He sneered.

In one smooth motion Bobby brought the axe high above his head and paused for a second before bringing it down in a powerful blow. The axe blade connected with the back of Walter’s bare neck decapitating the man instantly in one devastating strike. Jasper screamed as his friend’s head dropped away and rolled off. A fountain of blood spouted from the severed neck and the men holding Walter quickly aimed the flowing stream, so the blood gushing out no longer splattered onto the ground but into the pail where it rapidly collected. Once the flow had ebbed, and the pail filled, Walter’s body was dropped, left discarded in the dirt. Cameron then moved toward the pail and gently lifted it with both hands. He then turned back to the open garage and slowly stepped forward.

He paused just shy of the opened bay and held out the bloodied pail. It was then that it moved from the darkness and into the light of the torches. Jasper ceased his struggles beneath Chaz and could only watch in paralyzing horror as the lord of the dead came into full view.

It was taller than Cameron. A dark menacing figure dressed in the decayed remnants of a black mage’s robe. The robe’s color was more gray than black now with the decades of being beneath the earth and was covered with stains of filth and dirt. The cowl that hid the being’s face was now being pushed back by its hands revealing a face that defied all reasoning. The being was nothing less than a rotted corpse. Its blackened decomposed flesh clung to its skull in tattered strips that dangled from the bone where it could still stay attached. Strands of white hair remained in sections of the scalp. A black hole where the nose had once been opened into the face. The lips long rotted off, revealed the yellowish gray teeth in a spectral grin. Its empty eyeless sockets were pits of ink save for the tiny purple specks of light deep within.

Its hands being nothing more than gnarled claws of talon like nails, reached out to accept the contribution of Cameron’s loyal obedience. Lifting the pail to its lipless mouth it greedily gulped the crimson fluid which seeped from the sides of its mouth and out small holes in its neck. Jasper could only hold in his breath as he watched the thing consuming the blood. Reality as he knew it, had vanished from him just moments ago, but was now steadily being restored. He needed to find Terry and escape this hellish nightmare.

He had felt Chaz’s grip on his hair loosen as he too was mesmerized by the sight that was taking place and used the distraction to act. In a sudden movement, Jasper spun onto his back. The act had happened so quickly and unexpectedly that Chaz had remained straddled on Jasper when the snub-nose was pulled out and pressed under his chin. “Who’s fucked now?” Jasper asked just before pulling the trigger. The round tore up through the soft tissue under the jaw, separating the tongue and punching upward through the soft palate and exiting through the top of his head like an erupting volcano spewing out blood, brain and bone fragments.

The sound of the gun firing roared thunderously in the silent night air. Jasper pushed Chaz’s twitching body off him and sat up. Everyone stood facing him in awed silence. The rotting mage was the only one who did not immediately react to the loud blast. It continued to consume the blood from the pail for a moment longer before it slowly lowered it from its mouth. It was then it dropped the pail to the ground and pointed a clawed finger in Jasper’s direction. “Bring this one to me.” It hissed in a deep growl.

The first to move was Anton, the skinny guy who have taken his tire iron at the motel. Jasper swung the weapon at him and squeezed off another round. It struck the man in the chest while in mid-step. Before his body could collapse to the ground Jasper turned and fired at Norman. Being slightly closer, the round was more well placed than his first, striking him in the face. Norman’s jaw split in two as the round shattered his chin and embedded itself in the back of his skull with an explosion of blood and teeth. Dropping the two men caused the remaining four to stand rooted. Jasper now realized that half of his ammunition had been spent. The next three shots would have to count.

Logan and Dave backed up next to Cameron. Bobby, with the bloodied axe still in his hands, slowly moved to Jasper’s flank.

“Cameron, where’s my sister?” Jasper demanded as he swung the weapon from one man to the next, waiting for someone to make a move. When no one answered, he moved closer to the three men and pointed the gun directly at the mayor. “I will drop you like a bag of dirt. Where’s Terri?”

It was not Cameron who answered but his undead master. ‘Let him pass.” It commanded and stepped aside. Cameron and the others did the same allowing Jasper access to the open bay door. Logan sheepishly gestured to the bus. “Go on in, boy. We won’t stop ya.” Still holding the gun at them, Jasper slowly crept into the garage. The master’s skull turned, observing the definite newcomer’s movements as he passed.

The inside of the garage was filled with the mixed stench of car oil and decomposing meat that lingered heavily within the blackness. Jasper felt bile churring inside him. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkened interior as he scanned his surroundings. The flickering torches behind his cast dancing shadows that played about the many work benches, shelves, walls and the bus itself. He turned behind him and saw that no one had followed him inside. Instead, they remained just outside the door watching. He turned his attention back to the bus. The folding doors were still open from when it came out but, there was something else. He then noticed a shape against the side of the bus that stood out against its bright yellow color even in the darkness. He moved cautiously closer.

Even with the lack of light, he could make out the form of a person. They appeared to be sitting against the side of the bus. “Terri?” He whispered. The shape did not reply. “Terri?” Details of the shape were obscured still, and it was only when he positioned himself so that his back was no longer blocking the torch light outside that he was able to see more clearly.  It was Terri. Her arms hung listlessly at her side. Her head drooped into her chest, her bare legs spread outwards across the cement floor, her body nude. Jasper fought back tears and inched closer. “Terri, it’s me. Jasper.” He gently lifted her chin and delicately brushed her long, matted hair away from her face revealing her empty eye sockets. Her eyes had been savagely removed from her head. He gritted his teeth and looked downward from her face. It was then that he saw that her lower abdomen had been cut open. Her innards had spilled out from the deep wound and collected on the floor between her feet. Her child no longer present.

He tightly closed his eyes as the tears could no longer be contained. He wept while held onto the side of the bus for support. The despicable scene of Walter’s decapitation crept into his mind and deep inside of him a vengeful flame was igniting. His own welfare was no longer a concern. He would take out Logan first and retrieve his gun. Then he would slaughter the rest like pigs. He rose and stepped away from Terry. “They’ll all pay.” He whispered to her and turned to leave the garage; the pistol gripped tightly in his hand. He had taken only a few steps before stopping. The way out was now blocked. Logan, Cameron and the others were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a wall of bodies had silently formed outside the bay doors. There were easily a hundred of them. The townspeople had returned by the silent beckoning of their master. A mass of dead people in various forms of decay now blocked his way. More were still crawling out from insides of distant cars and lumbering to join the mass. An assembly of the dead had formed and standing at its center was their master. Even Chaz stood amongst them, streaks of blood running down his face from his opened skull like the melting trickles of a candle. His eyes stared expressionless. Someone was pushing their way to the front from the back and Jasper gasped when Walter’s headless body blindly groped through the crowd.

Without hesitation Jasper fired the weapon into their infernal master. The last remaining rounds striking it dead center in the chest yet, it did not flinch. The damage done to it had been as harmless as if he had flung coins in its direction. How does one kill what is already dead? Jasper was still squeezing the trigger over and over as the hammer fell on empty chambers when it stepped forward and stopped only a few feet from him.

“It is impossible to destroy the void and what lies within it.” It said in deep slow groan. “I have long ago renounced my being to become one with the void and the powers that lie within its depths, thus I cannot be destroyed. Though this shell of a body has long abandoned life, my essence is perpetual.”

Jasper fell to his knees. The gun falling from his hands as he hid his face in them and cried. There was no escaping his fate now. His valiant efforts to retrieve and rescue Terri had been in naught. Instead, she and Walter had instead died. He could not decide at this point whether to threaten it or beg for mercy.

“Your useless life will now have true meaning as you will serve onto me. Serve me as your sister has done.”

Jasper raised his head as a noise came from behind him. It was the sound of feet leisurely shuffling, drawing nearer on the dirty concrete floor. Slowly he turned to see Terri making her way to him, her arms outstretched to embrace him. Her insides dragging between her legs as she blindly reached out. Her mouth moving in speech, but the words were without sound. From inside the bus, the high pitch wailing of an infant began. Jasper whirled and faced the master.

“Praise be the conception of my vessel.” It said as it raised up its arms in erudition.

Behind it, the assembly of the dead began move forward, entering the garage.

“Even in death you will serve.” Jasper heard it proclaim as the wave of dead shambled passed it. With impending doom certain, Jasper began taking small steps backwards. His mind racing as it scrambled for some plan of escape. The harder he tried to concentrate the more his imagination felt flat as he watched the undead wall advance. It was then he felt a hand touch him. The grip icy cold on his bare arm. Startled, he whirled in a fearful panic. It was Terri, He had nearly forgotten about her with everything going on.

“Jasper? Is that you?” Her slow unemotional voice called out as her fingers blindly caressed his face. He empty eye sockets blankly staring at him. Jasper was rooted to the floor as his eyes widen and mouth opens in terror. A thought passed through his mind like a flash of lightning, and he wondered what hideous form he would resemble when he too was denied his eternal sleep.

A distant sound caused him to turn away from Terri and face the front of the garage. The sound was of a revving car engine. The noise is enough to drown out the weary moans and groans of the dead as it grew louder. As he watched, the horde stopped and began to turn around to the unexpected sound. Even the undead lord turned its attention to the sudden noise. Terri shuffles passed him, also entranced by the oncoming sound.

With the sudden disruption of the ceremony came a blessed opportunity for Cameron, Logan and Bobby to cut and run from the chaotic scene. Where the others had run off to Cameron could not say. The three of them fled through the lot’s vehicle gate, leaving it opened as they escaped. Though Logan and Bobby probably retreated back to the confines of station, Cameron took the unexpected circumstances as a chance to do something he had been juggling about in the back of his head for months. A last chance to make things right.

His fingers fumbled at the keys as he desperately tried to insert them into the car’s ignition. He had no idea how long his window of opportunity would remain open and the thought of it closing on him mid-way through his plan terrified him. Once started, the Cadillac whipped out of the front parking lot, and accelerated onto the street before it turned through the open vehicle gate. The car’s tires, like angry banshees, screeched loudly as the car turned sharply into the back lot announcing its arrival.

Now inside the back, Cameron pressed the accelerator to the floor. He glanced briefly and the old wedding picture crammed over the dashboard dials, and he forces a smile. Though this lord of the dead was already nothing more than a walking corpse itself, he was frightfully curious on how its fragile form would stand up against the force of the five thousand plus pounds car.

The car plows through the mass of dead bodies as the car slams into the crowd. Bodies erupted on impact from the car’s force, either casting them into the air like dolls or exploding them in gory messes that splashed on his windshield. As the car advances with little difficulty, Cameron spots his target at the back of the assembly. It watches the vehicle barreling down upon it with no concern. The cocky fucker really thinks it will survive the impact, he thought as the car neared, clearing a path through the bodies. It was not until he was a mere hundred feet from his target that she appeared.

Through the assorted imitations of life that were tossed aside it was Nancy who seemed to magically appear in the sea of dead faces directly in his path. She stood defenseless in her filthy flowered dress, with her arms hanging at her side. Past the pale, decayed, split-open face she seemed almost sadden. With only a split second of hesitation, he jerked the steering wheel to the right avoiding her, swerving the car through the assembly and into a row of several stationary cars. The impact is violent as it is loud. Metal crashing and grinding into metal. Cameron is nearly catapulted through the windshield, but his head crushed against the windshield spider webbing the glass before it is jerked back and bounced off the steering wheel.

His vision is blurred as blood trickles from his forehead and into his eyes. An array of sparkling stars flash in his field of vision as he tries to recall the moments before the impact. His memory temporarily evades him. Before he can react, the car door is flung open and a mass of rotted hands reach in, grabbing at his clothing and pulling his from the vehicle. Instinctive he struggles against them. In the process, he unknowing knocks the wedding picture from the dashboard. As he is being pulled out, he sees the picture on the car mat and grabs in a clenched fist before he is removed.

From the back of the crowd Jasper is somehow left unattended. It almost seemed as if he had been completely forgotten about with the eruption of chaos. The undead lord was now making its way to where Cameron was being held as he still continued to struggle free. Even Teri was no longer at his side. She too had melded into the dead mass. Part of him screamed to flee while they were all distracted yet, another part of him could not turn away. It was like watching a mangled car wreck on the side of the road. You just had to see in more detail. That’s the way it was until Jasper and Cameron’s eyes locked through the multitude of bodies.

“RUN, BOY! RUN AS FAR FROM HERE AS YOU CAN! RUN!” He screamed at him as the undead began to rip into him, clawing and biting like ravenous animals. His screams pierced the night air as he disappeared under the pile of decayed bodies. A photo still clutched tightly in his fist.


The sound of the door to the office startled him and he quickly removed his feet from the desk and turned off the small television that had diverted his attention. A young couple entered and moved to the counter.

Standing up from his chair, he threw on a quick smile as he greeted them. “How you folks doing?”

“Hi.” Answered the man. He looked somewhere in his mid-thirties and dressed in cargo shorts and a pink polo shirt. “I’m Al Duryea and this is my wife, Claire.” He placed his arm around the waist of a petite blonde woman with blue eyes at his side. “We’re on our way to Tallahassee. Came all the way down from Pennsylvania and I am physically running on fumes right now. Was wondering if we could get a room for the night?”

“Yeah, of course. I’ve got room #6 available. You got a credit card and some ID?” He replied as he opened the registry book behind the counter. Duryea pulled out his Visa card and driver’s license from his wallet and slid them across the counter.

He pulled the cards off the countertop and swiped the credit card through the reader which was unplugged and drew a small five-pointed star within a circle for their names. Smiling, he handed the cards back along with the key to the room. “There you go. You folks get some rest. Sun should be setting in another couple of hours. Be pitch black out here soon.” He stated as he glimpsed the wall clock over the television.

“That we will. Thank you.” Duryea replied, and the two left the office. He watched the couple pulling their luggage from the trunk of their car for a moment then moved into the back room where he dialed the motel phone. It picked up on the third ring.

“Logan? It’s Jasper. A young couple just stopped in and they’re from out of state. I put them in the usual room. Ok, I’ll see you all soon.”

Rating: 7.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Frederick Pangbourne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Frederick Pangbourne

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