The Last Night Before the World Ended

📅 Published on May 24, 2022

“The Last Night Before the World Ended”

Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com 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

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 23 minutes

Rating: 8.33/10. From 3 votes.
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Even so close to midnight, the unseasonable heat and humidity clings to the night air with a ferocious grip. Though only one week until Christmas, the temperature feels like mid-September. Regina Parker groans. Enduring one summer per year in Arkansas is enough. The second she turns off the motor, familiar wetness pools underneath her arms and vest.

Only three other vehicles are in the parking lot of the police department. The black Dodge Charger is hers, and the tan Ford Minivan belongs to the city of Rockport’s only radio dispatcher, Eugenia “Geenie” Renfro. An old Chevy truck held together by rust and a Southern favorite—duct tape—sits directly in front of the station. Regina chuckles to herself, wondering how much longer the old hunk of metal had before leaving its owner, Officer Roger Singleton, stranded on the side of the road.

Once inside the station, she hears Geenie and Roger whining about the warm temperature in the front office.

“I swear I’m just gonna turn into a big ol’ pile of damp clothes! A nice, cool winter is supposed to be our reward for tolerating hotter-than-Hades summers!”

“My grandma surely agrees with you on that count, Ms. Geenie. I’d lay money down she’s eaten two whole boxes of popsicles in the last three days!”

Regina walks up to the duo and joins the conversation. “Weather report on the radio earlier said temps should return to normal by Wednesday. They said there’s a thirty percent chance of snow on Christmas Eve.”

Geenie crinkles her nose and laughs. A damp lock of over-processed blonde hair flops onto her chubby cheek. “This is Arkansas. Weather can change in the blink of an eye! Evening, Chief Parker.”

Roger tips the worn-out Stetson toward Regina. “Evening, boss lady. How was it tonight?”

Regina reaches past the youngest of Rockport’s two other law enforcement officers and hands her ticket book to Geenie. At only twenty-four, Roger Singleton is young enough to be Regina’s son. “Fairly quiet until around eight. That’s when Kirk Sorrells decided to test out his latest batch of moonshine. I’m never going to get the image of his flabby, naked ass running down Highway 270. Corralling him into my unit might require extensive therapy to forget. I’m giving serious consideration to adding a plastic cover over the backseat.”

“Is he in the hole?” Roger grins and motions toward the single holding cell at the back of the building.

“Yep. Sleeping it off. I didn’t feel like taking him all the way to county. Figured the less time he spent naked in my backseat, the better. I cited him for public indecency. When he wakes up, he can go home.”

“You didn’t give him a public intox charge?” Roger asks.

“Giving the old fart another expensive charge isn’t going to make him stop drinking. Only rehab will. I plan on talking to Judge Harmon about that tomorrow morning. The man’s already living hand-to-mouth. Taking more money from Kirk’s pocket will just drive him to work harder on his side business, and drink even more.”

“That ain’t like you, Chief. Your change of heart wouldn’t have anything to do with Jesse’s troubles, would it?”

Regina bristles at the mention of her daughter.

Most of the time, Regina enjoys living and working in the small town with a population of less than a thousand, except for moments like now. The many perks of the quaint town keep her from moving to a bigger city, along with strong family ties to the rural area. She is the fifth generation born and raised in the tiny berg and the first female and second family member to hold the title of Chief of Police.

Unfortunately, the flip side of living in a small town is everyone’s business is everyone’s business. The gossip train travels at break-neck speed. Within an hour after taking a strung-out Jesse to Bright Waters Treatment Center in North Little Rock, all of Rockport knew. Dozens of concerned citizens called to offer their condolences and support. Several of the ladies from First Park Baptist brought over enough casseroles and salads to last Regina two full weeks. They even held hands and prayed for God to take away Jesse’s cravings for meth.

Shaking off the horrible memory, she answers Roger’s question. “Maybe. I’ve learned quite a bit about how addiction works lately in counseling. One of the top spots on the list is financial stressors. Addicts don’t handle life’s little ups and downs very well. Money trouble is sometimes a trigger. Ol’ Kirk needs rehab, not jail time or additional bills to pay. He’s been outta work for going on three years ever since the sawmill closed.”

Roger cocked his head, a look of shock across his face. “Huh. I’ll be. Never thought I’d hear those words leave your mouth. If anyone asks me about your change of heart, I’ll tell them it’s from this God-awful heat. Wouldn’t want our citizens to think their hard-nosed Chief of Police is getting all sentimental in her old age.”

“Gee, thanks. Have a good shift. Stay safe.” Regina waves to both before walking outside and over to the Charger. Slipping behind the wheel, she grins as the 5.7-liter engine rumbles to life.

A lump of sadness sticks in the pit of her stomach because the house will be empty.

God, how she misses Jesse.

She refuses to cry. Enough tears were shed the day she left Jesse in rehab. Her daughter had bounced between rage-fueled screams of hatred to tear-filled pleas for her mother not to leave her. The look of terror and fear on Jesse’s face when Regina walked out the doors made her chest clench with sorrow. By the time she made it to the car, the wracking sobs were so intense she couldn’t do a thing except lean against the doorframe and squall like a lost kitten.

“Not gonna do it! No crying today!” Regina cranks up the radio. Catch Scratch Fever blares throughout the interior. At the top of her voice, she belts out the words alongside Ted Nugent, grateful for the distraction.

Five minutes later, she pulls up into the driveway of the small, three-bedroom house she shares with Jesse. Turning off the car, she stared at the place. “Christmas is gonna suck this year,” she mutters while biting her lip to keep from crying. “I miss you, Fred. So much. Maybe you could have kept Jesse from using drugs. I sure failed. Damnit! This wasn’t how we’d planned things! I need you here. Doing all this alone is gonna break me. Right in two.”

Her cell phone buzzes. Exiting the car, she smiles. Ever since they were born, the bond between her and Reed was sometimes eerie. “Your timing is perfect as usual. I was on the verge of a major pity party.”

“One of the many perks of being a twin is sensing disturbances in our mutual force,” Reed’s laughter is deep and throaty. “So, you home now? How was your shift?”

Unlocking the front door, Regina flicks on the lights and holds in a deep sigh. Hearing Reed makes her miss his presence. He’d moved to Laredo, Texas over twenty-five years ago after joining U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. When Fred was still alive, they made the yearly trek to Laredo for Christmas. The tradition ended when Fred died. “I’m sure not quite as exciting as yours. Aren’t you supposed to be keeping our borders safe from drugs and bad guys?”

“Only on days I’m at work.”

Regina stops in mid-stride as goosebumps sprout across her arms and neck. “You aren’t in Laredo, are you? Don’t tell me you drove over seven-hundred miles…?” Racing to the front room, she pushes the curtains back, stunned to see headlights blink twice then shut off.

Tossing her phone onto the couch, she opens the door and steps outside as Reed climbs out from behind the wheel of his SUV. In seconds, his hulking 6’4” frame lumbers up the driveway to the porch. He flings his beefy arms around Regina’s shoulders.

“You should have told me you were coming! You know, given me a chance to cook or…”

Reed smiles while holding up a sack of food with a big, red bow on top. The smells wafting from inside gives away the fact it is Italian. “Which is exactly why I didn’t give you fair warning. You can’t cook for squat. Here, take this inside so I can get my bags.”

“Ass….wait, bags? And what’s the deal with the freaking bow? Your way of saying Italian take-out is what you got me for Christmas?”

“Yes, bags. They come in quite handy when someone moves. You know, to store all your belongings in? Ain’t no way I’d let the movers handle my treasured collection of hats and boots.”

Regina looks down at the bag and notices a note. Reaching inside the door, she flicks on the porch light and peers at the paper. Written in her brother’s atrocious scrawl, it read, “An Italian feast to celebrate my retirement.”

“You…retired? Boots? Hats? Are you moving back for good?”

“Yep. I need to be here to help my niece. Oh, and her mother. She’s sort of a scatterbrain at times. Then again, the bowl of lemons she’s been handed hasn’t helped much. The way I figured, she needed someone rough and tough to lean on. Remember all the years you’ve given me grief about not marrying or having kids and I always said I had my reasons? Well, taking care of you and yours would be one of the answers.”

Reed grins and walks past her, turning his body sideways while passing through the threshold. Dumbstruck, Regina stares at his rigid back. She cannot believe he’s home.

Rather than bursting into tears from the amazing turn of events, she resorts to humor in an emotional situation. “Glad you’re here, bro. However, if you start snoring, you’re sleeping on the porch.”

Reed laughs. “Fair enough. Same goes for you. Now, enough chatting. Time to eat. I’ve been on the road a long time and I’m starved.”

Shaking her head at the crazy turn of events, Regina heads to the kitchen to fix their plates, grateful her twin is by her side.

The Day the World Broke

“Regina? You decent?”

Regina answers her brother’s question. “Just lacing up my boots. Come on in.”

Reed opens the bedroom door and scoots inside, shutting it behind him. His face is pale; jaw clenched tight. Regina’s gaze falls to his waist, noticing he’s wearing a loaded gun on his hip. “What’s wrong?”

“You haven’t watched or listened to any news today, have you?”

“Uh, no. I’ve been up a total of ten minutes, which included my shower.”

Reed joins Regina on the bed, setting her cell phone between them. “The station called you numerous times, so I figured something was up and answered while you were in the shower. Geenie said there’s a big pileup on I-30 involving an 18-wheeler and several vehicles. Multiple casualties.”

“Damn! I hate those big rigs! God, I hope no kids are…”

“Hush, Regina. Listen, the accident isn’t why I came in here.”

Sensing something’s wrong, she goes into cop mode. “Then why did you?”

“News reports are flooding in from all over the world. There’s something going on—not just here but everywhere—and no one can give a plausible answer as to what’s behind it.”

“Behind what?”

“Power outages, fires, explosions, riots, and people walking around who shouldn’t be.”

Regina scowls. “If that little joke was your way to help me deal with all the carnage from a semi accident, I don’t find it funny.”

“Shut up and listen! You need to see what I mean. Words simply won’t suffice.”

Crossing the room, Reed turns on the small TV to CNN. A jerky image from a cell phone video appears. A passenger inside a car with an arm stuck out the window is filming an accident on the freeway. Mangled, twisted metal is strewn out across several lanes, glass and debris spread even further. Tendrils of smoke rise from the demolished vehicles. A man crouches over and shovels the innards of a dead female EMT into his mouth. Another EMT comes into view and tries to distract the man. When he looks up, his face is covered in blood and gore. A large piece of metal protrudes through his neck, an even bigger one pierces the chest cavity. The video zooms in, and Regina sees his eyes are solid black.

And his neck is broken.

Regina gasps and covers her mouth with both hands.

The other EMT has a stun gun. When he gets close enough to strike, the man with the mortal injuries jumps over the corpse he’d just been munching on like he was hurdler in the Olympics. Latching his broken, bloodied fingers around the EMT’s arm holding the weapon, his head juts forward as he sinks his teeth into the man’s neck. Blood spurts out, coating them both and the ground in seconds.

Regina’s gaze falls to the ticker at the bottom of the screen. It reads, “Phoenix motorist captures video of injured man attacking rescuers on Interstate 10…Arizona Governor deploys National Guard…All travel, including air and vehicle, has been halted in Arizona…Stay tuned for similar videos from New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Afghanistan and China…President Thompson to address the nation at…”

Oh, my God. It’s happening across the entire globe? How? Why? No. Fucking. Way. Shaking, Regina grabs her belt and jacket, motioning for Reed to turn the TV off. “Brother, please, go get my daughter. I’ve got a town to protect.”

“I know,” Reed nods. “Go. I promise to get her. You just take care of the citizens—and yourself.”

“Thank you.”

They lock gazes, and each senses the absolute fear of the other.

Adrenaline in overdrive, Regina bolts from the house. Once inside the cruiser, she secures the wireless headset, refusing to use the radio, fully aware citizens are probably monitoring communications. Using voice commands, she calls the station while backing out of the driveway.

“It’s about damn time, Chief! Things are crazy here,” Geenie yells.

“I understand there’s an accident on I-30? Which mile marker?”

“Ninety-eight. Right at the start of the construction. State boys are already there. Roger and Clint are helping with traffic control.”

Regina flicks on the lights without the siren. “I’ll let them handle it. On my way. Should be there in less than two minutes.”

Geenie clears her throat. “Good. Because you just received an email marked urgent from the Governor.”

Regina blows through a stoplight. “What does it say?”

“I can’t open it! Oh, another just arrived. Says a code will be sent…”

Regina’s phone beeps with an incoming text. The message contains a long string of numbers. “To my phone. Yeah, just got it.”

“What’s going on, Chief? You know, I don’t put too much stock in what I see or hear on the news because most of it is crap. But what I saw earlier—it was like watching a horror movie!”

Regina pulls into the parking lot. Exiting the car, she runs inside.

Geenie’s face is pale and her eyes the size of saucers. “Calm down, Geenie. Let me see what the Governor sent and then we’ll sort through all this mess. If something bad is happening, we need to stay strong. Residents will be panicked enough. They’ll need someone with a cool head to keep things together. Okay?”

Geenie stands so Regina can sit. “Okay.”

“Go get some coffee or water. Stretch your legs and take a breather.”

Without a word, Geenie heads to the kitchen. Regina waits until she hears the rattle of cups before opening the email. She enters the password from the text and waits. In seconds, another box opens. She leans closer to read the screen.

“The National Guard has been deployed. As of 6:05 a.m., I implemented the Arkansas Emergency Operations Plan. As you know, the AR EOP is designed to reduce vulnerability and loss of life and damage to property during any form of disaster or crisis.

We are working in conjunction with federal authorities. Our goal is to rapidly respond and assess the current nationwide catastrophe. The situation is a large-scale event, requiring all levels of government take proactive measurements to respond.

As such, I have directed all members of the Highway Patrol to secure all roads coming in to and out of our state. No residents will be allowed to leave the state until all citizens are accounted for and tested. Representatives from the state health department will arrive in each county’s seat in less than an hour. All local and county law enforcement agencies are to instruct every citizen of their respective jurisdiction to report to the local high school, which will serve as the Joint Field Office until containment is reached.

Once a citizen is tested and deemed clear, they may return home, but must remain in their local area until all seventy-five counties have completed the testing. Residents who test positive must be immediately quarantined.

The National Guard will take charge of each county jail. Citizens who test positive will be moved to the jail. Biohazard suits are to be worn during the entire operation.”

Regina re-reads the entire statement twice. The words on the screen send waves of fear pulsating through her body. “Dear God, what the hell is going on?”

She hears Geenie coming down the hall, so she hits the print button and then closes the email, deleting it as instructed. Fingers shaking as she picks up the pages off the printer, she shoves them into her jacket pocket and stands.

“So what did…oh, shit. You look like a ghost just passed through you. Are we under attack from another demented group from overseas? Did someone hit us with a dirty bomb or bio attack?”

Forcing her voice to remain calm, Regina motions for Geenie to sit. “I need you to listen to me. You are going to be very busy in the next few minutes. Swamped, actually. AR EOP has been enacted. Get Roger and Clint on the radio. Tell them to return to the station immediately. I need their help getting everyone over to the high school. EBS will activate in five minutes, instructing everyone to go there. People are going to flip and start calling to ask why. Do not try and answer their questions, just repeat the edict to go to the school. Got it?”

Geenie’s bottom lip trembles. “What if they want to talk to you, ask you what’s going on?”

Regina heads down the hallway to the closet housing extra firearms. “Just reiterate they need to go to the high school. They’ll be safe there. If someone pressures you for more, hang up.”

Before Geenie can respond, the phone rings. Though a seasoned, twenty-year dispatcher, Geenie hesitates before reaching out to grab the receiver. “9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”

Unlocking the closet, Regina yanks a shotgun from the rack and loads it with shells. Inside the small space, she whispers, “God, help us. This isn’t happening.” Her cell phone vibrates. Looking down to see who is calling, a cold shiver races up her spine as she answers. “I don’t need to ask you why you’re calling. You got the same email.”

Sheriff Roger Calhoun clears his throat. The sound of radio chatter in the background makes the hairs stand up on Regina’s neck. “Yep. Some nerdy-looking fools dressed like they’re ready to walk on the moon just arrived, along with armed military escorts. They just waltzed in here and took over my jail! Bastards had the nerve to tell me and my deputies to leave. Jim Grayson demanded to know what was going on. Get this: one of the soldiers handcuffed him and went to lock him up!”

Forcing herself not to sound frightened at the tone in the sheriff’s voice, Regina asks, “Went to lock him up? What, did the soldier change his mind?”

“No. The guy in the drunk tank did.”

“Sheriff, just spit out what you’re trying to say. Time’s wasting.”

“Fine. You know Ricky Baber, right?”

“Doesn’t every law official in this county? Biggest crack head around, and I’m pretty sure the one who got my daughter hooked on meth. Why?”

“Picked him up last night after he rolled his truck. He didn’t seem to have any injuries, but guess we were wrong.”

“What happened?”

“My deputy and his military escort found him face down in the cell. When they went in to check on him, he jumped up off the floor and attacked Jim and the soldier. Ricky tore Jim’s lips and nose off before the grunt shot him in the head. It was utter chaos!”

“Holy shit!”

Sheriff Calhoun lowers his voice. “We tried to take Jim to the hospital, but the guys in white took him away! Wouldn’t tell us where they were taking him, or why. When I tried to intervene, one of those bastards stuck a rifle in my face.”

A sense of dread crawls through Regina’s mind. “Let’s finish this discussion once we get everybody to the school, okay? Ears might be listening.”

“Agreed. See you at the school. Oh, and Parker?”

“Yes?”

“Stay safe.”

“You, too, Sheriff.”

Regina disconnects the call, mind spinning from the news. Part of her feels a twinge of satisfaction, a sense of justice, knowing Ricky Baber is dead. The other part wonders if he was like the disgusting thing she’d seen on the news earlier—dead yet moving. Still in the dark as to what is really going on, the terror of the situation almost consumes her. Forcing it deep down inside, she pulls herself together because now is not the time to freak out. Her family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers in Rockport, need her to remain calm.

After loading three weapons, she hears Roger’s terrified voice crackle from the mic on her shoulder. “Need backup! Shots fired! Officers down! Repeat, officers down! Bullets aren’t stopping them! Oh, my God!”

Without thinking or saying a word to Geenie, Regina grabs a shotgun and runs out the front door.

* * * * * *

Letting her training and instincts take over, using the fear pulsing inside as fuel to her muscles, Regina turns on the lights and siren on the cruiser and barrels out of the parking lot, damn near side-swiping a Humvee. Glancing in the rearview mirror to see if any of the vehicles change direction and follow, she let out a sigh of relief.

They ignore her and continue toward the high school.

After the request for backup from Roger, the radio is silent, which is even more unnerving than Roger’s terrified pleas for help. An eerie sense of foreboding settles over her mind.

Lines of vehicles leading into downtown Malvern clog the southbound lane of Highway 270. The entire county is home to less than thirty-four thousand people, yet judging by the heavy congestion, it seems half of them are on the road. Some of the motorists she recognizes as residents of Rockport.

In less than two minutes, Regina crosses the bridge over I-30 and glances over her left shoulder. The accident shut down both lanes of the freeway. The flashing blue strobes of numerous units dot the area, interspersed with red lights from a fire truck and ambulance. She looks right and notices a county unit blocking the interstate about one hundred yards away, holding back a throng of vehicles stretching out for miles toward Benton.

Reaching the entrance ramp, Regina turns onto the freeway and pulls up behind a state trooper’s unit. Scanning the area, a cold shiver races up her spine.

A jackknifed big rig is close to one-hundred yards up ahead, the contents of the trailer strewn across both the east and westbound lanes. A crumpled SUV nearly split in two is less than ten feet from the rig. Deflated airbags coated in red hang limp on the driver and passenger sides. What had once been a sedan of some sort is on its side in the median about twenty feet away. Glass, metal, and liquid cover the entire area around the site of impact.

Up ahead about fifty yards sit both Roger and Clint’s units, each empty.

“Where the hell is everyone?”

Leaving the car running, she steps out into the cold morning air, shotgun in hand. Pausing to listen, she hears nothing but the rumble of engines in the distance. The eerie silence is unsettling. Accident scenes, especially ones involving numerous vehicles, are usually a flurry of noise and activity.

Gas, burned rubber, and the unmistakable odor of eviscerated bowels mix with the coppery scent of blood, making Regina’s nose twitch. Though used to the stench from working hundreds of accidents over the course of her career, each time around the foulness, her stomach twists into a knot.

She contemplates using the radio to reach Roger or Clint, yet some primal instinct in the back of her mind urges her to remain quiet.

Raising the shotgun, she walks over to the unit in front of her, aim steady and sure. The white Charger with blue stripes is about ten feet away, the driver’s door wide open. No one is inside, so she continues toward the ambulance about fifteen yards ahead.

After passing the front of the cruiser, Regina stops short when she hears a strange noise. It takes several seconds to recognize the sound.

No way!

Shifting her approach so she is hidden by the open doors, Regina holds her breath. Edging closer to the back of the ambulance, she keeps her steps quiet, sidestepping debris on the pavement.

The gurgling, crunching noises grows louder. Regina feels her stomach revolt, threatening to release its contents all over Interstate 30.

The world around her stops when she peeks around the open door into the interior of the ambulance.

Two mangled bodies, presumably victims from the wreck, are loaded onto gurneys in the back. The one on the left looks like a young female, maybe twenty or so. The right side of her head is crushed in; glass and debris embedded in her neck. Mounds of blood mat a once beautiful head full of dark hair. No more blood oozes from the mortal injuries, indicating her heart no longer beats.

The other one is male. Both are strapped in, ready for transport to the hospital, IVs already in place. The man’s face is a mutilated mess. His lower abdomen sports a gaping wound and Regina sees part of his internal organs are exposed. A large chunk of flesh is missing from his left forearm. For some reason, Regina flashes back to the video of the accident on I-10 in Phoenix.

Looks like a bite.

Bile burns up her throat as she realizes the man’s jaw continues to open and close as he bites at the air, his shattered teeth clicking together.

On the floor between them is an EMT, or what once had been one. The body cavity is ripped open, and a middle-aged woman dressed in jeans and a Texas Longhorn t-shirt, hovers over the corpse. Regina blinks twice in shock as she watches the thing tear out a handful of intestines and shove them into her mouth.

Body and mind frozen in horror, she feels the axis of her world—everything she knows and has experienced until this very moment—shift.

A human being is eating another human. A dead human being is trying to bite the air. Don’t say it! Don’t even fucking think it! No wonder the military is taking over and insisted everyone be tested! This…can’t…be…happening. I’ve got to be at home, dreaming. God, please let me be experiencing a nightmare to end all nightmares.

In those few seconds, while staring at things that simply cannot be, all she can think about is Jesse and Reed. The two most important people in her life are in danger, along with, it seems, everyone else in the world. Her survival instincts take over, shoving all the disturbing sights and sounds aside to be dealt with later.

If this is a dream, it’s time for me to kick some fucking ass.

“Hey, gut muncher? Want some fresher meat?”

The bloody monstrosity that once was a living, breathing female, jerks its head at the sound. Regina notices the eyes are solid black and her skin is a strange, mottled gray color.

She doesn’t hesitate. There is no humanity left in the expression. The dead eyes are primal; crimson-covered lips, oozing blood from its meal, curl into a snarl. The thing hisses while lunging.

“Eat this!”

The recoil from the shotgun blast causes her entire body to shudder and ears ring. The body flies backwards, smashing into the gurneys, and then crumples into a pile on the floor of the ambulance. The spray pattern from the shotgun at such close range removes ninety percent of her head, leaving only a few strips of flesh sticking up around the neck bone. Pausing only long enough to ensure the destroyed mass of flesh is dead—again—Regina pumps another round into the chamber and heads toward her men’s vehicles.

“Always knew you was a smart gal, Chief. Take the head off. It’s the only way, just like in the comics and movies. Who knew?”

Regina spins around at the sound of a familiar voice. “Shit! I damn near blew your head off, Clint!”

Officer Clint Chesterson stumbles forward before collapsing onto the cold pavement. Regina runs to his side. The back of his dark blue jacket is shredded apart, and she sees sections of his exposed skin are full of deep, ugly claw marks. Large chunks of flesh are missing where his kidneys are located. Blood soaks his shirt and pants.

Too much blood.

Bending down next to him, she notices a pool of red mix with saliva forming by his mouth. It spreads out across the ground, already the size of an orange. She scans the area for any more undead visitors. Seeing none, she leans the shotgun against the ambulance and hoists Clint off the ground. “Just hang on, son. I’ll get you to the hospital as soon as I find Roger.”

Clint spits out a mouthful of blood at the same time he tries to say something. Regina shushes him. “I’m gonna put you in the back seat for a minute until I secure the area. Any idea where he—and the others—might be?”

“Last I saw him he was helping Hightower and Reynolds. They were on the backside of the semi. The driver was trapped inside, and they all were working on trying to get him out. I was helping the EMTs load up the gurneys when I heard Roger yell for help. Took off running in their direction, but by the time I made it, well, shit went down fast.”

Regina’s mouth is dry. She forces her lips to move. “Then what?”

“It was a waste of time. The guys were surrounded.”

“Surrounded—by those things? How many? You saying you think Roger’s dead?”

Clint groans as Regina leans him against the hood of her unit. Pausing long enough to grab the mic on her shoulder, she radios for backup.

No response other than the continual static. She tries again, requesting an ambulance.

Nothing.

Where the hell is Geenie?

After unlocking the back door, she eases Clint into the seat. He moans once and answers, “Yeah, I think so. There were four of those things surrounding them all. They attacked at the same time. They were so fast…I took aim but didn’t fire…afraid I’d shoot Roger. Right when one knocked him to the ground, I heard something behind me, but turned around too late. It jumped me from behind.”

“Oh, God. Did you kill it?”

Clint leans his head against the seat and winces. “Yeah, but not before he—it—whatever the hell you call it, tore me up. Unloaded my Glock until it quit tearing me apart. Found out taking its head off was the trick. Ha, just like on TV. Who knew those crazy people in Hollywood were right on the money?”

Regina watches tears run down the boy’s face. Clint’s skin is pale and clammy. A fleeting memory of the day she interviewed him flashes by. He’d been just a few months shy of turning twenty-two, all muscle and attitude, ready to get on the streets and make a difference in the community he’d grown up in. A former football star at Malvern High School, Clint Chesterson had been a textbook jock. He’d skated through classes, his teachers looking the other way when he turned in homework obviously not a product of his own. Clint’s sole focus was getting a football scholarship to Fayetteville to play for the Razorbacks.

The lifelong dream of the only son of Harold and Jeanie Chesterson ended the final game of his senior year after Clint suffered a torn ACL and broken left foot.

The image of him sitting across from her while begging for a chance to have a real career makes Regina’s heart pound with grief. She had wanted to say no, tell him he wasn’t ready, yet in the end, she caved. Something behind his big, brown eyes struck a sensitive spot inside her heart. Against her better judgment, she decided to give the kid a chance.

Now, as she stares at his life-altering injuries, Regina regrets the decision.

A gash about six inches long starts at his temple and ends under his chin. She sees milky white sections of his skull and cheekbone; a steady stream of red leaks from it, dripping onto the collar of his jacket. She takes off her own and presses it against the wound and then guides his hands to take over.

His breathing is short and shallow as his lungs fill with fluid. “From the sounds I heard from the others, they didn’t make it either. Listen,” Clint reaches out a bloody hand and grabs Regina’s. She winces at how cold it is. “I’ve got maybe half-hour, tops. Don’t worry about me none. I’ve already made peace with my maker. After what I saw earlier, I ain’t sure I want to stick around for what’s coming next. Go, see if you can help the others. Taking me to the hospital would be a wasted trip because I’m a goner. Just be careful, Chief. Those things are fast. And hungry.”

“Don’t talk like that, son. I’ll get you…”

Clint’s grip intensifies as he interrupts. “No, you won’t. Just…promise me to get my parents outta here. Please, Chief, don’t let one of those monsters get to my mom and dad. Promise?”

Regina doesn’t have time to answer Clint’s request. Movement to her right catches her attention. Shutting the door, she spins around and pulls her Glock. Her hands shake while she plants her feet and takes aim at the grotesque monster that once had been Officer Roger Singleton.

Son of a bitch. This ain’t happening!

Tears run down her cheeks as she pulls the trigger, wondering how she’ll tell Mary Louise Singleton she had to shoot her already-dead grandson in the head.

Before Roger’s corpse hits the ground, the tornado siren rings. Looking up into the cloudless sky, she wonders if she’s losing her mind. Choking back the sobs as she watches her friend bleed out onto the roadway from the bullet she put into him, she forces herself not to succumb to the urge to collapse into a ball and cry.

The emergency wail cuts short and is replaced by a robotic voice. “All residents of Hot Spring County are to report to Malvern High School. You have ten minutes to comply before house-to-house searches begin.”

The message ends and the siren trills again, sending its loud waves across the expanse of Hot Spring County. Regina refuses to look at Roger’s corpse and steps away from her car toward the fire truck up ahead. She cannot live with herself if she doesn’t check on the others before leaving.

Her altruistic intentions vanish at the sight of several people—no, things—crossing the interstate. They are all heading toward the source of the noise blaring above them. Regina’s heart skips a beat.

Geenie.

The closest siren is less than one hundred feet from the station.

She tries the radio on her shoulder.

The results are the same.

Nothing.

Regina focuses her gaze on the bloody, strange moving bodies. The rising sun glints off the badges of two of them, and that is confirmation enough. Spinning around, she jumps into her car. Glancing at the rearview mirror, she sees Clint’s eyes are closed, hands still holding her jacket against his head. “Hang on, Clint. I’ll get you to the hospital in a flash. Just hang on.”

Clint responds with a slight nod. Jerking the wheel left, she makes a half turn and crosses the grass-covered median. Once on the other side and on the exit ramp, she floors it.

Back on 270, Regina slows down while navigating around the throng of stalled vehicles. Some people stand outside or lean against their hoods, talking nervously to their fellow neighbors. Regina’s stomach roils.

They are in immediate danger, and they do not have a clue, and she’s only one person—how in the hell can she help an entire community?

Worried they may not be interested in any more instructions from the government, she opts for a different tactic. Turning on the outside speakers, Regina barks into the microphone, “This is Chief Parker of Rockport PD. Get back inside your vehicles, roll up the windows and lock your doors. Right now! Danger is coming from I-30 East. If you are armed, shoot the head. Repeat—shoot the head.”

The reaction is immediate. Residents jump back into their vehicles; a few hesitate while looking toward the freeway. Regina makes it to the center lane and guns it. The hospital is less than three miles up ahead in the middle part of old downtown Malvern.

The streets are barricaded and a large contingent of armed military personnel are in the way. They stand guard at the red light at the intersection of Cross and Highway 270, blocking the path to the hospital. Cars inch forward as IDs are checked before allowing residents to proceed to the high school.

“Shit,” Regina whispers. Fearing Clint may have heard the fear in her voice, she quickly adds, “Almost there, Clint…”

The sick, mewling grumble she heard while at the accident site on the freeway, hits Regina’s ears. Before she can react, Clint’s fingers poke through the partition and grabs a handful of her hair. He pulls with such force, Regina’s head smashes into the metal separating the front and back sections of the patrol car.

Slamming on the brakes, the force in momentum frees her from Clint’s fingers after a large chunk of her hair rips out. In a state of panic, Regina throws the car into park and jumps out. She’s greeted by a swarm of soldiers. One pulls her backward as another takes aim and fires. The glass shatters, and Clint’s head explodes all over the backseat and rear window. Screams of sheer terror erupt all around the street as residents cringe in horror. Some flee on foot while others jump back into their vehicles and try to leave the gridlocked road.

Regina tries to intervene when the soldier who’d grabbed her raises his weapon at an elderly woman ten feet away. The woman is dazed and confused, tears running down her wrinkled cheeks. She strides toward the barricade and refuses to stop, even when given the order to do so.

Without thinking about the consequences, Regina lunges forward and pushes the barrel of the gun to the ground. Before she can say a word in protest, the soldier spins around and brings the butt of the gun directly to the side of her head.

The impact knocks her to the ground. Blackness with specks of white dots cloud her vision. Shaking her head, she notices blood spurt out onto the road. She takes in a few gulps of cold air to regain her bearings, ignoring the throbbing pain.

Then, all hell breaks loose.

Just as the soldiers descend on the crowd, someone yells, “Oh, my God! Run! The dead are coming this way!”

Shots ring out in quick succession and the entire area descends into madness.

Regina stands as a throng of the dead too large to count, shamble over the rise from the freeway. The teeming mass isn’t running yet still move fast. The soldiers forget all about the fleeing live bodies and concentrate on taking out the dead.

Lord, please take care of my family.

Regina pulls out the Glock, reloads, and runs to join the line of defense to protect her hometown, knowing damn well she is too late.

They all are too late.

Rating: 8.33/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Ashley Fontainne
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Ashley Fontainne


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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