Note to Readers
This is an online shortened version of my novelette available on Amazon. It is as close as I came to the Flash Fiction Version.
We expect our cops to be tough, but honest. Able to maneuver in the back streets as easily as they can in the courthouses.
But what happens when the streets become war zones and the only justice remaining comes from the barrel of a gun?
Dickson is a detective for the Miami-Dade Police Department. His job is to catch crooks and dopers, but after almost four decades on the job, he is looking forward to retirement. To beaches, sailboats and sunsets.
The only problem now are the things. Part human and part something else. Dickson calls them zombies, but they are much smarter than that.
The apocalypse is one thing. Getting to the bottom of it all, is another.
The Short Story
It wasn't mass murder. Really, it wasn't.
But I need to unload this anyway. Let you know where I am coming from. Then you can judge me. You can decide if I did the right thing or not.
It started last year. I was smoking my first of the day and sipping my Jesus Christ java, just like any other day. My concrete pulpit -- my table -- was warm and hard. The cheesy sun-bleached aluminum red and white umbrella too high to shade me from the sunrise.
I was delaying the inevitable. Another day on the streets of sin. My cop beat.
I was trying not to think about the cranks or the coworkers, the real cranks. The streets were lame by comparison.
I mean we brought the worst of the streets right into our offices. And it changed us. Made us suspicious. On edge. Screwed up our hearts.
The real refuse was skulking around the police station in handcuffs, being escorted to the interrogation rooms. And yes, we had our share of bad cops. Sitting in their unmarked police units, under the shade trees, sleeping. We tried to weed those out fast.
I thought of a few choice adjectives for the few puds I worked with. A selection of egotistical cop hack coworkers. Hawaiian shirt has-beens. Knock-off name-brand watches. Concealed weapons and flea-market sunglasses. Football fanatics. Hunting crazed macho puds.
None of this really matters now, though. It doesn't matter how I’d like to tell them off, grab the short hairs, and put a gun... Never mind. That wouldn’t work either. Since they're all probably dead. Or half-dead.
I held my tongue back then. Back last year. Bided my time. Let my blood pressure build up its morning head of steam, so I could focus. Same as any other pisser morning in Miami before work.
I puffed away on that first cigarette. Pictured my fingers wrapped around the throat of this one coworker. I got problems, what can tell you? And it made me feel good to imagine the unimaginable.
I guess I had the cop gene like all the other puds or maybe something else. Some slow acting disease that ate you up from the gut, until you were a cynical dried-up, alcoholic chain smoker. A divorced piece if crap just waiting for the melancholy years. The retirement home where they did the cooking, butt wiping and laundry, in that order.
“You don’t hunt?”
No, I said. I buy my meat at the grocery store. Dingus, I thought. I mean Jesus man. Hunting for your meat? How about hunting real game: bad guys. And they shoot back. Keeps you sharp and all of that.
The pud I hate just shakes his head. Gives me that crooked my-wife-left-me smile. She's screwing the lawyer. So now it's whiskey neat in the hunting tree-stands until he falls out and breaks his neck. And that'll look like an accident.
His name? Heck, none of their names are important. Not any longer. Only living is important.
Let’s just call them macho studs. That's what they were. Over-the-hill kids who mangled their rotator cuffs lifting weights. Punk-men, who think -- thought -- killing wild boars with spears was testosterone therapy. Having their toes cut off after diabetes has set in, just one of life's little bumps. Guys who got some wild pleasure when they break bad guys’ jaws, shovel body parts from the suicide sidewalks downtown, you know, because of the jumpers back then, and then they drank too much.
Some cops did a little coke in the morning too. A wake-me-up zinger. Coffee was not necessary for the Crack-Cops. But they didn't last long on the force.
After that, the cop puds beat their wives and screwed up the kids. Some even screwed the kids after they beat their wives. The next day, they'd put on their badges and their guns, unless they were really tough, and only holstered one pistol and ditched the vest; and then go off to the ready-made-war. The hot streets of Miami. Riot Central. Full of bad guys always fighting "The Man." Us.
Artery clogging powdered donuts were optional, but encouraged. Donuts to dust the uniform. It wasn't coke. Yeah, right. Cocaine Cowboys of the streets, I tell you. But not most. Most were just heart attacks waiting to happen. Standard boozers and hopeful pre-retirees never to see past the liquor that dissolved their livers by age 50.
How I would like it if any of them were alive now. Just one extra gun loving pud to help out. Even one of those Hawaiian shirt lovers. I don't care. At least they had guns.
“I don’t follow football anymore. Maybe boxing,” I said.
Just silence then. Like the puds were speaking to some accountant type. They'd shake their heads. That was, until I earned their respect in a shootout or two. Then they'd leave me alone. After I dragged up the body, leaking and all of that. Tell the newbie to make sure it didn't move and shoot it again if it did. Then the newbies would chillax or puke, or both. Maybe take up drinking.
Hell, I would even be happy if a newbie was here today. The more guns the better. Hell get you that way.
All starting on that gray crap morning at the coffee shop. The end of the world kind of sunrise. Red clouds over the red and white aluminum umbrella. A warm breeze to bring on the early coffee-laced tobacco sweat.
So I was sitting there. Thinking about work. Brooding about it. This is my table, I thought back then. Been coming here for 32 damned years. My concrete corner of paradise, before Hell.
The Coffee Shop’s red and white logo is forever imprinted on the umbrella and my mind. Only few fly specks and roach crap linger there. A white outline of a cartoon-like palace. Hence the name of the coffee shop: “The Coffee Palace.”
Even my damned coffee cup was plastered over with scenes of white palatial estates on a blood-red background. Some things never change, I thought back then. Maybe it was just the red that bothered me.
I had to be at work in 45 minutes, so I was delaying the pain for as long as possible. Puff puff. Anything to distract me. I had to get the blood pressure up anyway, just to shift into gear. I don't do coke. Never have. Tobacco is as close as I'll ever come. And java. Not those little jiggers of brew either, but the big ones.
And people watching. That really helps. Sometimes spikes the old heart for days. I mean it is really amazing how simple we are inside. See a few chick curves and whammo, life is wonderful again. Thing is, I need eyeglasses these days and it gets kind of obvious when I put them on.
I can hear their thoughts. What are you staring at old man? But it's also a cop thing to people watch. My job. So screw you.
Then it started to drizzle. A mist of a rain to wash away to coming red. Just enough to irk you. Steam you all under. A pink morning giving way to dull washed out haze, punctuated with car horns. My irritation mounted.
Drops of pink water from the old umbrella began to pool around me. Mixed in with fly dung. I just stared. Great, I thought. Just fabulous. Stained my crappy shirt. Lucky it ain't Hawaiian, my brain offered. Right, I answered.
But my day brightened in that muggy ocean of bile. Even before the bullets went flying.
I saw a woman walk into the Coffee Palace. She was all "Miami Heat." Curves to kill for. Stunning was all I could think then. Nobody had a right to those curves. Not possible. I mean she wasn't a Goddess, but the way she walked. Sweet mother.
A few minutes later, she came out of the Coffee Palace with one of those fancy coffees. A Crappuccino or something. There was a big pumpkin picture on the side of her cup.
My cell phone was out. Already had my bifocals on. I was pretending to read my cell phone. But I was only half-interested.
Mrs. Pumpkin Cup walked by, but it was more like she swayed all the way to her sleek black Mercedes-Maybach, and her cups ‘runneth over,’ if you know what I mean.
She was just another rich babe in Miami. Over exposed. Literally. Miami was nice that way. No wonder there were so many rapes. Hey, it was job security.
It was the last time I ever saw another sane and beautiful human being.
The fact that I shot her dead still bothers me. What a beautiful waste of a woman, not to mention the nice dress. My ex-wife would have beaten you stupid for that sleazy gown.
I looked at my rusting Toyota, then back to my cell phone and finally at Mrs. Pumpkin Cup or is that cups, plural?
She was sitting in her Mercedes. Hadn’t even started it. Staring straight at me. Was she batting her eyes? Were her eyes red? What the hell?
That was when it all started.
My old heart thudded. I’m not in her class, I thought. Just a detective with too much java in the veins and not enough sprite in my monkey meter, if you catch my drift.
This was just not clicking. Maybe I'd met her before, I thought. Did I arrest her before?
I was thinking on that when she opened her car door. Stuck both legs in the air, like she’d forgotten about modesty or about the sidewalk. It was weird but kind of sexy at the same time. Legs and the under pinks.
I shook it off. Focus, I told myself then. Dump the hormones and put this together.
I was scrolling my phone. Head down, but keeping an eye on her. Things were off.
What a sight I remember thinking, but a jolting burn behind my scratchy eyes made me focus again. Come to think of it, that may have been when the infection thing first hit me and all this time my body had been fighting it off.
That was the first time I remember it happening. That's also when I started my killing spree.
I’m setting a new one man killing record. Hell, I’ve worn out so many handguns, rifles, shot guns, even a .50 cal I pilfered from my station. Dr. Death, I was. Have bullets will cull. I should've had a some business cards made up, if only there were people to give them to.
And I was kinda angry at myself for being an idiot about Mrs. Pumpkin Cups. Ogling her. I was thinking my stupidity might have been the reason for it all. That I subconsciously caused it to happen.
I know, guilt is stupid sometimes. And I know I didn’t make everyone go nuts. Stuff just happens.
She was walking now. The woman I was about to kill. The door to her Mercedes opened. She was stumbling toward me, but off kilter a bit. Like maybe she was drunk.
Great, I thought, maybe I had arrested her before. An old DUI case, as a rookie. And she was going to give me a piece of her mind. But she hadn’t walked by stumbling. She was smooth and swirly then.
I looked up. She was angled funny. One of her shoulders was shoved up and back. Her hands were curled into claws. Elbows bent. Arms stiff. Face in a frozen grimace, like she was on the toilet, constipated, but hopeful. On her face, was drying phlegm. I thought of stroke or seizure.
I stood. “Ma’am?” I said. “You okay?” My libido jettisoned like yesterday's spoiled cadaver.
She howled. Howled like a damned animal. It was the first time I heard one of them howl like that.
I thought, okay, this was no damned stroke. Not a seizure. This was something else. Like a chick having a bad reaction to drugs. Except that she looked kind of hungry.
And it was such a turn-on at the same time. I don't want to examine that reaction either. I'll chalk it off to caveman love.
She charged me. Hopped the short fence to the outdoor cafe and knocked over the chairs. Screamed at the chairs as they tangled in her dress. Flung them aside. Ripped her off dress.
My caveman appreciated that part.
Napkin holders clattered to the ground. An umbrella that should not have folded, collapsed abruptly, scaring the crap out of me, but drawing a growl from her.
I was sober now. Okay, where am I going the shoot you Pumpkin Chick, I thought. No shoot, sayeth my caveman.
The noise attracted the attention of the others in the Coffee Palace. Finally, I thought.
"She's got no top on!" a man yelled over his latte. No crap, I thought.
I was dumbstruck, I tell you. I mean I had punks stab me. A chick once tried to strangle me and she had been naked. I have been shot twice, by the same perp. But this chick, Mrs. Pumpkin Cups, she was bouncing around like a crack-babe on cheap steroids, nearly naked and howling.
I had mixed emotions, to say the least.
I flashed my badge to the people gawking from the Coffee Palce. “I’m a cop!” I yelled. “Call 911.”
I hoped they heard me, but it looked like they were glued on Pumpkin Cups. Fascinated. Waiting for the free show. "Cop arrests stripper." News at noon.
I turned back. Mrs. Pumpkin Cups was only a few feet away. Breasts jiggling. Cocking her head and sniffing. A long string of drool worked its way past her chin.
I already had my gun out, down to my side. Crap, I thought, I hadn’t even finished my coffee. I stubbed out my cigarette then. Never got to finish that, either.
She had fallen now, growling, and started crawling. The line of drool turned into a string of red spittle and dripped to the pavement. Her lips were working like two pale worms bumping rumps.
“Ma’am?” I asked.
Her head lifted. She focused on me. Eyes bloodshot. Irises sparkling. I couldn’t see any pupils.
She growled in response.
Jeez, I thought. Enough of this.
She howled then. Jumped to her high heels. Wobbled and something cracked. One heel busted then, along with an ankle. A bone poked through, but she didn’t seem to notice.
I was both amazed and concerned. Had to be he drugs I figured. What else could it be? Maybe some PCP?
She picked up a steel chair. A heavy one. Drew back, held it over her head and launched it. It spun wildly, a missile of twirling steel. I ducked just as the chair clanged to the sidewalk and rolled into the other chairs like a bowling ball sending a dozen other steel legs into the air.
She had missed me and that just pissed her off.
She howled again, frustrated? Gums dripping flecks of foam. Head shaking. Sniffing again now.
More patrons of the coffee shop gathered at the window. I was center stage. Why was everybody just staring? Coffee in hand. Jaws slack.
"This ain't a show! Call 911!” I yelled.
One man seemed to be dialing now. At least I hoped he was. Because his hands were shaking.
“Stop that!” I yelled at Mrs. Pumpkin Cups. I pointed my pistol. Aimed between her ample breasts.
“Put that down!” I yelled. “Police!” I paused.
"Dammit, I said now!"
Mrs. Pumpkin Cups picked up another chair. She was lifting it in the air. Then she charged.
I shook my head. Dammit, I thought. I don’t want to do this. What a waste of tits.
Bam! The report was deafening. Oh Jesus, I was thinking. Sweet God. Why did I pull the trigger?
The first shot tore her stomach wide open and hurled her a full ten feet back. I closed my eyes and that had dropped my aim. At least I didn't hit one of her boobs.
Seconds ticked by. I was thinking about nothing. Trying to hide from the reality of what had just happened. Trying to fold up inside and disappear.
Then she got up, zombie style. Slowly standing, turning her head. Arching her back, like she was trying to untwist her spine. Then she eyeballed me. A fixed stare.
No way, was all my brain could say. Not freaking possible.
Pumpkin Cups wobbled. Something gross plopped to the concrete behind her. Innards. She ignored the wet snake unreeling in front of her. She stepped through it. Tangled in it. Howled again. And I thought she was pissed before.
I was shocked. She had a big hole in her. I mean I could put my fist through it, but she lifted yet another chair and charged me again.
More internal organs worked loose. Loops of it. And blood. A gut tail growing longer with each step. I can still remember the detail of it.
My brain kept saying no f-ing way. And sweet mother, why me?
Then I double tapped her. One in the heart, above the hole I already made in her, and the other in her head.
That did it. Her body sprawled away a second time, into another table. Not superwoman after all. Not bullet proof. Even zombies need brains, right?
The steel chair she had been holding, pierced the aluminum umbrella and hung there, swinging back and forth. Beneath the swinging chair, was Mrs. Pumpkin Cups, a mess of holes and oozing brains. She was dead. At least I hoped she was, with that crooked smile. Those sparkling eyes. Those...never mind.
Flashes now. It was my head trying to shift back into normal mode. My adrenaline was slowing now. I was fighting my chemical dump, trying to think through it.
How was I going to report this? Innocent lady killed by off duty cop? What evidence do I need to preserve now?
Good, I was thinking gain. The caveman brain was giving way to the cop thoughts. Good sign. The shakes were coming next, I knew. The low after the high.
It turned out that I needn’t have worried. The next jolt was about to start and many more after that. Mrs. Pumpkin Cups was just the intro to Hell. My adrenal glands were in for a work out.
I should have paid more attention, it turned out. In fact, I was one of the very first ones to get it. Luckily, and I say this with all respect, I was only a carrier. At least I think I am. I've been feeling bad these last few days though. Too hungry for meat.
And I am deeply sorry for all the pain I caused, but it’s not my fault. At least I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to kill all of you.
I take that back. I didn’t mean for me to cause all of you to kill each other. There, that’s more accurate. Oh what am I getting at? I’m just sorry. If I caused it all, there has be a reasonable explanation for all of this anyway. Zombie apocalypse? Please.
So I was there still, outside of the Coffee Palace in Miami. I glanced at the windows of the shop and was amazed. The Coffee Palace had turned into a free-for-all. A bloodbath.
I saw a guy standing near the door, coffee cup midway to his lips, frozen in space. His eyes fixed on the fighting inside. Suddenly, the guy ran. I was amazed at his speed. Much too fast for a man his age.
He reached the door, but didn’t stop. His frail body burst through, shattering the glass. He flipped over the iron push bar and landed on his back with a crunching sound. He righted himself on the other side -- the inside -- and charged. He had turned.
I had just killed Mrs. Pumpkin Cups and now this? “Come on!” I yelled. "Seriously?"
I started to move toward the coffee shop. Put the phone to my ear after I dialed Homicide, directly. A beep-beep in my ear. I was being transferred.
I stepped off to one side and peeked in through the windows to Hell. As the phone buzzed in my ear and nobody was picking up, the horror inside the Coffee Palace made me shove it back in my phone case. I needed to act now.
I pulled my lukewarm gun again. How many bullets did I have left? I couldn’t remember.
Carnage was all I could think. An indoor riot. How could I deal with this? Everybody was attacking everybody. Men were punching women. One guy was shoving his cell phone into a young woman's mouth.
Women were howling, while standing on tables. One lady, wearing a red hat, was holding someone’s head, and it was not attached to a body. She was using it like a hammer, pounding another man’s backside with it. Still, it bothers me. It does not fit into my filing system under “screwed up things I saw.” Women spanks half-nude man with bloody head.
A young male clerk was smashing a broken coffee pot against the head of a elderly man who was, in turn, gumming the clerk’s arm, since his false teeth had slipped to the side. It was almost comedic. Slapstick.
The old man. “Num. num, num.” Spitting foam and blood. The young man. “Freaking wacko! That hurts!” Smash, smash, smash. Then both began to growl. A thrumming, almost guttural sound. They had turned. Is was too late for them.
I mean this was really happening, I was thinking then. I was seeing some new virus or some electronic mind control. Perhaps a new military experiment gone awry.
Three women near the door, were fighting. Each was pulling the hair of the other two and bashing their heads together. Macabre. Reminded me of Indian wrestling, but with hair of red-boiled spaghetti.
One finally succeeded in hair-scalping another, which just enraged the now hairless, skinless-headed woman. Then each discovered that they could use their long nails as tools. Slipping and falling in their own gruesome bodily fluids, now pooling over the table and onto the tiled floor with each swipe.
I file that one under: “Stuff I Need to Forget.”
And these were just a few of the fights -- the attacks -- as I watched in the first few seconds.
Afterwards, I mean these days, it's almost normal to see someone walking across the park with a hunk of thigh. An extra arm to beat all-comers. Even hairless redheads. Seriously. As long as these things have a hunk of flesh to munch on they are as docile and kittens, but don't freaking pet one. They don't make friends.
I yanked open the shattered door to the coffee shop and I said it. Yes I did.
“Freeze! Everyone, just stop now.” I used a lot of curse words, but I don’t need to repeat those here.
And you guessed it. Nobody listened. They just charged.
But it was not exactly like that. It was as if a bunch of confused second graders were told that there was fire drill and the guy at the door had free ice cream and there are monsters under their desks. Confused and happily enraged.
As they came after me, they continued to rip at each apart. There was no ‘group zombie must kill human’ thinking here. No thinking at all. It was just kill each other and do it now. And hey, that guy at the door -- let’s rip him open too! And hey don’t shove me or I’ll tear your...
I backed out of the door fast, just as I was plowed over by another gaggle of people who were pouring from the cell phone store, adjacent to the coffee shop. Another mini-mob of throat rippers on parade.
One guy was smiling. He had a girl’s upper torso in his arms. I shot smiley first.
Something clicked then. I stopped thinking about saving others. I started thinking about saving my own hide. I was important to me, I figured.
One after the other, I killed them. Until I ran out of ammunition and had to go back to my car for more. I emptied all of my boxes. Even the practice ammo.
All the time, I was shooting, I was trying to call someone. All the time, nobody ever answering. Just bang, bang, bang, until I couldn't even hear the phone, my ears were ringing so badly. Until my trigger finger was raw meat..
And thank the lord's load, I was not a religious sort of guy. Thou shalt not kill, did not apply. You can’t kill these things. You just put them down.
I eventually cleared the Coffee Palace. Shot them until they stopped howling. No more screams. Growls gave way to moans. People were no longer running back and forth. Shelves were no longer toppling over..
I don't know how many hours I sat there. All day for sure.
Shadows, moved by storm clouds fled across the blood soaked floors. Now a distant rumble, reminding me of the coming storms. I was surprised I could hear the thunder at all, but also grateful.
I dialed the police again. Nothing.
It wasn’t over by a long shot.
As I was clearing the Coffee Shop, cars on the highway swerved, trying to miss the insane mobs of walking wounded. They had come from everywhere. Home. Stores. Their vehicles. Hospitals. Barber Shops. Even prison work crews. I could see their prison uniforms, stained with gore, shoulder bones poking through. All from my seat at the Coffee Shop.
I wasn't about to go out there and die.
The fodder for traffic continued, almost unabated. Screeching tires, bodies seeming to leap into the air, while others were dragged hard, like wet pencil erasers across sandpaper. Battered forms limping away or crawling into the fray for more abuse. Always bleeding and mangled and enraged.
The mangled hoards began to grab at their saviors, who were spilling from vehicles along the highway. People who had just come to help, now “infected” and scrambling themselves, toward the next available target meat.
Head lolling in a weird aberrant ecstasy. Arguments mutating into fits of growling. Growling to fighting. Fighting to shredding. Shredding into blood soaked eating contests, all ending in death and rebirth and death all over again. A circle of death-life.
More cars careened off of the highway. Bodies cartwheeling. Screams. Gun shots. Then, mercifly, after what had to have been hours, silence. Except for the birds and sirens. The birds lasting longer.
The other animals came later. In the darkness. Battling over prizes. Gorging and retching. Dying and re-living.
So many howls came in that first night. So many rebirths.
The fires came next. Billowing black smoke from the strip mall. Flames from the large tractor trailer jackknifed in the intersection. Small explosions here. Sizzling sounds there and the fading of gun shots in the near distance.
I sat in the Coffee Palace, among the deceased, staring at my gun. I was out of ammo.
The corpses around me were stilling jerking and moaning, but only in my memory. There, in my head, they were still rampaging and my bullets were tearing them in half, in slow motion. A bad movie, in color, with endless reruns.
I tried every cell phone I could find. Tapping the screens in frustration.
Later still, Miami was swallowed in this new hell. Not local riots, but the whole of Dade County and beyond, consumed. The contagion spreading north, then west, eating its way across the Americas. A conflagration of disease and death. Great for target practice, but hell on the wrist. I mean, I was sore as hell for weeks.
I left Miami when I couldn’t find my dad in the first week. The retirement home was gone. Burned to the ground. Bodies everywhere. Driver-less cars jamming the streets. Smoke. Always that.
The insane running amok, still, appearing like wraiths in the smog and fires at night. My car attracting the crazed people, like me to Mrs. Pumpkin Cups. Phantoms manifesting from the gray twilight fogs. My gun briefly lighting their warped faces as they fell back into the darkness. Some getting up for more of my hot lead, until I drove way the hell out of town.
Cars offered some protection, but getting gas was tough. Getting food even tougher.
It was a hand-to-gun experience. Shoot, get gas. Shoot get food. Shoot, start car. Drive, find a place urinate. Drive, find a place to crash. Wake up, kill the mobs banging on your windshield. Exit car. Remove the bodies from the car. Wipe the blood from your hands. (Note to self: find more gloves.)
Do it again and again. Every day. And don't talk to myself.
I had a routine. It worked for me. It was kill and run. Eat and run. Sleep and run. I don’t want to tell you when I had time to crap. And most of all, don't lose it. Keep the brain-can stable.
I’ve driven all over now. The whole country. Until I had trouble finding gasoline. Until the cars went to crap.
I didn’t find a sane soul. Most are dead now.
You tend to talk to yourself or go silent for days at a time.
I also discovered that human bones can burst car tires. Do not run over skeletons. It's my motto now. Drive slowly and avoid the big white sticks.
Don't run over the vultures for fun either. The damned things hide the bone piles. And they break windshields.
A lot a bridges are out too. Forget the Mississippi. You need to take a boat. And good luck finding a running motor. That’s why I stay east of the big river for now. More like a river of mud now.
I checked the libraries. There is no internet now. No electricity. You wouldn't believe how much you miss the internet. Books are such a pain, but good for toilet paper and starting fires.
I found a good place to live. Fewest number of bodies. I was able to move most away. Burned some. The animals ate the rest. At least I hope it was the animals. Otherwise I got another problem now.
But I still see the stains.The shades of blood where the people were. I guess rain will eventually wash it away.
I have a fresh water source. I’ll not say where I am now, but I have food as well. Enough for a long time. A few years maybe.
I am armed too. So screw off. Unless you are nice.
Oh, and I have lots of books. What can I say? I live vicariously.
So that's pretty much it. I'm just sort of surviving. And like I said, I think I have a new problem. I noticed yesterday that all the bodies, even the bones, are gone. Animals seem quieter too.
If anyone finds this message, please come to...
The rest of the long letter is torn away. Almost as if whoever had written it had recently done so. The pages are blowing in the wind along a dirt road.
In the distance, beyond the black hills, something howls, but the noises are muffled. Screams come next. Then pounding. Finally, a crashing sound, as a dark shape, something that should not be able to run on all fours, bursts through a car windshield, from the inside. The thing sits there on bony haunches, huffing, the car hood warping under its unusual mass.
The thing is breathing the moist foul air for the first very time. Relishing the sweet taste of excessive carbon dioxide, sulfur oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. Twisting its contorted jaw, arching its serrated spine, and staring longingly at the full moon. Hooded eyes brooding. It's in a sour mood, but it does not know why.
Moments pass. The thing's flesh begins to dry, its cocoon falling away. Large knots of calcified shell, sliding to the car's hood, then along the rusted fender and onto to the ground.
It begins to howl again, like a wolf, spreading its beak-like mouth, lathering its fangs with a forked blood-red tongue, wagging its short tail in anticipation.
Its mating call is answered.
The dawn is fresh. The world is theirs.
© 2017 jgshorebird