Read Dead World (Book 1): The Impetus Online

Authors: Jacob Mollohan

Tags: #Zombies

Dead World (Book 1): The Impetus

The Impetus

A Dead World Book

1

 

The Edge Coffeehouse is a favorite haunt of Daniel Ostler. House roasted beans, displays by local painters, and a gathering of college students make him feel like a real artist. And now, fingers crossed, his manuscript might finally see the light of day. He has a meeting with Small House in a few hours and this is his first shot to become a published author.

Daniel opens the door, setting a small bell jingling. The smell of rich espresso reminds him of his hands cramping from the times he spent writing here, or often enough, doodling in his notebooks. The sounds of the milk steaming and the familiar chant of drinks being called, this was his own personal orchestra while he climbed those metaphorical stairs to not quite success.

Inwardly he cringes at the number of times he drifted off, or distracted himself on the internet, or took a walk to get refocused, without ever really getting much on the page. He has a habit of doing pretty much anything else other than actually writing. He had big dreams once, but so far life has dealt him a cruelly mediocre hand.

But with the briefcase, containing the final draft of “Walking Again”, clutched tightly in his hands he feels good. A small smile lingers on his face. Today is the day.

“How’s it going Daniel?” The barista behind the counter says. Her name is Valentine.

“Good, I’ll just have my usual,” he says.

They’ve talked a few times while she works, but he never knows where to take the conversation so she usually moves on to keep wiping down tables, or stock sugars, everything else that keeps her busy until he buries himself back in the writing.

“Medium latte,” she says to the young man on bar. His nametag says Alex. He must be new because Daniel recognizes most of the faces around The Edge. His collar is up and his apron hangs loosely on his thin frame. He looks up with a crooked smile.

“Yeah Val, medium latte,” Alex calls back.             

Daniel puts a five on the counter, says thanks and walks away.

It’s a beautiful day outside, the sparse clouds hang in a clear blue sky and the weather is a cool seventy five degrees as Colorado gallops into fall. The weather here is so unpredictable that it often feels like a wild horse ride, the temperature jumping or dropping a dozen degrees in a few hours.

Fall is his favorite time of year and he takes this as a good portent. Everything just seems to be falling into place.

“Medium latte,” the young man behind the counter says. He turns and walks off to talk to Valentine saying nothing else.

Daniel nods to his back and grabs the latte. He still has a few hours before he needs to be at the meeting so he sits in his usual spot. A big checker patterned chair with a torn left arm rest. But it’s comfortable.

The coffee shop is small in a way that makes it feel welcoming rather than claustrophobic. The lobby forms a rough L shape wrapping around the bar and Daniel grabs the corner whenever he can. The wide street facing windows provide a suitably artistic backdrop for his work.

“Hey.” He can smell the guy moments before he hears his rough voice. It’s Faraday. He’s a drifter who often comes by trying to get a free cup of coffee.

Faraday has a unique way of looking at the world that Daniel finds fascinating and the guy is so sincere about everything he does. It’s hard not to like him once you look past his social awkwardness. And his hygiene.

“Hey.” Daniel smiles at him.

Daniel doesn’t believe his name is actually Faraday, nor does he know why he goes by it. But most of what Faraday does is a mystery.

“So listen, Daniel.” Faraday drops into the chair across from him. He looks around conspiratorially as if he has a giant secret, “What are you most afraid of?”

Daniel leans back in his chair. “Hmm,” He says, “I would have to say burning alive. Or maybe something Lovecraftian, like Cthulu or something.”

Faraday steeples his hands in front of his face. “I’ve got something even worse than that.”

Daniel often thinks that Faraday would make an interesting character in one of his pieces and has even gone as far as writing up a few characters sketches of him. The guy always has something new to believe in and Daniel respects him for that. At least he cares enough to believe.

“Well what do you have?” Daniel leans in close to him, smelling body odor, tar, and smoke.

“I’ve always thought Revelations is the worst. Seems pretty bleak, you know follow the rules or poof!” He slaps his dirty hands together. “Everyone dies.”

“Yeah,” Daniel says, “That’s pretty bad.”

“Do you know how to shoot a gun?” Faraday asks changing the subject suddenly. He does this as a compulsive habit though. Faraday’s mind must be making connections where Daniel can see none, he thinks.

“No, I never have. My dad used to like to hunt, he took me a few times but I never got into it,” Daniel responds.

Faraday scowls at him. “You need to go and buy a gun and learn how to shoot it.”

Faraday looks over and sees Valentine wiping down tables, she’s working her way towards them and he gets fidgety, as if he’s nervous. “I need to go now. I’ll be back for you though.” He stands up and bolts out the door pulling up his hood to cover his eyes and staring at his feet as he hurries away.

Daniel watches him go and places his briefcase with the copy of his book on the table.

“Sorry about him.” Valentine has worked her way to him and she stands for a moment by his table. “He really is nice though.”

“Oh yeah… yeah you’re right.” Daniel says.

“What was he on about today?” she asks lingering.

“Oh, well he asked what my biggest fear was.”

“Wow,” she says, her eyes widening, “and?”

“Cthulu. And fire. A fiery Cthulu.” he laughs.

“That’s actually not too bad.” She smiles at him. “What do you have there?” She nods to his briefcase.

“This is my book,” he drums his fingers on the rough leather. “I’m supposed to meet with potential publishers in a bit.”

“You’re finally done?”

“Yeah,” he shrugs, “it’s as done as I’m going to get it. If I read it again I might just burn it.”

“Well I hope it all goes well.” She looks up as Alex calls her name. “I have to go back to work. Good luck out there.” She walks away and Daniel stares out the window again.

He hopes beyond hope that this will be exactly what he has always been waiting for, the chance to prove to everyone that his dreams were not the stuff of smoke but rather more substantial, that they were worth pursuing in the first place, worth putting everything else on his life on hold for so long.

The sound of a siren blares in the distance, followed by a few more in quick succession.

 

2

 

Faraday hustles away from the Edge. He checks over his shoulder frequently to make sure no one is chasing him. He has lived in downtown Denver for a long time now and so he knows the streets like a map in his head.

Sure he’s crazy. But he knows things no one else knows so it is much easier to be crazy than to try and fit in with all these people.

He stuffs his hands into his oversized jacket. He isn’t sure where he is going just that he wants to get away for a bit. Daniel is always the nice one. And he talks to Daniel more than anyone else, but even Daniel is dull. He just doesn’t get it.

Faraday feels that he owes Daniel for his kindness, and he always pays his debts.

He walks into a neighborhood, the street curves off around a corner. Old oak trees line the sidewalk. His favorite thing about this neighborhood is that the homes are all unique. None of that suburbia bullshit with cookie cutter houses stacked side by side, so close they might as well be touching. The houses here are small and well cared for. They are old but Faraday likes that they have a history, like they earned the right to be here.

He lets himself wander aimlessly for a while, they can’t predict his movements if he doesn’t have a plan.

A commotion draws his attention and he stops for a moment to watch. A middle aged man is running down the street. He is yelling as he runs directly towards a group of kids. They try to get out of the way but the older gentlemen barrels right into them knocking a young boy to the ground.

The man scrambles on top of the boy, and swings. His fists hit with a dull thud that Faraday can hear even from this distance. The boy’s friends try to pry the man off but he is feral and even at his age his strength is unbelievable. He knocks another to the ground before one of them lands a sold kick directly into his midsection.

Faraday has seen enough street fights to know that a kick like that will take the wind right out of you and lay you out on your back for a while.

Another scream draws his attention and he spins around as he sees violence erupting everywhere. It’s like people from all walks of life just had their switch flipped. All of the social training that should stop them from attacking each other suddenly disappears in an instant and the aftermath is horrifying even for Faraday.

Cars swerve into each other, the sound of rent metal overlapped by screaming. Enraged drivers get out of their cars and throw themselves at anyone nearby. The report of a gunshot sounds in the distance.

Faraday dives to the ground as a BMW veers in his direction. It collides with an old tree with a screech of tormented metal. Glass shatters landing on Faraday. The horn blares and the disoriented driver struggles to free himself from the seatbelt.

Rage distorts his face. Spittle froths at his lips as he looks right into Faraday’s eyes. Shards of glass cut deep wounds into his face leaving trails of blood that are pouring onto his dress shirt.

Then a siren sounds over all of it. This is what he was waiting for. Faraday knows this is only the beginning, and it is going to get a lot worse.

 

 

3

 

A loud scream startles Daniel and he swings around in his chair to look outside. A lady in her mid-thirties is running through the street, her arms flailing and her shrill voice filling the air. Her business suit is torn and bloody, and her hair is wild. As she runs her heels flip off but she seems oblivious to everything.

All at once a lot of things happen. A dozen cars slam on the brakes, rear ending one another trying to avoid this insane woman. Brakes squeal and horns blare. Smoke from one of the collisions stains the air. And there are people flooding onto the streets, exiting their cars and shouting at each other trying to find a cause for the sudden chaos.

The lady runs straight ahead. She doesn’t even try to veer as she smashes into a black Honda. She slams her fists down into the windshield. It’s enough force to crack the thick glass and cause bones in her hands to snap. The sound is sickening. Her face is distorted into a grimace of pure rage.

Daniel recognizes the college student who gets out of the car. He has a faded MSU Denver sweater and a rough mop of dark brown hair. “What the fuck lady!” he yells, moving around to confront her. She only responds by charging him, swinging her mangled arms. The guy has enough sense to get out of her way as she lunges at him but she barely misses. He falls over backwards into his car.

Then woman who started all of it falls to the ground in a heap. Her hoarse screaming finally stops and she lies completely still. Too still to have just fallen over. It’s as if her heart just stopped beating and dropped her where she was. Daniel jumps up, knocking his coffee to the floor. The porcelain cup clatters and breaks, but no one even notices.

Everyone inside the coffee shop is standing by the windows now. To watch the scene like an exaggerated train wreck, none of them can look away. Daniel vaguely hears Valentine call for her coworker to phone the police.

In a span of moments Daniel watches as the world outside of the little glass barrier descends into total anarchy. The people who got out of their cars begin howling in rage and pain. They turn upon each other in a feral tide of aggression and hatred.

They attack one another with no regard to their own safety or wellbeing. Just trying to release some sort of primal rage.

The look of insensate horror in the eyes of the victims terrifies Daniel. He hears screams from inside this time as the onlookers are stunned by the same raw ferocity.

Just outside the window Daniel watches in horror as a couple that were sitting together are now trying to kill each other. The girl, who is easily outweighed by fifty pounds, is unfazed as she takes a blow that breaks her nose in several places and sends blood streaming down her face. The blood patters all over the table which she leaps over to try to gouge the eyes of her former boyfriend.

“What is happening” A heavy set black man says from a table not far away. His wife and daughter cling to him, frozen in fear by what they are seeing.

His reaction is delayed. But at least it’s a reaction. The others are too stunned to even move, it is like a horror movie come to life before their eyes.

A rogue SUV speeds past the thronged intersection and barrels toward the raging couple outside the coffeehouse. It flies over the median taking out bushes and a bright green umbrella that has been flapping in the wind. The SUV rams through the couple and into the corner of the brick building sending blood and glass flying everywhere. As if by some miracle the couple that was run flat is still alive and trying to tear at each other.

The boy, who previously had the edge in the fight is pinned, his smashed legs a ruin beneath the car. The girl uses her window of opportunity and smashes her small fists into him. Broken glass reflects the afternoon light, stained red with blood.

“We need to get the hell outta here.” The big man says and grabs his daughter into his arms as if to run.

“Get back here!” Valentine calls waving her hand to them, “we can hide in the back room while I try to get ahold of the police.” The scene outside continues to devolve as more and more people are sucked into the spreading violence and so those inside the coffeehouse rush over to Valentine to try to get in the back room.

Daniel is the last one through the door and before he goes in he takes a second to look out the windows one last time. The chaos unfolding on the streets is truly horrifying. He wants to turn and run but he cannot tear himself away from the brutality unfolding outside.

The dull whump of an explosion causes them all to cower. It sounds like it was so close, just a block away maybe, and they duck trying to make them as small as possible not knowing if it will even help. The feeling of helplessness overwhelms Daniel.

Real fear chokes him. A fear like he has never experienced before.

The couple that was fighting before they were run over has finally ceased struggling. The girl is nowhere to be seen, but the man she left behind lies face up in a pool of his own blood. His legs still trapped under the car. There is so much gore. Daniel knows that it can’t all be his alone.

The driver from the car is gone and the corpse of the young man who had been trying to kill his girlfriend has his throat ripped out. It looks as if the girl used her teeth and nails like an animal, trying to tear the life from her former lover.

Daniel finally turns away afraid that he might retch if he sees any more. The conversation with Faraday plays in his mind. He had made so many crazy predictions that Daniel only ever listened to in the same way he might watch a horror movie. It was interestingly impossible and that’s what made it fun.

This is too much though. There is no way he saw this coming. No way.

Inside the back room the small group huddles in the corner. The lights are shining and there are boxes everywhere on metal shelves. In here it looks like the most normal thing ever. It’s so hard for him to imagine that the street is burning outside, but he tries to make sense of it all. His head is spinning and he can’t focus.

He knows that they need to do something. Act fast or end up dead, his grandpa used to say. He was an army medic during the Gulf War, he knew his way around life and death situations.

“I don’t know man I think help has to be on its way.” The big black guy is saying as Daniel tries to figure out what to do next.

“But what if it’s not?” The young guy, the new barista who works with Valentine asks.

“We can’t think like that, whatever is going on out there.” He motions over his shoulder towards outside. “We have to assume that someone knows and is taking care of this. I mean what the hell even happened out there?”

“How can we know? All I’m saying is maybe we should go somewhere, you know. Staying here it can’t be good man,” his hands shake. “They were trying to kill each other out there!” Alex is losing his cool.

“Yeah and what do you think will happen if you go out there buddy?” The big guy is trying to calm him down but it’s not working. “What do you think will happen to you? How will you be any safer?”

“You know what, fuck this.” Alex wrings his hands together. “We can’t stay here or we are all going to die. If you think this is best then good luck, but I’m out.” He throws his apron on the ground and heads out the backroom door.

They watch him go without knowing what to say. Everything is happening so fast and Daniel feels like any decision made could be the wrong one. Nothing could have ever prepared him for the things he saw in just those few moments of carnage.

Daniel is an avid horror movie fan but after seeing it happen in real life he is shocked into silence. The thought of blood from someone so close mingling with the dirt creating a sticky mud almost causes him to retch again.

“Well I don’t know what to do, we should stick together though,” the big guy says, looking around at the small group. “My name is Isaiah,” he says to no one in particular just trying to get some sense of normalcy. “What’s your name?” He looks at Valentine, she still has her nametag on but it’s clear he is just trying to get her talking.

“My name is Valentine.” she says. Her voice is subdued, meek. The sound of the chaos outside has reached a fevered pitch as cars smash into each other. The screaming and mindless violence is playing like some sick chorus in the background of their conversation.

“Great,” Isaiah smiles at her reassuringly. “What’s yours?” he looks at Daniel.

“Mine’s Daniel,” Daniel nods at them trying to snap out of his catatonia. “Some real shit out there huh?”

“Yeah man, that’s one way of putting it.” Isaiah smiles again. “This is my daughter Chloe and my wife Sasha.” He puts his hands on their shoulders. “Everything will be alright guys we just need to wait this out. It seems like we are safe back here.”

Sasha covers Chloe’s ears with her hands trying to block out the noise of the violence outside. It seems to be dying down a bit. It has only been minutes since the chaos started but it is already killing itself out. The metaphor sticks in Daniel’s throat like bile.

Daniel wants to believe that help is coming but the disturbing mingle of sirens that were never turned off, and the lack of any clear information, doesn’t help ease his fears.

“Yeah, hopefully those people can’t figure out a way to find us. They don’t seem to be thinking at all,” Valentine says, “Maybe help is already on the way.”

“That’s right Valentine, help is probably on the way right now. Whatever is going on out there will be taken care of in no time. We just need to stay quiet in here,” Isaiah says.

The violence continues outside, muffled sounds heard through the walls. Daniel can’t help but imagine what is going on out there. Even fleeing from the scene there are still afterimages that linger. The sickening sound of people beating each other to death has subsided but another distant explosion shakes the building and they all cower lower for a moment.

Daniel watches the others closely, trying to see what is going through everyone’s mind. Valentine is pale and looks terrified. She is wiping her hands against her apron nervously and looking around at nothing specific. She is obviously scared but trying to hold it together. They all are.

Chloe is young, maybe five or six, her eyes are wide but she isn’t crying. She squeezes herself into Sasha’s leg. Sasha is middle aged, like Isaiah, she has dark hair and deeply tanned skin. Sasha has the elegance of a woman who aged well.

Isaiah watches his family. His face is impossible to read. A mask of calm that seems impossible considering what is going on, but his eyes are hard, determined.

A new noise draws their attention. The screams and chaos still carry on outside but it seems to be moving away. This noise is closer. It sounds like it comes from right inside the coffeehouse.

“What was that?” Daniel asks looking towards the door as everyone else backs away. Isaiah steps forward and grabs a wooden broom from a dirty mop bucket. With a rough crack he breaks the broom stick over the corner and holds the end of it like a baseball bat. Daniel doesn’t know much about real life violence but he gets the impression that Isaiah is no stranger to a rougher upbringing.

“I don’t know. We should check though.” He turns to Sasha and sets his hand gently on her arm. “Don’t let Chloe leave this room till we come back ok?” Sasha just nods and Isaiah moves to push the door open.

Isaiah only opens it a crack before he mutters “Jesus fucking Christ.” He turns his head back into the room and makes eye contact with Daniel. “Daniel I need you to come out here with me. You girls stay in here and stay quite.”

Daniel nods to him feeling helpless with nothing to defend himself. “Ok man… ok, I’m right behind you.” He moves over to where Isaiah is standing trying to avoid the stacks of boxes that are piled around them. Daniel sticks his head around the corner as Isaiah holds the door open and immediately recoils.

In just the few moments he had to look outside his saw carnage that would make any Hollywood movie seem tame in comparison. Bodies are strewn outside the store, blood pooling around them, and even though most of the destruction seems to have passed he can still hear the sounds of fighting in the distance.

The other thing he notices is that the barista who had been there with them earlier and tried to run is now wandering through the coffeehouse, bumping into the overstuffed chairs. The door is shattered and the glass is scattered in the entry way. He is frothing at the mouth. His arm is covered in blood and hanging at a harsh angle.

It’s obviously broken but he doesn’t even seem to notice as his bloodshot eyes scan the room. Almost on cue the thing that used to be hiding with them lets out a scream of pure rage that freezes Daniel in place. Terror like nothing he has ever experienced before.

The barista runs full force towards them like a berserker.

Daniel tries to step back and trips over a box landing heavily as the air is forced out of his lungs. The girls behind him let out a shriek and Isaiah steps out of the room quickly bringing the improvised club in a tight arc.

From his position on the floor Daniel hears the crunch as the club hits home. He scrabbles to his feet and lunges towards the door to make sure Isaiah is OK. The dull thud of repeated blows continues as Daniel flings the door open and steps outside.

The young boy was smashed to the side and his collarbone must be broken by the halting way he moves. His chest is collapsed but he doesn’t even seem to notice the pain.  The rage contorts his face as he lunges towards Isaiah who easily outweighs him by 30 pounds.

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