Read The Creepers (Book 2): From the Past Online

Authors: Norman Dixon

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The Creepers (Book 2): From the Past

A Fox Pause
Press Book

 

The Creepers: From the Past

Copyright © 2015

By Norman Dixon

All rights reserved.

Cover art by Norman Dixon

 

This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and
situations are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.

 

No
part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and
publisher.

The
Creepers

Volume
Two

From
The Past

 

By
Norman Dixon Jr.

 

To
Olive and Harley with
all my love

Pathos I – Traveling Historian of the
Dead

April 23, 2041

Pathos I Journal Entry [7665
]

 

I look at him
now in awe. Our future. I can’t help but feel a terrible sense of guilt. This
boy, grown into a man, born from all of our faults, was raised on the archaic
violence we accepted for far too long. I look at him and his family. I watch
him interact with everyone in our group, watch the bond grow between him and
our sometimes Mad Conductor. Yet, in the back of my mind, and when the light
catches his eyes just right, I see it.

Desolation.
Death. The scars of violence. I bear my own, but somehow his seem worse by
comparison, for it is all he knows. Even freed of the shackles that nearly took
him from this world, it is all he knows. If there is a greater power, I’d like
to ask why? Why would you force someone to endure so much?

I imagine I’d
hear the response: ‘Why have you?’ And to that I have no answer. All I can do
is hang my head in shame. I could ask that question back throughout history,
through all of the bloodshed, rape, and senseless murder. Did we do it because
it was easy? Did we do it because it made us feel good? Did we even care? If it
wasn’t directly impacting us, what did it matter? I don’t have the answers to
those questions. All I know for sure is that I didn’t start to get in the way
of history until it was too late. I spent too many years as an observer. Even
after the fall, I spent my time as a chronicler of events.

Until I met
Bobby.

Now I am an
active participant in the course of things, and never again will I stand by
idly while the world falls apart. There are so few of us who take the
responsibility of rebuilding seriously. There are more of us who want what we
used to have, but I now know that can no longer be. Somewhere inside I yearn to
be with Siobhan again, to see a movie, to sit on the couch and watch television
while the rain falls, but that world is gone, and in a lot of ways, good
riddance. It wasn’t until I lost everything that I could truly see the cycles.
In Siobhan’s death, in Bobby’s life, and in my own quest for . . . for what?
Survival? Hardly. There is something. Some truth I’ve yet to discover. I can
feel it slink across the surface of my brain. I know it, but I cannot identify
it.

I look at the
boy who will herald our future. I look at the lack of innocence on his face,
hear the seriousness of his words, his determination to change the course of
things, and I know I’m in the right place. I’m finally home, so to speak, home
aboard this train of dreaming fools, and together we’ll see it through, or die
trying. Hopefully in some glorious fashion that will be written about by young
Randal’s children, should the future be so kind as to grant such a boon, but
most likely a horrible, unfair end.

After all that
I’ve been through, so many moments that I could deem pivotal, and the only one
I keep going back to is Bobby sending that man into the depths of the quarry.
The man that shattered his life. The man that nearly extinguished humanity's
hope for a future. It is in that moment, that key, necessary moment, that I see
there truly may not be an end to the cycle of violence.

My ancestors,
hell, all of humanity's ancestors, were unable to move beyond it. They needed
it to conquer evil, to pave the way towards a better tomorrow, but no matter
how hard some of us tried to move beyond it, to that higher state of being we
often fantasized about, we could not. Defeated by the absolute requirement of
violence. And that is the great question of the moment that haunts me.

Is there any
way, any way at all, to leave violence behind?

My answer is still no, though I’ve been
trying every night to formulate a yes. To date I have been unable to do so. I
will not stop in my pursuit, just as my compatriots will not stop in their
pursuit of a new world.

 

I
must leave you now, whoever you are, as my hands are tired and the dry desert
air has my scars itching unmercifully. Should the dawn greet me tomorrow, I
will continue our conversation. Until then…

CHAPTER 1

 

The tomatoes were beginning to flower
and he could hear the buzzing of several bees from the zucchini plants. He
didn't think he'd be around to taste them though. The stiff breeze had him
pulling the starchy blanket tight about his shoulders. He pined for a better
time, for a better place, for a saner world in which to abandon his son, but
Gary Danielson was a dying doctor, not a miracle worker.

 

Young Howard was a man by pre-war
standards. Even so, Doc Danielson had a hard time slipping away. He was nearing
sixty and the Santa Ana winds let him know it. He shivered, watching the flocks
of pigeons bank and bend like massive nets cast between L.A's shattered
buildings—those that still remained standing after nearly thirty years of
quakes and neglect. He liked being up here.

 

He thought of Tina, how brave she was
after she'd been bitten, how amazingly brave while giving birth to Howard. The
boy had her green eyes and her thin frame. It broke his heart every time he
looked at his son. The perfect model of a post First War family—a broken,
dysfunctional disaster. Eighteen years. Had it been that long? Doc Danielson
shuddered. The monument to the greatest women the world would never know
taunted his  tired eyes. The tears came freely and soon the guilt followed.

 

They were all gone now. The mothers,
their children. He hoped the babies made it, but he'd never know. The men, too,
were gone, taken by the same guilt that ate at him night after night. He hung
on for Howard. If he only had more time, a bit more time, and perhaps, just
maybe, a better set of lungs, he'd be able to leave this place with his son.
The rattle in his chest kept him rooted in reality. Now wasn't the time for
fantasy. He had to think this through. Time was short.

 

The sun began to set and a pervasive
quiet settled over the city. It was new, this quiet. For years, Doc Danielson
had learned to live with the millions of undead inhabitants. They'd moan and
scratch and scrabble, creating the music of monotony—a dirge from a different
time.

 

But the dead were all but gone from the
city now.

 

The door creaked open behind him.

 

“Thought I'd find you up here,” Howard
said.

 

“Your mother and I would do this a lot
in the early years. The birds hadn't returned yet, but it was still something
to behold.”

 

"I finished clearing grid
467." Howard grimaced, flexing his hands. "It doesn't get easier. You
said it would get easier, Dad.”

 

“How many this time?” Doc Danielson
coughed. He tasted blood in the phlegm.

 

“I don't know.” Howard leaned over the
railing.

 

A coyote cried out from somewhere below.

 

“Howard.” Doc Danielson wanted to reach
out to his son, but that approach wouldn't work.

 

“Dad, you don't hear them. You don't
kill them,” Howard whispered.

 

“They’re already dead. You’re simply
removing the host so the virus cannot spread farther. What you hear, or rather
what you think you hear, are nothing more than imprints on decaying matter.”
Doc Danielson tapped on the stalk of a tomato plant, vibrating the flowers. In
the old days, before the bees returned, it was the only way to pollinate them.

 

“How can you know that? You don't hear
them, you don't hunt them, drawing them in and ending them. How could you
know,” Howard cried.

 

“Howard,” Doc Danielson pleaded.

 

“There was this woman.” Howard hooked
his legs over the edge, just as Doc Danielson had seen him do countless times
over the years. “She kept calling for her daughter, Pipa, Pipa, Pipa, and the
fragile, blonde-haired image would flash over and over. A little girl in a pink
dress smiling in the sun. Pipa, Pipa, Pipa. I tried to get her to come to me
but she couldn't, and I couldn't see through her eyes. Either she was trapped
somewhere or her eyes were gone. Pipa, Pipa, Pipa.”

 

“Howard.” This time Doc Danielson did reach
for his son.

 

“No!” Howard screamed, smacking his
father's frail hand away. “Pipa, Pipa, Pipa. It took me hours to find her. For
hours that's all I heard, playing to the image of that little girl in my head.
Over and over and over. I found her apartment, and I found her daughter. The
little girl was nothing but bones in a corner. All her little furniture was
piled against her closet door. Pipa, Pipa, Pipa.” Howard turned to his father
with tears in his eyes. “Damn you, Father. Damn you for making me hear them.”

 

Doc Danielson trembled. He had not the
words. His heart fell to a million pieces as a new, far more profound guilt
entered him. He tried to internally justify everything with simple words: it
was to save us all. But looking at his son, he saw his own stress—eaten face
staring back at him. He dropped to his knees and began to cry. The blanket fell
from his shoulders.

 

“My son, I'm so sorry.” Doc Danielson
clawed at the dirt-covered roof. “We just wanted a better life for you all. She
didn't ask for it. She just...” He began to tremble uncontrollably.

 

“Father, there’s no one left. How is
that better? There’s no one left. Nothing but a bunch of unmarked graves, a
billion little tragedies, just like us. One big fucking aftermath.”

 

“There are others like you.”

 

“Don't you dare,” Howard hissed. He ran
from the roof without another word.

 

Doc Danielson coughed into his hands.
When he pulled them back, he wished he hadn't. The blood was now overtaking the
phlegm. “Not good, old man. There is still so much he doesn't know.”

 

* * *
* *

Howard felt them as soon as he entered
the sewer.

 

His little torch revealed nothing beyond
a few feet. Black mold coated the narrow walls. Rats scurried along the
gutters. Finger-length cockroaches scattered in the flickering flame. He nearly
tripped over a rust-eaten tricycle. This relic of what was crumbled from the
contact.

 

Howard paused. He looked back at the
cone of light behind him, suddenly afraid. He wasn't getting any images, but
the Creepers he channeled didn't give him the sense that they were blind or
trapped in the dark. Something else was blocking his view. His mind drifted to
the woman from yesterday, to the little bones, the toys stacked against the
door. He chased the thoughts away, or rather he put something else on top of
them.

 

The dead little girl was the first child
he'd seen in a very long time. Not since, he tried hard to remember, he was
around ten. There was a time when there were others. Not just kids but adults
too. People busy all through the buildings, people coming and going from all
over. They would come, meet with his father, the others, and they would leave
with some of the babies. Back then he couldn't have understood the
implications, but now he understood them all too well. And now, after years of
watching the men die through slow grief, watching his father die, watching all
they battled for crumble away, he’d come to the great crux of his life.

 

His father always told him it was for
the future, his future, but what kind of future was this? he thought, as he
rounded the bend with hammer in hand.

 

Techno cult.

 

Those two words reverberated in his
head. His father's voice recounting the early years, when there were still
pockets of survivors throughout the city, and not all of them hell bent on
fixing humanity.

 

“Son, you have to understand that blame
was something thrown around carelessly. It didn't really matter what had
actually caused the event, which we now know as B2retrogress7. That didn't
matter. What mattered was who or what they could blame it on. They still
thought they would come out of it shinning bright, but how wrong they were.

 

“The religious nuts came out of every
basement and back alley, and no one knows who started it. Society was nearly
gone at that point, but they proclaimed technology the root cause. All of our
gadgets and advancements paved the road to hell. Beyond their bizarre prayer
rituals, heard over loud speakers while we still retained power, and the
shouting vigils after we lost it, we didn't really see them, but they were out
there, and in some cases are probably still out there.

 

“We'd run into the aftermath of their
rituals though, and I'll never forget them. Your mother called them thunder
domes. I don't know what possessed them.” His father’s voice echoed through the
halls of memory.

 

Howard dropped the torch. The area
around the bend opened wide, cracked by the angry earth some time ago. A long
jagged scar revealed the gray sky and the rain pattered and plopped through the
opening. What had been a junction, when the world was sane, was now a massive
amphitheater open to the elements. Rivulets of water sluiced over the edge of
the crack. It was almost beautiful.

 

The horror dominating the center of the
opening pushed any semblance of beauty from his mind.

 

“Thunder dome,” Howard whispered.

 

His father had tried hard to impart the
images of the old movie to him, but it wasn't among the few films in their
collection. He doubted what he saw now carried any similarities to the film.
There were no words. Even an archaic association meant to convey an image
wouldn't do it justice.

 

The rudimentary dome was constructed of
scrap metal: shopping carts, fencing, rebar, chain, bike frames, and plenty of
other metal objects he couldn't identify. They carried decades of rust, yet
they held sound, strengthened by the wires that kept it all together. As Howard
approached it, he thought it looked more like a hand than a dome, as if some
giant automaton, perhaps the hand of their god, crashed through the road above
to scoop up the souls of the damned.

 

Heavy shadow enveloped the center of the
dome, but Howard didn't need the light to know the trio of Creepers were
entombed at its center. As he stepped closer, the wind changed direction and
the rain whipped at his eyes. He was too in awe to care.

 

He could feel them strongly. Their
hunger practically screamed at him to slake it. He tempered them with measured
breathing, fighting the hammering of his heart. He’d learned a lot from
clearing the city over the years.

 

They were as his father described them
all those years ago.

 

“They are always in threes. It holds an
obvious significance to their belief structure, but I venture none have studied
it. Not too many of us left after all, them either. I've seen three such
structures in my days and we destroyed all three. Your mother could not stand
them. The thought of those things trapped like that... Virus or not, they were
once human, and they deserved better. I'll never know how half this shit gets
into human DNA. Sorry, son. It's just you want to know and I'm telling you, but
one day you'll truly know and I weep for that moment.

 

“They hang two upside down from the top
of the domes and the other is crucified between them. But they do not kill
them. They bind them in wire, then they place devices over the eyes—cell
phones, monitors, whatever bit of technology is handy, sometimes jamming
circuit boards directly into the flesh. I guess it’s their way of exacting
revenge on the objects they blamed for it all.”

 

There were three: two held in place by
loops of frayed cable and thick chain. A flat panel monitor covered one of the
faces. Howard was thankful for that. The wires keeping the equipment in place
were so tight that bits of hair still poked out between. Bare skull gleamed
above and below. The thoroughness of the work spoke of great anger. A violence
like nothing he'd encountered before, and this was the aftermath.

 

Jagged pieces of badly weathered
circuitry ran the length of the Creeper on the left. It was all but scraps of
skin and bone, and bits of sun-dried parts held fast within its wired cocoon.
The stain of its organic matter dark red beneath it—a death shroud of sorts.
The Creeper rattled at Howard's presence, but nothing more.

 

The other suspended Creeper was in a
similar state, but in place of a monitor were two broken cell phones. A snake
of jumbled wires ran from its mouth, a bloody red tongue speaking the epitaph
of the society that used to be.

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