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The old woman, Alice, had taken her dog Ge-Boo out a few days before, and she had not come back. Donita had opened the door a crack as she had been leaving and warned her again about how bad it was outside, but Alice had simply pretended not to see her, or hear her, when she had spoken. She had walked off down the hallway, smartly dressed, Ge-Boo wearing a small, pink sweater, and Donita had not seen her since.

Bear had called the elevator back up a few hours later, locked it down, and then jammed it open with a chair from Amanda Bynes' kitchen. It was clear that if Alice was not back, she would not be back. The streets had suddenly been crawling with the dead. The daylight meant absolutely nothing to them at all. An hour or two into the darkness the electricity quit, and the building, most of Manhattan with it, had gone dark. Now this.

Donita looked out on the city now. The fires were everywhere. Twice, a few days back, the planes had overflown the city. Bear had been down in the park trying to find out what was going on. She had been alone, jumping at every sound. The planes had swooped low, blue-tinged mist spraying from the open cargo holds: military planes, jets. She had seen them clearly from the seventh floor. Soldiers in gas masks stood in the open bay doorways and directed the thick hoses that sprayed the city. Three men crouched in the open cargo holds of each plane.

She had slid the glass balcony doors closed, fashioned a rag around her mouth and waited for Bear to come back... 

L.A: Billy Jingo:

Evening: March 9th


He came up from sleep fast, Jamie's face above him, her voice a low, panicked whisper.

“Wha... What... What?”

“Downstairs... It's downstairs,” she didn't finish, but she didn't need to. A crash came to his ears, but he could not tell if it was from the downstairs hallway. At least he hoped it was the downstairs hallway, not the stairs outside of their apartment, or, God forbid, even closer.

He jumped from the tangle of blankets, started to pull his shoes on, and then reached for his machine pistol instead as another noise came from the hallway. This time it did sound like the downstairs hallway; the steel gate that closed off the lobby. Billy thumbed the safety off the machine pistol and ran for the apartment door.

The hallway was nearly completely black. The hallway windows let in the light from outside, but it was very little. He slowed and felt his way to the staircase. He sensed her before his hand brushed against her.

“Don't you shoot me, Billy Jingo.” Beth whispered tightly. A small penlight clicked on and he could see her leaning against the wall from the upstairs apartment.

“No,” Billy said. It was stupid, but he could think of nothing else to say. “Going down,” he told her. He made the stairs and headed down toward the lobby. Behind him Beth had turned out the light, but he could feel her following behind him.

The noise became louder as they made their way downward. Billy tried to count the steps as he went. Fifteen to the landing, turn to the right, feel for the banister. Fifteen more to the bottom, but he missed the last step. He had made himself count the steps just earlier that day in case he had to navigate them in the blackness.

He nearly fell before his foot found the floor and he regained his balance. He could smell them now though, hear them. Just fifteen or so feet across the lobby. He felt Beth’s hand brush against his back. A second later she pressed up against him and whispered in his ear.

“When I flick the light on them, just shoot!”

“But what if...”

“To hell with What if... Just shoot. Who do you think it would be, the Avon lady?” Silence fell. The noise stopped. “Goddammit,” Beth muttered...


 In The Sunlight Of Another World:

More Bad Dreams

Joe

The Forest closed in around me quickly. Even as a spiritual presence I could feel it: I began to worry about my body where it lay at the edge of the woods. Hidden, but hidden well enough? I could only hope that it was. Abignew was setting a fast pace and I was drawing farther away from my dream self, splitting my spiritual self to do it. I didn't like it at all.

There was no moonlight here. A pale silver disc graced the open sky above the trees. Sunlight then, I thought. The time here in this world must be completely different. This had to be more than a shift or a slip sideways.

I kept one part of my mind on the silver ball in my pocket. A large part. Not as large as it had once been, but still large. Another part was watching over my physical self. The sounds of the day-quiet motel drifting at the edge of everything else my mind was processing. Occasional rattles of keys, a far off argument. The sounds of a scuffle. An aluminum can rolling down the steel steps from the floor above. Hollow, metallic 'Pong' sounds as it fell from step to step. A breeze sighing over the low rooftop. A crows' raspy call as it overflew the motel roof and winged its way into the city.

Another part of my mind was with my dream self, watching the area where my spiritual body lay. And my vision skated over the forest floor watching Abignew as he walked fast along an old worn path.

I sensed the wolves before I saw them. Nothing concrete. A scent on the wind. A rustling in the grasses. I broke away from my travel and slammed back into my dream self fully.

The wolves were on me before I could gain my feet. The lead wolf, nearly pure white with smudge gray markings that were barely there. Glowing pale-red eyes, launched himself through the air, his teeth finding and closing on my throat. I fought my way up to a sitting position. My own hands came up automatically to his throat, but even as I squeezed I willed myself to end the dream. I focused all that I had as a second wolf slammed into my back, claws hooking into the skin, clawing for purchase, riding me as his jaws bit deep into the back of my neck.

The black came fast, closing down my sight, pulling at my soul. The battle lasted less than a second. The wolves were no match for the power I had developed. My soul leapt into the void. I felt myself falling faster and faster.

I hit the bed so hard that it felt as though I had broken it. Within seconds someone began to beat on the thin Motel room wall from the room next door...

 For the last two days he had found himself thinking in an new direction. All the old stuff we depended on is gone and that's okay. He didn't care at all if he never saw space again. In fact he'd rather not go back to it and even if there was a way to fix it all he didn't want to go back to Earth: He was positive in fact that they could never go back; none of them. He was positive he wouldn't be able to live that way again anyway… Not after this. Less than two years ago his entire life, his entire focus was wrapped up in the old way. Hadn't he been waiting for the countdown to go on his next mission? He had. Back to space? He had no choice, he would have to go, but his life would not be space... Travel... Missions...

The world did not end. We think so highly of ourselves that we believe that the end of society means the end of the world and I guess it did mean the end of the Earth for us... some of us, but the end of the world? No. The world will go on and on when we are nothing at all but dust upon the ground. We will pick the world up and drag it around with us from place to place forever until there is no more time left. It was what our ancestors on Mars had done: Picked up and moved their entire civilization to Earth. And Earth had proven too hard to adapt to and so we had had retreated to our DNA and become slightly different; enough so that it didn’t matter and we had begun again.

This time on Hay Vida we might not have to retreat to our DNA at all. It might be possible to go forward and adapt as we age. But even if we did retreat it would not be world ending. It would only mean beginning anew in a more basic way: A more basic configuration of the true life form that we were...

 The smell of hot metal filled the air. Carl looked first to the car down the road, partway onto the cement pad: The trunk had popped open and all manner of stuff that had been inside now lay scattered across the ground. Hot oil and antifreeze dripped from under the hood onto the concrete. The front roof line was crushed flat to the top of the driver's seats. The backseat area seemed untouched.

He slipped around the end of the trailer and looked at the other car. A newer Ford: He could see the badge on the rear deck. The front end of the car was wrapped around the oak in the backyard just as he had thought and steam was rising up into the air. The Ford first, he decided. The car across the road would have to wait.

The Ford had hit the tree and climbed it a few feet before it came to a complete stop. Carl had to stand on tip toe to peer into it. The driver had no head left, that had been the huge stain on the windshield. There was no passenger. Looking out from the inside it was not just red but gray and black too: Bone, hair and brain matter. His stomach did a quick flip and he began to close his eyes as he turned away.

As he turned, his eyes caught on the floorboard and a blue duffel bag that was jammed into the space with the drivers legs. There was no way that the door was going to open, but the glass was gone from the window. He balanced over the edge of the door trying to stay as far away as he could from the dead man as he did, leaned in and tried to snag the duffel bag. His fingers brushed the two plastic handles, but he could not get a grip on them.

Carl levered himself further over the window sill and nearly came down into the dead man's lap as he lost his balance and his feet left the ground. His hand shot down quickly, bounced off the dead man's thigh and hit the seat, stopping him just a few inches above the man's lap and a small splattering of bone and blood that was there. His hand slipped, but he pressed down harder and held himself.

He could feel the slick blood and splinters of bone under his hand, but he pushed the knowledge out of his mind, took a deep breath, braced himself and then reached down with his free hand and snatched the handles pulling the heavy bag free.

He pulled back, but the bag was so heavy that he had to hold on tight and push off the seat with his other hand. For one alarming second it seemed he would fall forward into the dead man's lap. After a second of indecision his body dropped back down to the ground, the bag in his hand. He thought about the trunk as he started to turn away, reached back in, shut off the dead ignition, pulled the keys free and hurried around the car.

The trunk held nothing but a black suitcase. He debated briefly, then reached in and took it. He went back, put the keys back into the ignition, and turned it back to the ON position. What else! What else! His mind asked.

His heart felt like it was beating a mile a minute, skipping beats, and his breath was tearing in and out of his lungs so quickly that it was painful. He could think of nothing he had forgotten. He told himself there was nothing else and then immediately he thought of the glove compartment. He ran back around the passenger's side of the car, dropped the bags and pushed the button on the glove box. A small paper bag and a dull, black pistol rested inside.

He took a deep breath, thought for a moment and then took both, slammed the glove box shut, picked up the bags and ran for the trailer. He booted the door open and threw the bags inside... 
The smell of hot metal filled the air. David looked to the car on the cement pad first: The trunk had popped and all manner of stuff that had been inside now lay scattered across the ground. Hot oil and antifreeze dripped from under the hood and onto the concrete. The front roof line was smashed flat to the top of the driver’s seats. The backseat area seemed untouched.

He slipped around the end of the trailer and looked at the other car. A newer Ford: He could see the badge on the rear deck. The front end of the car was wrapped around the oak in the backyard just as he had thought and steam was rising up into the air. The Ford first, he decided. The car across the road would have to wait.

The Ford had hit the tree and climbed it a few feet before it came to a complete stop. David had to stand on tip toe to peer into it. The driver had no head left, which explained the huge stain on the windshield. He was past dead, he was dead bad. There was no passenger. Looking out from the inside it was not just red, but gray and black too: Bone, hair and brain matter. His stomach did a quick flip and he began to close his eyes as he turned away.

As he turned his eyes caught on the floorboard and a blue duffel bag that was jammed into the space with the drivers legs. There was no way that the door was going to open, but the glass was gone from the window. He balanced over the edge of the door trying to stay as far away as he could from the dead man as he did, leaned in and tried to snag the duffel bag. His fingers brushed the two plastic handles, but he could not get a grip on them.

David levered himself further over the window sill and nearly came down into the dead man's lap as he lost his balance and his feet left the ground. His hand shot down quickly, bounced off the dead man's thigh and hit the seat, stopping him just a few inches above the man's lap and a small splattering of bone and blood that was there. His hand slipped, but he pressed down harder and held himself.

He could feel the slick blood and splinters of bone under his hand, but he pushed the knowledge out of his mind, took a deep breath, braced himself and then reached down with his free hand and snatched the handles pulling the heavy bag free.

----

A chance early morning crash on a dead end road turns into a chase across America, as two kids try to outrun the mob, hit men, the cops and everyone else, and somehow hang on to the stolen money and drugs in their possession...

Seventeen collected short stories from Author Dell Sweet... 

From RAPID CITY THREE:

A minute or two after I heard the man, I saw a fast blur to my right, the other side from the church, and I blazed that whole building, dropped my clips, reloaded the ones I had emptied while I listened and waited. I listened to the lung shot man's breathing and it was not good. I allowed my head to get lulled by that yearning to hear that man pull his breath so much that I almost missed it when they came at me.

Two sides at once, and damned if I didn't get them all as they were comin'. All but the one that took me in the back and flattened me out right there in the street.

I managed to flip onto my back, but I was no better off. I had lost both guns and that walker knew it. She was on me hard and fast. Hissing, biting at me, clipped the end of my finger, had me scared for hours because of that. I got my sticker and drove it up fast through her chest and into her backbone. She arched hard, her back bent like a bow, mouthing wide, teeth flashing, and I was trying to pull that knife free when her head blew apart and she flew off the side. I got my eyes closed, but I still grimaced as I felt cold chunks of her head splatter against my face. I held my vomit, but barely, rolled off to my right, pulled my shirt up, buttons flying and cleaned off my face as best I could. It was then I thought to look for the lung shot man I knowed had to be there.

She was some tore up when I saw her. She had sagged to the ground just about where she had stumbled to and managed the shot.

I got my face as clean as I could and then got to my shaky feet and went to her. I was looking over that finger, worried as I went. It was bit bad, but the skin did not break.

She was most dead when I got there.

“What was it that bought you creeping on me like that,” I asked?

Her eyes were bright. The bottoms of those lids filled up to overflowin' with tears, probably from the pain. A lung shot can hurt powerful. I seen a man or two go that way. For a woman, she was holding it down good... 

From BORDERLINE:

I drove as he gave me directions.

We stopped just before dawn at a gas station in the middle of a small desert border town. The Mexican directed me past the dimly lit islands and over toward the side of the station, and the shadowy side lot.

There was a big hound sleeping in an open bay doorway on one side of the garage. On the other side a thin man with long, greasy-black hair was turning wrenches on an old Plymouth.  He glanced up, nodded, and I nodded back as we pulled around the side of the station and parked in the shadows.

There were payphones bolted to the side wall, just past the Men's room door. I had thought that payphones were a thing of the past. But I had also thought gas stations were a thing of the past too, come to think of it.

I helped the Mexican to the phone. He ran about $6.00 worth of change into the phone and then he just stood there, leaned against the wall, panting hard, for what seemed like ten minutes.

Finally he began to speak in a stream of Spanish so heavily accented and fast that I could make no sense of anything he said. Not even the gist of it, and I was usually pretty good when it came to Spanish.

He sprayed blood from his mouth as he talked. And he leaked blood from the bullet wound in his lower chest all over the wall he was leaning against.

Seventeen stories from Horror to Science Fiction...

Michael Watson sat at the mouth of the cave staring out over the valley below. This close to the thick plastic the air was cold, but the wooden benches were comfortable if a little hard. They had served for dozens upon dozens of people since Mike and Tom had built them some thirty years before: They still served them well. He turned and smiled at several children who sat nearby pointing out different landmarks in the valley far below. The children, especially, never seemed to tire of sitting on the low benches and looking out over the valley.Michael chuckled to himself, turned his eyes from the other benches, and back out on the valley far below. The snow was falling heavy. Two hours ago late fall had been holding steady, little smudges of green had still existed throughout all the fall foliage in the valley. Now it was quickly becoming a blanket of white. Fall had lost this round.Years before they had devised a new year that better kept track of seasons and the much longer year Hay Vida had. Even with a year that now held some 95 extra days spread over fifteen months to even the seasons out the time still seemed to move by too quickly. Time was never a friend to anyone, Michael thought. Well, maybe death nothing else.The seasons had worked themselves out after a few years. Some longer, some shorter, it was winter that had come out the winner in that round. Even slightly longer winters had a huge impact on the year around weather and the planting that could be accomplished. It took much longer to get through winter, longer for spring to thaw the valleys and fields for planting, longer for the sun to warm the ground and glaciers were forming in the north: Growing ever bigger year by year. Michael had sometimes wondered in years past if he would see them come this far. Of course the answer was no: They would not come this far in his lifetime, but he had no doubt they would come here eventually.Winter was coming in strong today; there would be little left to do soon but plan the hunts and tell stories around the fire...Leaving Earth behind was hard... Traveling millions of miles to a possibly inhabitable system was even harder. What's next will be even harder. Join the Star Dancer crew as they search for a new home among the stars...
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