BABE IN THE WOODS: Six

Wednesday, October 30, 2013: Mt. Pleasant, NY, USA

Eric Pearson took three lunging steps backwards, his stomach still clenched tight, threatening more dry heaves if he didn’t find some fresh air in the next 30 seconds.

Clear of the puddle of blood, gore and half-digested sliders, he turned and stepped back out of the door he’d entered through, gasping for air to clear his nostrils and lungs. There was a foul stench in the air that reminded him of his time in Iraq, bringing back flashes of memories he’d spent years trying to bury.

PFC David Johnson’s torso, separated from the lower half of his body by the hidden roadside bomb that had exploded as they’d driven by while on patrol in Tikrit, popped into his head. David had been a 19-year old white kid from Iowa that had enlisted in the National Guard to help pay for college. He had been the first in his family to attend college, and would have been the first to graduate as opposed to the fourth to die in combat since World War II if not for the bomb.

If not for the war.

Pearson shook his head to clear his mind, only to have the image of what he’d just left behind rush back, infinitely worse than his memory of PFC Johnson, minus the emotional connection. He hadn’t personally known what he assumed was had once been one Anthony DiBlanco – 16-year old white male, five foot eight, one hundred and thirty five pounds, blue eyes, light brown hair, a mole on his left shoulder and a rabbit-shaped birthmark on his right hip – now dismembered, eviscerated and partially shredded like a thanksgiving turkey on the kitchen floor.

He wouldn’t know the personal details until the next day, compiling them from the boy’s medical records from his last checkup three months prior. It would be another two days before dental records confirmed his identity, though his father recognized his stubby fingers and rounded fingernails immediately.

Pearson took three more deep breaths, facing away from the house and its back door, from which a raw, meaty stench drifted out.

“Jesus!”

Pearson, whose parents had become Jehovah’s Witnesses when he was a teenager, had never been a particularly religious man, even less so after the Civil War had split the country over such things. He considered himself more of a spiritual man, believing in the forces of good and evil and that mankind was not necessarily predisposed to one or the other, and not feeling the need to give his so-called “higher power” a name.

He reached inside his shirt for the pendant handing from the thin sterling silver necklace he always wore, which commemorated five years of sobriety, and rubbed it three times.

“Jesus,” he repeated out loud. “I need a fucking drink.”

His stomach gave a final heave, dry again, and he felt like he’d finally regained control.

“Give me the strength,” he whispered.

He reached down to his belt and unclipped his walkie-talkie, and with another deep breath, radioed into the dispatcher, Margaret Field, who’d finished cleaning herself off and had since poured a fresh cup of coffee, black, one sugar.

“Margie?” he called, his voice unexpectedly hoarse.

“I’m here, Eric. What’s the story?”

“Bad.”

“Bad?”

“Stephen King bad. I think the zombies have officially become a problem.”

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