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I lied to the psycho.  Of course I did.  I mean...what would you do if some shirtless, kilted guy chased you through the wilderness, threw a bola at you, and told you he wanted to start some weird little group with you while alien creatures ate the rest of the world?

Jake was telling the truth about earth and the world he called The Other Place coming together.  I'd seen the creatures he called "Bathorses," and I watched a giant Venus Flytrap thing eat a truck.  Before the power went out, people across the American West had reported sightings of "Ape Badgers" and other creatures, which looked way more strange than the names Jake had given them.  Still, I couldn't help but believe that all the time Jake spent alone in the wilderness had made him into a wacko.

Jake wanted the world to end, and I could understand why he shrugged at the apocalypse...well...partially at least.  We'd all become cozy, little Staypuffed Americans, stuffing our faces and staring at computers.  Doing things in the real world had become unpopular.  Some people lived their entire lives in seats and beds, using antidepressants to stave-off the inevitable sorrow of an existence without risks.  Even I thought the world needed some kind of reset.

Jake, however, was content to let everyone else around us die while he and I played cave men with all the other survivalist nut bags out in the wild.  His ideas were wrong, if not insane.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             We had to do something to save people--and by "we" I meant "he" because I had no idea what I was doing and I didn't really want to be near someone like him.  In fact, I would've called the cops on him right away if they hadn't laughed at me when I told them about the Bat Horses I'd seen the night before.  Besides, judging by all the smoke and siren sounds coming from downtown, the cops were just a little busy at that moment.

 A teeny part of me also hoped Jake would be the hero I thought he should be instead of some I-told-you-so doomsayer jerking off to the end of the world.  That's why I'd yelled at him, kicked him out of my apartment, and told him to go help the helpless Rampart Rockians.  Besides, to reiterate: he was a psycho.

I'd lied to Jake about my car being dead because I knew that was the only way to make him leave.  It didn't matter anyway, at least not then.  I figured we probably wouldn't see each other again.  I had to make sure my parents were all right too.  Jake had told me to stay in Rampart Rock, but I wasn't about to remain there while some Other Place monster ate my mom and dad.

As soon as Jake disappeared down the frontage road, I walked out my apartment door and went to my Toyota Prius.  Plumes of smoke billowed into the air.  Sirens screamed all around me.  Some were close.  Many were farther away, in the area Jake had just run toward.  Gunshots echoed from all around during the few seconds it took me to open my car door and get inside.  "Crap," I said.  "How could things fall apart this fast?  And where is the Army...or the Air Force?"

America was facing an obvious, full scale invasion--even if the Other Place creatures were just animals.  Rampart Rock was a short distance from several military bases, not to mention NORAD.  Yet, no Army choppers or Air Force planes flew overhead.  No troops had come to evacuate the population or exterminate the monsters either.  "Nevermind that," I said to my dashboard.  "Let's get going."

I turned on the Prius and sped out of my garage.  Interstate 25 was clogged with wrecks and abandoned cars, but the frontage road seemed okay at first.  The road had four lanes, some of which were littered with vehicles and human bodies. Many of the corpses were mangled or half-eaten.  

Crawling with the rest of traffic, I put my hand over my mouth and averted my eyes to stave-off nausea.  I cried, and the tears made it hard to drive, but I kept the Prius moving.  These dead, chewed carcasses had set out alive that morning, expecting an uneventful trip to the dentist or the grocery store.  Instead, they were monster food.  Their families would never see them again.  

Noone was getting out of their car to care for the wounded or clear the dead either.  We passers-by knew better than to stop and try to help.  The first-world suburbanite party was over.  Predators were stalking Rampart Rock again.  Our vehicles weren't exactly safe either.  At least one Other Place creature Jake and I had seen was big enough to take out a car, but rolling in a sound proof, padded canister made me feel better anyway.

My Prius and the other vehicles flowed around obstacles like a river of metal.  Vultures and crows circled above, waiting for traffic to clear so they could swoop down and pick at the bodies baking on the asphalt.  I rolled down my windows to keep cool, but the smell of exhaust and blood made me gag.  Thankfully, decay hadn't set in yet. 

Then we all just stopped.

A jack-knifed semi and several smaller vehicles barred our way.  Cars in front of me were hopping the curb and rolling through a barb-wired cow fence into a pasture full of scrub oak.  Two of the vehicles had already gotten stuck, and another was stalled.  The pile up quickly expanded until traffic stopped.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I had maneuvered my Prius far out into the pasture, into a mound full of prairie dog holes.  The Prius's wheels spun, but it only moved forward and inch or two.  Even if my car could move, it was trapped between several other three cars and a truck.

Everyone just sat there, staring at their windshields for a while.  I looked over at the young woman in the PT Cruiser next to me.  Her eyes were glazed-over.  My hands squeezed the wheel.  I waited, hoping traffic might find a way to flow around the clog, but nothing happened.

Then, nearby, an old guy with a mustache rolled down the window of his Mercedes and poked his head out.  "Hey you!" he shouted at a blue Dodge pickup stuck in the cow pasture right in front of his vehicle.  "What the hell is your problem?  Get out of your damn truck and push it out of the way."

A woman in a cowboy hat rolled her Chevy Suburban's windows down and said, "Shut your mouth."  She spoke like someone verbally stuck between Texas and San Francisco.  "You'll attract every one of them monsters if you don't keep quiet."

The guy flipped her off and laid on his horn.  "We're all screwed anyway if someone doesn't clear the road," he shouted.  "We're just sitting here, waiting to die.  Get out of the way."  He laid on his horn some more.

I didn't want to die sitting in my Prius, and maybe a few of the other people stranded in that spot felt the same way.  Six of us got out of our cars and walked up to the Dodge.  The guy in the Mercedes was right about one thing: clearing the Dodge out of the way would open up an escape route. 

Mercedes Man kept honking his horn, even as the other helpers and I rocked the pickup into motion.  A guy right beside me turned and walked up to the Mercedes.  Wearing baggy clothes and a frontwards-but-crooked Duke basketball cap, he looked maybe twenty years old.  He lifted up his shirt, pulled out a big handgun, and shot the old guy in his mustache. 

The gun's pop was clean and short.  Blood and flesh spattered the windows and the polished, black interior of the Mercedes.  These were the final punctuation marks on the asshole's life.   A part of me liked the fact that someone had finally shut him up forever. 

These feelings confused me and made my guts wrench. The sheer gore and finality of that shot caused my stomach to turn over.  Bile spilled out of my mouth.  I doubled over, keeping my eyes on the shooter the whole time.  The shooter just turned around, lifted his red-splotched shirt, and stuffed the gun back into his waistband. 

The Mercedes idled quietly.  Now silent and still, everyone looked in the shooter's direction with me.  Shock had replaced the traffic trance in our eyes.  We had suddenly become a herd of potential victims--not of monsters, but of cannibalistic violence.  I gawked at the skinny young man some more, examining his big ears and and baby face.  He wouldn't look up to see the fear in anyone's expression.  Instead, he just stared at the ground and walked up to the Dodge pickup again.  Hands on the tailgate, he began to push at the vehicle, on his own, right next to me. 

I wanted to tell him to look out for my vomit pooled in the pasture's golden grasses behind the pickup, but I couldn't speak.  Little fragments of tooth or bone stood out amid the blood on The Shooter's shirt.  In my head, I saw the gnawed corpses on the frontage road again.  The images made me throw up again.

A haunting roar came from farther out in the cow pasture, behind a hill.  The sound brought me out of my shock.  Despite myself, I turned toward the Dodge and began to push with the shooter.  The others joined us too.  Panic drove us.  We shoved the truck out of the wayquickly.  The driver of the Dodge--another young man--just stared at his windshield.  After we'd moved the pickup, the ghooter spoke.

"We gotta get this Mercedes outta the way," he said.  As he moved to open the driver's side door of the Mercedes, a roar sounded from just beyond the scrub oaks near the traffic jam.  Several people panicked and ran back to their cars.  The shooter dragged Mercedes Man out of his vehicle.  His movements were fast and exact.  No remorse prevented him from dropping the corpse on the ground and sliding into the driver's seat, where the gore of his victim's death had splattered everything.

As the shooter closed the Mercedes door, a four-legged creature crashed through the scrub oaks at the bottom of the nearby hill.  This creature was the size of an elephant, but it looked like a dog crossed with a pig.  Three long tusks extended from its face: one from its snout, and two more from either side of its mouth.  Its fur was patchy black and brown.  It charged toward the truck we'd just pushed out of the way, roaring as it came.

Five more creatures stampeded through the tangled oaks and toward traffic.  These creatures looked the same as the lead monster, but they were only the size of hippos.  The head of the Pig Dog--Jake called them this in my head--rammed into the drivers side of the Dodge pickup.  The truck flipped several times, tumbling the vehicle's driver around like clothes in a drier.  The driver's torso flopped out of the truck's window.  The vehicle rolled over him, and I couldn't look after that.

Just feet away from the wreck and still standing in the pasture, I froze.  The big Pig Dog wasn't done with the truck yet.  It ran right past me and shoved its snout under the twisted mass of truck metal.  The monster flipped the Dodge into the air one more time and moved on.  My body was frozen.  I remember thinking of how my cat nosed and pawed at mice to make sure they were dead.  

The smaller Pig Dogs tried to weave around the vehicles.  Many more of the creatures appeared and stampeded through the traffic jam.  The other people, who'd helped push the Dodge out of the way, couldn't make it to their cars fast enough.   I watched a heavy, forty-some guy fall under the hooves of these monsters as he opened his car door and put one foot inside his vehicle.  The Pig Dogs battered and shoved the vehicles in their path.

I don't know why I survived that stampede.  The monsters ran around me in a stream of fur and watery, dark eyes.  When the herd had thinned out, I saw that the shooter had lived too.  "Get inside," he shouted at me from the battered, but idling Mercedes.  "There's something else coming."  

Straggler Pig Dogs were still running by.  I had to fight against my brain to make my legs move, but once they were going, they wouldn't stop.  I bolted to the Mercedes, dodging a few Pig Dogs along the way.  I accidentally stepped on Mercedes Man's chest and dove into the driver's side door.  Another Pig Dog bumped the other side of the vehicle.  The passenger door caved-in.  Window glass rained on me.  I bumped my head on the glove box, exacerbating the lump I already had on my forehead.  Everything went black.  

I woke up to The Shooter shouting at me.  "Damnit, get off me," he said, shoving me into the passenger seat.  He was skinny, but strong.

Another alien noise came from behind the hill in the cow pasture.  I looked over as a furry lizard crested the hill.  This creature was gigantic.  Like the Chinese dragons I'd seen in historical art museums, it had a short snout and huge, round eyes.  Its fur was short and green.  It half-slithered, half-crawled over the hill.

"That's why those things were stampeding," The Shooter said.  He slammed the car in reverse and hit the gas.  As the Mercedes whipped around, I watched the Dragon slow its approach.  The creature eyed the field of Pig Dog-battered vehicles.  It came upon a red Geo Metro, tilted its head, and knitted its eyebrows at the vehicle.

Just yards away, the woman at the Geo's wheel tried to turn her car around, but she was completely trapped-in by two trucks and an SUV.  The shooter weaved the Mercedes through the vehicles between us and the road.  The Pig Dogs had cleared our path.  I kept my eye on the Geo through the blood-spattered rear view mirror.

The Geo rammed into the vehicles to the front and back of it.  Its movements made the Dragon rear up and strike with it's enormous jaws.  The Dragon lifted the car into the air and tried to swallow it whole.  Then, maybe the Dragon realized the Geo wasn't that tasty.  It whipped its neck, tossing the car aside.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The shooter drove us onto a frontage road sidewalk.  We went past a line of townhouses.  The Dragon and Geo disappeared from sight.

As soon as we were far enough away from the horror, I looked over at The Shooter and said, "Let me out you murderer."

Chapter One: The Mechanic

Chapter Two: The Walker

Chapter Three: The Mechanic 2

Chapter Four: The Walker 2

Chapter Five: The Hunter

Chapter Six: The Cop

Chapter Seven: The Hunted

Chapter Eight: The Escapee

Chapter Ten: The Shooter
Chapter Eleven: The Monster

Chapter Twelve: The Yehasuri

Chapter Thirteen: The General

Chapter Fourteen: The Wendigo 

Chapter Fifteen: The Librarian

Chapter Sixteen: The Suburbanites

Chapter Seventeen: The Paralibrarian
Chapter Eighteen: The Blighted

Chapter Nineteen: The Captive
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