This story can be read as a stand-alone narrative, but it's also a chapter in a blog novel.  If you'd like to read the other stories in this growing book, please click on the links below.  

I thought I was back in Afghanistan, searching the shadows of some shack, which a snitch had reported to be a Taliban holdout.  The air smelled like burned chemicals.  Somehow, the inside of the building reminded me of Mercedes Man's mansion.  Daylight seeped into the room through cracks in the rusted metal and particle board walls.  The ground seemed uneven, so I looked down.

Bodies of fried and gutted children littered the fancy marble floor.  Some of these children were Afghanis.  Other faces belonged to kids I remembered from grade school in Denver.  Puddles of gore, piss, and blood pooled in the tiny spaced between the corpses.  An Afghan girl with her head half-gone convulsed and looked up at me.  "Lockheat," she said.  "Death is on you."

Another boy, named Bryan, who was my best friend in third grade, rose to his knees.  He had a gaping wound where his heart should've been.  His clothes were all blue.  The 45th Street Bloods had executed him recently, but he had been much older when he died.  His street name was T-Dub.  "Monsters coming," T-Dub shouted.  "Mr. D must die."

Backing away from the talking corpses, I found myself in darkness, which thickened and became dirt.  Some thing had buried me far underground.  Not knowing which way was up, I set aside my gun and clawed at the earth. 

After years of digging, my right arm broke through ground's surface and into the underside of a blood ocean.  The liquid rushed down to drown me, filling my mouth with a rusty taste.  I threw up and took in a lungful of the stuff.  I suffocated until I awoke to a bright Rampart Rock morning at Mr. D's mansion.

I took my right arm out of Mr. D's pool.  "Now I know where that part of the dream came from," I said, smelling a back draft of old liquor puke on my breath.  A puddle of bile and chunks floated on the water a few inches from my face.  Then the hangover lobotomy pains hit me.  I groaned, rolled over on the concrete, and saw smoke billowing from houses and shops of downtown Rampart Rock. 

"What's going on?" I asked.  No one was around to answer.  Empty beer and liquor bottles littered Mr. D's yard.  Mr. D's housekeepers usually had the place cleaned up by 6:00 a.m.  The sun was high and hot.   Early morning had passed a while ago.  Police, fire, and tornado sirens blared from every direction.

A couple gunshots sounded from the front side of the house.

Ducking, I pulled out the Desert Eagle in my waste band.  My mind flashed back to my first assault on a village called Abottabad, where I'd accidentally killed a shepherd boy.  Shaking the Afghan boy's gaping eye hole from my head, I ran through the house and out the front door.

Mr. D's Mercedes was speeding out of the front gate 100 yards away.  Something had flatted the fence on one side of the gate.  Ten feet in front of me, a black monster crouched on four legs, sticking its snout into Mr D's wife Myriel's prone body.  Myriel stared at me, cold and unseeing.  The creature shoved its snout between her ribs, yanked out something meaty, and gulped it down.  Her blood trickled down its chin and onto the bluegrass.

Nowadays, they call those monsters Bat Horses, after the name Jake Green gave them.  But Jake's descriptions sucked.  Sure, the creatures were horse-sized, and their teeth were sharp too, but their heads were more of a cross between a giraffe and a lizard's skull.  They had dark and felted skin like nothing on Earth.

The Bat Horse looked up and hissed at me.  It's teeth were long and sharp.  I saw movement to my left, and I turned my head just in time to see another Bat Horse charging my flank.  Instinct kicked in.  I popped-off three shots at the monster coming at me.  It dropped and slid toward my feet.  The other creature let out a high-pitched moan.  It fled the scene, leaving Myriel's insides uneaten and naked to the world. 

My ears rang and my arm ached from the shots I'd fired.  I walked up to Myriel and bent down to close her eyelids with my fingertips.  A bullet had entered the right side of her head, which was turned up toward the sky.  The other half of her skull was gone.  "I'm sorry Myriel," I said, standing up.  "Mr. D used you for bait, didn't he--so he could get away?"

I was almost surprised Myriel didn't answer.  I'd killed one night mare, but another had gotten away.  It seemed like my dream had never ended.

"This is it," I said to Myriel.  "I'm gonna get Mr. D for you and everyone else."

The whole scene felt like a war zone.  For the first time in months, the clarity and adrenaline of battle surged through my mind, leaving no room for haunting visions of dead women or children.  Never mind the woman who had lain at my feet.  I had a mission.

My blue Jeep Wrangler Sport was parked in front of Mr. D's garage.  I reached into my right pocked and found my keys as I ran to my ride.  I grabbed my Duke hat off the driver's seat and put it on crooked.  I'd owned that cap for a couple years, and I believed it brought me good luck.  Placing the gun on the passenger side seat, I hopped inside my Jeep, turned the key, and hit the gas..

Speeding down Mr. D's dirt driveway on the hill that descended to Rampart Rock's frontage road, I saw burning buildings and wrecked cars.  That's when I realized I wasn't dreaming.  Human bodies littered the side of the road.  Many corpses were half-chewed like Myriel.  It was easy to tell which way Mr. D had gone.  All the traffic was crawling north, through both lanes of Rampart Rock's frontage road.  I nosed my way into the vehicle stream, behind a silver Toyota Prius.

The exhaust from so many cars made the air stink of burned oil.  Only the wind flowing through my window, and the sound of an old motor sputtering nearby, broke the silence of traffic's slow progress.  I didn't think about turning on the radio to find out what was going on.  Other cars tried to avoid the bodies on the ground, but I just rode over the carcasses or the median in order to advance in the endless line of vehicle's.  Mr. D's black Mercedes soon came into sight.

Up ahead, a jack-knifed semi and several wrecked cars blocked the road.  Traffic tried to flow around the block by jumping the curb into a cow pasture.  Mr D's Mercedes was within shouting distance by then. 

Too many vehicles had either become high centered, or got their tires stuck in collapsed prairie dog burrows.  Other cars tried to shoot the gaps between the stopped vehicles, but they just ended up stopping too because four other people had the same idea.  The whole pasture ended up looking like a chaotic parking lot.

Some folks sat there, staring.  In the Marines, we called that mentality "failure to adapt."  Other people laid on their horns.  Mr. D was sticking his head out of his window and shouting when I stepped out of my Jeep.  We Marines generally called his kind "spineless assholes."

Mr. D wasn't going anywhere, so I didn't have to shoot him right away.  Someone had to clear the stuck cars so traffic could start moving again.  Strange howls and roars came from the other side of a scrub oak-covered hill, which had stopped traffic from driving even farther into the pasture to get around the block.

Putting my hands on the back bumper of an old Chevy pick up, I tried to convince myself not to take the Mercedes Man out.  The soldier ant in me was gone forever, but I resisted the killer instinct in me, which had so often disregarded what it meant to take another human life.  Conscience was the only thing that separated warriors from monsters.  I didn't want to be like Mr. D, a.k.a. Mercedes Man, or the Bat Horse.

Then again, the Bat Horse and its partner were just trying to find something to eat.  Mercedes Man and the power-mongers he worked with had exploited, indebted, enslaved, killed, poisoned, and polluted billions of people.  No thing could satisfy their hunger for money and power.  Regardless, they just kept consuming the world.  I had to stop Mercedes Man.  He was the one monster near enough to kill.

Mercedes Man kept sticking his head out of his window and honking.  Other people had joined me in trying to push the Chevy out of the way. A pretty, older woman stood next to me, shoving at the truck's bumper.  The woman had a dark complexion, but I didn't get a good look at her then.  "I wish that guy would shut the hell up," she said.

I couldn't wait anymore.  Mercedes Man wouldn't even shut his hateful, selfish mouth for five seconds in order to let other people clear the way for him.  His final actions were a symbol of everything horrible about his kind.

I turned around and walked toward Mr. D's Mercedes.  He didn't recognize me until I got real close.  I guess my Duke hat threw him off.  Maybe he thought I was just another lazy, good-for-nothing Mexican or black kid.  I imagine he was thinking, they all look the same anyway.  Mercedes Man looked up at me.  Recognition filled his eyes as I drew the Desert Eagle from my waste band and blew his sick mind out the back of his head.

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 Nine: The Mercedes Man

Chapter Ten: The Shooter

Chapter Twelve: The Yehausuri

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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