Welcome! Once a week for the past three months, I’ve published chapters from my current and first horror WIP, The Swarm and the Flyer. Tonight, I’m bringing this series to a close. I want to refine my work and figure out better ways to open up some dialogues with other aspiring writers. Will you join me?
After tonight, my focus will shift to editing both first drafts of my horror WIPs (that’s work in progress). After all, The Swarm and the Flyer and its sequel, The Wrath and the Base, are two novels that I want to strike multiple emotional levels for so many readers. I want to make each story a powerhouse of not just suspense and character development, but also metaphors and imagery of the highest degree.
For those going through grief, loss, self-defeat, and thoughts of suicide, these works are for you, too.
I’m glad you’re reading this. Even if suspense, horror, or post-apocalyptic fiction aren’t your typical cup of tea, my aim is to break new ground and show you that there is so much you can take away from these genres.
More recently, shows like The Walking Dead and books focusing on the end of the world have lost their bite. One that their creators think will be restored with violence and gore aplenty. I’m here to say that there’s more. I’m here to write about characters who can struggle, grow, and surprise you, even when there are monsters and bandits breathing down their backs.
If you enjoyed the emotional weight and messages of movies like The Road and Cargo (Martin Freeman firing on all acting cylinders, as usual), then The Swarm and the Flyer might just be for you.
Without further ado, here’s the second part of chapter 9.
Engine Company 513 (Part 2)
Pedal stroke after pedal stroke, we race closer to Engine Company 513.
“He was there on watch,” I call to Josiah over the roar of the wind, which has now picked up. He nods and looks over at me, murky fear lapping at his eyes.
“Question is, why,” he says after sitting back on his seat and adjusting his gloves. “You think he was trying to find the police officers? They could be…” Josiah cuts himself off and shakes his head. I imagine that he’s still hoping and praying for his family to be alright, and that he won’t stop worrying until he can see and hug them himself.
Even if Cassandra and MarQui are out there somewhere, just waiting to strike when our guard is down.
I clench my handlebars tighter and narrowly miss a truck that’s sticking halfway into the road. Its front bumper is half torn off and barely scraping the gravel surface. We pedal around, both of us barely glancing at the shattered windshield and blood-caked headrest.
Now I can be mad. Josiah told Reg too much about himself and his family when he doesn’t even know the guy. Jesus.
I speak once we reach the T-intersection and roll to a stop. “We need to be careful, man. I mean, hell, Reg is a stranger. His group may not even be with your parents, for all we know.”
Josiah’s throat goes taut. When he turns his almond-shaped eyes on me, all I can pick up is a sense of quiet embarrassment. “I know,” he murmurs. “I just…had to take a chance.” That’s the answer I know I should’ve already had in mind. In my humility for Josiah’s desperation, I find myself going mute.
We soar down Copper Canyon Road, the streets newly paved and offering us a much smoother ride than what we had dealt with last night during our semi-truck raid. Another car juts out of the ditch to our right. Weeds and grass have started to claim the wheels, tightening their slow but persistent death grip around the rusting rims. How many bodies have we missed in the overgrown fields and culverts? What are the odds that, somewhere out there on the Old Alton trails, there’s even just one person who somehow made it? Who has pitched a tent and learned how to live off of plants and wildlife?
Josiah glances sideways to make sure I’m still with him, then takes the lead on his bike. Sweat is rolling down our temples, and Thunder has started to pant pretty heavily. We can’t ride much faster than 12 mph or so, since Thunder can only run so fast, but Josiah’s hurry isn’t lost on me.
After another mile, there’s a break in the tree line, and the tan fire station appears ahead on our right. STATION 513. Clear as day in faded white letters that are stuck to the side of the building.
“Oh my God,” I mutter, looking at all the cars jammed nose to nose ahead of us. One fire truck juts halfway out into the road, blocked off from the garage bay by six or seven cars that are crammed together in the front driveway.
“I recognize some of these cars,” Josiah says, shaking his head before he dismounts onto the sidewalk. His jaw tenses. “Some of my neighbors must have come here when this all went down.”
“Maybe some of them survived,” I reply, squinting against the harsh glare of the sun. I go for the revolver in my bag. “There has to be somebody left.”
Then again, I don’t know whether the drivers of said vehicles were running from the Swarm, or something worse.
Both of us walk our bikes across the patchy grass. The pylons next to the fire station stretch out like giant metal skeletons, no shimmering waves of heat rising from their currentless cables. Josiah looks back at me and says, “Think anyone’s inside?”
“We can check,” I say, glancing at my watch and shrugging. “But I know you want to hurry home.”
“Come on,” Josiah says. “Just a quick look. Maybe people from Reg’s group are here.”
I shake my head at his change of heart, then pause and study the relatively clean brick front of the fire station. But then again, maybe he’s finally learning how to not rush headlong into unfamiliar territory. Maybe Josiah wants to avoid being ambushed just as much as I do.
We take our time, navigating our bikes around the cars before we place them against the side of the building. Once I’ve leashed Thunder to a light post, I rejoin Josiah, who’s already walking up to the front office. There’s a side door, and Josiah finds the message scrawled on a piece of paper that’s taped up.
SCOUTING CONVOY OUT EVERY DAY FROM 10:30 TO 12:30.
“Hello?” Josiah holds up his hands and swerves around. “Anybody here? We’re two survivors. We talked with Reg.”
“Nobody. ” I say once precious seconds have ticked by. Thunder whimpers and huffs at us, but stays seated. I look the note over again. “They must be looking for other survivors.”
Josiah takes a deep breath and turns the paper over, then tapes it back in place. “Reg’s group may have a good defense plan. They could help us. Maybe we can get to know them, and watch out for each other.”
“Anything’s worth a shot,” I mutter, though my inner voice asks something much colder: If Reg is scouting for other people, then why didn’t he tell us they were holding out at the fire station?
Dark swirls of doubt gather and collide in my stomach. Of course you know why, Rayland. Deciding who to trust now is a life-or-death bet.
We circle the whole building, looking for any other signs of life. All three of the bay doors are shut on the back side. I peer in through the first garage door and breathe a huge sigh of relief. A red and black wall on the other side comes into focus, as do its hood and wheels. “There’s an ambulance!”
“Looks like they turned the garage into a medical area,” Josiah says, peering in and whistling once he sees the six cots lined up inside. “This could be our lucky break.”
Then we round the corner. My chest fissures before my heart almost falls out. There are bullet holes that have pockmarked the south side brick wall of Engine Co. 513. Spent bullet casings lie in the dead grass, their golden glint barely enough to catch my eye at first.
“Jesus.” I bring my revolver to low ready and spin around, facing only dormant trees and a spare brick building on the far corner of the parking lot. Maybe a breaker room.
Josiah studies the pattern of spray marks, his mouth slightly agape. The two side windows are shattered. I only have to take a few steps forward to see the splotches of dried blood against the office wall inside. There’s a balding man lying face down next to a worn mahogany desk. Bullet holes dot the back of his dark purple polo shirt. I freeze and try to bear the tightness that’s gripping my lungs.
“We gotta go,” Josiah says, both of us hit by the stale stench of early rot and…Jesus, something bloated and sharp. Meat and cheese smashed together and left out in the sun. Josiah grabs my shoulder. “Rayland-”
“I know.” I twist around, searching again for even the slightest movement in the trees surrounding the fire station. Branches and shadows meld into vague impressions of dark human outlines. It isn’t long before those figures of my imagination sprint away without a sound.
Josiah sprints to the front of the fire station where our bikes are resting. I rush after him and call, “Wait, Josiah, hold on, man!”
By the time I’ve untied Thunder from the light post, my only surviving teammate is already rolling back onto the main road. Though he waits, the wild-eyed impatience burning behind Josiah’s eyes gets me sprinting. With a sharp tug, I get Thunder up to speed before we take off for Josiah’s parent’s house.
Thank you, as always, for taking the time to read my post and visit my blog. If you are an aspiring writer in any genre, then I will be glad to chat with you, exchange secrets of our trade, and work hard to read your work. Until next time, keep on writing!