The Last Days<br>of Raggedy<br>Anne & Andy

The Last Days of
Raggedy Anne & Andy

Chapter 1

It stood at the edge of the hall, swaying back and forth as if it was in a trance of some kind. Its silhouette backlit by the open doorway radiated with sunlight peering through the indoor mall’s vaulted-glass ceilings.

The Twins waited in anticipation, each crouched behind a stack of boxes at the other end of the corridor. They occasionally peaked out and watched the dead thing with extreme caution. It started back at them as if it sensed their presence; peered back into the blackened corridor with dead eyes, hungering, once again for the taste of human flesh.

“What did you call this again?” Andrew whispered across the narrow hall to his sister.

“Huh?” Anne replied, daring to take her eyes off of the enemy for a second.

“I said, what do you call this? This situation again?”

“Oh.” Anne shook her head. “A clusterfuck.”

“Clusterfuck.” Andrew smiled. “Got it.”

She started to smile back when she heard the distant sound of shuffling feet. She drew her gaze back to the dead thing ahead of them and found that it had started to stumble in their direction.

“Gun check.” She whispered.

Andrew responded from memory. “Four clips for the 9mm Taurus’, and 16 rounds for the Mossberg.”

“UZI?”

He shook his head. “I tossed it yesterday.”

The shuffling grew closer.

Anne jerked her OTs-38 Silent Revolver hard to the right and the side-action ammo-cylinder popped open. She shook it and let the empty bullet casing fall to the floor. Out of her pocket, she pulled a 5-round SP-4 ammunition clip and slid it into the gun’s ammo cylinder.

“I got two clips for this fucking thing after this. That’s it.” She raised the gunmetal black handpiece with the extended silencer. “This ain’t gonna get us too far.”

“We ain’t got much choice. We can go to the mall and deal with a hundred meat puppets. Or we can go back outside and deal with a hundred thousand.

The shuffling grew closer… faster…

Anne sighed. “Clusterfuck..”

She quickly stood and took aim on the dead thing that was now about ten yards away. The corpse moaned and reached out to grab her just as Anne exhaled and gently squeezed the trigger. The small caliber bullet cleanly cut through the bridge of its nose, causing its head to snap back and it’s body to fall to the floor.

She crouched back behind the boxes. “I guess we don’t have much of a choice.”

Andrew pulled out the mall map he lifted from the display case at the entrance.

“The Security Office is on the 3rd floor right above us. If we’re lucky, they let the rent-a-cops carry guns. There might be stuff we can take.”

“You still think there’s anything useful left up in there?”

“Fuck it. I know we really don’t have anything to lose.”

Andrew’s eyes grew glassy. He took a deep breath.

“What if one of those Walkie-Talkies are in here?”

Anne shrugged her shoulders. “Then we’re fucked.”

They heard more shuffling at the end of the hall.

“Clusterfuck..” they both whispered in unison.

Anne was the first to swing around and up from her cover. She immediately saw that there were two corpses shuffling down the hall toward them. She steadied her aim on the closest zombie, waiting for it to get within 5 yards for a kill shot. As she began to squeeze the trigger, two shot popped from behind her. The first shot ricocheted off of the wall and rocketed out into the mall, shattering the large window of the Mrs. Fields Cookie Shop. The second bullet caught the closest zombie in the neck, causing its head to fall back backward and dangle from its neck by a thick piece of skin.

It kept coming, arms stretched and no head in sight. Yet, it still moaned and seemed to be on course for Anne. From behind, Andy passed his sister and kicked the corpse so hard, it stumbled backward and crashed into the second zombie. The boy immediate moved in on-top of both corpses and fired a shot into each zombie’s head.

“What the fuck, Dude?!” Anne called out.

“What?” he replied. “It was gonna bite you!”

“I could’a handled that myself! Besides, the idea was to do him quickly and quietly! You just let every meat puppet in hear know where their next meal is!”

“Shit.” the boy looked frazzled. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

Anne grabbed him by the shirt collar and pulled him closer. “Get your head out of your ass! We gotta get the fuck out of here!”

They once again raised their guns in unison and quickly made their way down through the darkened corridor, toward the blindly lit doorway.

The siblings exited the hallway and stepped into the giant circular food court of the 6 story mall. The shock hit them like a brick wall. They both expected there to be a lot of zombies populating the building. But actually seeing the slow, lumbering corpses stumbling around effortlessly on EVERY floor of the mall sent a shock of panic running through them.

They were everywhere. Spread out evenly, as if they were window shopping.

That is until the first one spotted the brother and sister in the food court.

It was a child, maybe 4 or 5 years of age wearing a pair of loose cargo shorts and a floral patterned tank top. When it spotted the siblings scanning the area in shock, its eyes widened and its arms reached out for them from across the room. It made a moan which sounded more like the snarl of an angry Chihuahua.

But it must have been some sort of communication because every dead thing in the immediate area turned in their direction. And the response flowed through the mall like a tsunami. The incredible chorus of moans echoes throughout that mall on every level.

Anne knew they were fucked.

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit…” Andrew was mumbling.

Anne had to think quick. “What store has the biggest window?”

“The Victoria Secret and the Suncoast Video.”

“Which one if closest?”

“Vickie’s on the third floor…” he pointed his gun upward at the pink and red neon sign with Adriana Lima’s busty poster staring back down at them. “Right there.”

The Victoria’s Secret was six stores down from the escalator situated in the center of the mall.

“Okay.” Anne sighed. “I think I have a plan…”

 

Chapter 2

Hot metal cut through flesh and bone. Bullets ripped through bodies that should have fallen to the floor on impact. But they kept coming.

Multiple gun fragments ripped out of and ricocheted through walking corpses on the ground floor of the lavishly decorated mega-mall. Bodies twitched with each blow and stumbled with pie-sized exit wounds exploding outward from within.

But they kept walking.

“Keep moving!” Anne screamed over the blaze of gunfire as she and her brother slowly moved across the dead-infested ground level toward the escalator. Her heart was full of vertigo. Moans of the undead bellowed around her. Voices too close, yet outside her peripheral vision made her flinch. Instinct told her to turn and retreat. But she fought the urge. She focused on the movement in front of her and relied on her brother to watch her back.

Andrew’s shots were frantic and wild. He fired on anything that moved in his field of vision. Flower arrangements.. benches.. water fountains.. large windows.. everything seemed to catch his ammo, except the walking bodies that grew closer and closer.  He seemed to take more time reloading than shooting.

Anne’s shots, on the other hand, were fewer and more precise. She waited for her targets to get within her optimal firing range, which was around 4 yards.

“I’m running out of bullets!” her brother said.

“Then stop shooting like a damn idiot!” she replied, dropping another two corpses with head-shots.

They quickly made it to the front of the escalator and stood back-to-back.

Anne focused on the oncoming threats, while Andrew surveyed their escape route. His eyes grew in shock as he watched the line of undead trying to walk down the stationary escalator, only to fall over themselves, completely blocking the stairs.

“What’s the word?!” she cried out, not taking her eyes off of the oncoming swarm.

They were being overwhelmed quickly.

Andrew tapped her shoulder and pointed upward.

“Traffic jam!” he replied.

Anne looked back and saw their escape route was compromised.

“Follow me!” she yelled.

Anne took off running with her brother in close pursuit.

In between the up and down escalators was a 2 foot stretch of space connecting them. The siblings both jumped up on the space and began running upward toward the second floor, quickly racing past the zombies, stumbling down both escalators on opposite sides.

As Anne reached the second floor, she leaped up and over the mound of bodies piled at the entrance of the escalators and landed on her feet dropping the three nearest ghouls with gunshots in the process. At that time, Andrew had just made it to the top, only to be met by a zombie who had made it to its feet and saw him coming. He sent a swift kick to its face, which sent the thing falling back to the floor.

Landing on his feet, he scanned the area for his sister, who was already on the move toward the giant Adriana Lima posters lining Victoria’s Secret windows.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” she called out, not even looking back to see where he was.

Anne made her way into Victoria’s Secret and scanned the aisles and lines of lingerie for any type of movement. A corpse, which was standing next to a mannequin suddenly reanimated and reached out for her. Without thinking, she aligned her aim with his left eye and fired. The back of his head exploded open and all over the naked mannequin.

Andrew made it into the store just as Anne disappeared into the lingerie masses. He quickly holstered his gun in his pocket and began to lock and secure the front entrance. The large glass front door swung shut effortlessly and he fastened the top, bottom and sidelocks. He managed to back up just as four corpses made it to the store. They began to slap and claw at the giant glass, leaving red, brown and black smudges.

He quickly grabbed his gun again and returned his sights to the inside of the store. He heard a couple of shots coming from around the corner.

“Anne!” he called out, slowly making his way through the sexy clothing until he caught Anne’s ‘Afro Puffs’ bobbing over the sexy clothes racks. She was at the 2nd end of the store, locking the other entrance, identical to the one Andrew had just done.

“We’re secure,” she said, returning to his side. They made their way to the cash register in the back of the store and out of sight of both entrances.

The siblings collapsed on the floor, leaning against the base of the cashier’s island nook. They could hear corpses banging on both entranceway doors like stereo. The glass doors weren’t gonna hold them off for long.

They looked at each other and smiled.

“Fuck!” Andrew said. “How the hell did we just do that?” he held out his fist and his sister pounded his with her own.

“That was on some crazy-ass shit,” she replied, checking her revolver. The side-action cylinder loader popped open to reveal 5 empty bullet casings. She tossed it aside. “That’s it for that thing.”

“Here,” Andrew said reaching into the large army duffle bag to slowly pull out the pristine Mossberg 500 Bullpup Shotgun. The sawed-off, two-handle shotgun looked impressive. Andrew grabbed it by the rectangular handle resting on top of the barrel and passed it to his sister.

“I remember these…” she said, grabbing the front-handle with a smile. “Good Lord…”

“Yeah, I know!” Andrew handed her the two tubular ammo magazines. “Each of these has 8 shots. You load it here…”

“…I know how to load it.” she cut him off. She looked down at the two 9 Millimeters at his side. “How are you doing?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “A clip for each one.”

“Drop one of them and just take the clip. No need to have them both.”

“What do you mean?” he answered, maybe a little too loud. “I’m on some John Woo dual-action shit!”

“Boy..” she answered, grabbing one of the guns. “..that’s bullshit.” she released the clip from the 2nd Taurus and tossed the actual gun aside. “You’re doing nothing but wasting ammo. Unless you’re ambidextrous or something, it’s not helping.”

“Ambid what?”

She rolled her eyes. “Both handed!”

“Gotcha.” He took the extra clip and put it in his pocket.

They both sat there for the next 5 minutes in silence. The tapping and clawing on both store entrances were growing louder. They knew the siblings were still in there. Sooner or later, the weight of all those bodies pushing against glass doors would be too much. Eventually, the glass would shatter and the undead would pile in like a wall of rotting flesh.

And that’s what Anne was counting on.

Finally, she peaked up at the back of the store and gazed upon the door with the ‘Employees Only’ sign taped to it. She then stared at the entrances. Both large windows were filled with corpses banging on them. But it still wasn’t enough.

She sat back down and grabbed her Mossberg.

“Are you ready to do this?” she asked her brother.

Andrew nodded frantically, but still had a look of shock on his face.

She grabbed him by the back of the neck. “It’s gonna be Okay. Those stupid things ain’t got shit on us.”

“I know.”

“You just have to be careful with your shots. Save your ammo and only go for head-shots.”

“Okay.”

“The only way they can get you is if they touch you. So wait until you got the headshot before you shoot.”

“Got it.”

With a nod of confidence, they both split up and headed for the front and back glass entranceways.

Anne wanted to laugh. Seeing all the bodies piled up and pressing against the glass doors and windows reminded her of those ‘Day After Christmas’ sales where women would trample each other for 20% off designer jeans. The roar of the moaning hordes sounded like the Golden State Warrior games their Foster Father use to take them to when they were young. She slowly approached the giant glass door, which looked like they were painted it with bile and flesh. The thick blurry liquid was caked thickly onto the glass, and rotting palms and fingers continually smeared it in an attempt to push it forward.

“Come on, motherfuckers,” she whispered under her breath.

At the other entrance, the activity wasn’t as frantic. That is, until Andrew decided to rile up the dead mob by pounding on the glass himself. The roars and moans outside grew intense as more and more came into view. The harsh silhouettes of countless bodies could be seen through the smears of bloody flesh covering the entire glass. By then, Andrew had backed away and found a seat on top of the ‘Customer Service’ desk.

“How’s it coming other there?” he heard Anne call out from the other side of the store.

“Shit’s about to get crazy!” he called back, tightening his grip on his pistol.

And that’s when Anne saw the first crack in the glass. A small fissure formed at the spot where the side lock-lever was fastened. The small cleft in the glass door grew larger with every pound of the glass from the undead mob.

Anne saw it and started to back away.

“It’s starting over here!” she called out to her brother.

Andrew turned to see Anne walking backward from the other side of the store.

“It’s still holden over…” before he could finish his sentence, he heard the crack of glass. He returned to gaze forward to see a large fault in the large store window starting to grow and spread like a spider web.

“Oh.. there it goes.”

They both backed away from the respected entrances until they were back at the Cashier’s Nook.

“Stay here,” Anne told her brother. “I’m going to check the back door. If I’m not back when the glass doors break. Run like a mutherfucker.”

“Gotcha,” he replied under a nervous whimper.

Anne quickly dodged through the ‘On Sale’ clothes racks at the back of the store until she reached the door with the “Employees Only” sign on it. She tightened her grip on her Mossberg shotgun; her sweaty palms still gripping the handles tightly. With all the power she had, she sent her big right leather army booted leg thrusting at the large metal door handle. The lever pushed in harshly and the heavy reinforced door pushed violently outward.

She raised the shotgun and place the armrest firmly into her armpit, her hands gripping the trigger and front handles. She was ready for anything, or anything that was going to walk through the door.

But nothing did.

And that was Anne’s plan. She knew the walking dead were like cows and sheep. They could be herded easily away from their escape route.

She slowly peaked out into the back narrow corridor which seems to lead back out to the main mall area on the second floor. She gazed down the 30 yards dimly lit tunnel and saw nothing moving. She was about to call back to her brother when she heard the first glass shatter.

Andrew watched as his entrance window burst open from the sheer weight of the pushing hordes. Small glass fragments exploded inward as the large line of undead lost their balance and fell forward. As they fell face-first on the floor, large, jagged, stalactite glass shards rained down on the fallen bodies. The glass fragments cut deep into them.

“Oh shit.,” Andrew whispered. He started to run toward the back door where his sister was waiting outside in the small corridor. As he reached the intersecting aisle in the middle of the store, he glanced down at the other entrance. A spiderweb-like crack pattern on the giant window was almost covering the entire surface, but the glass was still holding.

“Fuck it,” he said raising his gun and firing two shots. He only needed the one shot. The first bullet imploded the wall the glass and the full weight of the corpses fell forward to the floor.

“Come on!” Anne called him.

He quickly joined her inside the narrow corridor. Pushing the heavy metal door shut behind him, Andrew followed his sister slowly down the dim, narrow walkway. Behind them, they could hear the undead who were now inside the ‘Victoria’s Secret’ store pounding on the door they just closed. It was only a matter of time before one of them accidentally pushed the door handle open and quickly followed their escape.

Anne didn’t count on the door pounding being so loud. This was a crucial moment. If the sound drew other corpses to the corridor entrance, she and her brother would be easily trapped with nowhere to go. She picked up her pace, heading to the light of the mall’s open space.

The Victoria’s Secret Employee door slammed open and hordes of undead pushed into the corridor, writhing and moaning and stumbling over themselves toward the two siblings.

“Pick it up!” Anne called back to her brother, not taking her eyes off of the entrance ahead of them.

As she reached the end of the hall, a little girl with no forearms stumbled into the entrance. Its eyes widened and it’s arm-stumps stretched out when it saw Anne walking into the light.

Anne was startled. She almost sprayed the dead child’s brain all over the store but realized the sound would’ve nullified their plan of stealthily making it to the security office. Instead, she flipped her shotgun over and swung the butt of the rifle like a bat. The gunmetal handle struck the dead girl square in the temple, snapping her neck like a tree branch. It’s head swung down and then bounce off of it’s back, hanging off the body by it’s skin and tissue. It flipped over and rolled on the floor lifelessly.

“Which way?” she asked, as Andrew joined her into the light.

He pointed to a little room tucked away in the corner, next to the bathrooms. They sprinted across the open area, jumping over the assorted bodies spread all about. Anne was the first to reach the door.

Andrews was maybe ten steps behind his sister when he passed a bloated female carcass laying between him and the security office. As he leapt over it, it’s arm flailed and caught his ankle in mid-air. He came down on his other foot the wrong way and twisted his ankle. He landed on his back and his head slammed onto the cool floor.

He was stunned.

His ears were ringing. For a second he didn’t know where he was, or what was going on. That is, until he felt the strong grip on his injured ankle.

The pain woke him up. His eyes sprang open and he looked back to see the bloated woman pulling him toward her by his ankle. She moaned as she slowly pulled him closer. Her rancid jaws slowly chewing on air. Her eyes staring widely had his ankle.

Snap out of it! he thought to himself. He quickly raised his gun and aimed for the corpse’s head.

As Anne reached down and twisted the doorknob to the security office, she heard a series of gunshots behind her. She quickly turned to see her brother on the floor in the grip of an obese ghoul.

“Shit!” She looked further off in the distance and saw that Victoria’s Secret mob had made it out of the corridor and were now pouring out into the light.

She raised her Moss-burg shotgun and aimed for her brother’s captor. She brought the corpse into her sights but hesitated because she feared she would hit her brother. After all, she knew that her shotgun wasn’t a precise weapon. It would spray its ammo in a wide disbursal area and surely would hit Andrew in the process.

During that hesitation, she didn’t notice the door of the security office creeping open behind her. She smelled it before she felt its hot breath. It wrapped its arms around her waist and bit down on the back of her shoulder.

“No!!” she screamed as she slipped away from it just as its teeth scraped her skin. She tried to flee, but the dead thing’s rigors claws hooked onto the neck of her shirt. As it fell backward, it dragged her with it. They slammed into the security office’s door and tumbled out of site.

“Andrew!!!” she called out scuffling inside the office.

Her brother looked back to see her silhouette struggling for her life. The shadow showed the thing on top of her; her arms trying to keep it at bay.

 

Chapter 3

Adrenaline kicked in.

Andrew no longer felt the pain in his ankle. He sent his other foot slamming into the head of his obese captor. It let his ankle go, and he rolled over onto his knees. He sent one last shot at the ghoul’s head. But he didn’t wait to see if his shot was successful. He was already on his feet and hobbling toward the security office.

He entered the room to see the dead thing’s head buried into Anne’s neck.

“No!!” he screamed as he stumbled into the small room. His ankle slammed into the side of the desk, which was way too big for the room. But he didn’t feel it. All he could feel was the sheer terror on Anne’s face as she struggled to push the thing off of her.

When he reached her, he grabbed the thing’s hair and attempted to pull its head away from his her neck. But the scalp cleanly peeled away from its head, exposing its bloodied, rancid skull.

Next, he grabbed its shirt collar and yanked violently. The hissing undead corpse flailed uncontrollably as Andy’s shear strength sent it flying across and over the desk.

Anne was hyperventilating. She gasped for breath but all she could take in was the nauseating smell of the corpse that was on top of her. She clasped at her neck feeling nothing but the bloody wetness smeared all over her shoulder.

“No no no no…” she frantically mumbled, hoping to remove the infection before it spread into her bloodstream. But chances are she was already dead. If it were an arm or leg, there was time to amputate it before it infected her bloodstream. But there was no cutting off her head. The damage had been done.

She looked around the office until she saw Andy in the corner reigning blows down on the corpse which had stopped making noise awhile back. But he wouldn’t stop. She could hear the terror in his grunts as he beat the living hell out of the lifeless corpse.

“Andy..” she mumbled. Her voice crackle.

The boy turned to see her sister clasping her bloody neck. He didn’t say a word. He leaped to his feet and ran to her. In mid stride, he pulled the water bottle out of his pack and began to dump its contents over for neck. The initial splash cleaned most of the blood away.

There was no clean bite. But there were scratches– four marks that seem to expose pinkness underneath her skin.

“No bites. No bites. Your gonna be ok.” Andy said more to himself than to her, rubbing away more blood away from her neck.

“Stop,” she said. But he kept rubbing.

“Stop!” she said again, grabbing his hand. “It didn’t have teeth, but it dug it’s fingers into my neck. If it’s not a bite, changes are the wounds are still infected.”

“Or not.” he replied.

“Yeah.. or not.” she grabbed his chin and pushed his head up so they were eye-to-eye. “But we can’t take that… THE DOOR!!!”

Andy looked behind himself and saw the mass of bodies growing close to the door. He was up and reaching the door right as the first corpse found its way into the tiny security room. He forcefully kicked the undead thing in the chest, sending it toppling backward and knocking back the others behind him. He quickly closed the door and looked around the room for a makeshift barricade. The oversized desk seemed the best option, so he quickly found his way behind it and started to push. Little by little, the desk budged until it propped itself in-front of the inward-swinging entrance. Immediately, palms and fists started to pound on the door. But there was no way there were budging the desk. The siblings were safe for the moment.

When Andy turned his attention back to Anne, he saw she had her hands on her shotgun.

(NEED TO BRIDGE THESE SCENES)

For the rest of the evening, she imparted her wisdom of survival on her brother. In the backdrop of constant pounding from the undead, Anne tried to teach her brother everything she remembers about surviving outside. How to hunt for food… protect yourself at night… manage your resources.. conserve your ammunition.. everything she’d picked up during the life she spent apart from him, was now going to be his. She could see on his face, that he was fully listening. He sat there and looked at her with tear-soaked, glassy eyes. He was watching her die in front of him, and he was powerless to stop it.

And when she was done, they just sat in silence. Side by side pushed together like Siamese twins, they sat and just watched the silhouettes of the undead desperately trying to get into the security office. Their sweaty palms were locked together as if it was a viable means of keeping death from taking her. Both teary-eyed and sobbing, they sat in silence. As the night came, Andy was the first one to fall asleep. Anne watched his head slump to the side and rest on her shoulder.

She smiled. It felt good to have this final moment with him. She’d always been so frightened of him being on his own. The world had always been to much for him, even before The Apocalypse. But now she really looked at him. Staring at the roughness of his skin and the prickly stubble on his cheeks. For the first time, he truly did look like an adult, and she smiled again.

Anne took a deep breath and centered herself. She wasn’t going to leave her brother with the memory of killing his sister. So, she quietly reached into her bad pulled out the pristine 9mm pistol with an attached silencer.

There was only one thing she could do now.

Before his eye opened, Andy was dreaming about the day Anne took him to the Pier 39 in San Francisco. It was a Tuesday, and she wanted them to spend some alone time together. They did all the corny stuff. They had ice cream, had dinner at the Fog Harbor Fish House, walked about the Bay Aquarium like a tourist and just existed in the moment. They both left behind the problems they were having and just enjoyed each other’s company. Whenever he thought of Anne after that, he’d remember that day. It the day he finally felt like she was protecting him and no matter what happened after that, she would be there to have his back.

When Andy opened his eyes, it took a few moments to register where he was. The fear and panic rushed back to him as he realized what he was. There was daylight outside. There was no telling how long he’d been asleep. The pounding outside the security office door had ceased. Apparently, the undead had found something more interesting to check out.

He glanced over at his sister, whose body was slumped over next to him. Startled, he jumped and scooted away from her on his butt until his back met the wall. There were the sounds of things falling over in his wake, yet she didn’t move. He grabbed his gun, and check his ammo clip to make sure he was ready for anything. He had a full magazine loaded and the safety off, just like his sister taught her.

Pointing the gun at her, he rose to his feet, not taking his eye off of her corpse. He studied her, looking for any signs of movement. He couldn’t tell if she was breathing, but there was no visual movement of her stomach. Her skin looked clammy and pale. Those weren’t good signs.

“Anne?” he softly called out to her. He was hopeful for to wake but feared she would reply with a hungry moan.

“Anne!?” he said louder, trying to steady his gun hand. There was no way she didn’t hear that if she were alive. But still he couldn’t tell.

And then he saw the pistol with the silencer next to her.

And he began to cry.

For almost a half hour, he was inconsolable. He wanted to reach out and touch her. Hold her in his arms. He wanted to be able to say a proper goodbye to the only family he’d known and loved.

But she had taught him differently.

He focused on what you needed on his escape.

First, Andy needed to assess the situation. He slowly made his way toward the office window and slightly opened the blinds. Outside, he could see that the zombie horde had dispersed and was once again just loitering around the 2nd floor of the mall. The closed corpse was about 3-4 yards away standing motionless with his back to the office.

He quietly started to scavenge the office for anything he would need to take. There weren’t any firearms, but there was a few melee weapons.. a detract-able wand, aluminum bat and short knife with a knuckle guard. The only weapon he didn’t reach for was Anne’s 9mm, which he felt was laying too close to her. He understood it didn’t make sense to leave it there, but the only way he was dealing with the situation was to stay away from her area of the office. He still had firearms in the bag, so he was fine.

Next, he needed to clear the entranceway.

It took him almost ten minutes to move the desk away from the door. His main objective was not to make any noise that would attract more corpses to the area. He’s slightly pushed the desk away a half dozen times and then checks the window for any movement.

The coast was clear, he decided he’d need to plot his escape quickly and smartly, starting with taking out the closest corpse. As he put his hand on the doorknob to start his creep toward the exit, he took one last look at his fallen sister. He didn’t want this to be his last vision of her, but he couldn’t take another step without giving her a proper goodbye.

He said a quiet “thank you” to her as he slowly turned the knob. Hunched down very low, Andy exited the security office as soon as there was enough room in the doorway. He hadn’t made it 4 steps before he saw that he miscalculated his exit. Along with the standing corpse, there were two others that had been standing just outside of his field of vision.

They saw him first.

He had to think on his feet.

Quietly creeping no longer an option, Andy was up and running toward the closest corpse. Before it could turn around to react to the sound of screeching sneakers, Andy had driven the knuckle knife into the side of its head. But when the body went down, so did Andy with his fingers trapped in the knuckle knife. He tried to yank the knife out of the corpse’s head to no avail. It had been lodged deeply in its skull.

By the time he had gotten his hand free, the other two walking dead were already on him. He managed to get to his feet just as the first thing grabbed him by the upper arm.

He didn’t want to do it early in his escape, but he reached for his pistol. On instinct, he first two shots at the approaching corpse. The first shot hit it in the throat, while the 2nd shot caught it between the eyes.

It dropped on the spot.

Unfortunately, the sound of the gun shot echoed throughout the mall. Any knew he was on borrowed time now. If he couldn’t get free in the next few seconds, he was going to be cornered by the horde.

The zombie opened it’s mouth to take a bite out of Andy’s arm, but the boy managed to send his elbow into the thing’s nose. It stumbled but it didn’t let go. Its teeth snapped with a frightening snap as it tried to pull itself closer to the meet.

In his peripheral, Andy could see corpses were appearing from the escalators. Others were converging on his location from the other side of the second floor.

He knew this was it. His first few minutes on his own in the Zombie Apocalypse and he couldn’t cut. Anne would be so disappointed in him. All bets were off. Panic set in.

Andy couldn’t raise his gun to shoot because his free arm was busy holding back the corpse’s snapping mouth. He had to get free. He could hear Anne’s voice in his head.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Any large situation is made up of small situations. Just deal with one small task at a time…

First, he needed to get free. Utilizing things he learned in his brief fascination with Judo, Andy stopped pushing at the corpse and pulled it toward him. The zombie’s motion sent it flying past him and releasing its grip. The boy quickly set his sight on it and fired. It took one shot to put it down.

Next, he set his sights on an exit. Immediately, he saw that the converging second corpse was only a few yards away from him. He dropped him with a single shot, and then turned his attention toward the escalator horde. Both lanes were packed with lines of emerging walking dead, all slowly making their way in his direction. Fear gave way to a plan. He quickly started letting off shots into the crowd. But they were so far away that his targets were few. He kept squeezing the trigger until the clip was empty.

Panicking, he dived into his weapons bag frantically searching for another clip. He should’ve had the next clip in his pocket.

He looked up and the closest corpse was right no top of him. He could do nothing was raise his hands to try and protect himself. Just as the corpse was barreling down on him, an explosion of mist erupted from the side of its head. It lifeless dropped to the floor.

Within the approaching horde, certain corpses were falling forward from headshots. Someone else was in play.

Any looked behind him and saw the pasty, sweaty visage of his sister Anne leaning against the security office doorway, armed with her 9mm pistol.

“Reload, you idiot!” She called to him as she refocused herself on the coming horde. Andy’s eyes started to tear up as he dragged the open weapons bag across the floor until he was standing alongside has resurrected sister. He had already dropped back into support mode.

“I’m out,” she called out as she released the empty 9mm magazine. Before it hit the floor, Andy was handing her a free mag. “Gracias,” she replied.

Andy’s hands found the shotgun. He loaded six shells and walked closest for optimal damage.

Now, the fear was gone. He revealed in hearing his sister’s voice.

“Choose your shots, idiot! And watch out for the kick,” she called out.

He replied with a happy. “Yes, Ma’am.”

She was right. The kick nearly ripped out his shoulder as he drops at least 3 corpses at a time. Between the two of them, the path of zombies coming up the escalators were obstructed, giving them a few moments.

“We need an evac plan!” she called out shouldering the weapons bag.

Andy quickly sounds his way to the mall map display a few yards away. He found the ‘YOU ARE HERE’ icon showing where they are and did a quick scan of any safe places in the surrounding area. He thought he might be onto something when Anne found her way to his side.

“You’re alive,” he said, still looking over the map.

“Of course I’m alive. You thought I was dead?” she smiled.

“Hell yeah. You were bit and you look like shit.”

“Yeah. I think I got a cold or something.”

In a sea of converging corpses, they both let out belly laughs.

Andy’s finds ran the gambit along the mall map until he found what he was looking for.

“Got it. Ahead and to the left, there’s a corridor that leads to the lower level parking lots. There are bathrooms along the way if we need an escape route.”

“Good man.” she patted him on the head. “How are we gonna get there?”

Looking across the 2nd floor of the mall, they could see an ocean of walking corpses. And at the far end of the mall, was a red and white signs designating the EXIT and icons for the restrooms.

Andy passed the shotgun to Anne and then grabbed the aluminum bat from the weapons bag. They were starting the day the same way the last one ended. They were outmanned, outgunned and with little hope of surviving that day.

“So… what did you call this again?” Andrew yelled over the moans of the approaching horde.

Anne pumped her shotgun. “A clusterfuck.”

“Clusterfuck.” Andrew raised his bat and swung at the closest zombie. “Got it.”

THE END

The Cascade Mountains were lit by the dim, orange glare of the setting sun. The tall trees swayed with the strong winds coming from the southeast. Nolan and Fancy chose to cut through the thick forestry to avoid the main road. And now, approaching the clearing at the top of the peak, they turned to stare back at the metropolitan skyline. More streams of black, flowing smoke had started since they made it out of the city. Nolan speculated that some of those Things must’ve broken free of the barricades and made their way into the residential areas.

The end was near. He knew that now.

That’s why he had to get Fancy to safety. With ‘Hell On Earth’ just around the corner, they were going to have to find someplace out the way to hold up.

They were going to need time.

Fancy was going to need time.

As the last remnants of the sun disappeared behind the mountain range, the number of smoke streams doubled, and the glare from the fires turned the smoke to a dark orange-brown. If you listened closely, you could hear cries for help just beneath the wind.

‘Poor bastards.’ He thought.

Turning his attention away from the city below, Nolan scanned his surroundings, until his gazed fixed on the small cabin in the middle of the mountain’s clearing. He remembered the spot, from the years when he and the other neighborhood kids would spend their summers there, during the Church retreats. It was also known for being a haven when there was no other place to go.

He started to walk toward it, Fancy’s sweaty palms gripping his right, middle and fore fingers like she was holding on for dear life. He realized she was bonded to him now. Somehow, over the past couple of weeks, she began to look to him for comfort and protection. As they walked along the dirt road heading for the cabin, he intently watched his Charge, as she scurried to keep up with his long strides.

He’d been fighting his feelings for too long now.

He now had to admit she was possibly the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid his eyes on.

This must be what being a father feels like.‘ He thought to himself, grinning at times.

He knew his mission in life now. This little person relied on him for everything. And he needed to protect her. His entire life had been dedicated to destroying life. But now, his redemption was walking alongside him, in the guise of a 6-year-old girl with the potential to save or destroy the human race.

“Where are we going?” he heard a timid voice, bringing him out of his thoughts.

“What’s that, Sweetie?” he asked.

“Where are we going?” she repeated, her worried smiled staring back at him in the dim light.

“Someplace safe. But we gotta do something first, okay?”

“‘kay.” She replied as she started to skip along.

Nolan told Fancy to hide behind a nearby patch of bushes, while he checked things out. He quietly combed the exterior of the cabin, peering through every window as he went along. Inside, there were flames in the fireplace and a bottle of brandy with a snifter sitting on the kitchen table. He thought he noticed some type of movement in the shadows, but he couldn’t be sure.

He made his way to the front door and upholstered one of his Glock 26’s. Checking the magazine, he slid the clip quietly into place and released the safety. He thought about knocking first but decided the element of surprise would be better.

He looked back at the bushes and saw Fancy’s pink dress through the thick leaves. When she saw him looking back, she gave him the ‘o.k.’ signal with her fingers, a look of concern on her face.

He had to smile.

Taking a deep breath, he slowly turned the doorknob and found it to be unlocked. The door crept opened to reveal a tightly neat living area; the glare from the fireplace flickered along the walls and the ceiling. His outstretched silhouette from the moonlight covered the floor.

Reaffirming his grip on his weapon, he slowly made his way into the room. He scanned it intently, hoping his eyes would adjust to the darkness quickly. That’s when he heard the creaking footsteps coming from the kitchen. He readied himself, raising his weapon toward the kitchen door. It opened slightly; a hand wrapping around the door’s edge.

“Who’s there?” a voice called out. “I don’t want any trouble. Just take whatever you want and leave.”

Nolan tightened his trigger-finger. “Come out! Slowly!” He ordered, his voice cold and harsh.

The door opened wider and a tall trim figure stepped into the fire’s glare. The first thing Nolan noticed was the bright white collar around the man’s neck. That’s when he realized who it was.

“Father Albert,” Nolan said with a sigh of relief. “I almost shot you.”

He re-holstered his weapon.

“Nolan?” the Father said, making his way toward his brandy. “You made it. When I heard about what happened at St. Atherton’s, I thought you were”¦”

“Yeah, join the club. The others weren’t so lucky.” He propped himself up against the couch. “I’d be dead too if it weren’t for a little help.”

Father Albert was about to take his first sip from the snifter when his eyes widened in surprise.

“You mean the child? You mean she’s..”

As if on cue, Father Albert’s eyes fell on a tiny girl in the pink dress making her way through the opened door. Upon seeing the Father, she quickly ran and jumped into Nolan’s arms and wrapped hers tightly around his neck.

Nolan marveled at the old man’s animated facial expressions.

His lower lip trembled. “The.. child..”


Twenty minutes passed, and the three of them got situated in the cabin. Father Albert explained that he was the only person from the church to make it out of the city before the Military Quarantine was put in place. Fearing that Fancy had perished in the riots, he’d made his way to the cabin, hoping that any and all survivors would find their way to him. Everyone they knew; anyone that mattered, knew of the cabin and knew it would be safe for the time being.

“I watched Father Tim and Father Michael die in the fire,” Albert explained as he poured them both a cup of coffee. “Those Things barricaded the doors and forced most of the priests inside. I managed to slip out my office window before they nailed it shut. I don’t know what happened to the others.”

“Dead,” Nolan replied, his eyes locked on Albert like a hawk. “When we finally put all the pieces together, we realized what needed to be done. We knew most of us weren’t going to make it.” He smiled, almost with sinister intent, yet his eyes showed his sorrow.

Father Albert’s gaze went toward Fancy, who was sitting in the living room”¦

“¦staring nervously back at Nolan.

“I’m sorry,” Nolan said, wiping his eyes. “I’m so tired right now, I must sound like an idiot.”

“Then maybe you should rest,” Albert replied. “I can watch Fancy, while you..”

“No.” Nolan interrupted. “You need to know everything. We need to finish this now.”

“O.K.,” the Father said, taking the seat across the table. “I’m ready.”

Nolan took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes again. He was starting to see double now. It had been three days since he’d slept, and he was in no condition to protect the child. He needed to tell Father Albert everything and let the chips fall where they may.

He leaned forward to whisper, his eyes widening and squinting at the same time.

“I have a theory, Father.” He poured a double brandy. “Let me know what you think.”

“Go head”¦”

“We’re in the last days. It took me a while to accept it, but here it is.” He started to chuckle. “It also took me awhile to realize there is no Antichrist. Just like there is no 2nd coming of the Messiah. They don’t exist.” He smiled. “At least, not separately.”

Nolan turned to the little girl, silhouetted by the burning fireplace. “God’s decided to pass judgment on the Human Race. And the judge is standing in the living room.”

Father Albert’s bewildered gaze was now, more of a surprise; not of wonder, but of ‘How did he figured it out?’

“You still with me?”

“I’m listening.” Father Albert replied, his gaze sliding back and forth between the man and the girl.

“What if God’s Judgment was a test? What if he sent a literal ‘Judge‘, imbued with the same potential for good and evil as the rest of us? But she was given the power to lift the Human Race to Heaven, or damn it to Hell? What if she was to be born and live here with us, and in that time experience all that’s good and evil in us. And after that time, she’d have to make a decision.”

“She’d be the culmination of everything in us.” The Albert chimed in, now just staring at the girl. “She’d literally be Us.”

“That’s right, Father.” Nolan finished off this second brandy. “Who she’d become would the what we are; touched by the goodness in our hearts, or tainted by the darkness we also carry. She’d be Judgment Incarnate.”

Albert chuckled. “That’s a fantastic theory, Nolan.”

“It’s the only one that makes sense.”

“And where do you stand in this… Holy War, Nolan? “

“Hell if I know.” He answered with a slight chuckle. “I’m just as lost as the kid. But what I do know is that no one’s going to get their hands on her. Not with me around.”

This time, Nolan grabbed the brandy bottle and took a swig.

“Well, we can discuss this after you two get some rest.”

Father Albert began to rise from his seat. With a lightning quickness, Nolan reached across the table and grabbed the Father’s wrists; binding them to the table.

“I’m not finished,” he said with a snarl. “I need you to send a message to whoever you’re working for.”

The Father tried to free his hands, but Nolan had a firm grip.

“Tell them I don’t care if it’s Heaven or Hell. I don’t care if they have wings or horns! I won’t let anyone manipulate this kid.”

Father Albert tugged again, but Nolan pulled the Holy damn near across the table toward him.

“This girl is under my protection. And I’ll put a bullet through the head of any Deity or Demon that tries to take her away from me.” He smiled at the Father, who’s face was just inches from his own. “Where do I stand, Father? Nowhere. But I guess that’s why God chose me, right?”

“Who said He chose you?” A gargled voice came from Father Albert.

Nolan looked down at his hands just in time to see them start to singe on-top of the Father’s wrists. Flames sprang up his forearms. He jumped away from the table, fanning the 3rd-degree burns on his palms. His massive legs pushed his chair away with such force, two of the legs shattered into splinters.

It was only a fraction of a second, but Nolan saw Father Albert’s form change as he slithered away from the table and into the shadows, just beyond the reach of the fireplace’s glare. He was no longer an aging Priest. The silhouette of his posture was now upright. He could see Father Albert stood about 6 inches taller and his arms almost touched the floor.

He wasn’t a Priest.

Upon seeing the faint red glow of Albert’s eyes in his shadowed outline, Nolan knew he had to say something to break the silence, if not just stop his heart from bursting out of his chest.

“My, my, my father. What big.. red.. glowing eyes you have.”

The Albert-thing moved across the room, yet kept to the shadows. He seemed to move in blurs, almost instantaneously from side to side.

Nolan didn’t fear for himself. After all the evil he’d done in the world, he knew he’d be coming face to face with the devil sooner or later. He feared for Fancy, who stood behind him, her arms wrapped around his left thigh like a tree trunk. He looked down to calm her, expecting to see the look of fear on her face. But what he found was more of a scowl; a look of detest and anger.

“Pretty girl, pretty girl..” The Albert-thing spoke. “Pretty, pretty. Powerful pretty..”

He felt Fancy tug on his shirt.

“The bad man.” She whispered to him.

“Yeah, I figured that out.”

“Let’s hear more of your theory, Boy..”

Nolan pulled both Glocks from their shoulder holsters. “O.K.”

He gently squeezed the trigger and both semiautomatic pistols emptied into the shadowy figure standing a few yards away. He saw Father Albert’s body twitch with the impact of all twenty Teflon bullets. When the guns were empty, Nolan pressed the magazine releases and let them drop to the floor. As he took a few steps back, inserting new magazines into his guns, Father Albert slowly walked forward to match his steps.

The Demon-Thing emerged from the shadows; his form reverting back to his Priestly stature. His arms stretched out like a crucifix; Nolan saw that all twenty bullets had hit him. Bloody gaping holes were ripped through his suit.

The Thing spouted. “Did you think you would kill me.”

“Nope.” Nolan replied, as each gun’s new magazine locked into place. “I just thought it would hurt really, really bad.”

With fantastic speed, Father Albert suddenly appeared directly in front of him. The matrix suddenly popped into Nolan’s head.

He flinched.

Fancy screamed.

“You know what?” The Thing said, bringing it’s powerful arms up and out, swatting the two guns from Nolan’s grip. One went flying under the couch, the other into a dark corner.

“It did hurt, you little fuck!!!”

Nolan tried to back away, but the Father-Thing was too fast. It buried it’s talon-like claws into his should-blades, gripping them like handlebars.

It picked him up and tossed him across the room like clothes on a hanger. Nolan hit the end table, and then into the liquor cabinet. He landed head first as shards of glass rained down on him. Dazed, he opened is blurry eyes to see Fancy huddled under the dining room table. She was shaking, staring at him; willing him to stand and protect her.

He did just that.

Propping himself up on what was left of the liquor cabinet, Nolan steadied himself. He tried to wipe the blood out of his face, but realize he was just painting his self with the blood from his gaping shoulder wounds.

“You really are a silly fuck. You know that, right?” He heard Father Albert to his left. The Demon thing was pouring himself another brandy.

The snifter was stained with his blood. “We had such high hopes for you, Allen Nolan. Such high hopes..”

Nolan tried to stand on his own power, but his knees buckled. He stumbled forward and fell on the coffee table next to the couch.

“Careful.” The Thing chuckled. “We don’t want you to hurt yourself, before we kill you.”

“That’s some funny shit.” Nolan replied with a smile.

“What happened?” The thing swirled the blood-brandy in the snifter, leaning against the wall, legs crossed and arms folded. “You were on the fast track, man. We had our eyes on you.”

Nolan pulled himself up on the couch and laid on his back. He had to gain his senses if he was going to get Fancy out alive.

He glanced around the room, looking for his Glocks.

The Albert-Thing kept taunting him. “All those people you killed. Women.. Children.. You were one sick bitch. Now, you want to play this ‘Joe Hero’ bullshit? Sorry, boy… that’s not the way it works.” He slowly walked over and leaned on the couch. “You think helping keep the kid away from me is going to redeem yourself in His eyes? Sorry Partner. That ain’t the way it works.”

Nolan stared at Albert’s bloodshot eyes as he took another gulp of brandy. The left hand fidgeted along the cold wood floor, until his fingers brushed along the semiautomatic’s Black Polymer grip.

“Here’s the deal. You’re done. There’s no amount of shit you can do to change your fate. You’re ours. Whether it’s tonight, tomorrow, or ten years from now, you’re gonna be with us in the pit.”

He tossed the snifter over his shoulder, shattering it on the wall.

Nolan felt the even weight of the full-clipped Glock in his singed palm.

“But, we’re some nice motherfuckers. Tell you what.. We’re willing to spare you for tonight. I’ll dress your wounds, stock you with food and water, and you can just leave; live long enough to hide.” The Albert-Thing drew in close to him. “It doesn’t mean shit to us, of course. We’ll have you sooner or later. But you can have a few more quality years out there.”

Nolan’s finger slowly draped the safe action trigger.

“Just like that?” He answered.

“Just like that.” The Thing replied. “All you have to do..”,

Albert glared at girl under the table. “..is leave us the kid.”

He heard Fancy gasp.

“Just leave her. That’s all.”

“You know I can’t do that.” His trigger hand shook.

“Are you listening?! We’re trying to help your stupid ass!” The Thing stood up again, crossing his arms with authority. “She’s not leaving this place either way. That little tasty morsel is ours to have. We can do whatever we want to her, and you can’t do a fucking thing about it. The only thing to decide is whether you die here on this couch, or out there.. some other day.”

“You sure ’bout that?” Nolan grinned.

“Positive!” The Thing replied. He wasn’t very happy with this humans defiance. “Time’s expired, boy! We want your decision now!”

Father Albert leaned into Nolan’s face.

“What’s your answer?”

Nolan swung the barrel of the Glock six inches from the Thing’s face.

“What the fuck do you think?”

He squeeze the trigger and held tight. Three Teflon’s struck Father Albert in the left eye socket and his mouth. He stumbled back with a harsh, gurgling grunt. Nolan was unfazed. He popped off two more shots that connected with Its nose and forehead.

‘Aim for the head.’ He thought to himself. ‘Stay on the head!’

Three more shots went off. The first strayed and hit the wall, while the other two caught Father Albert in the neck and chin. The Demon’s face was being mangled, but still he stood in defiance.

With his last two shots, Nolan tried to take out the other eye, in hopes of blinding the creature, but both shots were too high, and disappeared into the kitchen.

The sound of the empty clip sprang from the Glock, yet Nolan kept pulling the trigger. He watched as Father Albert gained his composure.

He stepped out of the shadows, his face a mangled mesh of flesh, bone and blood. He couldn’t tell if the Demon was smiling or not, because he didn’t have a mouth anymore.

“Wow..” The Thing gurgled. “That was some heroic shit!!!. Very ‘John Wayne‘ of you. And I like John Wayne. I have brunch with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays.. down there…”

Nolan didn’t know what to do next.

“Again, that’s some funny..”

Before he finished the sentence, Albert was on Nolan with amazing swiftness. He actually felt the backhand slap before he saw Father Albert. And by the time we realized what happened, he was flying into the dinning room wall. Disoriented, he toppled end-over-end until the wall stopped his momentum. Once again, his head slammed onto the hardwood floor.

“Daddy..” He heard a whimper from across the room.

Daddy..‘ He thought to himself. ‘She called me Daddy..

And as the Priest-Thing slowly came in his direction, all Nolan could do was stare at the beautiful little girl hunch under the table. He didn’t even notice that he was smiling at her.

“Nice grin, Bitch!” The Thing brought him back to the situation. “You’re smiling like a retard. You must’ve hit the floor real hard.”

Nolan directed his attention back to the monster.

“You wouldn’t understand if I told you.. Father.” That’s when he noticed the other Glock a few yards away from him.

And so did Father Albert.

“You won’t make it.” It said. “We’re tired of these fucking games. We gave you a chance to walk way, but you were too stupid to see a good thing.”

It grabbed a nearby chair, picked Nolan up and slammed him into it.

“No matter. We like it better this way. We were gonna kill you quick and be done with it..”

That’s when Nolan saw Fancy pulling herself from under the table; a look a pure hate in her eyes. She was fixated on Father Albert.

“But now..” The Thing turned to see what Nolan was smiling at.

He turned to see the little girl in the pink dress, standing a few yards away from him; her sweaty palms balled into fists.

“..now, We have a better idea.” He released Nolan and stood opposite the girl. “We think We’ll make you watch, while We kill this little bitch slowly.”

Nolan smiled. “Be my guest. I’ve been waiting for this all night.”

Albert looked back at him in curiosity.

“You’re a bad man,” Fancy said, her bottom lip trembling.

The Albert-Thing laughed. “Is that right, little God Bitch?”

Fancy nodded and huffed. “Daddy said when bad men threaten me, it’s OK to stop them.”

That’s when he saw her little deep blue eyes start to glow with a white hotness. But it wasn’t the glow that scared Albert. It was the wave of nausea that washes over him.

“You see, she doesn’t know her power, yet.” Nolan spoke with a chuckle. “She needed something really traumatic to trigger the angelic power. She needed something like someone, or something trying to hurt her best-est friend in the whole world.”

That’s when The Albert-Thing realized Its situation. The entire moments of the past hour played back in its head as it put all the pieces together.

The whole talk at the table…

The little girl constantly in eyesight ever everything…

It’s transformation and attack on Nolan…

All contrived.

All orchestrated by this.. human.

Nolan started to chuckle but had to cough from the blood in his punctured lung. “Oh.. I’m sorry. Did you actually think we came here to fight you.. one of the High Order of Demons with a couple guns and some witty banter?”

Fancy started to growl.

“You silly fuck.” Nolan smiled in the face of the demon; his teeth stained with blood.

Albert turned back toward the girl.

Nolan called to her. “Sweetie, show Father Albert what Daddy taught you.”

She nodded and then looked at the Demon. “Bye bye.”

The house shook. Not like an earthquake. The vibrations were too fast.

The Albert-Thing looked down and saw the radiant white light, similar the color of Fancy’s eyes, bleeding up through the cracks and crevasses on the wooden floor.

The demon’s black visage shattered like s glass figure. The tiny shards of darkness exploded outward in slow-motion, one by one the being’s shards were consumed by the light from below. Within moments, The Albert Thing was no more. Now the house stood quietly; only the sound of the crackling fire from the fireplace was present.

Fancy dropped to her bare knees. Her little face was drenched in sweat.

“That hurt,” she spoke, rapidly huffing and puffing.

“It’ll get better,” Nolan answered trying to pull himself off of the chair. He tried to stand but his legs didn’t obey. He dropped to the floor and rolled on his back.

Fancy crawled to his side and laid her sweaty little head on his shoulder. Her little hand pressed gently to his chest. He laid his massive hand on top of hers.

“I’m okay, Sweety.” he comforted her. “We’re okay.”

He heard her sob. “What do we do now?”

Nolan sighed. He could feel the child’s touch mending his cracked ribs within. It was getting easier to breathe now.

“First, we’ll clean this place up. It was always a comfort to be here. So we’ll stay here, at least for a little while.

When I was strong enough, Nolan sat up and Fancy sat next to him.

“Next, I guess I’ll have to teach you a few things.”

“Like what?”

“How to fight. How to shoot. How do you use your power without hurting yourself.” He smiled down at her. “You’re a special girl, Fancy. There’s a lot of stuff you need to do when you grow up. But for now, we’ll get you ready.”

“For what?”

He smiled. “For Judgement.”