He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

May 3, 2011

Dominion of the Damned: Chapter One

 So I can either regale you with regular ramblings about my daily word count, or I can just show you the dang story. I might live to regret this, but I'm opting for the latter.

Just be warned that this is horror, and fairly graphic horror at that. I'm pretty sure I don't have any kids or pre-teens reading this blog, but if I do... go ask your parents first, okay?

Be also warned that this is fairly rough. I gave it a once-over to try to catch and fix errors, but it hasn't been seen by beta readers, and this is definitely First Draft territory that you're entering. As such, everything, including the title, is subject to change. 

*Deep breath* Here we go.



Hannah cradled the newborn in one arm and looked down at the other, at the iron skillet she still gripped in her hand, at the droplet of red dangling from the bottom, about to fall. It broke free, and her eyes followed it to the floor, saw it splash into its predecessors covering the linoleum tile. That bright spatter brought her back to her senses, and suddenly she became aware of the infant screaming as only brand new babies can, of the sticky substance already drying on her face, neck and hands, and of her mother. Their mother, lying on the floor with her skull caved in.

Hannah gripped the skillet, and waited. "Shhh," she said absently to the baby, who had no idea what was happening. Hannah didn't exactly know, either. So she waited.

Her mother didn't get up again.

Hannah breathed a sigh of relief, then sucked it back in sharply as the grief of what she'd done hit her like a fist to the gut. She dropped the skillet and spun toward the sink. Her breakfast hit the drain as the skillet hit the floor. She stayed bent over the sink for a long time, retching even after her stomach had given up everything it had to give. Finally, she rinsed her mouth out, then grabbed a rag and wet it down before shutting off the water. 

She slid to the floor, still hugging the baby to her chest. Dried blood and fluid from the birth still coated him, and he'd gotten more of their mother's blood on him during the fight. Hannah hummed absently as she wiped him down. Then she tossed the bloody rag in the sink and leaned over to pull a fresh towel from a basket under the sink. She swaddled the baby and held him tight, and for the first time since taking his first breath, he stopped crying.

"Noah," Hannah whispered, tears burning her eyes and the back of her throat. "They were going to name you Noah." 

She lifted her gaze from the baby to her mother's disfigured corpse, and her cries took over for the baby's. She didn't know what to do next. She wasn't sure what was happening. And she didn't know how the hell the whole world had gone to utter shit before the day had even begun.

10 Hours Ago

"Is it a giraffe?" Hannah asked.

Hannah's father, Jack Jordan, looked at the crude sketch he'd just drawn, then back at his daughter. "A giraffe? How the hell do you get that?"

"I don't know. I mean, it has a long neck?"

"That's a perfectly normal-sized neck."

"It's a beautiful neck," Hannah's mother agreed. Karen Jordan leaned over the sketch pad and craned her neck. "This is a tough one, honey. Is it Noah's Ark?"

"What? No!"

"I give up," said Hannah.

Her mother sighed. "So do I."

"The Magnificent Seven!" He pointed to the series of giraffe-like animals he'd drawn. "See? Seven horses!"

"Oh," Hannah and her mother both said in unison. Then Hannah said, "Wait, no. I still don't get it."

"Horses? That cowboys ride? And there are seven of them?"

"Okay," said Hannah. "See, I probably would have gone with seven cowboy hats, or deputy badges, or something."

Her dad capped his pen and tossed it on the table. "Yeah, I guess that would've made sense," he grumped.

Her mother laughed. "It was a good effort, honey. Pictionary isn't really a three-person game, anyway."

"No," Hannah agreed, "but as soon as that pumpkin seed you swallowed is big enough to hold a pen, we'll have solved that problem." She reached over to pat her mother's giant belly, and her mom grabbed her hand and held it there.

"I'm so glad you decided to come home."

"Well, it was a tough decision," said Hannah. "You know how much I love a whole week of binge drinking and hangovers and keeping my friends out from in front of the Girls Gone Wild cameras."

"Yes. That's why you spent last spring break in your dorm, getting ahead on your homework."

Hannah smiled a little sheepishly, and shrugged. "Like it's my fault you raised a complete dork?"

"More like a brainy beauty," said her father, causing her smile to deepen. "You're gonna be one hell of a nurse."

"Thanks, Dad. Anyway, I wasn't about to miss the birth of my one and only sibling."

"Thank God," her mother said. "I was worried I'd have to keep my legs crossed until the semester ended."

"Right, Mom, like there's any chance of that. If you get any bigger, you'll explode."

Just then, her mother winced and sucked air in through her teeth. "Ow."

"You having a contraction?" asked her dad.

She gritted her teeth and nodded, but when she could speak again said, "Just a small one. They're still too far apart to worry about."

They fell into a moment of silence, all of them no doubt contemplating how much their world was about to change. In the distance, a siren wailed.

Hannah's dad looked up. "That's the third one tonight."

"Is it?" Hannah asked, and shrugged. "Guess I've been living in the city too long. I'm so used to sirens now that I hardly even notice them."

"Yeah, well, out here they're still pretty damn rare." He stood up and headed toward the front of the house.

Hannah also stood, and helped her mother to her feet so they could both follow him. "Maybe there's a fire," she suggested as they all stepped out on the front porch.

"Doesn't smell like one. And the siren's getting closer."

"Maybe it's just an ambulance," said her mother.

"No, that's the sheriff's siren."

He was right. At the intersection at the end of the road, a deputy's car peeled around the corner and cut off its siren. It sped their way for about a quarter of a mile before turning into the Kincaid place. Across the road, Hannah could see the neighbors coming outside to see what the ruckus was.

"I ran into Sherry Kincaid at Walmart today," her mother said. "She said Ed was sick. One of the residents down at the senior center went crazy and bit him, and she was afraid he caught something from the old man."

"If that's the case then why call the sheriff instead of an ambulance?" Hannah's father turned and motioned toward the door. "Come on, let's get back inside. Whatever it is, I'm sure the deputy's got it under control."

"Besides," said Hannah, "we need to hear the phone when the gossip line starts to ring."

Her mom laughed, but her dad headed straight to the gun cabinet in the living room. He fished his keys out of his pocket and opened it up. "What are you doing?" her mother asked.

"Just checking out the ammo situation. It looks like we're pretty well stocked. I wish we replaced that last batch of target rounds, though."

"Why? You expecting some kind of invasion?"

He shrugged. "Just have a bad feeling. It's probably nothing. Just nerves about the baby coming." He closed the cabinet and locked it. "Think we've got enough formula stocked in the shelter?"

She shook her head in a show of exasperated amusement, just like she always did when Hannah's dad went into survivalist mode. "There's at least six months worth, and a stack of cloth diapers, too. And I won't even need the formula if I don't have any problems with breast feeding. Or, you know, if the world doesn't end in the next six months."

"Maybe," he said in all seriousness, ignoring his wife's teasing tone, "but you can never be too careful."

She threw up her hands. "You are so paranoid sometimes."

He looked at Hannah. "What do you say to that, sweetheart?"

"Paranoid is prepared," Hannah recited, repeating the mantra that had been drilled into her head since she was big enough to lift a gun.

"That's my girl." He pointed toward the back yard, where a do-it-yourself disaster shelter he'd built from a kit was hidden under the back half of the property. "I'm gonna go check the provisions, just to be sure."

"How about checking the nursery provisions instead, since our need for that is a little more imminent?" asked Hannah's mom.

"Good idea. You and Hannah go do that." Undeterred, he headed toward the back of the house and disappeared into the kitchen. After they heard the back door open and close, her mother sighed.

"You want me to see if the nursery's stocked?" Hannah offered.

"No, forget it. We've got everything. You know your father. We've had everything for the last five months." She pointed to the suitcase by the front door. "And that thing's been packed and ready for two."

"I guess once a boy scout…."

"Always a paranoid, over-prepared lunatic?"


She chuckled. "I'm sorry. I don't mean it. It's the hormones talking." She rubbed her belly and groaned. "Oh, Noah, I wish you'd hurry up and come out of there, son."

"So does Big Sis. You've only got four more days to show before I have to head back to school."

Her mom made a sad face, and opened her arms. "Come here." Hannah met her mom's hug halfway, ignoring the akwardness of trying to hug around The Belly. "I'm so glad you came home."

"You said that already, Mom."

"Well, I am. I love your father, but I don't know if I could handle this without you here."

"Don't worry. If it comes down to having to miss some classes, I'll be here. I mean, you're already a week past due. How much longer can this pumpkin wait?"

"That's what I keep asking him." She kissed Hannah's cheek and let her go. "I'm going to bed. Don't bother waiting up for your father."

"I won't. Good night, Mom." Hannah watched as her mother hauled herself up the stairs, to make sure she didn't have any problems. She heard more sirens as she headed into the kitchen to make herself a snack of peanut butter on toast. By the time she poured a glass of milk and took her snack out onto the front porch, two more deputy's cars and an ambulance had arrived at the Kincaid place.

Across the street, Melanie Gifford stood at the edge of her driveway, straining to see what was going on. Hannah saw Melanie see her and pretended not to notice, taking her snack back inside before she could get drawn into a gossip session that, knowing Melanie, would last half the night. Her dad would find out what was happening soon enough, and Hannah was content to wait until morning to hear the news. She polished off her snack and put her glass in the kitchen sink, made sure the back porch light was on and that her dad hadn't locked himself out, then followed her mother's lead and headed up to bed.

"Hannah, wake up. We have to go."

Hannah opened her eyes and squinted groggily up at her dad, who was still shaking her by the shoulder. "What's going on? Is it mom?"

"It's that, and worse. Get dressed and get downstairs." He left the room and shut the door behind him. Hannah jumped up and hurried to the closet, her heart pounding out any lingering sleepiness with a surge of adrenaline sparked by, "and worse." What did he mean by that? Was Mom okay? Was the baby okay?

Years of fire, tornado and terrorist attack drills had taught Hannah how to dress in under a minute. The next minute she was downstairs and in the living room, where her mom leaned against the back of the yellow couch, clutching her stomach and panting as she watched Hannah's dad cram weapons and ammo into a large duffle bag. "What's going on? Are we going to the hospital?" She glanced over at her dad. "Are we going to raid the hospital?"

"Look outside," her dad said, "but don't open the door!"

Hannah hesitated, and turned back to her mom. "Are you okay?"

She nodded, but said through gritted teeth, "The baby's coming."

"It'll be okay, Mom," said Hannah, and went to look out the window next to the front door. Outside, people were walking around. That in itself was a little strange, but Hannah didn't see what the big freakout was about. Then she saw Melanie Gifford running down her driveway, screaming her head off and covered in something that looked like blood. The strangest thing was that nobody reacted to her. Hannah realized that they weren't just walking around; they were moving with slow, shambling steps, dragging their feet as if it was hard to pick them up. And they were everywhere: in the street, in the yard, surrounding her dad's truck.

The heart-wrenching sound of a dog squealing in pain momentarily drowned out Melanie's screaming, and Hannah saw the McCamish's bird dog, Betsy, in the middle of the street, being pulled in opposite directions by two men Hannah didn't recognize. Hannah's hand went to her mouth as the dog whimpered and tried to get away, and then it went to the doorknob.

"Don't open that door!" her dad shouted.

"But Betsy--"

"You can't help her." He came up beside her to look outside, just as Eric Biddle, a former schoolmate of Hannah's who had also come home for spring break, approached the dog.

Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. Eric would save the dog, and then everybody would come to their senses. Then she gasped as the dog let out one last whimper and went limp, Eric having leaned over to rip its throat out with his teeth. Hot tears stung her eyes. "Daddy, what's happening?"

"I don't know. Some kind of chemical attack or something, maybe. The whole town's gone crazy. I tried to go to work this morning and didn't even make it half way. The highway was blocked by a pileup and people were acting nuts. When I got home I had to shoot Marcy Kincaid in the damn head just to get inside the house!"

Hannah stared at him in horror as his words sunk in, then she turned her attention back outside. Only then did she notice the bare legs, feet covered with fuzzy slippers, sticking out from behind the truck.

Another scream drew her attention back to Melanie, who was running up their driveway. As she stumbled up the the front porch steps, Hannah tried to shove her father out of the way to open the door, but he held her back.

"We have to let her in!"

"We have to get your mother to the shelter before the baby comes!"

"Melanie can come with us! Let me go!"

The whole time they struggled, Melanie pounded on the door, pleading and crying to be let in.

"Daddy, help her!"

"It's too late!" he said. "Can't you see she's been bit?"

Hannah blinked and looked out the window at Melanie. A big chunk had been taken out of her neck, and her left ear was missing. Blood poured from her wounds and ran down to soak into her pink nightgown. "She needs a hospital!" Hannah shouted. "Let me go!"

She shoved her father back and swung the door open. Just then, one of men who'd been torturing the dog grabbed her from behind and sunk blood-stained teeth into her shoulder. Melanie and Hannah both screamed as another man, Mr. Burridge from down the street, came up and tore Melanie's arm out of her socket before biting off her thumb.

Hannah felt an arm wrap around her waist. She screamed as she was yanked back into the house. Her dad slammed the door and locked it. "We have to go now!" he shouted, and went to the duffle bag. He pulled out an automatic shotgun and checked the chamber. "It's fully loaded. I'll go first. You stay close, and stay with your mother." He handed the shotgun to Hannah. "Remember, aim for the head."

"Why the head?" her mom asked.

"'Cause that's what works. I put three rounds in Marcy's chest, and she kept coming at me. But the one I put in her head dropped her." He looked at Hannah and repeated, "shoot the head."

Hannah nodded as she looped the gun strap over her shoulder.

Her dad pulled an automatic pistol from the gun cabinet and stuffed it in the back of his waistband, then took out a .45 revolver and checked the chamber. He closed it and nodded. "Let's go." He led them through the kitchen to the back door. "Shit," he said as they reached the back window, and Hannah echoed his sentiment. They were all over the back yard, too. Men, women and kids, people Hannah didn't even recognize, all of them walking around like they were brain dead.

Hannah's mother cried out and clutched Hannah's arm. Hannah winced and pried her mom's hand off. "Breathe, mom. It'll be okay."

"No it won't," her mom cried. "We can't do this, Jack. We have to stay here. The baby's coming."

"We can't stay here, Baby. We have to go."

"No," she pleaded. "It's safe here. The doors are locked. Nobody's getting in. I can have the baby right here."

From the front of the house came the sound of glass breaking, of groaning and scratching on wood.

Jack Jordan stepped up to his wife and took her face in his hands. "Listen to me, Karen. We can do this. We have to. It's just a few yards to the shelter, and then we'll be safe, and you can have that baby. Okay? But we have to do this, and we have to do it now." He kissed her. "I love you." He reached over and cupped the back of Hannah's head. "I love both of you, and I'm going to get you through this. Okay?"

Hannah's mom cried silently and gritted her teeth against her labor pains, but she nodded. So did Hannah.

"Good. Now let's go."


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