Out of the Badlands
Brian J. Jarrett
Copyright © 2016 Brian J. Jarrett
Elegy Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted by any means without the written consent of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Any names, people, locales, or events are purely a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any person (either living or dead), to any event, or to any locale is coincidental or used fictitiously.
For Allyson Robben Dowell
Twelve-year-old Sam Treiber watched the big oak fall as a jagged arc of white-hot lightning tore a hole in the sky, illuminating the land below. The tree lurched, the undersides of its leaves flashing white as its massive bulk came roaring down to the ground, felled by a wind gust as easily as a first year sapling.
Denise Treiber looked up from her tattered and yellowed copy of ‘Salem’s Lot. “What the hell was that?”
“A tree just fell outside,” Sam said, turning away from the scene outside the window. “A big one.”
“This is a hell of a storm,” Denise replied. She relaxed, her eyes back on the book. “Bound to take down some trees.”
“I think it hit the fence,” Sam said, turning to look at his mother.
Eyes wide, Denise looked up at her son. She closed the book without saving her place and swallowed hard. “Are you sure?”
“You need to be damn sure.” She got to her feet and went to the window, gazing into the blackness. Another bolt of lightning arced, lighting up the landscape like the flash from a giant camera. Just as Sam described, the tree lay across a section of ruined fence.
“Shit,” Denise said, walking toward the door of the room they shared. “We need to tell the others. Get your shoes on.”
Sam sat, his eyes wide.
Sam leapt to his feet. Outside, the lightning struck again, brightening the yard in a blinding flash of light. Sam caught sight of the gigantic tree’s bushy top. Three figures appeared through the leaves, their white skin nearly reflective in the brightness. Then the light vanished, replaced by inky darkness.
Sam rubbed his eyes, trying to get rid of the spots in his vision. He stared again, but could see nothing in the dark.
Those weren’t carriers, he thought. They weren’t people either.
They were something else.
“Mom…” he began.
“Let’s go, Sam!” his mother called.
Sam ran to the nightstand beside the room’s only bed and yanked open the top drawer, fumbling through the contents inside.
“Just a sec,” he replied. A moment more of searching and he found was he was looking for. He retrieved the one possession he prized more than anything else: his camera. Fed by rechargeable batteries refreshed when the generators were turned on, Sam had been carrying the thing ever since Jonathan, the man who ran the camp and took Sam and his mother in, gave it to him.
“Sam, move your ass!”
Sam gripped the camera and stuffed it into his pocket before picking up the flashlight from the nightstand. He turned to see his mother place her pistol into her back pocket and open the door. He slipped his shoes on and the two of them bolted down the hall, flashlight in hand, the forgotten candle casting a pale yellow glow inside the empty room.