Terra Mortis II: The Gathering

Chapter 10

By Dwayne MacInnes

It was the morning of the second day after Carl heard the helicopter go down that he arrived at the crash site. The wreckage of the Apache helicopter was amongst the splintered remains of the trees that once shrouded the woods in shade. Carl noticed that the cockpit was open and that both the gunner and pilot were gone. A quick survey revealed the tracks of two men leaving the site. It had to have been in the last 24 hours going by the tracks.

The FBI agent continued to look around and the story revealed itself. It appeared that there was a third person who arrived at the site. One of the crewmembers must have been wounded and the two able bodied people made a makeshift stretcher. They then headed off toward the south. The tracks in the snow, the stripped saplings, and the patch of ground where a body laid gave Carl the clues he needed in order to deduce this.

Carl went back to the helicopter to search for more clues. In the pilot�s seat there was a map that Carl grabbed and stuffed in his backpack. The FBI agent also stuffed a small untouched first-aid kit into his bag.

The morning sun was still low over the eastern peaks. That would give Carl the most amount of sunlight to follow the tracks in the snow. Carl began to hurry along after the trail of footprints. The wind started to pick up and the snow began to fall an hour after the FBI agent set out.

"Great, that�s all I need," grumbled Carl to himself.

Food was the major concern that ran through Carl�s mind. He hadn�t had any success in hunting over the past few days. If he didn�t find any game or someone willing to share their stores, his companions at the Ranger�s cabin would surely starve in a matter of weeks. Doc already had everyone on half rations. How long could those children last?

A shudder ran down the old man�s spine. The four children were the Miltons, Mary age twelve, Adam age eight, and the twins Victoria and Diane both age six. Melissa Jensen, or Missy as the kids called her, was their nanny. Missy had come to Seattle from Iowa last May at the age of eighteen. She was just out of high school when she became the Miltons� nanny. She still watched over the children like a mother. The children themselves listened to her as if she were - in fact - their mother.

Carl shook his head; Missy herself was still a child in his mind. The children�s parents were lost in the last rush over the barricades. Missy was able by extraordinary effort to keep the children together and get them safely over the military blockade and into the surrounding woods. That was where Doc found them hiding in the underbrush.

Everybody seemed to have lost someone during those two weeks in early June. Gloria was fortunate enough to be volunteering at a clinic when the hospitals were being overrun by the undead. She left the clinic as soon as it became obvious that the cities were no longer safe. Gloria tried to return to her neighborhood, but was unable to get far. It was literally crawling with ghouls. Her boyfriend, she feared, was unable to get out of their apartment as the building was burning out of control.

Doc had left his veterinarian clinic just a head of a mob of zombies shambling down the streets. He considered himself fortunate not to have any family inside Seattle. The veterinarian just headed for the city borders hoping to get out alive.

As Carl progressed along after the tracks, the wind continued to build and the snow fell even harder. Carl reckoned he had only an hour or two before all remains of the footprints were lost. He prayed desperately that he would find the men who left them quickly. There obviously had to be a house, cabin, or some other shelter nearby if some Good Samaritan rescued the crew. He also prayed that they would have some extra food and would be willing to part with some of it.

The blizzard was blinding, but Carl pressed on. He had no other choice. Fortunately, Carl always dressed in layers so that he was reasonably warm as he trudged on in the ever-deepening snow. He continued to hike for another couple hours before all signs of the men leaving the crash site were erased by nature.

There had to be a road or some other man made feature to the south reasoned the old agent. Carl had been able to keep his bearings thanks to the many glances at his pocket compass. The snowfall was as heavy as Carl had ever experienced. The cold was biting at his face, the wind howling its haunting song in his ears.

Outside of the wind, the only other noise that Carl experienced as the groaning and creaking of the pine trees overhead. Every once in a while a large clump of snow would drop down from a limb above and land on Carl. This did nothing to ease his troubled mind. He knew he had to find some form of shelter and fast.

The sunlight was nearly gone due to the overcast skies and the blinding white flakes of snow being driven by the rushing wind.

"South... I must remain on a southern course," Carl reminded himself repeatedly.

Exhaustion was finally beginning to win out over the agent. Carl wasn�t a young man anymore, and he didn�t know how much more he could push himself before he would collapse from either exhaustion or a heart attack. But push he did. The alternative was to give up, and Carl was no quitter.

Carl glanced down at his compass one more time to make sure he was still on course. He looked up to see what looked like a western fort through the break in the trees ahead. The FBI agent didn�t know if he was starting to hallucinate or not. Therefore, he approached it cautiously.

It was definitely a wooden palisade. Carl�s heart leaped with joy at the thought of finally finding some shelter to get out of this miserable weather. The blizzard was still in full force, and the snow was now up to mid-thigh on Carl.

Just as the old man was about to step into the clearing around the log barrier he heard a crack like a gunshot. Something struck him with so much force from behind that Carl was flung forward. Pain shot through his shoulder. His mind began to fog as he slipped into unconsciousness. The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was a figure of a man running toward him in the blizzard.

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1 Comment

Since I forgot to post a story "Terra Mortis II" a few weeks ago, here is a bonus story for you!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas Gogerty published on November 27, 2005 9:26 AM.

"Terra Mortis II" - Chapter 9 was the previous entry in this blog.

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