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The clock runs down 2, p.1
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       The Clock Runs Down 2, p.1

           Joe Kelly
 
The Clock Runs Down 2


  The Clock runs down

  Book Two: The Servant

  Joe Kelly

  Chapter 1

  “Hell is empty and all the devils are here”

  Under the full moon gentle waves of the black sea washed up on the coarse sandy beach with a sigh. He stood there water swirling around his feet gazing up at the imposing house that loomed over the beach and the terrace where she waited, a goddess of Alabaster.

  It was a dream, an old familiar dream. This was the place and the night where he had been reborn and it all started with her. He had embraced the course of his new life standing over her body. A life not for ideology, not for the glory of the Communist party, not for Rodina, but for the power over life and his role as Deaths right hand.

  Oh, those had been heady days, before Yeltsin, before Gorbachev and Glasnost, before the wall fell and the East German trash had turned against the USSR and joined West Germany and before the Pizidi had taken over the government and driven him from the only home he had ever known. Forcing him to come to the one place their reach was limited a place he hated.

  America, Land of the Free, HA! Twenty years of living here, twenty years of listening to the fool’s prattle on and on about their manifest destiny and divine mandate to greatness but they had been living off a rotting maggot filled corpse of corrupt dreams and stupidity.

  He gazed upwards to the tangled skein of stars and milky way that floated in a sea of Darkness it was vivid, to vivid to real he thought as he lowered his gaze to the water once more and could feel the wind on his face and smell the water. There was a wrongness to it, and suddenly he knew he was not alone.

  The clean sweet smell of the Black sea faded as the smell of rotting blood and spoiled meat filled the air around him. the dream world drowned in a rising sea of darkness.

  Darkness, the void and something waited, something behind him. He knew this thing it had been plaguing his dreams of late. The Harbinger of Death, he liked to call it when awake. Only a fool would claim it didn’t scare him and Mikhail was no fool the touch of this things mind was alien, cold, like a razor slicing through flesh and hot dripping blood and though it called to him like alcohol to an alcoholic, it scared him to the core of his being.

  A face emerged from the darkness, like a sub surfacing in the ocean. It was a pallid face, a dead man’s face, the proportions were subtly off giving it an almost alien cast. Dead milky oddly shaped eyes set in deep sockets gazed at him. Thin leprous lips parted, Listen closely, it said then its lips quivered into shark toothed smile and there was madness there.

  He woke to darkness, sitting up he clicked on the small LED light above his makeshift bed. It was only a dream, he told himself then shook his head angrily as he realized his thoughts had been in English. I hate this place, he thought then smiled coldly, at least almost all of the never sufficiently damned Americans are dead now.

  He rose and moving as quiet as whisper he crossed to the small kitchen and fixed himself a cup of Russian coffee then added a jigger of Vodka and his breakfast was ready. Twenty damn years, he thought echoing his dream. Until last night He had never had a dream where he could think, react and even control elements of it or one that felt so real.

  It was only a dream he told himself again as he paced the small area he now lived in. He had set up and secured this one room to shelter in because it was in the center of the house with no windows and access to the attic, the rest of the house was closed off to make it difficult for the dead to reach him if they somehow got inside.

  He had lived here, far from the areas where the Russian mob operated, far from any Russian for that matter, the enemies he had earned in the FSB and Kremlin often used the Mobs to send messages to people like himself.

  I served loyally, killed who they told me to kill and as I knew they would, they turned against me, but Plans had been laid for such a day.

  Over the years he had gathered identities, money, and contacts unknown to his handlers. Every mission to America and a few other select countries had allowed him to set up fall backs complete with safe houses and that foresight had saved him and allowed him to hunt the hunters before he had vanished like smoke.

  He smiled as he thought of the hunt. “Ten of them died before I slipped away laughing at them. I only wish I could have lingered over that fat pig Smyrnoi. he had been the last and the assassin’s Mikhail’s enemies had hired had been closing in or he would have lingered over that fat ass. Of course, what had been left of Smyrnoi had died screaming amidst the corpses of his mistress and family. Oh, those were heady days, he thought. I slipped their hounds traveling through ten countries before I, No Jason Webb, headed home to Virginia and his estranged girlfriend.

  The Whore had cost him a million in cash, but she had been well worth the cost. She had of course died a few months later in a freak accident that had left Jason Webb despondent. As far as the police were concerned Webb had thrown himself into a river to end his misery. He chuckled weakly, it no longer amused him as much as it had. Fooling American police had been far easier than most assumed. Show them what they expected to see, and they filled in the blanks.

  Twenty years, eleven identities, and seven assassination attempts later, and I still live. All those I hated are most likely dead and I am still here.

  It has been boring as well, having to suffer through fools, and idiots instead of just slitting their throats and killing their families, all to keep from drawing unwanted attention. God, I hated them, he silently told himself. All of them, simpering weak fools who were so wrapped up in pointless minutia, cattle in clothes waiting for death to come knocking and knocking it had come sweeping them away by the billions.

  Why do you avoid thinking about the dream? he asked himself suddenly. It is impossible for it to be real. Madness! Hunt down a group of survivors in the middle of the apocalypse for a creature in his dreams. I have been in America to long, he told himself, I have become what I pretended to be. It is not to late the wolf still lives in my heart.

  What if it was real? What if there are no undead outside the house? Just as the creature in his dreams had promised. He was tempted, so tempted to go look. Ty chto mumu yebyosh, he said using the old toast as a swear. “Yobannoe Dno!” It can’t get any worse, he thought in English which only angered him to have once again slip into his American identity

  Once when he had been posing as a teacher of the Russian language, He had tried to explain to an American what Ty Chot Mumu yebyosh meant, one of many meanings was to hurry up but the best translation into English he had come up with, why are you fucking a cow, was far more entertaining.

  With his mind made up he unlocked the seven locks on the door and slowly opened it to peer into the hallway. It was always possible one or more of the dead could have gotten inside without his knowing it. Once I see the undead outside it will be settled and this American insanity of believing in dreams will be over. Russians waste no time with superstitions and metaphysical FIGNYA!

  He didn’t bother with considering the absurdity of dismissing the paranormal out of hand when the walking dead were outside, and he was having what appeared to be supernatural dreams.

  He worked his way through the obstacles he had placed till he stood in the living room. He lifted a hand to pull back the curtain then paused as he considered what he would do if the dead were gone. They will be there, rotting husks like something out of the old stories.

  He pulled the curtain back just enough to peek out through a crack between two of the boards that covered the window. “Impossible,” He said softly his eyes wide in surprise as he saw the empty yard and beyond that the empty street. He quickly moved around the house to check other windows and found it the same, there was not a single walking corpse anywhere he could see.


  Returning to the living room, he slowly unlocked the door then removed the two crossbars he had installed early in the outbreak. He hesitated for a heartbeat then pulled the door open and stepped out onto his porch.

  He stood there drawing in a deep breath his pale blue eyes sweeping the area around him for threats. Then his gaze fell on something on his porch that he had not placed there. A book, a large book bound in port wine colored leather. Gold letters stamped on the cover drew his gaze. In some ways he was not surprised at the Title. “Faust. Der Tragödie zweiter Teil” he read aloud. It was a reminder from whatever the thing from his dreams was. He had made a deal and had better live up to it. Well I’ve served that master for my adult life, time to see it through to the end. He knelt and touched the cover, his skin crawling. It felt cold and slimy to the touch

  He wondered, silently, why would it need his help. It obviously could control the dead, it could walk in a man’s dreams and no doubt had other powers that he had not seen and, yet it need him, a living person to hunt down a small group of survivors. Does it matter? He asked himself. “E'en hell hath its peculiar laws.” Faust had said as Mikhail recalled. “as the Americans say a deal is a deal” he said then smiled.

  Chapter 2

  The Ultralight soared slowly across the crystal clear blue sky marred only a few wispy clouds on the horizon. It was the kind of glorious day that made it easy to forget that horror and death stalked the world seeking the last of the living.

  Ronny eyed his gauges, checked the folded map on his thigh then began a slow descent to get a better look at the city he had come to look at. Up here, where the light was golden, it was hard to believe that the world was dead.

  Up here he couldn’t sense the invisible pall that clung like poisoned fog to the land below. Up here, he could almost believe that the clear brilliant sunlight had burned away the touch of darkness. But that was just a dream and he knew it, down there the Dark still held sway, the living clung to life by its fingernails.

  He checked the gauges again, thankful that they had customized the already custom Ultralight over the last two weeks. He, Rob and Ori had removed the old motor and installed the Enduro motorcycle engine and two fuel tanks. They’d had to reinforce the frame and had scrapped a second dirt bike to use the struts and wheels on the ultralight. In the end it had extended the range giving him more flight time to scout ahead of the convoy.

  Personally, he was ready to find a real plane, preferably an old WWII two plane, most if not all of them he was familiar with could land almost anywhere, baby steps, it would take him some time to convince Jared that a plane would be better than the ultralight. Might as well start the ‘we need a plane campaign’ when I get back he decided.

  He checked gauges again then leveled off, flying only a few hundred feet over the roof tops below. Good god, he thought taking it in. he hadn’t thought it would shock him, but he had been wrong.

  Flying over block after block of homes and business that stood shoulder to jowl with each other separated only by ribbons of asphalt brought the reality of the world back like a pile driver. Vehicles littered the nearby streets and the interstate like rivers of metal and colored plastic, many of them crushed together at intersections and throughout the mess were abandoned emergency vehicles their doors standing open, still waiting to render aid that was no longer needed.

  Nothing moved down there, but as he flew deeper they began to appear. The living dead, at first in ones and twos, they stumbled out of buildings, crawled from under vehicles or holes in walls and began to fill the streets. Drawn by the sound of the motor they lurched around looking for the living, their one and only source of food.

  “Jesus” Logan whispered from the rear seat. Logan had escaped from the UT campus and the city of Knoxville with over a dozen other students. Seeing what had become of the city they had fled was a shock. “I knew, but…” He shook his head slowly as if to deny the reality. From up here it looked even worse than it had from the ground. up here there were no buildings, hills or trees to hide the true extent of the devastation or the sheer numbers of undead.

  .

  “I know” Ronny replied. It was so easy to forget how bad it had been in the cities, Ronny thought, especially since we escaped early and have spent months living out in the sticks away from all of this. He checked the compass and with a gentle touch on the stick altered course and gained some altitude. Nervously he checked the fuel gauge, running out of fuel and plummeting to the ground where he would splatter like a bug was not on his list of fun things. On the other hand, it might be preferable to an emergency landing down there in the middle of tens of thousands of the walking dead. Still have time to look around, he told himself noting the gauge level.

  The darkened buildings of downtown Knoxville, loomed ahead of the ultralight the windows of those dead buildings were like blank and mindless eyes that gazed out over the mass of undead that wandered the streets aimlessly milling around wreckage, and abandoned roadblocks. There was little wind to shred the stench of death and corruption that filled the air like a cloud. Downtown was out of range, assuming Ronny wanted to make it back to their newest camp. Hell, if he wanted to make it halfway back to camp. Now a real plane would have plenty of leg to scout, but even with the added power and fuel of the newly modified craft he was still flying an ultra-light and that meant limited range and speed.

  Ronny spiraled down slowly then leveled off flying down a street at two hundred feet. Logan who rode in the seat behind him, grunted in disgust as the smell from below reached them. The stomach-turning stench of the walking dead once smelled was never forgotten and the more of them there were, the worse the stench and they were flying over a city full of undead.

  Logan who rode in the rear seat, was silent as he looked down on the city that he had lived in for three years and barely escaped with his life a mere four or was it five months ago. There were times since that he felt far older than his twenty years on this earth.

  Knoxville had been nothing like he had expected, nothing like the stereotype of south. Being of Greek and Italian descent, he was darker skinned than most, add in he was from out west and talked funny, as someone had once put it. He had expected to experience minor level bigotry, or at the very least a few subtle but insulting comments about his ancestry. Instead no one had cared, and it wasn’t just the fact that Knoxville was a college town. He had been treated decently even in the small towns he had stopped at while on road trips. They had been polite, well-mannered people and not what, so many would have expected. And now they were dead. He shifted uncomfortably, his dark eyes widened as the recognized the area they were flying over.

  I took a date there, once Logan thought as he spotted a restaurant. I bought my jeep over there. The car lot only had a few undead in it but the streets on either side were filled with walking corpses. Images flashed through his mind of some of the sales people who had worked there and customers that had been looking at cars that day, in his mind he could still see the waitress at the Indian restaurant and people who had been lingering over meals. All of them dead now, dead and walking. Can we really survive this? And what about my parents are they still alive?

  Part of him hoped they were and another part prayed they had died and did not have to struggle with surviving in the world of the dead. He would never know since home was half way across the country.

  No, stop thinking about it, he told himself feeling grief and horror trying to drag him down into black depression. There is no way I can make it back home, not by myself and there are people counting on me to keep it together and help.

  “Damn, that’s just nasty” Ronny commented wishing he could lose his sense of smell. A few zombies, a bit brighter than the others looked up trying to find the droning motor of the ultra-light. Feeling like he had already pushed their luck today, Ronny pulled the stick back and gained altitude before turning to head southwest back to the relative safety of the Groups camp site outside the city overlooking a misty hollow
and surrounded by forested hills.

  Misty Hollow campground was several miles outside of Knoxville, surrounded by forest. It had been an idyllic campsite, with the bad misfortune to open soon after the great Downturn. It had struggled for several years then closed its doors. With the smokies to the south and Knoxville to the north east it would have been a great vacation spot to get away from it all.

  The camp was broken down into three semicircular gravel roads. The first two sections held the camp sites, pull throughs for RV’s and camper trailers on the outer ring, small log cabins along the second. The central area which held the group hall, showers, bathrooms, stables and office sat in the middle of the last semi-circle. the main road into camp was straight as an arrow and cut across the first two semicircular drives. Coming to an end at the final semi-circle.

  Ronny cut the ultralights engine a half mile out, hoping that any undead that might be following would stop well outside of the newest camp site. The only sound now was of the wind flowing over the elongated egg shaped cockpit and the wings as they glided towards the camp. He followed the county road turning the small craft to line up on the camp grounds main street. “hang on,” He warned Logan who was already tense and worried now that engine was off and they were still airborne. Ronny brought the nose up bleeding off speed and altitude.

 
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