Friday, June 22, 2012
Some Chapters From John O'Brien
Here for your reading pleasure, a sample chapter from John O'Brien's A New World.
A slam comes against the door for about the hundredth time and the jamb by the latch splinters. Oh fuck! I think seeing the jamb itself beginning to give way. That is the last thing I wanted to see and my thought quickly goes towards my kids and Lynn. I should never have come down. I quickly turn my radio to VOX as I may not be able to take the time to reach up and click the mic as my hands may be too busy. I want to stay in communication regardless of what happens. My adrenaline rate increases but a calm settles in.
The jamb gives way but the door comes against the couch and it doesn’t open any further. It’s not even a door width open but the latch is no longer secure. The screeches outside intensify as if the night runners know they are almost inside. The interval between bangs against the door increases. The jamb where the hinges are screwed in begins to splinter as the latch did moments before. The trapped feeling intensifies. A part of my mind searches for an avenue of escape but realizes that none exist.
“Very well motherfuckers! Bring it,” I whisper to myself, getting myself in the frame of mind needed, steeling myself for the inevitable.
Another solid thud and the top hinge gives way. With the sound of wood cracking and a screech of metal being torn, the door caves inward, the top falling across the couch at an angle. The night runner shrieks, no longer muted by closed door, rises in volume as our little bit of sanctuary becomes open to the outside. I see movement through the small cracks the angled door leaves though not enough to get a shot through. The door is picked up, twisted, and pulled outside. Now we are fully exposed.
“They’re in,” I call seeing the first night runners enter into the now open doorway.
I rub my thumb over the selector switch to verify I am on auto and put my dot on the first to enter as it scrambles over the couch still sitting in front of the door. I opt for the auto selection in case any of my rounds miss or glance off, then there’s a chance they’ll hit and slow up any night runners that are behind. The entry way outside is congested with night runners waiting to get in. Pulling the trigger lightly, my carbine pushes against my shoulder as I send three rounds streaking outward.
The hallway flashes with pulses of light and the muted coughs resonate loudly in the enclosed hall. My three steel core bullets meet up with their target in a tight pattern with speed and power hitting the night runner full in the face. The force of the rounds striking destroys the bone structure and knocks the lower jaw loose before ricocheting inside its cranium and exiting, taking the entire back of its head off. A massive, chunky mist sprays out from behind as it collapses face forward onto the couch. The cream-colored couch absorbs the blood trickling from the night runner, turning red where the night runner’s head comes to rest making the couch look like a tissue after being dabbed on an open cut.
Two night runners jostle at the door before entering and climb over their fallen member. More shove from behind and the entire doorway is filled with pushing night runners. The multitude of screams outside tells me that many more are outside. The vast number is more than I anticipated, although I know I should quit anticipating anything with them. I switch my M-4 to semi as I worry about the ammo. Running low has happened too many times now – and once being too many.
I center my dot on one coming over the body and couch and put just enough pressure on the trigger to break it. A flash in the hallway signals another bullet exiting the suppressor. The round speeds toward the night runner and hits it in its left cheek, entering the cavity of the mouth as if unobstructed. The back molars and side teeth splinter into tiny shards leaving just the stumps and roots attached to the gums. The round then angles upward slightly before slamming into the lower part of the skull and breaks apart with the largest part of the bullet exiting out just above the ear. The skin flaps open and splatters a coating of blood on the foyer wall. The night runner’s head is slammed against the same wall with a solid thud and slumps backward, coming to rest on its back along the back of the couch.
Only registering the hit in the back of my mind, I switch to the second night runner scrambling over the couch and discharge another projectile. The shot hits the clavicle and angles upward into its throat. Blood splashes outward in all directions as major arteries and veins are hit and the night runner falls forward, its head hitting the tiled entryway with a solid smack. It lies still with it feet resting on the first night runner and blood quickly forms a large puddle on the floor.
Night runners pour in behind these first three. I’m not going to be able to hold them back with mere single shots. I switch to auto once again and hope that my rounds last longer than the night runners. The roar from the host is deafening as the sound waves concentrate down the narrow hallway. I begin placing bursts into the crowd that is pushing their way inside, no longer worrying about killing shots. Bodies are piling up on the couch and by the kitchen entry, but their entry is coming faster than I can put them down. Like an incoming tide, they are slowly gaining ground. I faintly register the sound of my spent cartridges hitting the wall next to me. Each time I reload, they gain even more ground. The empty mags are accumulating at my knee like the night runners piling up on the couch and floor beyond.
“How many of you fuckers are there?” I say under my breath.
“Jack, are you okay?” Lynn asks. Kind of forgot I had set my radio to VOX.
“Yeah. I think they’re fucking breeding out here,” I reply not interrupting my fire or diverting my attention.
The night runners gain ground to the hallway entry. Seriously, how many are there? I think jamming another mag into the lower receiver. The time distortion, which comes on when it seemingly feels like it, is sorely missing here. I would so love for things to slow down but they seem to be speeding up instead. I notice a couple of night runners race behind the front line and off into the living room to the right. Uh oh. If they get into the bathroom and come out the door just scant few feet in front of me, I’m done for.
The mass enters the hallway and are met by the steel propelled from my carbine. I reach for another mag and slam it home allowing them to gain a few additional feet. The stink of unwashed bodies and gunpowder rises to my nose. The glow of the night runner’s skin in my goggles and the shine from their night-vision-enhanced eyes is downright spooky. Even scarier is how many there are and how close they have gotten. A slam against the bathroom door just in front jars me. As if that were not a bad enough sign, shattering glass behind me catches my immediate and direct attention.
I stand and take a step back into the bedroom without altering my fire. I hear two bursts of fire come from the closet. I glance to my side and see a night runner, that somehow climbed onto the patio, pitch back through the hanging blinds. The blinds part as the night runner blows through them and they swing back together immediately as if wanting to keep the result secret; making the night runner appear as if it dove into a pool and disappeared beneath the surface. The only proof that anything happened at all is the blinds still swinging back and forth.
“Thanks,” I say focusing back on the hall.
“You’re welcome, Dad,” Roberts says.
“No worries, Jack,” Lynn responds. “How’s it going out there?”
“Getting a little sporty,” I reply.
The glance only took a moment and looking back, the bathroom door bows and then explodes outward. I’m standing at the bedroom door and see multiple heads crowding the hallway but can’t ascertain how many. Some is all my mind registers. Night runners emerge from the bathroom and into the hallway, ahead of the line already there.
“Oh hell no! You don’t get to do that,” I say out loud and squeeze a burst into the first one.
It takes the burst in the side of its chest. Blood erupts from its mouth and nostrils and the rounds devastate its lungs and interior of its chest region. It pitches forward into the opposite wall face first and falls to the floor leaving a smear of blood trailing down the wall. The night runner behind trips over the fallen one’s legs as more rounds leave my barrel and rush toward it. The strobing flashes light up the hallway and the creatures, showing the surprise and pain registering on the stumbling night runner’s face as the fast-moving rounds connect. The power of the impacting bullets launches it backward into the ones trying to get closer. My bolt locks to the rear. Oh fuck! Not good!
I don’t have time to reload. I drop the M-4 and step backwards reaching for the M-9 at my side. Bringing it up, I get one shot off before being body slammed by a running night runner. The impact knocks me off my feet and I’m driven backwards. The pistol is knocked from my grasp by the strength of the collision. The surprise is complete as my mind only records the fact that I am on the way to the floor with a night runner on me. My mind screams, Noooooo! as the additional thought registers that my kids are now exposed to the danger and I’m not up and able to help them.
The great fear turns to anger as I hit the ground on my back. The impact with the floor nearly knocks the wind out of me. My left arm is between me and the night runner on top. I slide my forearm up to its throat to keep the snarling and growling face from me. Putrid breath launches an assault of its own against my senses. I push upward with all my might but the night runner has a good position on me and I can’t get any leverage. The only thing I can do is attempt to keep its gnashing teeth from penetrating my skin.
My right leg is free. I bend my knee and reach down to grab my knife strapped to the outside of my ankle. The leverage is tough to hold while reaching down but I manage to pull the knife free of its sheath. I hear a small scream and several bursts from the other M-4’s. The thought that my kids are in trouble angers me even further. I plunge the knife in under the ribs and twist. The writhing night runner on top of me howls as I withdraw the knife and plunge it in again. A spurt of blood comes out of its mouth that is only inches away from my face. It pushes down against my arm, growls once more, and then goes limp.
“Get the fuck off me,” I say pushing the night runner off and to the side.
Sitting up, I am immediately slammed to the ground again. Fear, adrenaline, and anger course through me. Another night runner has slammed me onto my back and is on top with its head by my chest. My left arm is trapped between the night runner and myself. It claws at my neck and I feel the stinging pain of my skin being ripped on the left side. I feel the weight on top of me double as another night runner’s face appears over the shoulder of the one immediately above me.
I can’t move and can barely breathe. My jaw clenches and I feel a surge of anger. “Okay, you’re seriously starting to piss me off,” I yell and stab my knife into the closest one’s neck.
The top of my blade emerges from the other side of its neck cutting through tendons and cartilage. Blood leaks out of its mouth and nose, dripping onto me. Its growling turns into a gargle and I feel the warm blood gush over my hand and flow onto my chest. I remove the knife and jets of blood spurts twice before I feel the night runner become a dead weight on me.
The other night runner is trying to get down to me but isn’t able to with the dead one between us. I also don’t have a very good angle on it. It reaches over its dead comrade attempting to claw my face and neck. As it reaches its hand upward toward me, I stab upward under its armpit. The howling shriek turns into a scream of pain as my knife penetrates that very tender place. The armpit is a source of many nerves and the arteries of the arm run just under the surface of the skin. I twist the blade and feel jets of warm blood spray against my hand. I twist and push my knife blade again. The night runner arches up howling and struggles to get away from the point of my blade buried deep under its arm. Its yells of agony fade and it collapses across me to the side.
“Get..the..fuck..off..me,” I mumble straining to push the night runners off me.
“Dad, are you okay?” Robert asks.
“Yeah, just fucking peachy,” I answer giving a final push.
I finally manage to heave them to the side and scramble back to my feet. A few night runners lie on the floor in front of the closet entrance with one half in and half out of the entry itself. Two more night runners stand by the bedroom door. A glance behind them shows the hallway clear.
“Hold your fire,” I say as the two start for me, my roar meeting with theirs.
The two night runners rush, one behind the other. I take a step forward and meet them, going to a crouch just prior to contact. I rise forcefully and drive my shoulder into the front one’s chest, halting its forward momentum. I grab the night runner by the neck, drive it backward into the one behind, and thrust my knife under its sternum. I feel the warm sensation of blood run down the haft and onto my hand once again. I tighten my grip as the handle has become slippery. A turn of the blade and I move the night runner to the side. I duck under a swiping reach of the second one behind. Coming up as its arm sweeps over my head, I drive my knife into its neck. I lower my head just prior to my blade penetrating to prevent splashes of blood coating the lenses of my goggles.
I feel a slight resistance in my arm as my point meets the tender skin and drives inward. Blood splashes across my forehead. Putting my shoulder into the thrust, my knife plunges further into the night runner’s neck and comes to a stop against its spine. I withdraw the blade, step forward putting my right leg behind its right ankle, and push with my shoulder. My push trips it and sends it to the floor where it hits with a thump flat on its back. It lies gargling for a moment and then is silent.
I turn to the sound of the patio door blinds stirring. Another night runner darts into the room. I’m blocking the closet door so Robert and Lynn can’t fire at the new intruder. It stops a couple of feet inside, thrusts its head forward and shrieks. The scream fills the smallish room to the point that it seems the walls shake with its intensity. Rage and adrenaline still fills me like a heated glow but there is a numbness and calm accompanying it as well. I feel like I’m wrapped in a heated void. I hold my arms out to the side with my knife dripping blood, thrust forward in a similar manner, and roar back at it. A startled look crosses its features as I step towards it. It turns and darts back through the blinds. I hear a sickening thud and crack issue mutely from outside followed by a scream of pain.
I check the hall and front doorway to find them empty of any further attempts to invade the apartment. Walking to the patio, I step through the shattered glass door and look down at the driveway to the rear. The night is silent. Below, the night runner that fled is crawling slowly across the pavement having apparently leapt off the balcony and broke one or both of its legs on impact. I walk back in, grab my M-4 off the floor where I dropped it, and put a fresh mag in – my last one. Flicking the release, the bolt drives home, chambering a round.
Returning outside and clearing the area, I put the sight on 2x and center the crosshairs on the night runner. I continue to stare at the creature slowly and painfully crawling across the dark pavement for a moment. The thought of leaving it to deal with the dawn coming a few hours away runs briefly through my mind. The fear turned to anger is rapidly disappearing as the danger recedes and I feel a little sorry for the night runner below me. Regardless of the situation prior, no person, animal, or other deserves to be in pain or to suffer needlessly. With the crosshair centered, I send a fast-moving projectile into its head, bringing its crawling, and its agony, to a sudden halt.