The End: Story Two
In the Heartland Part 4 – The Conclusion

By: David K. Montoya

I traveled through the farm as quickly as I could. It was still dark out by the time I had reached the house and made it back inside. Everything was as I had left it. Vince remained passed out, with his shotgun and wine jug, downstairs. On the second story I heard random giggles and moans. It appeared to have come from Renee's Room, but I truly did not want to know if my assumptions were right or not, so I just moved past the room and tried to mind my own business.

By the time I had reached my room I could barely stand. It was my body's way of letting me know that I was in my forties and not my twenties. I checked on my son before I called it a night. He seemed to be all right, fast asleep, something that I should have been doing.

Finally, I lowered myself down on top of my makeshift bed of a sleeping bag and a few blankets on top of that for a little padding. As I stretched out, my bones popped and ached; again, letting me know that I had been awake for well over twenty hours and it was time for me to sleep.

I lie there for a short time as I tried to sleep, but what I had seen at the barn was too fresh in my mind and had to be replayed before I could drift off to sleep.

#

I suddenly awoke to a blood curdling scream! When I sat up I saw Michael leaning against the door as he tried to prevent someone from coming in. At first I thought it was Peter Junior, that he must have learned about the Unlucky down at the pond. I got to my feet and ran to the door to help my son.

I asked him if he knew what was happening or who was on the other side of the door. Mike told me that a pack of Unluckys had come from nowhere and raided the farm. When he heard the first scream, the demons were already at the doorway. If it weren't for whoever was screaming, he and I would have been breakfast for those beasts!

I ran back over to where I had been sleeping and fetched up the fire axe I had found back at the bus. While I quickly slipped on my boots I told Michael that when I gave him the signal he was to open the door. I would run out swinging and he should follow close behind. We swung open the door to find an Unlucky. Before it could react, I buried the blade of the axe into the monster's forehead. I ripped it away from the creature's skull and pressed forward. We had only moved a handful of steps before another Unlucky charged toward us. However, before it was able to reach us, the beast's skull erupted into an explosion of bone, blood and brain matter.

As its lifeless body fell to the ground, I saw Rose holding a pistol behind it. I asked her where she got it. With a mischievous smirk, my sister explained that she had lifted it off of Daniel while they were crammed in the back of the horse–driven buggy. Rose's face became serious as she told me that she was wrong about staying at the farm and was sorry about what was said to me yesterday.

I told her that all was forgiven and we would have plenty of time once we all got out of there. The three of us traveled up the hallway with caution. We were halfway up the hall when we came upon Alvin's dead body. It appeared that he had been eaten alive, mainly his hefty midsection. That entire area had been cleaned down to the bone.

Michael noticed that Alvin still had a gun in his hand. He reached over and pulled it from the dead man's fingers. My son glanced at the firearm and then began to shake his head. Mike held up the handgun and pointed to it as he explained that the safety was still on. I told him to check the corpse for any clips, which he found in the pants pocket.

We were almost to the stairwell when we heard screams come from a nearby room. I knew who was in there and, for a brief moment, I thought about leaving them to fend for themselves. But my conscience got the better part of me. I walked over to the door; I told them to get away from the door and then I kicked it open.

Just as I had guessed, it was Arturo and Renee. One of them tried to explain why they were together in the room, but I cut them off and told them that none of us were fools, so there was no need for an explanation. A wave of anger came over me as I saw the two of them together. I tried to calm myself and walked away from them, but I realized that I had such a tight grip on the handle of the axe that it was slightly trembling.

When I turned away from them and toward the staircase, all of a sudden, Linnie, who was completely covered in blood, came at me screaming wildly. Instinctively my arm lunged forward and the blade of my axe met with his skull splitting it in half.

Linnie's lifeless body fell backward and tumbled down the stairs. Once I was certain he would not get up, I signaled the others to follow as I made my way down the staircase. As we advanced further down, Arturo questioned as to why I did what I had done. I didn't answer right away. Once we got to the first floor level we came upon the boy's corpse. I flipped him over with my foot then turned to Arturo.

I pointed to the scales on the boy and explained that, although none of us were able to immediately tell, Linnie had become a freshly turned Unlucky and if I had not killed him he would have slaughtered each of us without a second thought or any remorse.

We moved through the house and found it to be eerily quiet. Everyone's nerves were on edge; none of us knew who was still alive or just exactly how many Unluckys were running around the place. My mind flashed back to earlier in the lab, then to the incident at the pond. Everything seemed so weird.

As we passed the kitchen, I was pulled away from my thoughts by the sound of my son's voice as he screamed to get down!

When I turned to see what was going on, I saw an Unlucky tackle Rose! She was face down and the beast was on top of her as it swung wildly at the back of her head. I ran over to them and grabbed the demon by the throat. The Unlucky turned away from my sister and took a lethal swipe toward me. With my free hand I severed the beast's arm. Blood flowed from the stub and the creature began to strike at me with its other hand.

The Unlucky moaned and hissed as I clinched my hold tighter around its throat. The Unlucky took a wild swing and sliced open my arm with its nails. Without thought I hurled the demon into the nearby wall. The beast's head spewed blood as it struck the surface, leaving a dark tarry path as the body slid down the wall.

I slowly walked up to the Unlucky; it did not move a muscle and at first I was unsure if the monster was alive or dead. I grabbed it by the hair of the head and pulled the demon's head up to make sure the creature was in fact dead. Its eyes shot open and the demon began to hiss at me, but it did not make a move. I then realized that I must have broken the Unlucky's spine when I threw it into the wall. I let go of the hair and the head dropped to the ground, but the demon never stopped hissing or trying to take a bite out of me. As it laid there snapping at my foot I recognized the beast's face. It was the young boy, Daniel.

For a brief moment, I felt pity for the poor kid, but as he snapped at me once more my pity turned to anger and I realized that the man known as Daniel was dead. The only remains left were the mindless flesh eating demon that laid before me.

I pulled the fire axe out from under my belt, I held the handle tight within my hands then I swung the axe down with all my might, severing the beast's head from the rest of his body. Its demonic blood erupted from the open wound, but something was different.

The Unlucky's blood smelled horrible! The stench reminded me of raw sewage, but why? I had slayed many of these monsters and never had any one of them produced a smell like this. I knelt down next to the corpse and dipped two of my fingers into the puddle of blood that had collected around the severed head.

As soon as my fingers touched the blood they began to burn as if I had dipped them into a pool of acid. I pulled my hand away and wiped off the oil–like substance and found my fingers were burned. I quickly stepped back as the blood began to eat away the body. It took mere moments before nothing was left but his clothes.

Utterly baffled, I turned away from where the body had been and went over to Rose and helped her back to her feet. I checked the back of her head; fortunately none of the lacerations were serious. Thankfully, her thick hair had acted as a barrier between the Unlucky's claws and her skull.

We rejoined the others and had only gone a few feet before another Unlucky darted from out of the kitchen. Right away, I recognized it as one of the pregnant Unlucky's that was back in the barn house earlier. The monster was nothing like I had ever seen. Its swollen belly was huge! The beast appeared to be carrying a whole pack of baby demons.

Before I could react, the Unlucky jumped and knocked me to the ground, causing me to lose my axe. I was completely off guard from the surprise attack. By the time I was fully aware of what had just happened, the enraged Unlucky had sliced up my face with its claw–like nails. I fought with the monster while I tried to get back to my feet, but the beast was too heavy for me to push away.

While I was wrestling with the demon, the pain from the attack on my face struck me like an electric shock. Each cut stung as if someone had poured salt into the wounds. My eyes began to water from the agonizing pain and things started to become blurry.

I tried to push harder but the pregnant beast would not move. Then I began to lose my strength as my frustration built. The demon came down at me and tried to bite at me. I grabbed it under the jaw with one hand and by the hair of its head with the other, just stopping it inches from my face.

The smell of her rotten breath turned my stomach as it tried to snap at me. Then, with no warning, the Unlucky's head exploded. Instantly I got to my feet and wiped away the blood as it began to burn my skin. When I turned to look at what had happened, I saw Michael was holding a shotgun. Before I could ask where he got the weapon, he pointed at a gun cabinet.

I saw that there were three more rifles remaining. I told the others to grab a weapon along with as many shells they could carry. Michael walked over and tried to hand me the shotgun, but I refused. I explained that I had my fire axe and there was no need to give me his weapon.

After everyone was armed and had plenty of ammo we moved on into the living room. There we found the remains of a half eaten Vince. The Unluckys must have gotten to him while he was still asleep. The poor guy was in the same place that he was in when I came in from earlier. The wine jug and shotgun were down on the ground. I walked by and picked up the gun. The barrel was cold; it hadn't been fired in a long time. He never even got a round off.

I sat the shotgun back down and leaned in, slowly working the bandolier off of the corpse. I had it half way off when the top half of the body toppled to the ground. At that point I saw there was no need to be gentle with the remains and pulled the bandolier off the top half of the carcass and put it on. I grabbed up the gun and rejoined the others who stood away from the body.

The next sets of bodies were those of Jeremy and Nancy. They were only a few feet from the front door, but obviously they did not make it out. Both of them were a pile of bloody, half eaten flesh. They were in better condition than Vince and must have been attacked by the Unlucky that killed Vince.

We continued on. At the front door we heard the sounds of a loud ruckus outside. I flung open the door and found PJ, his sister Francine, and their father, Dr. Vaughan, who now appeared to be a freshly turned Unlucky. He had his children pinned to a nearby tree. If either of them were to move, the good doctor would skin them alive.

Michael fired one round that hit Vaughan in the back of his head, erupting out his forehead. The doctor collapsed in front of his children. Francine dropped to her knees next to her father and began to weep, but Peter Junior expressed anger instead of sorrow. He screamed profanities our way, calling us murderers, saying that his sister could have helped his father, but we had shown gratitude for saving my son's life by taking his.

Finally he screamed out to Michael that since he took PJ's father from him, now Junior was going to take me from my son. Junior took off running in my direction. I met him at the steps in front of the house. He took a wild swing, which cost him dearly as I countered, burying the axe deep into his cranium. Like his father, he fell to his death.

#

It was mid afternoon when we finished loading the school bus. Some of us had gone through the house to take whatever we could use along the way to Haven. The others buried all of the dead out by a large oak tree in the front yard. All of us met at the fresh burial ground. I found Michael and Francine at Dr. Vaughan's grave.

Francine was sobbing. I wanted to say something but what? I'm sorry for your loss, although it's my fault that they're both dead? Then I saw my son put his arm around her and pull her to him so she could mourn while he comforted her. I realized at that moment that I would not have to say anything. Michael had already done it for me.

I waited a few moments before I approached the two. Francine had her face buried in my son's chest when I came up to them. I told them that it was time to get going, Michael turned to me and said that Francine would like to go with us as we made our way to Haven, and was it alright?

I looked deep into my son's eyes and saw the nervousness, and the fear. I had to smile at Michael. Despite the fact that he had faced countless hoards of dangerous Unluckys, it took every nerve in his body to ask that one question. It made me reflect back when I was in his shoes. I was shaking in my boots as I asked Michael's Grandparents if my wife, (then girlfriend) could come live with us. Of course the situations were totally different, but the fear was all the same, and I respected that. For the first time I no longer saw my son as a child, but more of a young man. I told them that of course she was welcome to join us on our adventure to Haven. He gave me a big smile of relief and thanked me. I told them that they were both welcome but we needed to get going because a storm was coming in and we needed to be out of the state before it got too bad for traveling; after all, the bus did not have a windshield.

Francine asked if we could go to the barn before all of us left. She explained that there was a lot of vital information about a possible cure for the mutating sickness. I could not have passed up on that opportunity for the world and agreed to visit the barn house on one stipulation that I was allowed to join her as she collected her information.

#

A light drizzle started once we got to the barn house. Fran showed us a secret dirt track to take so we could get the bus there. As we came upon the building, the front doors were wide open. Michael and I grabbed our weapons and unloaded from our vehicle, with Francine following behind. She explained that we would be able to get in and out quickly, because all of the information was kept in the same place. When the three of us walked inside we found the entire complex in complete shambles. It appeared that someone had beaten us to the barn. There was not an inch of space that hadn't been upturned. Francine began to weep again. Before my son or I could ask what was the matter, she explained that most of her adult life was spent in the barn and now it was all gone.

While we continued to explore the remains, Fran told us stories of her and her father, and how they would spend countless hours researching all types of leads that one day could lead them to a cure. They studied the pregnant Unluckys and their fetuses. I boldly asked her exactly where specimens came from.

She asked if we were ready for what she was about to say. Fran explained that the Unluckys were friends or family members and they discovered that the only time a demon would become fertile enough to conceive was two days after the specimen became an Unlucky. Her brother, Peter Junior, would meet them at the pond, he would drug them with LDM so that he could do his thing.

Many of the creatures gave birth to normal, healthy children, but the offspring infected, as well as ones who weren't, died in only a week. For years they studied the babies to determine why some were born normal and others weren't. The two of them had done so much work together that over time; Fran began to understand the more advanced part of the research that Dr. Vaughan was doing. Although Francine did not have any formal medical training, her father had educated her to everything he knew.

A short time later we reached the back of the complex, near where the pregnant Unluckys had been chained. As I walked over to examine the site, I found a dead monster that was still shackled, its stomach had been ripped open and everything had been removed, most likely eaten by other demons.

Francine and Michael disappeared behind a divider while I stuck around out front to keep an eye out for any unwanted visitors. I spent the time examining the body a little further. There were no other wounds except for the stomach. I wondered why was this one was attacked but not any of the other beasts.

I spotted a set of bloody footprints next to the body. I followed them until I found their origin as which time, my stomach twisted into a tight knot. What faced me was the Plexiglas chamber that held all of the male Unluckys. There was a large gaping hole in the glass where I had plunged my axe into earlier that morning.

An overwhelming feeling of guilt swept over me. My god, what had I done? Were all of these deaths because of me; was all of this my fault? I needed to get out of there and told Mike and Fran it was time to go. A few moments later they returned from behind the divider wall, both of them held large volumes of what I presumed to be the research on the cure for the sickness.

I took the texts from my son, as well as Fran, and rushed them back into the bus. I told the two that we needed to get a move on because the storm was getting worse, but the truth was I wanted to get out of there before I was killed by my guilt.

Once again we were all loaded inside the bus. I eased the gear–shift into drive and slowly moved away from the barn. When the vehicle got on the main dirt road I accelerated and crossed the width of the farm in mere minutes. As I approached the main gates I looked up at my rear view mirror at the others. They all sat there without speaking a single word. That's the way it would be until we were miles from Haven.

To be continued…

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