The patrol car idled on the side of Route 4, a road normally described as desolate at best. Flanked by prairie on either side, Route 4 cut through the feeding lands of most of the town’s cattle. From time to time a falling apart shack would break up the monotony, but that was replaced by tumbleweed and short untended grass.
Under the red sky and with smoke plumes rising over the horizon, the rural road was an oasis. Roan picked a flower with eight points from the dirt along the shoulder.
“Anyone know what this flower is called?” Flint asked.
“I’ve always known it as road flower. My house is not the most creative branch of the Fletchers,” Celia said.
“It’s the Honey Moon. A species of sunflower. Let that sink in,” the sheriff answered.
Roan laughed and rose from the side of the road.
“Got it. Let’s head to my house,” Roan said. He handed the flower to Flint and the small band returned to the rumbling car.
The Sheriff drove for Roan’s family home back in town. No one spoke. Roan rested an elbow on the window next to his seat and held his face in his hand. He stared over the field. The fence of little more than chicken wire and four by four posts older than he was had never been comforting before. He imagined that in all the long history of human existence a fence had never been viewed with a smile, but here he was smirking at the little piece of normalcy that remained.
He tried not to look at the blood red sky above.
“Do you know where the cauldron is, Roan?” Celia asked.
“Should be in the garage. We keep our Halloween decorations near the back, stacked up in neat little piles of clear boxes. My mom’s doing I promise you. If dad had his way there would never be a season without spooky décor covering our yard,” Roan answered.
“So we start in the garage. I think this is our first plan all day,” Flint said.
“We had a plan at Grandpa’s house. Don’t get eaten by the basement zombie,” Celia said.
“That wasn’t a plan. Anytime you are facing a basement zombie the goal is to not be eaten. Plans are made ahead of time,” Flint replied.
“Well if the default goal is to not be eaten, does that not make it a plan?” Celia countered.
Flint had no response and gave a conceding shrug.
“How about you and Roan head into the garage and Celia and I will stay out front to keep watch? Is that plan enough?” The sheriff offered.
“I’m good with that,” Roan said. And that was the end of the matter. The car made its way into town and onto Roan’s street.
It was foreign. Homes were burning, sidewalks were uplifted; the landscape would have unrecognizable if not for the street signs that somehow remained upright.
Roan looked forward taking in the destruction. There would be one incredible cleanup project after this was all said and done.
The Sheriff slowed as Roan’s home came into view.
“That’s a lot of cars in the driveway,” The sheriff said. “Every other drive we have been by has been empty. People are trying to get out of town, not congregate within the rows of housing.”
“Pull over!” shouted Roan. He watched a human figure move outside the house. The sheriff stopped the car, seeing little point in pulling over. Traffic was not a big concern at this moment.
“Zombie?” Flint asked, his voice noticeable terrified at the thought of a repeated encounter.
“Worse,” Roan said. “Grandpa.”
The four stepped out of the car and walked slowly to childhood home, hiding behind whatever abandoned car or road detritus would conceal their movement. If the figure was that of the Fletcher patriarch, they needed to be cautious.
Roan approached his house from the east, knowing the neighbor’s fence would be able to hide him well once he was close enough. He waved for the others to follow his lead. Flint and Celia fell in line behind the Sheriff who walked with her revolver ready to go.
The grass of the neighbor’s home was always the envy of the neighborhood. Perfectly cropped, never higher than an inch or two and while the entire street would spend summers fighting dandelions, Roan’s neighbors had not seen a weed in decades. A patch of grass near the street had caught fire and was slowly working its way through the rest of the field. He did not like the circumstances, but his neighbors were always so smug about their lawn care practices.
He stepped closer to his own home and started recognizing some of the trucks in front of his house. His mom’s Buick was gone, but the family Ford was sitting in the driveway. The black GMC belonging to Uncle Marv was in front too. What surprised him most was the presence of sedans belonging to the elder Eastman family. Roan had never seen an Eastman at his home, but here were three cars all a deep red with personalized plates that were known to be the main vehicles of the oldest Eastmans in town.
Roan peered around the fence and his jaw dropped.
Six figures clad in the same cloaks from his dream were lifting the cauldron from its place in the garage into truck.
He turned away and spoke those that followed him.
“We need a plan B.”
Thanks for reading!
Read the story so far at these links: