The Dead Parade, страница 1
THE DEAD PARADE
A Novel by
JAMES ROY DALEY
This book is a work of fiction. All characters, events, dialog and situations in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
THE DEAD PARADE
Survival is not an Option
Copyright 2008 by James Roy Daley
Book Design by James Roy Daley
Cover Design by Cynthia Gould
Cover Art by Nicolas Caesar
FIRST EBOOK EDITION
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
BOOKS of the DEAD
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* * *
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BOOKS of the DEAD
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BEST NEW ZOMBIE TALES (VOL. 3)
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BEST NEW VAMPIRE TALES (VOL. 1)
MATT HULTS - HUSK
MATT HULTS - ANYTHING CAN BE DANGEROUS
JAMES ROY DALEY - TERROR TOWN
JAMES ROY DALEY - 13 DROPS OF BLOOD
JAMES ROY DALEY - INTO HELL
JAMES ROY DALEY - THE DEAD PARADE
GARY BRANDNER - THE HOWLING
GARY BRANDNER - THE HOWLING II
GARY BRANDNER - THE HOWLING III
PAUL KANE - PAIN CAGES
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Table of Contents
The Dead Parade
Preview: Gary Brandner’s - The Howling
Preview: Gary Brandner’s - The Howling II
Preview: Gary Brandner’s - The Howling III
Preview: James Roy Daley’s - Terror Town
Preview: Matt Hults’ - Husk
Preview: James Roy Daley’s - Into Hell
Preview: Paul Kane’s - Pain Cages
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This novel is dedicated to my Mom and Dad.
Thank you for always being there for me.
I love you both very much.
I suggest you stop reading now.
In a few pages all hell breaks loose.
THE DEAD PARADE
Survival is not an Option
Joseph gripped the wheel and Penny screamed. Headlights, larger than most, blinded both of them. Joseph tried to say something, anything, but his mouth opened and the words stayed locked inside his throat. It didn’t matter. There was nothing to say and no one would have heard him anyhow. Penny’s voice had become a high-pitched siren that dominated all potential discussion.
In the backseat of the car was little Mathew. A moment before he was juggling between singing and drinking. Sing––slurp. Sing––slurp. Then came the grim sound of his mother’s bellow. This caused his concentration to falter and his juice box to slip from his fingers. The box slid along his t-shirt and bounced over the strap that held him. The straw designed to pierce the box hung from Mathew’s lips, dripping purple sap.
He wondered if there was a monster in the front seat. Somehow it seemed very possible. If there was a monster, maybe it was eating his mother. Monsters can do that, he considered. Every kid worth two cents plus three cents knows that.
Being too small see over the front seat, the headlights of the oncoming vehicle did not blind Mathew. His eyes, round and bulging, remained sheltered from the glare as they danced between his mother and father. He didn’t comprehend the problem, but knew something was wrong. Mommy never sounded like that before. She never sounded like she was being eaten alive.
Joseph cranked the wheel to his left, which seemed to be his best option. His decision came a little too late; the truck would not be avoided. Impact was imminent.
Mathew’s hands moved towards his ears, knocking the straw from his lips. He inhaled deeply, preparing his throat for a cry that would never come.
The vehicles collided with a CRUNCH and the world became a blur.
Mathew’s body lunged forward and his seatbelt locked, strangling him like it hated him.
On Joseph’s side of the car the steering wheel folded into a strange and misshapen zero. On Penny’s side, her intense and dominating scream came to an abrupt and horrific halt. The windshield shattered as both parents went through. The pavement would be stained red for weeks.
After the accident came darkness. And for what seemed like a long time, Mathew was lost in nothing.
Anne handed James a tissue. He took it and thanked her. A sniff and a sigh later he stood up and walked across the clinical room, telling himself that he wouldn’t cry. He wouldn’t. Not for a second longer, dammit. He was thirty-three years old, not thirteen, and this was no way for a thirty-three year old man to act. Not here. Not now. Not in front of his mother.
The bullshit self-declaration seemed to work and his sniveling briefly subsided. But even as James pulled his act together he could feel another wave of grief coming. The gloomy hand of misery was peeking its fingers around the corners of his mind, squashing his half-hearted vow like a steamroller over a sandcastle. The circumstances were dreadful: Joseph and Penny were dead. Mathew’s life was hanging by a very thin thread.
He began to cry again.
* * *
A minute came and went. James took a deep breath, listening to the sounds of the hospital as he glanced at his mother.
Anne looked traumatized and pale. Her depressing and confounded stature was tragic. Just seeing a person this way made James feel miserable. He thought his heart would break.
She lost her first-born son, he thought. Wow.
Anne said, “There, there,” giving James motherly comfort the way she always had––with queer, half-thought sentences that didn’t mean much. There, there. Lordie, lordie. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Anne had a million of them.
“I’m okay,” James said.
“Of course you are,” Anne replied, and before she could say anything more, James and Anne were interrupted by a phone call.
James pulled his cell from his pocket. “Hello.”
“Hi James. It’s me, Johnny.” His voice was cold, almost businesslike.
“Oh, hi Johnny.”
“I need you to come over here right now. It’s an emergency.”
James expelled an exaggerated mouthful of air. “I’m sorry John, but I can’t. I have an emergency of my own. A big one.” He felt his tears brimming, and he was about to go on, explain the accident, piece the tragedy together the best way he could.
Johnny didn’t allow it. He said, “If you don’t come to my place I’ll kill myself. I swear it. I’ll kill myself and it’ll be your fault.”
Johnny hung up. And when James called back, Johnny didn’t answer.
Anne sat in the corner of the room, beneath a television that was attached to a bracket that was bolted to the concrete wall, far away from the IV, the perfectly sterile sheets of the hospital bed, and an off-white curtain that divided the room in half. Seeing the expression James made at the end of the call, she knew something was up. Something troublesome.
She said, “You okay?”
“Yeah,” James responded broodingly.
“Are you going somewhere?”
In Anne’s left hand she held a tattered copy of the Bible. A rosary strangled the fingers on her right. Her knuckles were colorless. Her gray hair was pulled into a bun showcasing ears without jewelry. Her eyes looked tired and swollen. Worse of all, they
But it seemed to James––as his mother rocked back and forth in her chair, knocking her heels together fretfully––that she was being the strong one this morning, defeated eyes and all. Mother had finished her crying. Oh yes. She let it out in one big bawl. Now her emotions were under control, fully managed, and completely organized. James figured she’d stay that way ‘til the day was done.
* * *
Anne prayed, initiating a silence that lasted ten minutes. Finishing her twenty-first Hail Mary, her swollen-knuckle fingers shifted from one rosary bead to the next. “You’re going to take care of him, James,” she said, after finishing a prayer. “I can’t. I’m too old. I can’t raise another. Not now. Not again.”
James nodded his head and closed his eyes. His hands became fists.
“He needs someone young,” she continued, “and Lord knows he needs to be with someone that loves him, with family. You know the boy needs a father. It’s as clear as the walls around us. It’s as clear as the sky above. He needs you, James. Mathew needs you. It’s time to step up and do what’s right. It’s time to act like a man and do what you were born to do. It’s time for you to raise that boy.”
James felt his nerves giving. “Let’s talk about it later.”
“There’s nothing more to talk about.”
James sighed. “Sure Mom. Whatever you say. But let’s talk later, okay?”
Anne closed her eyes and lowered her head.
Unrolling his fists, James eyed the boy in the hospital bed solemnly––the boy with the bruises on his face, two broken legs, a crushed hand, five broken ribs, a bruised spine, a dead mother, a dead father, and all of his front teeth smashed from his mouth; his six-year-old nephew––Mathew––the only person expected to survive the accident.
He kissed his mother and said good-bye.
He would never see her again.
James stepped into the hallway. Like a single-minded herd, his family and friends approached him with fake-smile faces and slumped shoulders. They hugged him, shook his hand, and offered condolences. They said things like, It isn’t fair and I can’t believe this is happening. James countered with, Thanks for coming and I can’t believe it either. Soon the condolences turned to questions and questions turned to inquiry. James found himself wishing he had stayed in the room. Oh well. Out of the frying pan and all that jazz.
Once the questioning settled, James walked past the nurse’s station, an open concept waiting room, and a row of vending machines. He considered buying some chocolate, decided against it, and approached an elevator with his eyes sweeping the patterned floor. He hit a button. Before long he was in-and-out of the elevator and standing on the main floor. Then he was outside. Then he was inside his car, driving across the hospital parking lot and away from it all.
He checked his watch: 11 am.
The day was warm, the sun was shining, and the wind blew with considerable strength. James remembered the weatherman mentioning a storm. Somehow it didn’t fit; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
It was time to visit Johnny.
* * *
James knocked two times, waited a few seconds, and was about to knock again when the front door swung open.
Standing in the doorway, Johnny looked at James with a blank stare and little emotion. He didn’t look good. His sunken red eyes seemed to be glossed-over from a lack of sleep. His hair was matted, crusted to the side of his head in a greased, savage frenzy. His skin was pale and his clothing was dirty. His teeth were grimy and stained. He had cuts around his eyes that seemed to create a design of some kind.
James wondered if the wounds were self-inflicted.
Johnny’s image gave James a discomfited feeling, making him feel like an unwanted guest. But James wasn’t unwanted, was he? With his mind shifting gears, James re-evaluated his visit. What’s going on? he wondered. Is Johnny upset with me?
After a confused bout of reflection, James came to a conclusion: he sized things up incorrectly. After all, Johnny invited him over––forced him over, actually. And it couldn’t be time to go already. He hadn’t even said hello.
“Johnny,” James whispered, sounding apologetic. “You okay?”
Johnny exhaled; his eyes became puffed slits. He leaned against a wall, listening to something. But what was it?
Soon enough James was listening too. He listened to the sounds of the house, the street behind, and the birds in the sky. But there was nothing to hear––nothing unusual that is, just small-town silence and the everyday sounds that surrounded it.
Five full seconds passed before Johnny’s eyelids opened wide enough to let the late-morning sunshine in. He rubbed his face, cleared his throat, and said, “James, I’m glad you came.”
James fabricated half a smile. “Of course I came, buddy,” he said, wondering if beneath his white shirt and his black tie he looked as ghastly as Johnny. It was possible. He had a rough morning that he hadn’t even begun to come to terms with. “Are you okay? You look a little…”
The wind blew stronger, causing the trees to sway, the grass to rustle, and the door to swing open. Once the door was open it squeaked and rattled inside its rusty hinges.
“I’m tired.” Johnny said unresponsively, letting the door sway.
“I was going to say that. You look tired. Have you been sleeping?”
Ignoring the question, Johnny said, “I’m hungry, did you bring food?”
James felt his nerves give and he laughed uncomfortably, sounding like a fool. “No,” he said. “I don’t have food. But I’m thinking… I might be hungry too. I could eat. You want to order a pizza, or go somewhere… a restaurant maybe? What do you think? Wanna do lunch?”
“Pizza.” Johnny said, unleashing a miserable grin.
Johnny pulled away from the wall and rolled his head in a half-circle. He looked over his shoulder and down the well-lit corridor. He eyed the crooks and curves in the floorboards, and the dust-puppies that crept from corner to corner when nobody was looking. He stretched his back and tightened his stomach. It seemed as though something cold had crawled across his skin, and into his ear––whispering, warning him to behave. Then his face transformed, becoming a hideous scowl. For a moment he looked like he would scream. “We shouldn’t go out,” he managed. “It doesn’t like to go out.”
Like a zombie, Johnny walked an unbalanced line inside the house; he left the door blowing in the wind. And all the while his eyes crept along the walls: the wall on his right, the wall on his left, the hardwood beneath his feet…
Grudgingly, James stepped inside.
With the doorknob in hand he looked across the vacant, small-town street. He glanced at the swaying trees, the blowing leaves, the empty driveways. He heard a dog bark and the faint sound of a beeping horn. And feeling like a condemned man, he shrugged his shoulders, disregarded the yapping animal, and the beeping horn, and he closed the rattling door.
James expected Johnny’s house to be a disaster but it wasn’t. It was perfect; too perfect. The tables were gone. The plants were gone. The bookcase and all of his books were missing too. The TV was still there along with a couch, which sat next to an antique chair that had large holes in the fabric. And, aside from some dirty dishes, that was about it.
“Hey Johnny. You changed the room around, did you? Got rid of a few things?”
Johnny fell into the old chair. The chair moaned and creaked as dust puffed out of it. Its wooden legs screeched against the hardwood.
“Pizza?” Johnny said. “Did you bring a pizza? You did, right?”
The statement was absurd, of course. And at first, James thought Johnny was kidding. “No man, I didn’t bring food.” There was a moment of silence. James swallowed uneasily. “But I’ll phone. You want pizza, huh?”
James reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He scanned the address book, closing his eyes when his dead br
He glanced into the backyard through the large garden window. The backyard was loaded with Johnny’s furnishings: dressers and beds, tables and chairs, bookshelves and clothing––plus boxes and boxes and boxes. James, confused, shook his head. He wondered what had happened and why.
Did Johnny snap?
Without wanting an answer, he walked down the hallway. If he was going to order food he needed Johnny’s address. He opened the front door. Against the brick wall was the house number: 1342. He dialed the number and the phone began ringing. Once, twice…
“Hello, Tony’s Pizza.”
“I’d like to order a pizza for delivery.”
“1342 Tecumseh Street.”
“And you’d like to order?”
James stepped into the living room and realized that Johnny had frayed newspaper clippings attached to a wall. He approached the clippings and ran his eyes across the headlines. One headline read: TWO MORE FOUND DEAD. Another: MURDER IN HIGH PARK. A third was: 4 BODIES, 24 HOURS.
After reading the headlines he glanced at Johnny.
Something was horribly wrong. He knew those stories, those headlines on the wall. Everyone did. The string of deaths was puzzling the police. Evidence suggested that the killer might be some kind of animal. But they didn’t know for sure.