Diaz - The Gas Station

He was finally able to get a hold of that putrid smell. Diaz squatted against a vent on the roof of the gas station. The smell reminded him of wet dog and spoiled milk. He wasn’t sure if he was actually that hungry or he just got used to the smell, but he was finally able to eat some peanuts that he snatched, along with a soda, from the convenience store below.

Sitting up on the roof he was in thought about what to do next. How should Diaz Altez handle this situation? He tried to think about what his Grandfather would do, but that didn’t help. With a long exasperated sigh he remembered when he ducked into the abandoned gas station he had picked up keys that were on the counter. The keys had a keyless-entry remote on them. Diaz might get lucky.

He walked around the edge of the roof clicking the remote. He was not very hopeful. He remembered what his grandfather had always said, “hope is for the hollow, skill is for those lacking talent, faith is for the nonbelievers, and luck…luck is for the fallen.” Just off to the side, almost hidden by an eighteen-wheeler, a small amber light flickered. It was a compact, forest green pickup truck. Diaz smirked a bit and slid his thumbs down the outside of his jacket as if to straighten it.

He had a plan. Now all he had to do was wait out the creatures that wandered around the deserted gas station waiting to tear him apart. Those flesh eating assholes, he thought to himself, they’re jus’ waitin’ to grip their rotten hollow jaws into my abdomen. Those sick fucks. I saw what they do. I just have to wait ‘em out.

Diaz reached into his back pocket and pulled out a decadently decorated silver sliver of a cigarette holder. It was embroidered with engraved designs tagging its ownership to that of someone who had some cash, but did not enjoy showing it off, unless, of course, they had to. Diaz pushed the button on the side and the case swung open showcasing the latent white strips of tobacco. He grabbed one, let it hang off his lips and reached into his front pocket and pulled out a book of matches.

Upon lighting his cigarette without once taking his eyes off the purplish-red horizon, he slowly sat on the roof against the dull, metal box that used to work as a vent. One leg perched up for balance; the other sprawled out along the ground. Tilting his head up to gaze at the fading sky, he let his mind wonder about his current situation some more. Since he began running this was his first chance to relax enough to rest his eyes.

Diaz was a man in his late twenties, dressed in tattered dress clothes, all except the shoes on his feet. They were an expensive brand of decent looking athletic shoes; they clashed with his outfit. His clothes were torn and mostly soaked in blood. He looked like he had been through a lot. His tie was wrapped around his right leg, just above his knee drenched in dark, seeping blood from the wound beneath it. His pinstriped pants had tears in it. His black button-down shirt, still without wrinkles, lay un-tucked and unbuttoned revealing a ribbed, black tank-top underneath. However, Diaz’s jacket looked as if it just got picked up from the dry cleaner.

He sat there listening to the wind flow across the ambient streets below him, ignoring the moaning from the monsters. Diaz even rotated his head to let his short, but not too short hair, flow messily with the wind. He took another drag from his cigarette and bulked up the muscle at the corner of his jaw, outlining his stubble. His dark eyes were still focused on the horizon. His metal, loop earrings were swaying in the wind, reflecting the few street lights that just flickered on.

Diaz cleared his throat but not for the apparent reason of talking, more for the fact that he had realized he might be staying the night nestled up on this rooftop. He yawned and scratched his head letting his thick hair lay wherever it landed. His right leg began to ache. He had started to lightly massage it when screaming was draped through the wind.

He jumped to his feet to see a group of people making their way down the intersecting street. They were being chased by these evil entities and were running right toward the group that Diaz had led to the gas station. They were to be ambushed at the intersection. Diaz knew this was his chance to make it to that pickup truck behind the semi.

Diaz jumped up, straightened his jacket, and watched the situation closely, as if he were a referee at a professional sporting event. With analyzing accuracy, he balanced the time that the monsters began to notice their creeping victims against the risk of him being noticed as well. He picked the perfect moment to begin his adrenaline fueled climb down the side of the building and making his way to the trucks.

When Diaz reached the truck he peered one more time at the unsuspecting party catering their way toward definitive doom and pierced his lips together. He paused for a brief moment before entering the truck and inserting the keys in the ignition. Diaz then paused again. It just hit him like electricity racing throughout his body, from his fingertips to the very core of his body. His heart sank. He knew what he noticed, a few women. and a child, a little girl. Diaz slammed his fist into the steering wheel. ‘Shit!’

Diaz left the green, well-kept pickup and proceeded to the semi-trailer truck. It was a tanker, with flammable written all over it. Diaz knew what this thing could do. He smiled as the door to the cab was unlatched. He pulled himself into the truck and placed himself in the driver’s seat. The spring-loaded seat built for comfort quickly adjusted to his weight. He was not as lucky as convenience would allow for there were no keys in sight. He would have to jump it.

Adam - Ben's House (pt.4)

Shaken awake. My somewhat still unconscious mind rippling with hope that previous events is fault of its own. Reality begs to differ. I am still in an ambulance. This one is different. It is moving at high speed. I’m actually in a bed this time. The cab is in front me this time but I can’t see much through the corridor to the front. There are no children. Instead, there are a couple large canvas bags taking up most of the floor space. I have an IV. I should be at the hospital. Confused. Where am I? Who’s driving? I want this nightmare to just end.

My mind is beginning to come to terms with my demise. I feel a small part of me almost willing it. I haven’t made it to the hospital. I can feel my body being drained from fighting. I am weak. It takes everything but a conscious effort to even take a breath.

‘Ah. Adam, you awake back there?’ Her raspy voice is more matter of fact then the last person’s. From her tone she sounds more calm, more controlled.

‘...yeah.’ I struggle to speak. I feel weaker than before. ‘I’m here.’ However, I have no sharp pain accompanying every syllable. ‘Are we almost to the hospital?’

‘We’re not going to the hospital.’

‘But, I got shot. I need medical attention.’

‘I understand. You’re stable.’


‘Yes, your wounds have been treated. I’ve begun an IV drip to replenish your fluids. You’re going to have a choice to make.’

I let those words sink in for a few moments. The lady sounded older than the last. More assured. I wondered if it was possible to trust someone from the sound of their voice. I trusted this one. Why am I in a different ambulance? How did she know my name? If we are not heading to the hospital, where were we going? Why so fast? Did Anna get my voicemail? Are Ben and the guys alright? What decision was I going to have to make?

‘Why wouldn’t you take me to the hospital?’

‘That’s where I got you.’


‘Yeah, you were unconscious in the back of another ambulance with blood seeping through your bandages. I almost left you, but would have felt bad. Never one for leaving a man behind.’

‘That’s where I was supposed to be. That’s what you do with a gunshot victim, you take them to the hospital.’

‘The hospital is collapsing.’

‘What do you mean? What in the hell is goin’ on?’ Panic. ‘Are you even a paramedic? How’d you know my name? What decision am I goin’ to have to make?’  

‘Okay, now. Slow down. None of this is going to be easy to comprehend. Especially with all that you have going on.’

My heart takes a few deep pumps in my chest. My wounds tremble with deep pain. ‘Am I going to die?’

‘To be honest, Adam... I don’t know.’ I sense a tough sincerity in her voice. ‘I did my best Adam, I have seen people in worse conditions pull through in tough situations but…’ Her voice trails off. I feel the ambulance slow down. ‘What the hell?’ Her rhetoric aside is draped with an eerie curiosity.

‘What? What is going on?’ My own curiosity is encased with fear and confusion. I look through the small part of the windshield that I am able and all I see is orange light glowing brighter by each moment.

‘Don’t worry about it, hold on.’ The vehicle is ramping up as the engine starts to howl. A dull thud comes from the front of the ambulance followed by a series of lighter ones raking against the floor. ‘I have never seen anything like this. They don’t even flinch.’ Still speaking to herself, she sounds awestruck.

‘Hey, I’m really in need of some answers!’ I am trying to cut through my discomfort with assertiveness.

‘Yeah. You are right. Adam--’ How does she know my name? ‘--you need to trust me here. You were left at the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I’m guessing whoever tried to patch you up thought you were helpless without an ER.’


‘Look Adam, I don’t really know what is happening right now but the entire city is out of sorts. I was called into work due to emergency conditions. Before I reported to shift, it all got out of hand. They were telling us to reroute patients to Westover. Something about an outbreak. I had just pulled into HMC when I got the call. The ambulance I found you in was in the parking lot. That’s as far as I got. If I didn’t spot you in the back, you would still be there, probably dead.’

I could tell that she was trying to piece together the fragments of her own reality. I felt as I was losing my own. Maybe I was dreaming? Maybe I was in the hospital, lying unconscious under the supervision of the medical staff. Or even, maybe none of this took place and I was having an outlandish vision wrapped in deep sleep, safe in my bed. I should wake any moment. Previous dreams where I realize I am asleep, I always wake up. That’s it, any moment. I chuckle in relief but the all-too-real pain jolts me to accept that this is authentic.

‘Whoever patched you up before did a sloppy job. I fixed it up and got you something for the pain.’

‘Doesn’t feel like it.’

‘Well, honey, you’ve been shot. The pain is going to be there for a while.’

‘How long will it take?’

‘Without surgery? Could be a couple weeks before you start feeling yourself. You got lucky as far as where the bullets went in. Your shoulder may not make a full recovery but, if you can find a safe place and fight off infection, I think you’ll be alright. You seem tough.’ The ambulance slowed to a roll, took a turn, and came to an easy stop. ‘So, Adam, it’s time for you to make a decision. I am leaving town. It doesn’t seem safe here. You are more than welcome to come with me. My Uncle has a cabin in the mountains about an hour and a half South. I’ll look after your wounds and we are good there until things settle down here.’

Anna. ‘I have to call Anna.’ Where is my phone? Is it in the other ambulance? Check my pockets. Nothing. My wallet is gone, too. That’s how she must know my name.

‘Well, cell service has been down for a few hours. Not much on the radio, either. Just a few looped recordings telling everyone to stay in their houses and not to leave under any circumstance.’

‘What is happening? Where is my phone? Or my wallet? I don’t even know who you are or if I can trust you.’ I must be feeling better this is the first time I have felt anger since Anna and I last spoke.

‘My name is Alice. My friends call me Al. I was a field medic and now I am a Paramedic. I did save your life, I think that qualifies me for trust but I understand if you are still uneasy. The world is turned upside down right now for you and me both. I have your wallet and don’t know where your cell is.’ She turned around and leaned her head into the corridor of the ambulance. I hardly make out her face. Her hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. The dim light from outside lit up her silhouette enough to reveal her aged skin and from what I could see, she looked calm and pleasant. ‘Adam, before I lost service, I got a text from another medic, a friend; Westover is down, too.’

Al’s head dropped, facing the floor. ‘He said that people were eating each other.’ Her voice quivering in disbelief. ‘I’ve seen some terrible things, Adam. Some really, really bad things.’ Still not able to see her in explicit detail but I know she shifted her gaze to look me dead in the eye. ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I have to go. I have to get out. I’m not going back into the city but, if you don’t want to come with me, I take you somewhere safe close by.’

That was the decision I had to make.


Bren - Highway Horrors


Close your eyes. Behold the glory of the untold snapshot that is your dramatized perception. A requiem telling of a network centered with estranged empathy wrapped in a fortress of apathy and your trademark simplification of how this experience is defined. Yet, you pause in an exemplary settlement of gratification, spilled across your plane of existence, like milk on the kitchen table. You spend countless time trying to comprehend its meaning in an effort to justify your presence, but are you even here? Would you not know if you were not here? Your subsequent thought process is a figment of your imagination. You tend to believe this idealistic perception as if it were truth, you know nothing of what resides beyond yourself, or, in reality, where here is actually located.

His words float into your mind. They seem muffled and hazy. You open your eyes to reveal the waking skyline of the city. The city lights are reflecting through the drenched windshield and every other second finishing in a blurry image before swept away to clarity in short intervals. His voice interjects subtly.

‘Hey, man. Hey, you with me?’ He nudges you. ‘Yea, hey. Man. That stuff must be really getting to you.’

You respond with some half-wit form of affirmation that you’re coherent and in this moment with him. You are not. That was a lie. You want to get back to your epiphanic ponderings.

‘It’s getting to me. I’m a little, well, I...’ You are annoyed. Not so much with him, but because your mind begs attention elsewhere. However, he insists. ‘I’m not feeling it, man.’

Take a deep breath. It is good for you. Reluctantly tell him to enjoy the ride. Focus his mind on something other than the Hale. Ask him about his wife, or maybe his kid. Do not make it too serious. Keep his mood light. You should calm down, too. He should not be killing your flight for long.

‘Yeah, my anchor. I’m just getting a little excited, you know.’ He looks to the sky, his eyes begin to gleam in the reflection of the lights. He begins to sport a goofy half-smile. You know its fake, but it is not you who he is trying to fool. ‘Man, I can’t wait.’ Good, he is forgetting his altitude and carrying on with something less entertaining than your mind.

So, what is it that defines this mind of yours? Think of the vehicle you are in. Forget about everything outside of it. You focus your thoughts on the structure. Invision it. The metal cage that holds you. Sturdy and hovering. Do not think of the ground, there is nothing outside, remember? Stop it. You are focusing your thoughts on the inside. Like your mind, it is trapped inside a cage. Your brain knows nothing of the outside, just like you know nothing of the ground.

His grown pierces through the dawning of a brilliant realization. You notice him twitching through the elusive haziness of your peripheral. It was almost a dance, a melodic rocking back and forth. You decide to brush it off with the dimming, grey undertone of the overcast dusk. You drift off, back to what is really happening. Your mind crossing from thought to idea, idea to belief, and belief to question. Thought stalls when you doubt your reality and justifying it with a roadblock only makes it worse. Existence is simply futile in self-thought. You have only memorized experiences, how you perceive them is irrelevant for the constant of perception actually varies.

‘Yo, man. Hey Bren!’

You answer him with frustrated haste.

‘Man, I don’t feel so good, man.’

He is reaching for comfort, but what kind of comfort can you be? Peers can only verify experience. The simple answer is mechanical, yet the complex side of the question is thought provoking. Is the human psyche that simple and, yet, convoluted at the same time? It is pretty much common knowledge that every life is different, but how different? You all just share experiences and put words to them, but all we can do is really empathize. Say you lose a pet, someone else could relate with you if they had lost a pet but there is no possible way to have the same connection between two different pets and two different people. Even if the pets are the same animal, those life experiences can only be compared to a degree. Your voice does not sound the same when recorded. How does that compare to looking at yourself in the mirror? Probably the biggest flaw in human existence is that we are alone in thought, exuberant in poise, desperately undignified and, yet, frequently lost in a whirl of disconnected retribution. It is a simple depiction of vision, once recognizable, instead of a display of ridiculous subtlety. It is more or less a dismembered déjà vu strung out amongst a silhouetted co-pilot of a day.

‘Bren, my head hurts. It hurts real bad, man!’

His voice chisels through your thoughts like an icepick through a block of solidified water. You are frustrated. You explain to him that what he is feeling is normal and that he is getting excited. You tell him to calm down and to think about the blast of a night you both are about to have, which should be amazing. You are looking forward to it.

‘Yeah, Bren.’ He pauses for a few blinks. ‘I guess you’re right. Man, I guess I’m jus’ gettin’ inside my own head, you know? Sometimes, I’m all over the place, like, I mean, you ever think about what if you were, like, someone else, you know? Like if you weren’t you.’ He rambles on. You just nod on as if you were paying attention, but you aren’t. Are you? ‘And, then, like, it’s too much. It’s just too much!’

Don’t even pretend. Thou shalt pay tribute to such falsified logic that acquiesces this reality. You will find your impediment of a humored, carnal and robotic method guiding you in this realm of being in absolute distaste. You will smite yourself. You will find yourself obsolete. You are incredulous and this you understand. Although, you must see what he sees. The perception must be mirrored. You must obey. This is all you have. This is the experience, no? This is what you came here for, is it not?
‘Hey! Bren! I can’t do this. Man, I’m pullin’ over...I’ve got to.’

You try to reassure him. He doesn’t buy it. Explain to him why stopping on the freeway minutes away from the tunnel to the inner-city is dangerous, especially this time of day. Tell him. Order him. Defy your friendship, his and your life may depend on it. You realize that you have yet to analyze what it was that made you feel so comfortable with the idea of letting this lunatic drive. You drive at a high altitude just fine, but what if you had a sour flight? You feel a little panicked. Breath.

‘No!’ His voice rains down. ‘Wait! Stop!’ It is deafening. You pause. You know good and well that if he freaks out right now, at this speed, you are both doomed. ‘Whoa! I can’t...I can’t. I can’t do this! Bren, man, take the wheel. I need you to take the wheel!’

With uncertainty you grab the wheel from across the car. Despite your sweaty palms, you have a firm grip. You squint as you force your eyes to adjust on the road ahead. This is the worse time for this. He has got to get it together. His breathing is labored. Why is he being like this? You have heard of bad batches of Hale, but you both got it from the same place. Why aren’t you freaking out? Maybe you are. You have not paid the best attention to the road. You are about to just miss that car to your right. Your heart thumps a few hard beats as you feel a rush from your near-miss. ‘Bren!’ He saw it. He is even more afraid now. ‘Bren! This is crazy! We have to pull over.’

He jerks the wheel from your grip, mashes down on the brakes and pulls the car over three lanes before you start to focus again. Where is your attention going? What does it do? Can you control it? Does it control you? Remember, pay attention. You are paying attention. Why is the car stopped? This lane is for emergencies only. You imagine another car not seeing you on the side of the road. You figure Pavlo is a dumbass anyway, and he would be one to forget about the hazards. The other car, the one that doesn’t see the one you are in, smashes into the rear bumper. Your head would snap. Lights out. Game over. That would be it. You would stop thinking. Your family would care less. It is a sad thought, but you know that they really do not care. Why would they?

People live their lives. Whatever happens, happens. You just go with it. Life is a twisting river with inconsistent rapids of white disaster. Chaos. Distant memories that do or do not exist accordingly. Lost, that is all any of you are. Staring at the stars, hoping to map out the path to enlightenment. You know that is a joke. Enlightenment, what a fickle idea. It is like an afterlife, would it not just be life continued? Or, is it supposed to be different? Something new masking this life obsolete. What is the point then? Why bother? These are the bogus thoughts that only skim across the conscious, sober mind before being ruled as irrelevant and ultimately dismissed. They really are irrelevant. That is logical. Why are you always logical? What does it have to do with a solution? Something to solve.

You turn to Pavlo. He is lost in some weird gaze. It makes you feel uncomfortable. He does not appear to even be looking at anything in particular. Fear begins to creep into the pit of your stomach. Is he dead, you wonder. No, that would be ridiculous. You call his name. No response. You call it again. You reach for his shoulder and shake him a bit. Call his name one more time, he will answer this time. He does not. Get louder, call his name and shake him.

Pavlo blinks a few times. You feel relief. It would have been crazy if he did die. You would have had to call the police. They would find out about the Hale. Then you would be taken to jail. Hale is an S-Class infraction. You would likely get a life sentence and become some prisoner’s slave. Cringing in disgust, you analyze the string of situations and circumstances your life would then become. Not to mention your family, who does not give even a figment of care for you, would shun your entire existence. The neighborhood you grew up in would rumor you as a druggy killer. You would receive hate mail. He can not be dead.

You focus on Pavlo’s triumphant return to reality. His eyes are slightly crossed with a focal plane of negative space just feet in front of the car. You say his name again. His eyes come to a parallel focus. He turns to you. A few drops of blood drip from his right nostril. You become hopelessly intrigued. You ask him if he is all right. He does everything but acknowledge you. He sniffs a few times before grabbing his nose in minor hysteria. He makes eye contact. You feel fear for him. His brow shifts to an inquisitive shock. You feel the fear with him. Blood starts pouring from Pavlo’s nose underneath the grip of his hand.

‘No! Wait!’ His words hasty and panicked. ‘Whoa. No! What? No! Stop! Make this stop! Help! Help me.’

Pavlo sniffles with a painful shudder. He starts with wordless whimpering before turning to display bouts of loud, obnoxious screaming. You clench your teeth in dismay behind an awkward wince. What can you do? How can you convince him that he is going to be okay?

After a gut-wrenching howl, Pavlo falls silent for a moment. ‘I can not do this!’

You ask him about what in which he cannot do.

‘Stop! Too much pressure.’ His nasally voice forcing its way past clenched teeth and a blood-stained arm, ‘I need this to stop, man. Release the pressure.’

Pavlo reaches for the door handle. He opens the door and steps out into traffic. Without smallest amount time to even connect what was happening, Pavlo was gone. Blood and chunks of fleshy tissue showered onto the windshield, the hood and the road ahead. The sounds of braking vehicles flood the atmosphere. Another car slams into the one that took Pavlo away. The one that ended him.

Car after car, a pile-up ensues. You do not know what to do. Searching for your next action, you to panic. Pavlo is dead. He is really dead. That just happened. Your biggest fear just manifested itself. You have to toss the Hale. It has to go.