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    WARNING: Stories on this site may contain mature language and situations, and may be inappropriate for readers under the age of 18.

    …THE ONE-EYED MAN IS KING by MadHarlequin
    May 4, 2011  Short stories   Tags:   

    Josiah smelled the stinker as he was building a house of cards to stave off boredom.  He froze, considering his options. Papaw always told him, ‘Measure twice, cut once. You can’t put four more inches back on the board if it’s too short.’  The black-out curtains on the windows of their hidey-hole were down (he had checked them earlier, something he did obsessively). With the curtains down at this time of night, the second floor section of the old factory they called home would be literally pitch black. He didn’t know how much stinkers depended on sight, but he’d take any scrap of an advantage he could get.

    Placing the rest of the cards on the table, Josiah stood. Turning carefully to his left he reached out until his questing fingers found what they were seeking: the Mule. The Mule had been Papaws turkey gun at one time, a Remington 870 Express Supermag. Papaw had sawn the barrel off back to the magazine cap, and removed the stock except for a rough pistol grip. What was left of the barrel had been carefully wrapped in glass fiber packing tape strengthen it.  The loads were hot loads, each of the five shells in the mag contained 10 one half inch diameter washers and as much powder as Papaw thought would fire without blowing up the barrel. Papaw had said, ‘She’ll kick you like a mule Josie, you remember that if you ever have to use her. You put her right up against the stinker, hold on to her tight, and just keep racking that slide and pulling that trigger’. Josie desperately wished Papaw were here now but Papaw was scavenging and would be back at daylight at the earliest.

    Slinging the Mule over his shoulder, Josie carefully padded forward, left hand questing until he found the guide ropes. There were four of them. One led to the latrine they had set up downstairs, another to the pantry, the third to their sleeping quarters. He knew these routes by heart, having used them daily for the several months they had been at the factory. The fourth was the one he wanted, the emergency rope. Searching through the ropes by feel, he found the one with a piece of sandpaper around it. Grabbing the grip of the Mule with his right hand, left hand on the rope, Josie began a nerve wracking journey. He had to go up a short flight of stairs, across an elevated catwalk, down a similar set of stairs and across an old machine shop area. The entire time, his imagination conjured legions of stinkers before and behind him. He stumbled on the bridge and froze, not knowing whether the stinker had heard him or not. Chastising himself, Josiah rose and continued. What would Papaw have said, seeing him frozen there on the bridge?

    As he arrived in the machine shop area, he searched the wall near the ring the end of the rope was tied to. His fingers found a large electrical junction box. The switch on the right side of the box was so stiff and heavy that Josie momentarily had to let go of the Mule and use both hands to push it up, into the ON position. It had taken Papaw the better part of three weeks to find and haul back the 12 car batteries and wire them up to the six rotary bench grinders in the machine shop. Once he had the grinders working he had welded half inch bar stock solidly to the work platforms of the grinders, right up against the grinding wheels. To add insult to injury, Papaw had taken a small sledge and bent the axle on the wheels of two of the grinders. Papaw had told him the racket they made sounded like ‘Black Thom O’ Bedlam and all the hounds of Hell a hunting’. Josie didn’t know about that, all he knew was that he could definitely feel the floor vibrating. The stinker had no advantage in sight, and now it had no advantage in hearing.

    The machine shop area was a dead end, Josie had helped Papaw barricade the other two entrances with pallets from the factory floor. He couldn’t linger here, the floor vibrating like a roaring engine meant he wouldn’t be able to sense the stinker coming. Grabbing the rope left handed, with the Mule in his right, Josie edged back onto the catwalk ‘listening’ with his feet as the vibrations from the grinders faded. Had he felt faint thuds, as a Stinker would make, or were his nerves working against him? Releasing the rope, he edged forward, the Mule pointed ahead of him. There it was again, the faintest of thudding vibrations on the grated steel of the catwalk.

    Josie wanted to fire then and there, but didn’t. Papaw had told him to wait. ‘Closer the better’, he had stated, ‘if you can get the barrel right up against em, even better. Just remember to close your eyes and mouth when you fire so you don’t get any Stinker juice in them.’ Josie let out a braying challenge that only Papaw would have understood. Not being able to hear himself speak meant that his speech was all but unintelligible to anyone who hadn’t heard it for countless hours.  As if in response to the yell, Josie definitely felt vibrations on the catwalk, slow but steady and getting closer. Hunkering down in a semi crouch, Josie tried to remain calm. His heart was hammering so hard in his chest that it was difficult to feel anything through the soles of his feet.

    Just as he stood up, thinking that the stinker had turned around, a cold, waxy hand grabbed his left wrist. Screaming a battle cry Josie did as his Papaw had told him…

    Several hours later Josiah’s Papaw discovered him, still on the catwalk next to the remains of the stinker. Josie had aimed low, the hot loads cutting the corpse in two. Still clutched in Josie’s hand were the remains of the Mule, battered and dented where the boy had used it as a club. As Papaw hugged him and finger signed into his other hand, he remembered the day his grandson had been born. They had known something was wrong right away, had even expected it what with his Mama having Scarlet Fever while she was pregnant with him. The boy had been born blind and deaf. Looking at what was left of the stinker Papaw had to admit the boy certainly had no lack of gumption. Yes Siree, the boy had guts…

    24 Comments

    1. Wow!

      Comment by hope1719 on May 4, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    2. I like the title. I really like the story. Thanks

      Comment by Eva on May 4, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    3. Great story. The blind part surprised me a little. Not the deaf part. All in all, great story.

      Comment by Negishi on May 4, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    4. Yep, just to echo the others, this was a GREAT story. Didn’t see the ending at all…nicely done!

      Comment by Glenn on May 4, 2011 @ 10:54 am

    5. Good to see that the handicapped would have been able to hold their own in a world gone wrong too. Nicely done.

      Comment by Phantompooper on May 4, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    6. Great one. Wish these would all be put in to a book.

      Comment by Lee on May 4, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    7. Very clever. Nice bit of misdirection at the beginning as well.

      Comment by Pete Bevan on May 4, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    8. I agree with everything everyone has said. Threw me for a loop at the end there. I was wondering why there was such light discipline in a factory. Awesome.

      Comment by Terry Schultz on May 4, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

    9. Great take on one of the endless possibilities out there.

      Comment by MadMac on May 5, 2011 @ 6:47 am

    10. Very nice !
      Question: if a Z eats a down syndrome person does it slow them down?

      Comment by FRANK on May 5, 2011 @ 6:50 am

    11. Leave a commentReally, really well done.

      Comment by Kris on May 5, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

    12. And again, FRANK takes the wheel and steers straight for a brick wall!

      Comment by Barrett on May 5, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

    13. ouch frank thats harsh

      Comment by Pete Bevan on May 6, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    14. It doesn’t slow them down Frank. The zombie will suddenly turn into a politician.

      Great story! I was wondering why the character was instructed to get so close before firing and creating so much noise, which would degrade his senses and potentially draw more zombies. Yet, the end made every questionable action make sense. Well played!

      Comment by RandyB on May 6, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

    15. Plot twist!

      Comment by Arsenic on May 7, 2011 @ 1:25 am

    16. I loved this story, didnt expect the twist!

      Comment by vix on May 8, 2011 @ 3:49 am

    17. Ok, I am sorry, but I have to do this. This was a good story all in all, but you must have looked up 12 gauge shotguns on the internet and picked one out. In no way shape form or fashion would a Rem 870 supermag be considered a “mule”. For one thing cutting the barrel off even with the mag cap would really only eliminate the choke on the gun which would get you a wider spread on the shot. For another, well, let’s put it this way. My favorite duck gun when I was 10 was a Rem 870 supermag, and that was firing steel shot (ok, sometimes some lead, but let’s not tell game and fish about that). Now firing loads of washers is kind of silly, that would pretty much destroy the barrel, at best they would work like a slug at close range. Making them “hot loads” with extra powder would give them more power but you could only fit about a quarter more powder in them than normal, especially with that number of washers taking up the rest of the shell space. It is a really good story, Just a few gun facts need to be straightened out.

      Comment by dman on May 8, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

    18. Great short story!

      Comment by zoe on May 9, 2011 @ 7:26 am

    19. Kinda reminds me of the Book of Eli.

      Comment by Chase on May 9, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    20. FANTASTIC! realy, well done friend! 😀

      Comment by james glenn on May 25, 2011 @ 3:05 am

    21. i think dman needs to understand that not everyone shares his obsesion with fire arms, no offence dude but that rant was so anal and 99% of ppl would agree little things like that come under artistc license.

      Comment by james glenn on May 25, 2011 @ 3:16 am

    22. It’s not an obsession with firearms, I’m born and raised in Arkansas. Nuff said, not a city boy either. I just like people to be accurate when going to that much detail about guns and shooting. Having the wrong information in mind can be fatal when the Z are coming through your front door.

      Comment by dman on May 28, 2011 @ 9:18 am

    23. Great story! I love the little details you put in there. Well done!

      Comment by brycepunk on November 23, 2011 @ 12:31 am

    24. Thank you for the wonderful story. I love this site! One question – did Josie die? Hs Papaw ‘discovered’ him – like ‘discovering’ a body – also why would he still have the Mule ‘clutched in his hand’ as if clutched in death. Cutting a Z in two doesn’t kill it and it had one of Josie’s wrists in its hand when Josie fired the Mule. So did the Z drag its upper half to the poor boy, bite down and cause Josie to use the Mule as a club having expended all the ammo?. But then, if that is what happened, why did Pawpaw sign into Josie’s hand while hugging him? Emotion? Over analysis maybe, but I want to hear Josie is alive.

      Comment by 300ZX on December 7, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

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