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Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Chickens Are Coming!


Citizens of a small town become convinced they are under attack by a horde of giant, genetically-mutated, flesh-eating chickens!


The citizens of BRADY, Colorado are becoming slowly but surely convinced that a horde of giant, genetically-modified VELOCIRAPTOR CHICKENS have invaded their small town.

First, there’s the strange arrival of chicken expert ELLIE SUMPTON, a pretty young woman from Kansas who works for the National Poultry Institute, looking for a colleague sequestered at a hidden research lab just twenty-five miles south of Brady.

Next, the daredevil cropdusting pilot, FINLEY, spots a mangled body from the air. Upon closer inspection, the body belongs to RANCHER MCGINTY and it’s been violently torn to shreds.

And then there’s the video captured at a birthday party that shows a grainy but unmistakable image of a giant ROOSTER traipsing across the backyard.

Sheriff Gibbs, the easy-going lawman, refuses to buy into the hysteria. He works with Ellie to examine a mauled cow out at CARUTHERS FARM, where they find more evidence to support the town’s accusations.

At last, Gibbs and Ellie stumble across the hidden research lab set up by the PLUCKETT CORPORATION, the largest supplier of poultry in this region. Here they discover a strange glowing substance, and even more evidence that genetic research is at work.

But without seeing the beasts with his own eyes, the doubtful Gibbs believes the entire thing is a hoax. When they catch the mad scientist in town, it is obvious he has gone insane. The Pluckett CEO and his right-hand man fly in to dispel the rumors of giant, flesh-eating chickens and put the town at ease.

The MAYOR and other town citizens are sorely disappointed, because despite the threat to physical harm, they had planned on catching the giant beasts and turning them into an attraction which would put their quiet little town on the map.

Pluckett’s CEO and aide leave, and the town tries to return to normal, heading off to the high school stadium where a giant FOURTH OF JULY FIREWORKS CELEBRATION is just underway.

But much to Gibbs’ surprise – as well as the other shocked citizens – the beasts DO exist, and they cause chaos and havoc at the celebration, attracted by the fireworks overhead. It’s a battle of man against veloci-chicken, in the thrilling climax to this 108 page comedy action-adventure.

Read the screenplay: THE CHICKENS ARE COMING!

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Last Of Us Novelization - Chapter Twenty-Seven: an Example of Turning Your Screenplay into a Novel

Joel stepped outside, squinting from the bright sunlight.

They entered a large open area, a parking lot with a handful of abandoned vehicles, one of which was a squad car which presumably belonged to the actual Sheriff, before Bill unofficially assumed the position. One glance told Joel everything he needed to know… finding a working vehicle among these rusted relics was like finding a needle in a haystack.

Directly across from the lot, sitting on a hill, he spotted a tall-steepled, clapboard church, its stained-glass windows set aglow by the rays of the afternoon sun.

He saw an ambulance sitting far off to his right. Looking around, he saw dumpsters and debris, and then he noticed the familiar red and white evacuation sign leaning against a stone wall on the opposite side.

He approached the vehicle nearest him where a decaying corpse, more skeleton than flesh, hung outside the passenger side window. With its arms hanging down and the skull resting against the doorframe, the poor corpse looked as though it had just given up, resigning itself to its fate.

He spotted some broken scissors and a swath of cloth and scooped them up.

Ellie, noticing the half dozen or so cars sitting idle, asked the obvious question.

“So… why don’t you fix one of these cars?”

“Oh my god, you’re a genius!” Bill replied, laying on the sarcasm. “I mean, the whole time, why on earth hadn’t I thought about fixin’ one of these cars?”

Joel had to stop himself from letting go a chuckle.

“Okay,” Ellie conceded. “Don’t be a dick.”

“Their tires are rotted and their batteries are dead,” Bill said perfunctorily.

“Are you done?” Ellie sighed.

He wasn’t. “Can’t even begin to think what the inside of the engine blocks look like.”

Joel continued walking around the perimeter, looking for supplies. He noticed grimly the long length of the shadows at his feet.

Bill continued, “Only ones making new car batteries are the military.”

A familiar cry in the distance informed Joel they were not alone in the lot. Almost immediately, he heard Ellie’s high-pitched cry: “Infected!”

“Goddammit,” he cursed under his breath, moving quickly to her and drawing his revolver.

From behind the ambulance, a small herd of infected came racing toward them. He took aim and fired at the nearest target, a woman in a baseball cap with a bandage of duct-tape wrapped around one of her forearms. It took three shots before hitting paydirt and she dropped on her back after the back of her head exploded.

More runners were on her tail and he knew he didn’t have the buffer needed to aim carefully with his pistol, so he holstered it and unhooked the metal pipe from his backpack and began swinging it wildly.

The hoard was upon them now, with Ellie maneuvering to stay behind Joel. Bill began blasting away with his revolver, aiming carefully with two hands, and amid the sharp, ear-splitting explosions of gunpowder, Joel swung fiercely at everything within reach, catching one runner firmly in the temple, sending it reeling away.

A set of jagged teeth lunged for his throat, but he managed to stave her off long enough to step aside and land a reeling blow into its midsection. The runner doubled over, and Joel used that opportunity to sink the curved end of his weapon into the creature’s skull, which shattered in a gush of blood.

Bill dispatched the remaining runner with a gunshot blast to the chest, finishing off the fallen assailant with a close-range blast to the head. As quickly as it had started, the attack was over, and the three battle-wary survivors stood triumphant over the dead, their shoulders heaving as they sucked in gasps of air.

“Alright,” Joel panted, throwing the broken pipe to the ground. He reloaded his revolver and glanced over at Ellie who was bent over, hands on knees, regaining her breath, but thankfully still alive.

Bill holstered his weapon as he headed toward a shed on the other side of the street. He was mumbling to himself again, saying, “You gotta check the barricades again. You neglect the simple shit and now you’re paying for it.”

He sucked in a deep breath and continued his one-sided conversation: “You know what that means? Taking all the supplies from the warehouse and lugging it to the east fence again…”

“Okay,” Ellie sighed, following Joel as he followed Bill. “Now he’s talking to himself again.”

Bill continued, “Then it’ll take you…”

“Bill!” Joel called out, trying to snap him back to reality.

“Joel,” he replied, annoyed. “This way.”

He led them to a gated archway covered in vines where a small wooden shed sat inside the shadows, and beside it, a set of stone steps leading up to the church above. He pulled the keyring from his belt and unlocked the iron gate.

“And up we go,” Bill announced.

Joel quickly ducked inside the shed to poke around and was glad he did. He found some rubbing alcohol and a small roll of gauze.

He stepped outside and motioned to the church at the top of the stairs. “You picked a hell of a place to hole up, didn’t you?”

“Well, you know” Bill sighed, “as bad as those things are, at least they’re predictable. It’s the normal people that scare me.”

And then he turned to face Joel and said, “You of all people should understand that.”

Ellie, waiting patiently near the steps, looked at Joel with a funny expression and asked, “What does that mean?”

Joel sighed and simply said, “Nothing,” but it did little to ease the look of confusion on the young girl’s face.

Feeling a sense of mild irritation, he walked past the girl - and the man with the big mouth - and headed up the steps. The steps were narrow, and the adjacent brick wall was covered with vines and undergrowth.

“You sure that gate’s gonna hold them?” Joel asked over his shoulder.

“Well, I locked it and they don’t have a key.”

He reached the landing and turned right, taking more steps up the hill where the church towered above them. He slipped under another brick archway and waited for the others to join him.

With the row of stained-glass windows ablaze with sunlight, it looked as if the church was well lit from inside, as if power were still fueling electric lights.

“So which way?” he asked, glancing around and not seeing a visible entrance.

“We’re here,” Bill announced. “It’s in the cellar.”

Joel glanced off to his right and saw the wooden doors near the base of the clapboard structure. He strolled over and, with effort, pulled one of the doors open. It was heavy, fitted with large oversized iron latches covered in rust.

“Alright,” Bill said, leading the way. “Down here.”

Ellie followed him inside, down a few wooden steps as Bill stood in the shadows and announced, “Well, here we are.” He pointed a finger at her and said, “You don’t touch anything,” and then he aimed his finger at Joel as he followed Ellie inside and said reproachfully, “And you close the door.”

Joel caught a glimpse of the man shaking his head at the thoughtlessness of his guests, he snickered, and went back up to pull the door shut. He could feel his patience wearing thin.

The door slammed shut and soon they were shrouded in darkness. He heard Bill fumbling around nearby and moments later, he saw the glow from a kerosene lamp gradually give light to their surroundings.

They were in a large cellar beneath the church, the edges cloaked in shadows. He heard Bill announce, “Let’s gear up,” and then saw him move over to a large wooden crate where presumably weapons and ammo were kept, waiting for use. Ellie made a beeline for the crate just as Joel reached out and grabbed her wrist, stopping her in her tracks.

“Huh-uh,” he said, shaking his head.

“What?” she asked, looking at him incredulously. “I need a gun.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Joel,” she said with an exasperated sigh, keeping her voice down to avoid the inevitable embarrassment coming from Bill, “I can handle myself.”

Joel stood his ground, repeating his decision on the matter: “No.”

Seeing the look of disappointment in her eyes, he put up his hands and said calmly, “Just... stay here.”

“Fine,” she snorted, throwing up her hands and raising her voice. “I’ll just wait around for you two to get me killed.”

“Well,” Bill said, kneeling before the crate as he removed a pump-action shotgun. “This goes on record as the worst fuckin’ job you’ve ever taken.”

“Yeah,” Joel was forced to agree. “It’s up there.”

Bill carried the shotgun over to a large wooden table sitting in the middle of the room. “How in the hell is Tess okay with this suicide mission?”

“It’s actually her idea.”

“Really?” Bill asked, looking at Joel in surprise. He dropped the shotgun on the table. “Then the broad’s not as smart as I thought she was.”

Joel turned away as a wave of anger made his ears burn hot.

“But,” Bill continued undeterred, bending down to retrieve a large bucket of shells from the floor, “Fuck her.”

Joel felt his hands tighten into fists. What he wouldn’t give to beat the shit out of Bill right here in his own gloomy dungeon. He fought to keep his cool, forcing his hands open, closing his eyes.

“Seriously,” the idiot rambled, “you gotta take that kid back to where ya found her.” He turned the shotgun over and began feeding shells into the chamber.

Joel sat gloomily on the edge of the table, his back to the man. “Bill,” he sighed, “I can’t just ‘take her back’.”

“Then send her packing,” Bill said, and feed another shell. “Let her find her own way.”

Joel just shook his head.

Bill grabbed another shell and loaded it. “Let me tell you a story…”

Joel dropped his head, closing his eyes once again, struggling again to maintain his cool…

“Once upon a time, I had somebody that I cared about…”

At this, Joel raised his head and looked at the man in disbelief. Bill ignored the inference and continued…

“It was a partner,” he clarified. “Somebody I had to look after.” He racked the pump-action for emphasis. “And in this world that sort of shit is good for one thing.” He tossed the loaded shotgun on the table and walked around the table to a metal shelving unit against the wall. “Getting you killed.” He grabbed a second shotgun and brought it over. “So you know what I did? I wizened the fuck up. And I realized it’s gotta be just me.’”

“Bill,” Joel sighed, looking away, “It… it ain’t like that. It’s....”

He was about to say, “complicated,” but Bill cut him off.

“Bullshit. It’s just like that.” And then he yelled at something in the corner of his eye with a loud “Hey!”, practically right in Joel’s ear, causing Joel to jump.

Joel turned to his right and saw Ellie quietly snooping through a stack of papers on a credenza in the far corner of the room. She was frozen in mid-snoop, her face white in the glow of the kerosene lamp.

“What’d I say to you when we walked down the steps?” he barked. “What’d I say?”

Ellie stepped away from the junk, motioning to it innocently with her hands. “I’m just fixing your stupid pile.”

“Don’t. Touch.” he shouted, separating the words for emphasis.

Ellie sighed and then did the only thing natural. She shot him the finger. Joel felt the corner of his mouth start to curl, but he caught it just in time.

“Goddammit,” Bill cursed, returning his attention to the second shotgun. “You keep babysittin’ long enough and eventually it’s gonna blow up in your face.”

Finally, Joel had had enough. “Bill,” he said in a pleading tone, exasperated, getting off the table. “Can we please just get on with it?”

Bill loaded the remaining shell and tossed the shotgun at Joel. “Here,” he said, mocking Joel like a petulant child. “Let’s get on with it.”

Finally. Joel looked over the weapon, racking the pump-action before sliding it over his shoulder. He was anxious to get a move on, to get hell out of this crazy man’s cellar, but Bill had something else on his mind.

“Alright,” Bill said, his voice surprisingly cordial. “Before we go any further, I got something I gotta show you.”

“What’cha got?” Joel asked, as he followed the man to a workbench near the back of the room.

“New toy from the toy box,” he teased.

Joel snorted. Knowing Bill, whatever he had to show Joel was bound to raise an eyebrow.

“This,” Bill said with pride, filling a small metal canister with nails and planting it on the table, “is a nail bomb.” The man took several steps back. “Now, you gotta be really careful. This thing blows, it shreds anybody standing nearby.”

“Yeah,” Joel sighed knowingly. “I’ve seen your handiwork.”

“Pretty good, huh?” he beamed.

Joel walked over to the table, picked up the canister and turned it over in his hands. Nails and scissor blades protruded in all directions. He looked at it admiringly… it was indeed a clever piece of handiwork.

“So we got shotguns and bombs,” Joel summarized. “What the hell we doing with them?”

“Well,” Bill explained, “every few weeks this military caravan rides through town. I assume they’re out looking for supplies. I mean, you’d be amazed at the shit they overlook. Anyway, few months back, they were rolling through and they get overrun by this horde of infected. They were all over the truck. It plows right into the side of the high school. Still sittin’ there with the battery in it.”

Joel was way ahead of him: “So we take that battery and put it in another car.”

“Bingo. I wanted to get it, but it seemed too dangerous with all the infected on that part of town.” He continued, adding with sarcasm: “But fuck it… Joel needs a car.”

Ignoring the barb, Joel asked, “What if it’s damaged?”

“Nah, those trucks are like tanks. It’s just sittin’ there.”

“Hmm,” Joel said, thinking it over. “Actually might work.” He nodded an approval at Bill who took that as a sign to move forward. The two men headed toward a wooden staircase to the right of where they had descended earlier into the shelter.

Ellie was standing near the credenza where Bill had last scolded her. “Kid,” he said menacingly, “I swear to god, if you took anything…”

“Hey, man,” Ellie retorted, arms folded across her chest. “I don’t need any of your shit. Trust me.”

He stormed past her, heading up a wide wooden staircase, but not before cautioning Joel over his shoulder: “You are keeping an eye on her, right?”

“Like a hawk,” he replied, giving the girl a quick wink.

They went up the stairs, down a long hall, before finally reaching the nave of the church. The pews had been stacked upright against the walls, walls that contained tall, arched stained-glass windows, windows where the sun now poured in, crisscrossing beams aglow in yellow and red.

In front of the nave was the raised sanctuary and above it, a circular window where a cone of light, the presence of God to the now-dead parishioners, descended from Heaven. Dust mites floated in the air, accentuated by the golden light, and Joel couldn’t help but feel a certain reverence as they traveled along a narrow red carpet with gold fringe toward a cross at the top of the altar.

“Wow,” he heard Ellie mutter in awe from behind.

“Nice place you got here,” Joel said.

“Well,” Bill acknowledged, “if you got anything to confess, this would be the place to do it.”

Bill went straight to one of the windows beside the altar, and Joel was about to follow, but he caught a glimpse of a room off to his right and quickly ducked in to look around.

“That’s not the confessional,” he heard Bill admonish. “That’s my room.”

“Alright,” Joel hollered back. “I’m not touching anything,” and as he said this, he smiled, scooping up a vial of pills, a small sack of gunpowder, and a half empty bottle of alcohol from the shelves beside the mattress on the floor.

He returned quickly to find Bill waiting for him beside the window.

“Alright,” Bill stated. “Time to sack up.”

He unlatched the windows, swung them open, and out he went. Joel followed him outside, to the edge of the rooftop, where they saw the sun resting on the distant horizon.

Joel turned and motioned to the girl, saying, “Ellie, c’mon.”

She soon joined them and there the three stood, facing the sun, standing on the edge of the eave, looking out toward the distance. It was a spectacular sight, seeing the breadth of Bill’s domain under an orange sky with a brush stroke of purplish clouds, a soft breeze at their backs.

“Look,” Bill said, pointing just to the left of the setting sun. “There’s the school.”

Joel followed Bill’s gaze and saw the high school scoreboard towering in the distance, then his eyes drifted down and he saw the familiar shape of a flat-topped gymnasium nearby. “Alright,” he said, relieved to be in sight of their objective.

“Ready?” Bill asked.

“Guess we’ll find out,” he replied, moving to the edge of the eave and hopping the short distance to the ground.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Last Of Us Novelization - Chapter Twenty-Six: an Example of Turning Your Screenplay into a Novel

Bill stood in the middle of the room, like a sheriff standing watch over his town, a town with a population of one, a sheriff who hated outsiders more than he hated the diseased maniacs lurking behind every shadow, desperate to rip him apart.

With a show of disdained generosity, he made a gesture with his hand, presenting the room to his unwelcomed guests. “All right. Whatever supplies you may want or need, I suggest you grab them.”

“Thank you,” Joel said quietly as he ran a hand through his hair and glanced around the ransacked saloon. “Ellie, take a look around and see if there's anything we can use.”

Joel noticed an opened door to a small office near where they had entered. As he stepped inside, he caught a glimpse of the anger still simmering in his young companion’s eyes. We all just need a moment to cool off, he concluded, and he entered the office to see what he could find.

Inside the office was a desk and phone covered in dust, and above it, a cluttered bulletin board. Some cracked leather furniture sat sagging against the walls of the office which were plastered with old paintings of nature and wildlife. A small television set on a console table, and an empty blue watercooler stood ajar in the corner. The windows were hastily boarded from the inside and the tiny room felt cramped and stuffy.

Ellie followed him in and then stood beside him, and he could sense the pain of her lingering humiliation. Out of earshot of their prickly host, she hissed, “Man, he’s gotta fuckin’ stick up his ass.”

That was an understatement, Joel thought. He caught an unexpected glimpse of her child-like innocence and an unusual feeling of sympathy swept over him, which he quickly brushed aside.

Just… stay out of his way,” was all the advice he could muster.

On a nearby table, he spotted a handwritten scrap of paper and picked it up. It was another of the countless reminders Bill left for himself:

“Need to remember to clear the infected by the fences. Third time this month that too many of them were stacking up against the fence, knocking that shit over. - CLEAR THE FENCES!”

Joel left the office and returned to the saloon. A few white ceiling tiles lay in chunks on the floor, which was hardwood and littered with broken glass and debris. In front of the bar, that stretched along the room to his right, were a few bar stools still intact and a few that weren’t. On the opposite side, under a row of boarded broken windows where the afternoon sunlight filtered in, were wooden booths and tables lining the wall. The first two were piled high with junk, but on the third was an unexpected sight that caught his eye: a chessboard with hand-carved wooden pieces.

He strolled over to take a look; the undisturbed relic reminded him of a time long ago, a time when civilized people played civilized games, a time without the stench of blood clogging his nostrils.

Ellie must have notice his interest, because she joined him and motioned to the pieces.

“Hey, you know how to play this?”

“Yeah,” he admitted, “pretty badly, but yeah.”

She chuckled at the remark, and the sound of her childlike innocence struck Joel because of its suddenness and authenticity. After what they had just gone through, it was a nice distraction, the sound of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal world.

She sighed. “I always wanted to learn.”

Ellie leaned forward to examine a piece and that’s when the dreamlike state of their revelry was abruptly ended. With a commanding rebuke, the sheriff at the end of the room yelled at her.

“Hey, Bobby Fischer!” Don’t touch anything on that board!”

They both turned, the brief spell of normality shattered.

“Bobby who?” Ellie asked.

“Just let it go,” Joel said with a dismissive wave of the hand.

He could feel the flash of her anger return and he wished to God Bill would keep his big trap shut for once in his life. Reluctantly, they joined him as the man stood watch near the entrance to the saloon at the far end of the bar.

“Found everything you need?” he asked cordially.

“We’re good,” Joel declared.

Joel grunted to himself; Bill was just like that, ready to fly off the handle one minute, completely cordial the next. The problem was guessing when he would fly off again. He wasn’t going to condemn his friend for his erratic behavior; maybe that’s how he had survived alone for so long. Being a little crazy just might have been the very thing keeping him from full-bore, stark-raving madness all these years. Whatever he might think of his hot-headed friend, he had to admire his perseverance to stay alive.

Bill unbolted the heavy door behind him and exited. The hallway behind the door led up a flight of stairs and Joel held the door open for the girl, saying, “All right, Ellie. Come on.”  

“Don’t leave the door open,” their guide grunted over his shoulder as he clumped up the stairs.

“I got it,” Joel said, shutting the door behind him.

From the top of the landing, Bill turned and looked down at the two unwanted intruders. “We have to cross to the other building,” he said gruffly. “Up the stairs. Let’s move it.”

The sheriff barked his orders and Joel willingly complied, being just as anxious as their host to get what they needed and get the hell out of Bill’s town.

Ellie issued a disgusted response under her breath that he didn’t quite make out.

“Just stay with me,” he advised in a hushed whisper.

Soon, the man guiding their way was rambling to himself. “Can’t believe you agreed to this bullshit, Bill. What you shoulda done was just left them back there.”

Walking up the stairs beside Joel, the girl shook her head. “You weren’t kidding about him.”

“Yeah,” Joel chuckled, nodding in agreement. “He’s one of a kind.”

They emerged onto the top floor of the saloon where a large chunk of the roof was missing. A few rooms fed off the hallway in two perpendicular directions. Joel looked over his shoulder, saw a breakroom at the end of one of the hallways, headed down, and ducked inside to take a look.

Here, he found another one of Bill’s handwritten notes:

“I saw a group of hunters coming dangerously close to town. Luckily a pack of infected chased them off. - Reminder: put up more warning signs. Let them know you're serious.”

He left the breakroom and hurried back to catch up with Bill.

“So what kind of trouble you in?” Bill asked over his shoulder as if he hadn’t noticed Joel’s absence. “Where the hell’s Tess?”

“It’s a job,” he answered matter-of-factly. “A simple drop-off.”

“What are you delivering?”

Joel chuckled to himself, anticipating the ridicule if he were to answer.

“That little brat?” Bill said, motioning to Ellie.

“Haha,” the girl retorted. “Fuck you, too.”

Bill laughed mockingly. “Y’know,” he said to Joel, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Joel was a man who preferred silence and never understood why others seemed fit to open their mouths and throw fuel on a raging fire. The question he constantly asked himself was why it had to be this goddamn difficult?

“Are you kidding me with this guy?” Ellie said, as if reading his thoughts.

No, unfortunately, he wasn’t kidding. But in his defense, he had tried to warn the girl about his friend even before they sat foot in this godforsaken town.

Trying to change the subject, he asked loudly, “Where we going, Bill?”

“My other safe-house.” He clarified: “It’s more of an armory.”

Ellie’s brow knitted and her forehead wrinkled. “Wait. I thought we were gonna fix up a car?”

“We? You know how to fix a --”

Joel sighed, his patience thinning, and said, “Bill, just --”

“It’s like I said,” Bill interrupted as he vaulted through an open window at the end of the room. “What I need is on the other side of town. Now that side I don’t ever go to cause it’s filled with infected. So we’re gonna need more guns.”

Finally, Joel heard something interesting for a change.

They were now outside the building, on the second floor, edging along a metal walkway just behind the giant letters of the storefront’s neon sign. At the end was another open window.

Joel glanced at the waning sun and his mood soured. There wouldn’t be much daylight soon.

He followed Bill through the window and found himself in another office with the typical clutter of desk and shelves. A large pile of mildewed cardboard boxes sat piled up in one corner.

Bill was waiting for them just inside a stairwell beyond an open door at the end of the hall. He casually brushed away a piece of lint from his sleeve as Joel and the girl caught up. Together they descended two flights of stairs with Joel and the girl sticking closely to the heels of their guide.

They entered a kitchen area comprised of aluminum surfaces and bread racks on the ground floor. Joel heard a noise in the outer room. Immediately he dropped into a crouch as adrenaline surged through his veins. He said in a quiet hush: “Shhh. There’s one inside.”

“Oh, I’ve been meaning to take care of that,” Bill remarked casually. “Relax, it’s nothing.”

The ‘nothing’ in the outer room to which Bill referred was a runner - female - who had fallen victim to one of Bill’s many booby traps scattered throughout the town. This particular trap had caught an infected trying to get in through a boarded window, and a large metal basket filled with rocks and bricks had dropped on the runner from above, pinning her in place. All the creature could do now was growl and helplessly flail her limbs.

As if it were just a routine operation, Bill continued chatting as he unsheathed his machete and adjusted his grip. “So, you didn’t answer my question about Tess. I mean, I thought the two of you were inseparable.”

“She’s busy,” Joel replied as he watched Bill place a heavy boot on the window where the woman was trapped.

“Yeah,” Bill snorted sarcastically. “Busy.”

Bill raised the machete above his head and took careful aim.

“Seems to me...” he said, with a violent swing at the woman’s exposed neck, “...like…” he swung again, creating an arc of blood spatter against the wall and ceiling, “...there might be trouble in paradise.”

As he spoke the words, the infected woman’s head ripped free and rolled to the floor and a bright red geyser spewed forth in tremendous spurts, covering Bill’s boots in a widening pool of blood.

“Aw, gross,” Ellie said, half covering her eyes with her fingers, her lips twisted.

Joel watched as the gush of blood began to trickle and the corpse fell limp. He admitted morosely, “Yeah, something like that.”

Without missing a beat, Bill grabbed a set of keys off his belt and used one to open the locked metal door. He stepped aside waiting impatiently for Ellie and Joel to pass. “Alright,” he said, sucking in a deep breath with an unintended air of bravado, “Here we go.”