All Roads Lead to Terror: Chapter Six

The horrors of the past meet the brutality of the present

Chapter 6

“We better tie him up tight,” Meat said as he and Window dropped their captive to the dirt floor of the barn. He looked to be about ten years old, dressed in a loincloth fashioned from what looked like a set of curtains, the fabric heavy and stiff, with brocaded designs in the filthy green cloth. His exposed flesh, while deeply tanned, was covered by crude tattoos, many of which were faded, attesting to their age.

There were spirals and groups of jagged lines, thick bands were wrapped around his upper arms, and the flesh of both forearms was covered in odd swirling patterns that resembled pin striping. On each knuckle was a different letter that spelled out PAIN on one hand with LOVE on the other.

“Look at this,” Window said as he rolled the boy over onto his back. On his chest and stomach was the tattoo of a man crucified on a cross and wrapped in barbed wire. Though crudely drawn the shading of the image lent it a depth that made it appear to pop out of the boy’s chest. The image hung down from between his nipples, the man’s feet vanishing under the band of his loincloth. Above his left nipple was a Celtic trinity with a circle surrounding its central part.

Window grabbed a length of rope hanging from one of the upright posts and quickly bound their captive’s hands and feet, drawing them together behind his back. 

The boy groaned as he awakened, struggling to loosen his bonds. He fought harder, yanking at the rope as he rolled over onto his side. Meat and Window stepped back as Einstein, his hair a mess, and rubbing the sleep from his eyes, came over to see what they had found. Billie Bob was still asleep in the back of the barn.

“Where did he come from?” Einstein said.

“I caught him spying on us from the forest,” Meat said.

“Hey, you’re bleeding,” Window said, pointing at the blood on Meat’s arm.

Meat examined the wound, it was superficial yet was producing a good bit of blood making it look worse than it really was.

“Grab me the first aid kit, will ya?” Meat said and Einstein nodded before he turned and rummaged through his pack where he’d been sleeping. He returned with a dirty white box that he passed to Meat. With Window’s help he squirted a small amount of alcohol on the wound, gritting his teeth when the burning sensation hit him. It hurt like hell, but the alcohol would kill any germs that might get into the wound. Even a small cut like this was cause to be worried. Without hospitals, or clinics, or even readily available doctors, a small wound could quickly lead to death unless it was properly cared for.

Once Meat’s arm had been taken care of they turned their attention to the captive.

The boy’s eyes were open, dripping with hatred, “cut me loose now or the master will feed you his pain, he’ll eat your hearts out of you,” he growled with a venomous voice, exposing yellowed teeth that had been filed down to points.

Meat placed one booted foot on his chest as the boy strained against his bonds. He  stretched his neck to bite Meat’s foot, his teeth clicking together on empty air. It would be a comical sight if not for the sheer rage that smoldered in his eyes.

“Shut up,” Meat shouted and slapped the boy across the face, hard, with his open hand.

“Fuck you,” the boy screamed, spittle flying from his mouth as he thrashed about on the dirt floor, stirring up clouds of dust.

Meat raised his fist and the boy stopped for a moment, glaring at Meat, daring him to hit him.

“I will eat your heart out of you,” the boy hissed.

“Where are you from?” Meat said.

“Fuck you.”

“What the hell is going on out here?” Gregory said as he opened the door and stepped into the barn. “I heard shouting.”

“We caught this one spying on us,” Meat said, pointing at the young boy lying at his feet.

“He’s just a kid,” Gregory said as he entered the barn and crossed to their captive. He stopped at the boys figure, taking in the crude tattoos that covered his young body, “he’s one of them,” he said.

“One of who?” Einstein said.

“One of the group that killed my wife and daughter, they were all dressed like this, like they were playing cowboys and Indians only there weren’t any cowboys.”

“Did you do that?” Meat said, prodding the young boy with the toe of his boot.

“Fuck you,” the boy shouted, renewing his struggles to escape.

“Obviously that’s the only word he knows,” Window said as he drew his revolver and crossed to the boy. He squatted next to his supine figure and rested the long barrel of his pistol on his forearm. The boy settled down, mesmerized by the gun, his gaze softening as he traced the length of the barrel.

“What are you going to do?” Gregory said.

“What should have been done to begin with,” Window said as he cocked his pistol and aimed the barrel at the boys face.

The boy smiled, exposing his pointed teeth, his eyes alight with what could only be characterized as joy. It appeared he understood the purpose of Window’s pistol and was anxious to die. “Give me peace,” he whispered as he strained his head forward, willingly placing his forehead against the muzzle.

“You can’t do that, he’s just a boy,” Einstein said as he pushed Window to the side and placed himself between their captive and the rest of them.

The boy screamed behind him, thrashing about wildly, as he rolled around on the ground, struggling against his bonds.

“Get out of the way Einstein.”


“I’ll shoot you first then,” Window said as he raised the muzzle of his pistol and aimed it at Einstein’s head.

“Put the gun down,” Meat said, placing his hand over Window’s pistol and pushing it down.

Window sidestepped Meat and raised his pistol. “I always said you were weak, you don’t have the stomach for what needs to be done.”

“But he’s just a kid,” Einstein said, “this isn’t like shooting a Zombie, they’re already dead so it doesn’t matter.”

“It was his kind that killed my wife and daughter,” Gregory said, clearly placing himself in Window’s camp.

 “How do you know it was him who did it? Maybe he’s running with them for protection., maybe he’s just a scared little kid like the rest of us,” Einstein said

“Speak for yourself,” Window said.

“What’s going on?” Billie Bob said, emerging from the dark recesses of the barn still wrapped in the blankets in which he’d slept. He crossed to the group and looked down at their captive. “Who’s this?”

“We caught him spying on us,” Window said, never once taking his eye off of Einstein.

Billie-Bob glanced at the crude tattoos that covered the boy’s body as his face blanched and his eye widened. “They roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws,” he whispered softly before turning and retreating into the shadows at the back of the barn.

“What in the hell was that all about?’ Window said.

“I don’t know,” Meat said, he was teetering on the fine edge of losing control over their small group. While there had never been an official decision as to who would lead them, everyone had naturally assumed Meat would as he had the most experience outside the fence. It was a role that fit him and if they were to succeed in this little endeavor, not to mention survive in the wilds, there had to be only one person who was clearly in charge.

There had to be control.

While he agreed with Window on what had to be done, he could understand Einstein’s reluctance to carry through. They were faced with a dilemma that would pale in significance as they progressed through their quest. But for now it was a tough call, one he had to make if he was to cement his role as the leader.

They couldn’t very well let the boy go, he’d only return to his group and let then know they were coming, giving them ample time to prepare for their arrival.

If what they planned was to work, with four against an unknown number, their arrival had to be a surprise. They couldn’t leave him, he’d get loose and tell his tribe, or whatever it was he belonged to about them, or he would die of exposure.

“We can’t let him go,” Meat said, stepping up and placing himself between Window and Einstein, he felt the muzzle of Windows .44 aimed at the back of his head, and he hoped to hell no one tried to stop him or ran into him, causing Window to squeezer the hair trigger Meat knew was on the pistol. Of course in that event his own personal problems would be solved.

“We can’t kill him,” Einstein said, “we’d be no better than them if we did.”

“Then what do you want us to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do we leave him tied up in here?”

“We can’t do that. How would he eat and drink? How would he get home?”

That was the crux of it. They all wanted to go home, not to Bremo Bluff, but to that time Gregory had told them about the night before. Where a fast food joint could be found on every corner, where you could walk the streets without fear of being attacked and eaten, though he had heard stories about some places before the awakening that one did not venture into alone, especially after dark, but that was not the whole world. Just a small corner of it confined to places he only knew of as names in a book.

“How about this, we leave him tied up with water close by so he can drink, and after we’re done, on our way back through, we release him.”

“What about food?”

Meat shook his head, “we only have enough for ourselves, and besides it will only be a few days, I doubt he’ll starve in that time.”

“What about other animals coming to get him?”

“We’ll keep the door locked from the outside so nothing can get to him.”

As they debated his future the young boy had worn himself out with his struggles. While Meat and Einstein reached an agreement they could each live with, the boy had fallen asleep and was softly snoring, curled up into a tight ball on the dusty ground.

“Is that fair?” Meat said turning to Window and Gregory. “We keep him prisoner until we return, then we let him go.”

“Once he’s out of the barn he becomes fair game,” Gregory said.

“What is wrong with you people?” Einstein said. “Whatever happened to compassion? To caring for those less fortunate than ourselves?”

“Have you been sleeping under a fucking rock or something?” Window said. “The world has changed, it’s not like it was described in the books we’ve read. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, and if you’re not the biggest, baddest, son of a bitch out here, it’ll eat you up.”

“Like you?” Einstein said.

“Exactly like me,” Window said as he moved closer to Einstein, invading his space and forcing him to take a step back.

“Let it go, we’ll leave him in the barn until we come back through, after we release him he’s on his own. Now let’s get ready to go, we’ve already fallen behind because of this.” Meat purposely turned away to pack his belongings for the coming days hike.

Window and Einstein stood facing one another for a moment more, each refusing to be the first to step away, to concede to the other. Meat was amused by Einstein’s actions. He had always been the quiet one, dutifully doing what needed done without complaint Einstein did have a stubborn side to him and Meat had seen him stand up to others before yet he was concerned by what happened. There was nothing wrong with a bit of dissent in the ranks, as long as it didn’t get too out of hand and boil over into outright animosity. Right now it looked like Einstein and Window had become mortal enemies, and he’d have to keep a close watch over them to make sure that animosity didn’t get too out of hand.

Outside the sky lightened as the sun slowly emerged from the Eastern horizon, greeted by the incessant chatter of the birds in the forest. Golden rays of light flowed across the steel roof of the barn in which a struggle between life and death was being played out. Steam rose from the roof as the sun’s rays heated the metal, offering a preview of the day’s warmth.


They were gathered in front of the barn preparing to head out when Gregory raced from his house with a backpack slung over one shoulder, his rifle over the other.

“Where are you going?”

“I want to come along, help out where I can.”

‘Can you use that thing?” Window said.

“I can hit anything inside eight hundred yards.”

“That good enough for me,” Meat said.

“Wait a minute, I forgot something,” Window said and turned back to the barn. He vanished inside. From within came the roar of his pistol. Einstein screamed and raced back to the barn. Throwing open the doors he revealed Window standing over the still body of their captor, the boys blood staining the ground beneath his head.

“I did him a favor,” Window said, slipping his pistol back into the holster slung low on his hip.

Einstein screamed and charged Window who sidestepped his attack. Einstein ran past his target, tripping over his own two feet, falling to the ground beside the body of their captive.

“Let it go,” Meat shouted as Einstein pushed himself to his feet and prepared to charge Window again.

Gregory stepped between them, holding out his hands. “It’s over,” he said, “let it go.”

Einstein dusted himself off and retrieved his gear from where he’d dropped it, glaring at Window who ignored him, a self satisfied smile on his face as he casually walked over to the group.

“Why did you do that?” Meat said.

“It had to be done,” Window said with a shrug.

“You’ll get no argument from me, but we agreed to keep the boy captive until we returned, then we would let him go.” Meat felt his control over the group slipping through his fingers, if he didn’t do something to establish control soon, they’d descend into anarchy.

But what could he do?

He had no experience with leadership. He knew if it got too out of hand the lives of the children counting on them would surely come to an end.

“Hey Gregory,” Billie-Bob said as he slung his rifle and stopped beside him, “do Zombies eat popcorn with their fingers?”

“What? I don’t know, what are you talking about? I guess.”

Window and Meat turned away as Billie-Bob draped his arm over Gregory’s shoulder.

“No, they save the fingers for last,” Billie-Bob said, “did you ever hear the one about the Zombie that went to the whorehouse?”

Gregory shook his head.

“He wanted his money back because he couldn’t get it up, he had DD, a dead dick.” Billie-Bob finished with a guffaw, “get it? Dead dick?” he said as he slapped Gregory on the shoulder and bent over with laughter. “I’ve got a hundred of em.”

Gregory shook his head as they trailed the rest of the group, Billie-Bob’s voice running a mile a minute as he entertained his new found audience.

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