Billie-Bobs Birthday

The Dreadland Chronicles were inspired by Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. If Roland Deschain was the last gunslinger, who was the first? 

In The Dreadland Chronicles we follow four young boys as they come of age during their travels through a post-apocalyptic world. Meat is the leader with Window serving as his right hand man. Einstein is the brains, and Billie-Bob is a natural born sniper who provides cover for his friends. They form the fist ka-tet as they work to bring peace to a brutally indifferent world.



They had come to him two weeks earlier with their proposal, arriving as the last of the days light fled to the safety of the west. Three men dressed in an a way he’d never seen before.

They all wore heavy denim jeans that appeared hand made, and leather vests over plain cotton shirts. The vests were covered with odd symbols that had been hand worked into the aged leather. Two of them struck him as manager types used to giving orders, and being obeyed.

It was the third man who elicited a tiny spark of fear in him, a sensation he hadn’t felt in years. He stood behind the other two, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes every watchful from beneath the shadowy brim of his hat. On his hip he carried a massive pistol whose sandalwood grips dwarfed his own hand.

Looking into his eyes he knew this man could kill him in an instant.

What they asked for had at first seemed odd. One did not normally approach a mercenary of his reputation with a request to keep the target alive. At the ripe old age of Eighteen he had earned  a standing as one of the most brutal guns for hire out there. He had only been fifteen when the dead rose up and the living fled as the society they all knew crumbled.

Overnight the world he’d known had ceased to exist. Cell phones quit working, the internet followed shortly thereafter, and it wasn’t long before the first long night came as the electric grid failed. All of the conveniences of modern life had fallen by the wayside as roving bands of heavily armed men and women took what they wanted, killing any who dared deny them. Not to mention the wandering groups of undead who sought sustenance from the living. It was like they had jumped from the frying pan into the fire, a phrase his father had always used.

He’d witnessed his mother and father’s death at the hands of one of these groups. On that night his alter ego had been born, and he stopped being Todd Franklin, who had a secret crush on his neighbors daughter who happened to be three years older than him, and hardly knew he was alive.

That night he became the Angel of Death.

For six months he tracked the group that had killed his parents with a single mindedness that bordered on obsession. Carving away at their numbers as opportunities presented themselves, until he cornered the last few members in a small town West of the capitol of a nation that lay in a smoldering ruins. That final confrontation had been brutal and bloody, with the flames of the fires he’d set consuming the entire town in which they had hidden. 

He had walked away satisfied in a way he’d never known before. Over time he earned a reputation as someone not to be trifled with. Someone in fact that it would be best to avoid at all costs. Someone willing to trade any life for the right price. But even he had his limits. No kids, and especially no pregnant women. They were off limits to him. He’d kill anyone you asked for unless they were a part of those two groups.

Now he was being asked not to kill, but to protect another person from the brutality of a world that had been turned upon its ear. When he’d asked why, the only thing they would tell him was the child she bore would take part in saving untold worlds that had been thrown into turmoil. The idea had appealed to the fourteen year old kid still trapped within him, an innocent side that had once marveled at the worlds created in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  

But what sealed the deal for him was their offer to let him escape this desolate place if he was successful. Yeah, they might be lying, but they struck him as not being from this world so he took their word for what they offered. Besides, if he hadn’t accepted, what if he was wrong?

There was always that chance.

They told him she would be by this way within the next few days, and he’d been keeping a cold camp for a week now as he waited for her. Several times roaming bands of Zombies had wandered by, and each time he had gone to ground until they passed, his weapons always at the ready in the event they wandered too close to him.

He had just laid down for a short nap when a shout from the roadway he had been watching drew him back to the edge of the forest. A group of people appeared from around the bend in the road. A number of them were heavily armed and a few appeared to be wounded.  He’d heard some distant shooting earlier that day but hadn’t gone to check on it, preferring to stay where he was so he wouldn’t miss his target, and his only chance to escape this dying place.

There were four girls tied together in the middle of the group and as he watched one of the men, really nothing more than a boy, walked over and cut the ropes binding one of them. The boy called over another, younger boy, and handed him his pistol, pointing towards the field that was between Todd and the group. She was pregnant, he noticed as he realized he was looking at the girl he was supposed to protect.

They were going to shoot her.

The thought shot through him and he moved from cover to get into a better position from which to save her. Crawling forward behind the rusted remnants of a tractor he heard the girl sobbing as the young boy led her by the rope tied around her neck. He felt his anger rising at the thought that another innocent was about to die.

“Quit your damned crying and get on your knees, bitch.” The boy said as Todd came around the side of the car in a crouch. The girl looked up and screamed as he came into view.

The boy spun around and leveled his weapon at Todd who had been caught unarmed, his pistol still resting in its holster.

“Who the fuck are you?” the boy said, the massive muzzle of the gun wavered slightly as he started to squeeze the trigger. He fired, the muzzle blossoming flame in slow motion as the roar of the shot washed over Todd and his eardrums were flattened by the concussion. The round went wide, passing harmlessly through the air to the right of Todd’s head.

The boy was pulling back the hammer for another shot when his eyes widened with surprised shock and the hand holding the gun fell lifelessly to his side.

“Gaahhhh,” the boy said as he reached up with his free hand towards the back of his head. He dropped to his knees revealing the girl Todd had been tasked with protecting as she stood over the boy, her face twisted into a mask of savage anger, her hand wrapped around the handle of the hammer growing from the back of the boys head, the claws buried deep in his brain.

She wrenched the hammer free as Todd rubbed his ears in a failed attempt to restore his hearing. She screamed silently as she raised the hammer over her head and brought it down savagely onto the boys head. He dropped to his knees in front of Todd, the gun still held in one hand, resting lifelessly against the ground, forgotten. The boy looked at him with a questioning expression as the light of life faded from his eyes and he fell face first to the ground at Todd’s feet.

He didn’t know where she got the hammer, and quite honestly didn’t really care, she’d saved his ass and given the boy exactly what he deserved.

Blood sprayed against the rusted hulk of the tractor beside them, glistening in the sunlight as she pummeled the boy’s body with the hammer in a frenzied attack fueled by terror and rage.

More attuned to the need to survive, even though he couldn’t yet hear, Todd knew the others would be coming soon and they needed to be out of there when they did. He reached for the girl and she slashed savagely at his hand with the hammer. He jerked his hand back and pulled his own pistol, leveling the muzzle in the direction the others were coming.

Her eyes went wide with terror as she fell back, only becoming aware of the direction Todd was aiming when she dropped to her knees at the boys lifeless feet. She glanced back over her shoulder as Todd fired and the first of the approaching attackers dropped to the ground in a tangled heap. He fired again as another appeared, the round catching the boy in the shoulder and spinning him around as blood splattered across the dusty ground.

Through it all the only thing Todd could hear was that persistent ringing in his ears that cast the whole scene in an eerie light. He felt more than heard the sound of a round ricocheting from the rusted hunk of the tractor beside him and he hunkered down behind its bulk as he returned fire. 

The girl crawled around behind the tractor with him and he glanced in her direction as he kept a watch over the edge of the tractor. He knew if they were smart the attackers would be trying to flank him soon and with that in mind he swiveled his head left and right, searching for new threats he felt sure were even then sneaking up on them.

“We have to get out of here,” he said to the girl who looked up at him with fear and anger battling for control of her emotions. Another round ricocheted from the tractor and this time he heard a faint whickering sound as the round spun harmlessly by them. His hearing was coming back, slowly.

She cried out in pain, the sound of her voice coming to Todd as a faint whisper within a static filled hiss that had replaced the ringing in his ears. He glanced over to find her doubled over her swollen belly with her arms wrapped around her middle. A wet stain covered the fabric of the front of her pants and he realized she was having the baby, right there, in the middle of a gun fight.

“No,“ he shouted, “not here!”

She cried out in response as she cradled herself with her arms, curling up into a fetal position on the ground behind the tractor.

He gabbed her arm and pulled her up to a sitting position. “If we stay here, we die, and that includes your baby,” Todd shouted at her and she nodded in understanding, pain etched across her features.

Another round slammed into the bulk of the tractor, followed by a fusillade that pelted the old steel protecting them. Todd knew they would be moving during the gunfire and he peaked around the side of the tractor, catching sight of two boys running towards the tree line that would provide cover as they moved to flank them. He glanced back the way he had come, inside the tree line was his gear, if he could reach that they would have a better chance of surviving.

“We have to get to the trees,” he shouted, his voice coming to him as if from a great distance away.

She nodded in understanding and Todd pushed himself to his feet, his hand latched onto hers, if she fell he was gonna drag her ass all the way to the trees.

“Now,” he shouted and they took off, running bent over across the overgrown field, every step brining them another step closer to the tree line. Bullets whipped by through the air around them, some slammed into the ground at their feet, sending small geysers of dirt into the air upon impact.

They reached the tree line just as another group of boys emerged to their left and Todd went to ground, diving for his pack as they fired at them.

From his pack he removed a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with double ought buckshot, powerful enough the cut a man in half. They were in a slight depression in the ground and from the East came the sound of the boys racing towards them. Firing on the run the boys had Todd and the woman pinned down, but he had a little surprise for them.

Bullets zinged through the air above them, some slamming into the dead tree limbs that formed a barrier on the right side of the depression.

The girl began screaming next to him and he quickly checked her, believing she had been hit by a stray round. Finding no blood he could only assume the was having the baby. He hadn’t been hired to deliver a baby, in fact he didn’t know how to, before the apocalypse he’d been a hardware clerk more concerned with the customers and their orders of screws and nails and such.

There had been one time a pregnant woman nearly gave birth in the store, but they had called nine, one, one, and the paramedics had arrived to take the woman to the hospital. It was as close as he’d ever come, or even wanted to come to a woman giving birth. Now he was pinned down in the forest with a pregnant woman beside him about to have a baby, while the forest around them was filled with people trying to kill them.

The first of the attackers appeared over the lip of the depression they hid in, a young boy, no more than twelve, who lifted his rifle for what he thought was an easy shot. The roar of the shotgun caused a pause in the firing as the young boys face was obliterated by the wad of double ought buckshot that took his head clean off. He dropped to the ground without firing a shot, dying before he even knew he was dead.

The woman continued to scream as Todd crawled over to her.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

She stopped screaming, replacing the vocalization of her pain with a hard panting in an effort to control the process, sweat covered her face, and she looked at him with a wild expression. “You could make them stop shooting,” she said between deep breaths.

“Sure,” he chuckled, “I’ll just pop up and ask everyone to be quiet for a moment while you give birth.” He said as a fusillade of rounds slammed into the deadfall. He heard running feet coming in his direction and got ready.

There were two this time, one to his left, the other on his right. The one on the right came into view and Todd took a shot, the spreading buckshot hitting the older man in the hip and spinning him around as he fell to the forest floor where he lay screaming in pain.

The one on the left managed to make it all the way into the depression, his revolver aimed out in front of him as he jumped into the hole with a shout of triumph. The woman kicked him in the knee, sending him sprawling as his shot went wild, vanishing into the trees with a splatter of sound. He scrabbled backwards on his hands and feet in a crabwalk as Todd brought up his shotgun. He let the boy reach the lip of the depression, believing her was about to get away, before he caressed the trigger and sent him sprawling through the forest.

What had begun as a wild chase through the forest settled into a drawn out stalemate as each side considered their options. The man on the right continued to scream for another twenty minutes before his cries dwindled to a whimpering moan that quickly became silence as death took him.

“You have to help me, I can’t do this alone,” the girl said grabbing Todd’s sleeve.

“Me, I’ve never delivered a baby before, I don’t know what to do.”

“You won’t have to do much, wrap the baby in a towel, tie off and cut the cord, I’ll do the rest.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to, I can’t hold off any longer, the baby’s coming,” and with that she squirmed out of her pants and panties. “Do you have rubbin alcohol?”

“Yes,”

“Use it to sterilize your knife, we’ll also need some sterile string to tie off the cord.”

“I can soak some in alcohol.”

“That’ll work. You will also need to help me remove the placenta.”

“The what?”

“The afterbirth, you know what the afterbirth is don’t you?”

“No, I told you, I’ve never done this before.”

“Well there’s always a first time. Do you have any bandages? I’ll need to stop the bleeding.”

“What bleeding?”

She squeezed her eyes shut, lifting her head as her grip tightened on his hand, very nearly breaking his finger. Then she relaxed with a deep breath.

“He’s coming,” she said as she pulled her legs up and spread them. Todd glanced down and looked away, embarrassed, it was nothing like the magazines he once read.

The sound of running feet came from his left and he swiveled around just as another young boy emerged from the forest, running towards them with a shotgun spitting flames. A spreading wad of BB’s, like a cloud of angry bees, slammed through the limbs over his head.

Branches fell to the ground around him and he returned fire, the double ought buckshot finding its mark, doubling the boy over as he dropped to the ground in a tangled heap.

“Help me,” the girl screamed behind him and he swung around expecting to find another attacker in the depression with them. Instead he saw the crown of a baby’s head as it emerged from between her upraised legs.

“Don’t let him fall on the ground,” she shouted as she pawed at the ground with her hands. He was keeping his distance, his finger still sore from being nearly broken by her relentless grip.

Grabbing a towel from his pack he scooted over and gently removed the emerging baby,

“You have to make him cry or he wont breathe on his own.”

“How do I do that?”

“Smack his ass.”

“What?”

“You heard me, turn him upside down and smack his ass, you’ve got to get the fluid out of his lungs or he won’t survive.”

Pounding footsteps came from behind him and he swiveled around on his hips, drawing his revolver as he did, firing at the boy running towards him. The baby that had been nestled in his arm jumped in response to his gunfire and struggled to take a breath, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. Quickly he suspended the child by his feet and slapped his bloody bottom. Amniotic fluid was ejected from his mouth and he cried in a shrill voice with his eyes screwed tightly shut.

“Give him to me,” she said as she reached for the child.

Todd wrapped the baby in the towel and handed him to his mother as another contraction slammed her onto her back and a second baby’s head emerged.

“There’s another one,” Todd said as the second child emerged much easier than the first. This time he knew what he had to do and quickly had the child wrapped in a t-shirt, as he only had one towel, and suckling at its mothers breast.

“We have to cut the cords, and you have to get the afterbirth out of me,” the girl said and Todd’s stomach performed several lazy somersaults.

“Just tie them off in two places and cut between them,” she said, “after that you should be able to pull the placenta out, but do it gently.”

Todd was sweating as he tied the cords, his hands shaking so bad he was hardly able to tie the knots. Finally he managed to do what he had to and was able to put everything behind him as he turned his attention to the task of getting them out of there. He knew where an old woman lived who’d be able to help the girl heal, but first he had to get rid of those around him.

Gathering up his shotgun and pistol he filled the pockets of his jacket with shells.

“Where are you going?” she said.

“We gotta get out of here, and we can’t do that while they’re still out there.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to do what I do best, I’m gonna go out there and kill every one of them.”

“What about me?”

“I’ll be back for you.”

“But what if one of them tries to sneak up on me while you’re gone?”

Todd pulled the forty five semi automatic from his pack and after checking to make sure it was loaded passed it to her.

“Safety’s off, all you gotta do is aim and squeeze the trigger, but be careful, it’s got a bit of a kick. When I come back I’ll let you know it’s me so you don’t shoot me.”

With that he turned and vanished into the forest.

He was alone now, unencumbered with the extra weight of someone who didn’t understand the true brutality of the world in which they lived. It was time to take the fight to them, and hands that had recently helped bring new life into this world, would now be used to reduce the population of those who dared to come after him.

As night slowly descended upon the forest he moved like a wraith through the shadowy depths. The first group he came upon didn’t even know he was there until it was too late. He emerged from the shadows with his guns blazing and three of the attackers met their end, the other two fleeing into the night as he moved on to his next target, and his next, each with the same result.

At last they were alone and he returned to the depression where he helped the young girl to her feet. Cradling one sleeping baby he led her into the forest depths. An old woman would tend to her and ensure the survival of her twin boys. As he looked down at the sleeping child he realized he could really get comfortable being a dad.  

THE END

I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into the world inhabited by Billie-Bob and his friends. To read more about their adventures in a post apocalyptic world follow the links below.


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