Chapter Eleven—The Storm
Jenny Kilgore walked into her living room and saw Linda and Frank asleep together on the couch; they’d dozed off while studying. She smiled; the two of them looked simply adorable together.
Charlie Kilgore walked in, seeming not to notice the sleeping teenagers, and said, “It’s going to rain soon.”
Jenny shook her head. “Certainly not. There’s not a cloud in the sky.”
“My leg’s started hurting. It’s going to rain soon; I’d state my watch and warrant on it.”
Jenny waved dismissively and gestured to Linda and Frank. “Don’t those two just look adorable?”
“That they are, Jen. That they are.”
He walked off. As soon as he was gone, there was a tremendous boom—like a freight train roaring down a mountain—that shook the entire house, and the sky grew dark. The wind howled like an angry beast. The newly-darkened sky ripped open and a great torrent of water poured down on the town of Oslo. Frank and Linda, thrown awake by the deafening Thor-blast, scuttled away from each other self-consciously.
After a few minutes, the sound of water pelting the roof and windows grew deeper; the rain was freezing. Linda’s mother smiled magnanimously and said, “Frank, sweetie, why don’t you call your mother and tell her you won’t be able to make it home?”
Frank mumbled something to the effect of an assent, got up, and walked into the kitchen. Linda’s mother sat down next to her daughter and said girlishly, “So Linda, are you and Frank like boyfriend-girlfriend now?”
Linda blushed. “Yeah.”
“I’m happy for you. That Frank is a nice boy.”
“Yeah,” Linda said introspectively. “Yeah, he really is.”
It didn’t take long—only a couple of hours—for the storm to break. It disappeared just as quickly as it had arrived, leaving the house, the town, and the surrounding mountains scoured clean and buried in an inch of ice. If one had been standing on the roof, one would’ve seen that most of the town was without electricity. Frank decided to walk home. Linda went with him.
The walk through the forest—the familiar setting having been utterly transformed in the space of just a few hours—was magical. The two lovers walked together down the hill, into the valley, and through woods, marveling at the intricate crystalline structure that the frost formed on leaves and branches, on logs and stones; it took them over an hour to walk the mile to Frank’s house. When they neared the thick growth of laurel that marked the boundary of the modest Benson property, Linda—whose ears were sharpest—motioned for Frank to stand still and be quiet.
“What is it,” he whispered.
Crunch crunch . . . Crunch crunch . . . Crunch crunch . . .
Footsteps. Human footsteps, and several different sets. All as clear as day in the inch of frost that crunched like corn flakes when one walked on it.
There was a loud peal that almost sounded like thunder, but was unmistakable: The crack of a .30-06 deer rifle. The footsteps grew frantic. Linda tiptoed into the laurel, peeked cautiously out of the other side, and stopped, dumbfounded, her eyes wide and her mouth agape. Frank walked up beside her to see what was the matter.
Erwin Rommel Stronghammer stood on the roof of the Benson house, rifle clutched in his hands, Anaconda revolver hanging from his belt. He didn’t notice Frank and Linda because his attention was focused on the skeletons.
About twelve articulated human skeletons were shambling down the road toward the front of the house, each one carrying what looked like a stabbing implement fashioned out of a broken human femur. Erwin aimed at one and fired. The bullet smashed a jagged hole in its forehead, and it collapsed into a heap of bones. As he turned the bolt on his rifle to chamber another round, his eyes drifted instinctually to the left and he saw the two shocked faces staring at him out of the laurel. He waved his arms frantically to get their attention and shouted, “I’mma go down an’ open the front door! You two get inside! Quick!”
Linda and Frank bolted in unison to the front of the house and waited for Erwin to get downstairs. The skeletons were getting close; Frank found that he had unconsciously thrust his hand down the front of his shirt and wrapped it around his sword. Erwin threw open the door and they rushed inside.
“What in the Hell,” stammered Linda. “I mean, what. In. The. Hell?”
“I don’t fuckin’ know,” Erwin replied. “I really don’t fuckin’ know! Motherfuckin’ things just showed up! They ate the fuckin’ cat, Frank. I don’t know what—“ The sound of breaking glass rang through the house. “Aw, fuck me sideways with a rake!”
“That was the fuckin’ window! Jesus H. Christ, we gotta get outta here! Follow me.”
He threw his deer rifle over his shoulder, pulled the Anaconda from his belt, checked how many shots he had—five; even though the Anaconda was double-action, it was undeniable force of habit to leave the hammer resting on an empty chamber—and threw open the front door. He shot three of the skeletons through their foreheads as quick as thinking, pistol-whipped another one hard enough to knock its skull off of its neck, and fled toward the woods with Linda and Frank following.
As they fled, Frank noted with no small amount of relief that his mother’s car was not in the driveway.