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Horror Suspense Fiction

The smell of stale peanuts and sawdust filtered through the air. Stepping through the barren bar, Hugh glanced over the overturned barstools and bloodstained floors and knew from the dust covering the bar that this was the place. Sitting along a stretch of highway off the California coastline, The Desert Sun overlooked the Pacific Ocean on the way to Santa Barbara. 

Hugh grimaced as he nursed his wounded leg, fresh blood dripping down his leg and onto the floorboards. He slung his shotgun onto the bar and began foraging through the contents of the abandoned building. Finding an old bottle of whiskey and a bag of unopened pretzels, the wounded and defeated man settled into a booth in the back of the bar and sighed. 

“Hell of a last meal,” Hugh muttered, laughing as he took a swig of the whiskey. Hugh Ames had come to terms with his fate. After surviving for weeks in the now desolate landscape of the United States, his luck had run out hours earlier. Before he could readjust the wrapping around his wounded leg, a sound of running feet drew his attention, and he aimed his sidearm at the front door he’d just entered from just as a young man ran inside. 

The man’s face was covered in blood and dirt, much like Hughs. The man held a rifle in his hands and was so scared that he had yet to notice Hugh, instead frantically slamming the doors of the bar closed and piling as much furniture against it as possible. 

“What’s wrong partner?” Hugh asked, startling the young man to swirl around and aim his rifle. “Easy now son. If I’d wanted you dead I would have shot you long before I spoke. I’ve had you dead to rights since you barged in here. Why don’t you lower your rifle and tell me what’s got you so spooked.”

“You…you lower your gun first,” the kid stammered. His face was beaded with sweat and unshed tears. 

Hugh smiled, lowering his gun and setting it on the table in front of him. The young man relaxed, slowly lowering his gun and walking toward Hugh. 

“Which direction did you come from?” Hugh asked.

“North, been heading down here from San Francisco since the world went to hell. You?”

“South, up from LA. The damn horde has been on my ass since day 1. Looks like we’re surrounded, partner. What’s your name?”

“Ben. Ben Sanderson. Was a journalist up north at a conference when the horde arrived.”

“I was a photographer in LA. Was at the epicenter of the first attack. I understand what you’ve been through son, believe me.”

Weeks earlier, a day like any other turned into chaos. The world watched as the United States was engulfed in a major attack. Creatures from beneath the surface emerged, attacking without remorse. They were incredibly fast, strong, and vicious. They had bodies like canines but heads like snakes, and large wings that made their mobility that much more deadly. 

News reports around the world called the creatures the Horde. They efficient destruction of the US was not due to some sort of immortality or invulnerability to weaponry. The creatures could die, and humans were fighting back. However, the sheer number of creatures that continued to pour out of the Earth made it impossible to keep up. Within hours the creatures had devastated major cities across the nation, and a week later the government was left in tatters, as was most of the nation. 

Hugh had been on his way to a shoot at the La Brea Tar Pits when the first strike occurred. After a successful shoot with some upcoming social media star that had paid him a boatload of money for headshots, he had been feeling on top of the world. That feeling was replaced with dread quickly as the ground beneath them shook, and the world split open like the gates of Tartarus themselves, unleashing a horde of demons upon them. 

He watched in horror as the creatures snarling fangs and claws ripped into the flesh of those around him, blood spraying his face as he ran. The trauma of an event like that day is never what it appears to be in movies. The world didn’t slow down around him. Instead, he was operating on pure instinct, the world around him flashing like the pulsating lights of a paparazzi filled Hollywood premiere. 

Hours later he had emerged from the city limits, drenched in blood and carrying a shotgun he’d picked up from a police officer who had fallen prey to the creatures. Ripped clothes and dirt-caked skin blended with the blood of the hundreds of people he’d run past in the chaos, leaving him a shell of his former self. He’d had little time to come to grips with his new reality, however, as the screams of the dying and the howls of the monsters lit up the night sky, forcing him to begin his long journey on the road. 

“I was taking in the sites of San Francisco when they attacked,” Ben was saying now, taking Hugh out of his blood-soaked memories. “I was down at Pier 39 and was looking for a place to grab some food when the sky turned black. A horde of creatures was blotting out the sun and descended on everyone around me. Screams were everywhere, and I was shocked that I wasn’t amongst the dying when the attacks first happened. 

“A woman named Kathy saved my life,” Ben continued. “I was dazed, but she took action. She was a soldier on leave, and she never flinched in the face of that hell. She led me to the docks and to a speed boat. She found the keys and quickly got the vehicle started, loading a few more stragglers on the boat before taking off. We nearly made it out of the city and down the coast, but the creatures took notice of our departure. 

“Kathy took as many of them with her as she could, using a rifle she’d found in the boat’s cabin to pick off the flying monsters attacking us. However, she was overwhelmed and was surrounded. She told us to jump and start swimming, and as we did she must have lit a fuse of some sort. I don’t know how, but she managed to ignite a fire and explode the boat, taking the monsters with her. I swam to shore and found myself separated from the others she’d saved. I started walking down the coast after that until I got here.”

“Well, we made it a whole hell of a lot longer than either of us should have. We couldn’t have asked for anything better than that, other than for this to have all been some sort of nightmare that we could wake up from. Guess that was hoping for too much.”

“You think…think this is the end?” Ben asked.

“That’s what I’m waiting for. You and I each had those things on our tail from both directions. They’re going to close in on us and overwhelm our position.”

“I…I’m not ready,” Ben said, defeat washing over him as he slumped in his seat and took a drink of whiskey. 

“We never are son. This isn’t an action movie though. We aren’t the heroes here. I’m not sure if there are any heroes out there working on a way to stop these things, but that Horde is going to destroy this place to get to us, and I think we have no other option than to wait for our luck to run out.”

“So what, we just give up? After everything we’ve done to survive?”

“No, not a chance. I’m going to take out as many of those bastards as I can. Hell, maybe our luck will hold, and we’ll find a way out of this together. All I know is I’m tired, and while I’m going to go down swinging, I don’t know how much strength I have left, so I gotta prepare to make that final plunge into the fray.”

As they drank in silence, absorbing the reality of their situation, the radio sitting on the bar kicked to life and made them both jump. A radio broadcast broke the silence filling the air. 

“This is Avery Stevens, live from Los Angeles in an underground bunker near the coast. If you can hear me, I am using an old radio broadcasting signal to let any survivors know out there that a plan is in motion. A group of survivors is moving through the heart of this Horde, carrying a massive ultrasonic bomb that will destroy the network these creatures operate on. Within a matter of minutes, the bomb will go off, and with any luck, the creatures will fall. If you are facing an imminent threat, hold off the beasts for as long as you can. The survivors are nearly finished with their mission, and hopefully, this nightmare will be over soon.”

Hugh and Ben looked at one another, a glimmer of hope filling their eyes for the first time since the attacks began. The sound of claws outside the walls and the screech of the Horde filled the air, the electricity they produced shorting out the radio in the bar. The two men sat and looked at one another, knowing that the next few minutes would determine their ultimate fate. 

“Well, here’s to hope then,” Hugh said, raising a glass of whiskey to the young man before him. 

“Here’s to hope,” Ben stammered, hope, and fear catching in his lungs as he lifted his glass and clinked it with Hughs. The two-men took their last drink, then slowly got up and lifted their weapons. The creatures snarling faces began to break through the wood paneling of the building, their screeches becoming nearly deafening around them. 

Turning back to back as the creatures surrounded them, breaking through on all sides of the bar, Hugh and Ben took a deep breath and began the long wait for survival. Survival, and hope. 

July 10, 2020 08:14

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3 comments

Terry Jaster
07:44 Feb 26, 2024

Hellhounds. Gotta love em. Basically a giant puppy with massive teeth and attitude. Great story. I hope that you will keep up the good work. 4/5

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Louis K Lowy
21:35 Jul 16, 2020

Terrific, Anthony - it would make a great opening chapter to a novel.

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Anthony Avina
06:49 Jul 18, 2020

Thanks so much, Louis. I appreciate it. I actually think it would too. If I can expand upon it in the future I think that'd be a great opening chapter. Appreciate your support, my friend.

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