He had hit somebody. They were writhing on the hood as John’s feet stomped around trying to find the brake pedal. A face was pressed against the windshield and it was—
John slammed on the brakes and the Caddie spun out on the gravel. Franky held on.
John reached into his backseat for the chainsaw, then realized there was no chainsaw in the backseat because he had forgotten to drop by Dave’s place to get it from his toolshed.
Franky reached around through the driver’s side window and snatched at John’s shirt. John shrugged away from the hand and dove for the opposite door, pushing his way out and rolling onto the ground. He ran. John’s fists pumped toward the light of the turkey building, pulling frozen breaths around the cigarette butts piled up in his lungs. He heard footsteps behind him.
John reached the building. There was the door. John yanked it open.
The fucking smell. Holy shit. It was one of those stinks that seemed to generate its own warmth. Mold and poop and rotten meat. It hit him like a wall. It looked for a moment like there was a foot of snow inside the building, just white as far as the eye could see in that impossibly huge space. Turkeys. Turkeys so thick you couldn’t see the ground, white feathers and thin little twitchy heads and, here and there, a rustle of flapping wings, birds jumping and thrashing and squawking and flailing through the air, demonstrating turkey flight as one of God’s failures.
John was running again, kicking through turkeys, sucking in air, accidentally eating a feather. Looking for a weapon. Where does a turkey farm keep the chainsaws? Thinking fast, John clutched at the nearest turkey, spun and hurled it at his pursuer. Franky caught the bird like a flapping medicine ball, studied it, then turned and ran out of the building.
“Goddamnit,” yelled someone from behind John. “You gave him another turkey! You’re payin’ for it.”
It was a couple of guys in gray coveralls. To the one who looked like he spoke English, John said, “Weapons! We need weapons! That’s the guy! Franky! He’ll be back after he eats that turkey! Get a chain—OW—”
A turkey bit him on the ankle.
Wait, not a turkey.
One of those fucking spider monsters.
“Shit!” John kicked the spider off his shoe, hard enough that he expected it to go flying like a punted football, but it was kind of clinging to his shoe and it only landed about ten feet away. One of the dudes in coveralls behind him started shouting something in Spanish.
John turned to them and said, “Kill it! Help me kill that thing! I think Franky shit it!”
The dudes seemed to be running away. Hopefully they’d come back with a chainsaw. John backed up, realizing he’d kicked the spider to a spot where it’d be between him and the door.
More flapping and gobbling. The turkeys were going crazy where the spider had landed. John could see the spider appeared to be attached to a turkey somehow. Then, one of the spider’s legs shot out, becoming rigid and ten times as long. It impaled four turkeys as if on a skewer, punching through them with little sprays of blood and feather. The spider extended another tentacle and did it again. Four more turkeys skewered. Again. Now there were four rows of turkeys joined at the central point where the spider’s body was.
The X-shaped cluster of turkeys rose as one body, as tall as a man. Two rows of turkeys forming legs, two forming arms. The turkey Voltron took tentative, lumbering steps toward John. He couldn’t help noticing that after a few steps, the two turkeys it was using as feet had been pulverized into a pink, feathery mess. John stood frozen for several seconds while he tried to decide if any of this was in fact happening. He decided that running was the best option either way.
He ran across the building, spotting another door on the opposite wall, kicking turkeys as he went. He shoved through the door and, as if in answer to a prayer he had been too drunk and stoned to pray, there sat a filthy white pickup truck with a faded cartoon turkey on the door, the engine running. John threw himself into the driver’s seat, grabbed the gearshift on the steering column and realized it was the turn signal. He looked down to find the stick on the floor when a bundle of wings, feathers and stench punched him in the face. He’d been hit in the jaw with a turkey fist.
John slapped at the turkey, trying to shove it back out of the window, unsuccessfully. He found the crank to roll up the window and the turkey gobbled frantically as it was squeezed by the glass. Behind it was the row of turkeys and the rest of the turkey man’s body. John threw the truck in gear and stepped on the gas, hauling the thrashing body of possessed turkeys alongside.
Steering with his right hand and punching a confused fist turkey with his left, John smashed through a chain-link fence and plowed through a stack of bags of turkey feed. He cranked the wheel, nearly crashed right into the building he had just left, and found himself heading back toward the overpass, wind gushing through the gap in the window and filling the interior of the truck with feathers.
The road curved but John didn’t, and suddenly he was bouncing over rough terrain, the turkey collective exploding in angry gobbles with each bump. And then the terrain was gone. He was tilting in the air.
Impact. The steering wheel punched him in the face. John heard a splash. He had time to think, Franky is alive and Dave doesn’t know it.
Before everything went black.
12 Hours Prior to Outbreak
At around 9 P.M. I locked up Wally’s. I hadn’t heard from John since he’d called in the afternoon, which I considered to be a good thing since it meant he had probably forgotten about the whole thing and fell asleep on his sofa watching UFC fights.
Watch the shadows.
That had been the advice from John. Please. This is freaking Undisclosed. That’s like reminding a passenger on a Brooklyn subway not to fondle the hobos in their bathing suit area. I went home and did a room-by-room search of the house. Nothing out of the ordinary. Also nothing in any of the closets, or in the attic, at least as far as I could tell from sweeping the space with a flashlight from the hatch in the hallway. I decided I should check the crawl space under the house, and then I decided fuck that.
Still, I left every light on. I remembered the power outage that accompanied the little bastard showing up last time and I was ready for that, too. I had an LED flashlight in my pocket—compact, but powerful enough to light up half the backyard—and a bundle of six red road flares next to the bed that I had grabbed from my stash in the toolshed. I sat on the bed so that my back was nestled in the corner, the whole room visible from there. I got out my laptop.
From the webcam window Amy said, “What happened to your eye?”
“I told my psychiatrist about you. She got jealous and came at me with a knife.”
“It was the hospital thing, wasn’t it?”
“I got a bus ticket, I’m coming down tomorrow.”
“Amy. No. Get a refund. It’s nothing, the whole thing was overblown. A guy just went crazy and shot some dudes.”
“That’s not what John said on TV.”
“That’s between me and John. You know how he just says shit sometimes.”
“The news says the army is there.”
“It’s just the National Guard or something. They’re just trying to reassure people, after nine-eleven the strategy has always been to overreact to every little thing rather than risk being wrong once.”
“So what happened?”
“I just … it’s nothing. A guy went crazy and it was scary and now it’s over. Really.”
“Okay. I’m still coming down, by the way. You need me. You’re upset and I can tell. I’ve seen you like this. You’re scared and you’re trying to act like you’re not.”
I sighed. “If I tell you what’s going on, will you back off?”
After a long, dramatic, silence I said, “I saw something last night. It kind of disturbed me.”
Her eyes lit up. “Really? What?”
“John, he … he accidentally sent me a picture of his dick.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Ew. You sure it was an accident?”
“Ah, I knew you’d find a way to make it worse, dear.”
She said, “You look terrible.”
“I just need to sleep. I needed to hear your voice first, that’s all.”
“Ah, that’s sweet. What do you want to talk about?”
I glanced out of the window again. No stars tonight. I said, “Just hypothetically, you’d be okay without me, right? Seriously, if something were to happen to me, you’d move on? Find somebody better?”
“I hate when you get in these moods, David.”
“Just tell me you’d be okay. I’ll sleep better.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“I’ll be down tomorrow.”
11 Hours, 45 Minutes Prior to Outbreak
John’s feet were wet. It was dark. He tried to remember where he was. Had he passed out in the kiddie pool again? Water was running over his shoulder.
Hey, there’s a steering wheel.
Okay, so he was in a vehicle of some kind. He couldn’t see shit out the windshield. Feet freezing. Something racing past the glass …
John’s knees were getting cold now. He reached down and dunked his hand in water and thought OH SHIT I AM UNDER WATER HERE JESUS OH JESUS
His head was all muddled and he started slapping stupidly around the unfamiliar console. He turned the windshield wipers on. No effect. More bursts of bubbles flew past the windshield as his precious air escaped through a hundred cracks in a craft not made to be submerged.
MY AIR, thought John, crazily. THAT IS MY AIR LEAVING.
Belatedly he realized the water soaking his left arm was pouring in from the partly open window next to him. He turned toward the door and took a face full of wet turkey.
John shoved it aside and clutched at the door handle. He kicked at the door. It felt like somebody had stacked two tons of sand on the other side. He pushed with both feet and was shocked when more freezing water came raining in. Truck filling fast. Submerged to his chest now, the cold water like needles in every muscle. John was hyperventilating, crazily trying to pull the door closed again to keep the water out.