“What the hell’s wrong with that TV?”
Bill Bridges growled at the television screen that was flickering on and off like a strobe light in the living room. Damn thing wouldn’t stop. It was getting painful to look at but Bill had to suck it up – he was trying to watch the news.
And the news was pretty big.
Bill was standing at the kitchen sink of a beautiful two-story beach house in New Smyrna Beach, located on the central east coast of Florida.
His soap-drenched hands writhed furiously under the warm flowing water, working off the last of the filth that he’d acquired after a hard morning’s work doing various bits and pieces around the house.
But Bill’s mind wasn’t really on the clean up job at the sink. He was more focused on the news broadcast blaring out of the TV in between regular spurts of crackle and flashing light. A woman with a troubled expression was sitting behind the news desk. She was dressed in a conservative yet stylish blue suit; the make-up on her face had been applied flawlessly, the hair perfectly rigid, and yet there was something wrong – it was right there in her eyes. They were constantly on the move – jumping back and forth between the sheet of paper on the desk and someone behind the camera. Bill found this jerky habit to be distracting, almost dizzying, but he tried to block out the woman’s body language and listen to what she was saying.
Most of the details passed him by due to the constant electrical interruption, but he caught the essentials:
…thousands moving across the south-eastern coast in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida…
…advise people to stay in and lock their doors.
…lock your doors. They’re c…
The TV screen went blank.
Bill turned off the tap, grabbed a dishtowel and dried his hands.
He shook his head, thinking about how all the other big news stories of recent weeks had paled into insignificance in the wake of the outbreak. All those things that were such a big deal at the time – the growing tensions with North Korea, the inevitability of climate change, the guy who’d performed the highest tightrope walk ever in Melbourne Australia, the serial killer in Florida who liked to chop off the heads of his victims, the World Cup semi-finals and last but not least, the discovery of a horde of Nazi relics in Patagonia which led many people to believe that Adolf Hitler had survived the war and fled to South America.
None of it mattered anymore.
There was a scream outside.
Bill didn’t flinch. He knew it was nothing to worry about. He’d been hearing screaming like that outside on the beach all morning and fortunately those weren’t your regular high-pitched George Romero shrieks of terror. Those were happy screams, accompanied by raucous fits of laughter and frequent yelps of delight.
Loud music was blaring too – the good stuff from the 1980s like Prince and Michael Jackson.
It sounded like a helluva fun time.
From what Bill could gather, the people in one of the houses further down the beach were having a fancy dress party. The party had long since spilled out of the house and onto the beach and Bill had already spied a variety of impressive costumes through the kitchen window.
Fair play to them, he thought.
The zombie apocalypse wasn’t going to spoil their fun. Damn right. And now that Bill had finished his work for the morning, he planned to go out and join them.
A cold beer sounded very nice indeed.
He looked at his hands one more time, checking they were thoroughly clean. Then he walked over to the TV and gave it a hard slap on the back. A loud thud was all that happened – the TV was dead, the news report long gone.
Bill tilted his head.
Was it the TV? Or was the problem back in the news studio?
He tried some other channels. Nothing but a blank screen.
“Stupid,” he said.
Bill wasn’t so much bothered about the prospect of zombies on his doorstep as he was about missing the World Cup semi-final later that day.
Italy versus France.
That was must see TV for God’s sake. Bill was at least a quarter Italian.
Besides, they’d been talking about zombies for days. Or was it weeks already? Scaremongering sons of bitches on the TV, Internet and anywhere else that served up fake news on a daily basis. Everyone knew what the media was like. Hype machine. Zombies – that was a joke! It was probably a bunch of drunken rednecks in Alabama who’d strayed beyond the state line and who just happened to put the fear of God into a couple of hysterical, oversensitive old ladies in Georgia.
The next thing you know, Fox News are talking about zombies.
Bill laughed out loud.
Oh really? So why don’t they show any footage of the monsters? Because it would upset the kids?
As far as Bill Bridges was concerned, if they weren’t on his doorstep then it wasn’t happening. The zombie apocalypse was nothing more than the media up to their old tricks again, trying to control the non-thinking population with fear tactics.
“And I ain’t gonna miss that soccer game,” Bill said, wagging a finger at the TV. “So you’d better start working mister. Got it?”
Outside the music came to a sudden stop.
Bill glanced towards the window. His face scrunched up in confusion. The immediate silence that followed that long run of breezy 1980s mega-hits that had been playing all day was unnerving.
He walked out of the living room towards the kitchen window. Before he got there, the sound of a woman’s scream forced Bill to clap his hands over his head.
That wasn’t a happy scream anymore.
Bill heard the muffled roar of somebody shouting. It was a wild, panicky noise. He took his hands off his ears, eager to catch the gist of what was going on out there.
“They’re coming!” somebody yelled.
“Not that way,” a woman shouted. “You can’t go that way. Stay away from the road!”
“To the water!” a man’s voice cried out. “Everybody. Get into the water! Now!”
Bill looked outside, his heart racing. The kitchen window offered a gorgeous view of the Atlantic Ocean, usually so tranquil and sublime. Not today. A screaming stampede of people were fleeing down the beach towards the water, the majority of them wearing fancy dress costumes. Some small groups of five or six were carrying rubber dinghies between them. Most people however, were jumping into the water with nothing. They were charging towards the deeper water, swimming for their life.
Bill saw a lot of frightened faces looking back towards the shore as they hit the water. Their eyes bulged with terror, gawking at something behind the row of beach houses.
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Apex Predators is the first story in the GrimLog (Tales of Terror) series. It’s available to buy here for just 0.99.