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PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Dr. Dead's Island Games Part Three

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pushing open the doors, I blink at the startlingly bright light streaming down from the cloudless sky, the cawing of birds and the chirping of insects drowning out the distant sound of waves crashing on the beach. It would seem Doctor Dead’s island was of the tropical variety, the artificial lighting and climate controlled settings of our temporary cage now being crushed beneath the balmy heat and humidity of the islands natural clime. Suit loosens his tie as we walk out, a long rusted pipe slung over his shoulder in an almost lazy fashion.

 

Popping one of the bolts into my gear-wound crossbow, I move behind Tank as he pushes his way to the front of our group, my big “scalpel”, which looked to be more of a machete now that I think of it, held firmly in one of his hands. Geek and Scout move up along side us, their crossbows loaded as well, with Soldier walking behind us slowly, her eyes darting to the tall tropical trees surrounding the bunker we’d just emerged from.

 

Looking about, I could see we had three easy paths before us: a steep climb uphill which would take us up a series of cliffs, allowing us to see the entire island; a path leading directly into the darkness of the jungle.

 

Yeah, fuck that.

 

The last choice was heading down a rocky outcropping, skirting around the edge of the jungle to what looked like the ruins of a town. Maybe we could get more supplies there, but to tell the truth we really don’t need anything at the moment… and a town strikes me as a place where zombies would congregate.

 

“Higher ground,” Soldier says with a grim look, eyeing us with a calculating stare. “We need to see what there is on this island, and that means getting as close to a birds eye view as possible.”

 

“I’m with you on that,” Tank says, chuckling. “No way am I gonna run around a jungle full of zom’s if I can help it.”

 

As if to punctuate his statement, a heavy wind blew across the jungle canopy, carrying a chorus of moans with it. The jungle would likely be dense with them, if our ears could be trusted. After all, they go after any living creature for food, and what place had more life in it than a jungle?

 

Tank begins marching towards the path to high ground, the gritty earth crunching beneath his boots as we begin making our way up the twisting path. The rocky path seemed to have been carved into the side of this mountain purely with explosives, the road uneven and full of loose gravel and charred rock. From the glare of the rising sun, I could just see another small settlement built atop the crag, worn and moss covered.

 

“Incoming!” Soldier shouted out, snapping all of our attention to the rear of our group. Scrambling slowly up the side of the cliffs were darkened figures, low groans rattling deep from their desiccated throats as their hands sought handholds for their ascent. A second wave of moans came from behind us, as shambling forms stumbled from the tangled undergrowth of the jungle; arms raised high, eyes vacant pools of foggy indifference made only the more terrifying by each of their horrifying set of wounds.

 

“Wow,” I mutter beneath my breath, “This doctor doesn’t fuck around…”

 

“Shit!” Tank cries as hands burst from the loose gravel beneath his feet, the gravel turning out to be the uppermost crust of a mass grave as dozens of dust and soot covered dead began to dig themselves out from their mineral-laden beds. Broken bones shifted beneath grey skin while great tears of flesh flapped obscenely with their jaunting movements. The one grasping Tank’s boot lets out a low growl before having its head stomped on by his other boot, the skull crushing with a sickening splat.

 

Geek and Scout shriek in unison, firing their crossbows wildly at the ground, to little effect. Geek’s arrow pierced one of the rising zombies in the chest, just below the left collarbone, a puff of dirt issuing from the wound rather than any kind of fluid. Scout’s arrow goes wide, nearly shooting Geek in the thigh with her wild aim. She shrieks even louder as a long haired corpse, withered and old with vine-like muscles moving beneath maggot-riddled skin, bursts from the gravel with an unholy hiss, slashing at her leg with talon like fingers.

 

I take careful aim, exhaling slowly as I level my crossbow at the ghastly creature, before squeezing the firing mechanism of my crossbow, letting loose a whirring of gears as it fires a sharpened shard of metal straight into the side of the zombies head, caving in the entire right side of the skull. I quickly begin winding the crank on my crossbow, pulling the drawstring back so that I can reload, hopping over the forest of rotting hands rising from the ground.

 

Soldier is busy moving between the shambling horrors closing in from behind us, striking at the clumsy dead men’s chests and legs, knocking them about like rag dolls using some devastating form of martial arts, throwing those that grow to close to her over her shoulder or back and over the edge of the cliff, sending them crashing down the slope into their brethren quickly climbing the steep slope.

 

Suit is fighting right alongside her with his long metal pipe, the heavy curved end crushing bones and pulverizing flesh into sopping black pulp with every sweep. Soldier was even ducking and weaving around his wild swings, pulling zombies by their lapels or shirts into his heavy handed blows, all while tripping, kicking and stomping the dead slowly encircling them.

 

Geek and Scout have moved to the cliffs edge, onto solid stone, and have begun firing over the edge, trying to pick off the climbing dead. Tank, with his gigantic machete, was carving deep trenches with his strikes as he tore at the grasping hands rising from the soil around us. I decided to retreat to the sidelines and help my fellow archers… something seemed off about the ones climbing up after us.

 

Taking careful aim down the shadowy slope, I fire another arrow at one of the closer zombies, my crosshairs lined up directly with the creature’s misshapen head. Amazingly enough, I miss due not to my own gross incompetence with this handmade weapon, but due to the creature dodging the arrow, by leaping to the side like some demented spider, taking a firm hold of a jutting rock with one hand to remain aloft.

 

“The fuck…?” I whisper to myself as I crank my weapon’s string back to full tautness. Ever since the initial outbreak of this, one thing had been evident: Zombies aren’t smart. They don’t plan, or dodge or even think to block an incoming attack. They just exist to eat. “Something’s wrong.”

 

“You think?” Geek cries over the cacophony of pained groans around us, firing another arrow down below us and, thankfully, striking the one that dodged my shot in it’s melon shaped head, sending it tumbling down the cliff face. “Gotcha!”

 

“We need to move!” Soldier cries out, sweeping the legs out from beneath a grossly overweight dead man, his tibia snapping like dry timber as he lands badly. “There’s too many of them coming!”

 

“Then let’s move!” Tank bellows back, yanking one of the dead up from the earth beneath his feet like a ripened turnip before stomping on the creature’s skull, tearing the arm free from the body and casually throwing it over his shoulder. “Let’s go!”

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