The Long Walk: An excerpt
Patience jumped upright in the bed, bumping against someone. She turned to see Corliss beside her, her breathing heavy. She was about to touch the woman to see what she wanted when she heard the voice again.
This time she recognized it.
“Papa! Papa, where are you?”
“There’s not much time, cheri,” he said. “They are coming. You must warn the others.”
“Who is coming, Papa? Who?”
“The ones that killed me,” Papa said. “They are coming for you.”
Patience sat in a daze, trying to comprehend what was happening to her.
“Patience, you must wake up your friends,” Papa said.
“Papa, how are you…”
“PATIENCE! WAKE UP YOUR FRIENDS NOW!”
Patience grabbed Corliss’s shoulders then shook her as hard as she could. Corliss eyes popped open.
“Chile, what are you doing?” she said
“Papa told me to wake you,” Patience said. “He said they are coming.”
“They?” Corliss’s eyes went wide. She jumped from the bed.
“Everybody wake up!” she shouted. “Haints are coming!”
The little house exploded in activity. Courtney came to his feet as if he’d never been asleep, his machetes drawn. Big Jim blocked the door holding an axe, his thick hands twisting on the handle. Missy stood in the center of the house, her eyes closed and her arms extended. She seemed to be chanting. Patience watched in amazement as her fingertips began to glow, the light becoming so intense that they illuminated the room like daylight. Corliss joined Courtney, fiddle in one hand, bow in the other. Everyone looked at Missy. When the woman finally lifted her head, her eyes glowed like her fingertips.
“Go,” she said, her luminous eyes focused on the twins. “Take Patience. Keep her safe.”
“I ain’t running from no haints!” Courtney shouted.
“This ain’t your fight,” Missy said. “Me and Jimmy will handle this. Now go!”
Corliss looked at Patience and shared one of her calming smiles.
“Get your things, chile,” she said. “And take out that stick of yours. You might need to use it.”
Patience stuffed her clothes in her bag then secured it on her back. She opened the box and took out Papa’s bois. The stick felt warm in her hand, pulsing with the rhythm of her heart.
“Are you ready, cheri?” her father asked.
“I’m afraid,” she replied.
“Don’t be,” Papa said. “We are with you.”
“Come on, girl!” Courtney shouted. “We go to go.”
Patience ran from the room to Corliss’s side. The group was gathered in the center of the room, everyone’s eyes on Missy. The kind woman had taken on a serene look, as if she was far away. It was the same look Papa had when he stood in the flames. Patience’s hands trembled.
“Take the north highway to the ford,” Missy said. “Old Man Jones will get you to the mainland. Once you get there, head west along Terminus Highway. About five miles down the road you’ll come across train tracks. A train will come around noon. It will be traveling slowly with a load of pulpwood. You should be able to jump on and ride it to Dublin. You’ll have to change trains there to take you west.”
Corliss raised her head.
“They’re getting close,” she said.
“We need more time,” Missy replied. “You better play something.”
Corliss let go of Patience’s hand.
“You better cover your ears,” she said. “The first time is usually pretty rough.”
Corliss tucked the fiddle under her chin then raised the bow. Patience cupped her hands over her ears as she was told. The others closed their eyes then stood rigid. Corliss dragged the bow over the strings. The sound created was not music. A sharp pain struck Patience’s stomach and her hands clutched at the ache as she fell to her knees. It was the worst she’d ever felt, like she was being stabbed by fire. Her scream was drowned out by louder cries from outside the house, sounds that could not have come from the throats of humans. The agony in her gut subsided as quickly as it had come, but the cries outside continued as Corliss played. They eventually faded into the distance and Corliss stopped playing.
Courtney came to Patience then helped her to her feet.
“How you feeling?” he asked.
“Terrible,” Patience replied.
“She did better than I expected,” Missy said. “She’s strong.”
Corliss hugged her then kissed her cheek, taking the pain away.
“I’m sorry, chile,” she said. “It takes Siren a minute to get to know you. You’ll be alright the next time.”
Patience struggled to her feet.
Corliss raised the fiddle. “That’s what I call her.”
“You need to leave now,” Missy said. “They’ll be back.”
Patience gazed into Missy’s eyes.
“You aren’t coming.”
“No sugar,” Missy said. “This is your journey. Mine is done.”
The way she said those words told Patience she would never see Missy and Big Jim again.
Courtney and Corliss hugged Missy and Big Jim. Patience hugged them as well, the sorrow she felt as deep as for people she had known all her life.
“Missy,” she said. “Why is this happening?”
Missy smiled, her eyes still glowing.
“Because it always has chile,” she said.
“We’re wasting time,” Courtney said. “Come on, gal.”
Patience kissed Missy’s cheek then marched to the twins.
“I’m ready,” she said.
“No, you ain’t,” Courtney replied. “But it don’t make no difference now. Stay between me and Corliss, you hear?”
“Yes,” Patience answered.
Courtney took his root bag from his pocket. He opened it then sprinkled the contents about the house, and then he ran to the door and snatched it open. He darted outside, Patience and Corliss following. They ran down the path leading from the house then onto the main road. A sound like hurricane winds rose behind them; Patience looked back to see a gray mass twisting around Missy’s house, a mass of distorted human-like shapes. A portion of the mass broke away and surged in their direction.
“Run Patience!” Corliss yelled.
Patience ran as fast as she could but still could not catch up to Courtney. She felt Corliss hand press against her back, pushing her to move faster. She peeked over her shoulder again; the gray mass was closing on them.
“This ain’t going to work,” Corliss shouted. “She ain’t fast enough!”
“I’m glad you said that,” Courtney shouted back. Courtney ran a bit further into an open stretch on the road then stopped. He reached into his pocket, extracting another root bag. Corliss eyes went wide when she saw the bag.
“You sure?” she said.
“Yep,” Courtney replied.
Corliss looked at Patience.
“Get down on the ground,” she said. “Stay there till I tell you to get up.”
“Yes ma’am!” Patience replied. She sat on the ground, clutching her Papa’s bois. The gray swarm finally reached them, a foul howling invading Patience’s ears as the mass descended toward them. Courtney looked upward, a mischievous smile on his face. Corliss looked up as well, her fiddle braced against her chin, her bow poised over the strings. Courtney threw the root bag into the cloud. It spun, caught in the mass then opened, changing the cloud from gray to black.
“Now!” he shouted.
Corliss dragged her bow over the strings, producing a high-pitched note. Patience was blinded by intense light then there was an explosion that pushed her into the ground. She lay still for what seemed like minutes, stunned by the force.
“Get up, cheri,” she heard her father say. “You must help them.”
Patience struggled to her feet as her eyes and ears cleared. What she saw struck her with terror. The ground around her was littered with misshapen creatures, some writhing, others still. Those still alive and undamaged attacked Courtney and Corliss. The twins stood back-to-back, wielding their machetes against the relentless attack. Patience walked toward them, her bois held high as her father taught her. Suddenly the bois pulled her toward the fray, almost dragging her to one of the beasts. Her hand slid to the base of the bois and she swung down, splitting the creature’s skull. Gray ichor splashed her clothes and face, stinging her bare skin. Patience attempted to run away but the bois would not let her. It pulled her to the next creature then guided her hands to strike it on the back of the thighs. The creature fell backwards; Patience took off its head with a blow to its neck. The bois continued to take her from ghoul to ghoul until none remained alive. Patience panted, more from fear than fatigue. When she looked at Courtney and Corliss, they were covered in ghoul blood, looking at her with smiles.
“Damn, girl,” Courtney said. “You did good!”
Patience looked at them, her hands trembling.
“I didn’t do this,” she stammered. “Papa did.”
Courtney looked and Corliss.
“What the hell is she talking about? Her daddy is . . .”
A loud explosion cut him off, the force knocking the three of them to the ground. The bois flew from Patience’s hands as she tumbled over the ground, coming to a stop against Corliss. She immediately jumped to her feet to find it but another sight took her attention. A fire blazed where Missy’s house had once stood, the ground littered with the charred bodies of ghouls. She felt a soothing touch on her shoulder and knew it was Corliss.
“Come on, baby,” she said. “We have to get moving.”
Patience looked into Corliss’s eyes. Corliss shared a melancholy smile.
“You know what happened,” she said.
Corliss handed her the bois.
“Here’s your stick. We need to be getting on now. This ain’t the last of the haints.”
I hope you enjoyed this exciting excerpt from The Long Walk. If you want to read more, it's currently on sale at MVmedia, but it's available anywhere books are sold. Just click the link and place your order. As always, thank you for your 'patience' and your support.