Welcome to the DUG Community Spotlight
This will be home to some of the best content members of the DUG community create. Expect to see a story spotlight roughly every two weeks/month along with other community creations such as music, videos, and graphics. Community Spotlight content will be our favorite new content on our Community Subreddit, so get out and start creating! For our newer players and members, be sure to join our Discord, follow us on Twitter and Apply to our Whitelist so you can keep up to date with all the happenings regarding our server and community!
Community Artwork – Steffy Wolf
We’ll be starting off with some artwork done by community member SteffyWolf titled Torchwood – Burden. Keep an eye on this person as they even made an awesome animatic, A is for Arson!
Community Story – Cottonballs
Our next spotlight is a 7 Part, Ongoing story called The Present Moment. Get yourself nice and comfy as this is going to be a great read!
The Present Moment
Rae stared into the glowing coals. The air around them rolled with a churning turbulence. Of necessity, the fire was small and the radiant heat was only felt in her exposed face. The coals illuminated her fair cheeks in a soft orange glow, but the light sparkled in her red bangs. All around her encroached the frigid air, biting through the thick fabric that clothed her slender frame, and threatening to snuff out what warmth remained.
There was a still watchfulness to the old building. The house in which she squatted had long been abandoned, relegated to an artifact existing only in memory, until happened upon by chance these many years later. It seemed to tolerate her presence, but only just. Hard posts and beams loomed around her in the open room. The planks on which she sat would complain loudly, scolding her whenever she shifted. Its only gift was an offer of respite against the howling wind and rain outside.
Rae pondered how everything around her was dead, objects of the world given consideration only in their observance. Akin to the fallen tree that makes no noise. Her only reminders that she did not belong with these dead things were the occasional involuntary shiver, the pit in her empty stomach, and the biological processes now reminding her, in case she’d forgotten, that she was a woman.
The dwindling coals occasionally snapped, keeping time like a broken metronome. The cadence was momentarily interrupted by a soft crack. But this new sound came from without the house. Rae froze, her eyes darting down and right as her sense of hearing took command of her full attention. The tempest outside continued to rage as the snapping coals clumsily resumed tempo. These sounds seemed distant now though and, as she listened, her mind struggled to confirm something that would justify the anxiety she was now feeling. Just a small sound, there and now gone, an unforgivable and unforgettable aberration of expectation.
The uncertainty, Rae knew, was a luxury. She knew that even though she didn’t know, and she didn’t want to know, she had to know. In the absence of recurrence of this anomaly, her eyes now glanced left. Rae’s canvas hunting pack rested at her side, having been dropped into a rounded nest to cradle her blued steel CR-75. For her small and delicate hands the pistol was a monster, but with only one cartridge, resting in the chamber, it was not a fierce one.
Rae’s mind continued to race, intrusively searching for how she went wrong. She’d been so quiet, so careful. Had she doomed herself for a mere few precious moments of comfort? Was it the light? The smoke? The noise? Should she have just lain down in a corner and become one of the dead things around her?
The dead things. Soon she may not have a choice in the matter. Rae had considered saving that last, tarnished, 9mm round for herself. She could stop fighting and scraping and suffering this…existence. She could relent to her hardships and finally join the dead things all around her in rest…in peace. But as before, in the countless many months passed, Rae’s instinct of self-preservation ignited, from some bottomless well, immune to entropy.
Rae silently extended her right hand, her movement independent of the rest of her body. She took hold of the CR-75, its freezing handle sucking the warmth from her tender palm. Rae slipped the pistol under her left armpit, the icy slide shocking her warm core, and drawing her ever back to the realm of the living.
The old doorknob, around a corner and down the long hall, creaked. The sound waves pulsing like cannon fire as they echoed throughout the dwelling. The creaks stepped from one to the next as the neglected door knob began to relent. Rae’s heart pounded, her blood loudly pulsing about her head . The urge to spring to her feet and dive through the adjacent plate glass window was nigh irresistible. Rae then remembered the words of her father; “When you are strong, feign weakness,” and her finger slid forward, caressing the polished trigger.
Ernest crept along the side of the house, his feet clad only in thick wool socks. His work boots were left to stand sentry at the tree line. The mounds of overgrown grass and yard debris gave way under his feet. He felt the occasional vibration of a fractured twig, but was certain any noise would be drowned out by the storm. Ernest’s hulking body was wrapped in layers upon layers of old clothing, sagging low from the weight of the water. He was soaked, but not cold. The thick fat about his body not only insulated well against the elements, but made him a strong and formidable man. For Ernest, it was not the being wet, but merely the process of becoming wet that was the nuisance. Now, having trudged for some number of hours through the torrent, he was content in his condition.
Before the small village materialized in the darkness, Ernest smelled the wood smoke. It was unmistakable, coming to him in whiffs with the changing air currents. He’d followed it here, finding the town nestled in a draw as he descended from the ridge above. It was a rare occurrence in these times. The odor acted like a beacon, detectable downwind for kilometers at times. One might operate a lighthouse on a mountain top with similar effect. Desperation or ignorance perhaps, but the numbers of the ignorant had dwindled over time. Maybe a simple cookfire. Ernest had not cooked his food in over a year, opting instead to consume it raw or dry it in the sun when possible. He couldn’t recall the last fire he came upon that was without some poor fool huddled in front of it, resigning themselves for the fleeting pleasures of warmth and comfort. Of all the possibilities, this was the most enticing to Ernest. A wretched soul, having given in to the labors of the world, clinging weakly to the simple pleasures of the past. The thought forced open the disgusting orifice in his thick beard and revealed his tobacco stained teeth in a crude smile.
Adrenaline was already coursing through Ernest’s veins, but not out of dread or doubt. For Ernest savored most these last moments between he and his quarry. And though he pushed forward gradually and carefully, the stealth was secondary to his reveling in the anticipation. The ascension was nearing its pinnacle when he came to the door and stopped. The torrent now subsiding as if subordinating itself to his intentions. Ernest gently placed a massive and calloused hand on the doorframe, feeling the swollen timber through the cracked and peeling paint. For a moment he stood there, with his feet anchored before the threshold, and felt the structure lean into his bones. He could sense its energy, brought back to life by what lie within. Ernest offered his strength to become one with its strength, in a bid for its permission to proceed. The rain now abated and a cold wind swirled around him. In a gentle ballet, performed numerous times before, he used his toes to peel the socks from their opposite feet. His hand extended to the doorknob, the overgrown nails of his outstretched fingers reaching forward like a wraith from beyond the grave. His other hand gripped the turned oak handle of the sickle at his waist, lifting and rotating its long, oiled blade into the night air. As Ernest clasped the frigid doorknob and turned, it creaked softly, steadily succumbing to his will.
It was well into the predawn hours now and Ernest was reasonably certain whoever dwelled inside was slumbering. The heavy door gave way silently and he crossed into the refuge. He pressed the door back to the frame with the pad of a single finger, careful not to seat it fully into the jamb. As he stared down the hall, he studied the trapezoid of dim, orange light dancing on the floor before a cased opening. Despite his eyes having been adjusted to the dark, the light was barely discernable, close to fading from existence. He rolled his feet from heel to toe, slowly distributing his weight as evenly as possible in his advance. After nearing the opening, Earnest paused. He loitered there, at the casement. The only audible sound now was the soft snap of waning coals.
Ernest cocked his head, bending his thick neck, such that one eye peered around the frame and into the room. Before him was a small figure, seated upright and cross-legged, but facing away. This was a youth, or a small woman perhaps, sat before the hearth at the far end off the room. The void was not long, seven meters perhaps, maybe less. As he leered at the slender frame before him, Ernest was certain now it was a woman. She was hunched forward, shoulders rolled inward, with her head down. Roughly cut curls of red hair absorbed the dying light, setting a soft halo atop her head. Was she dead? There was no movement and Ernest squinted, struggling to detect respiration in her silhouette. He’d no doubt seen corpses holding that posture in death, but slumber could take that form on the heels of exhaustion as well. No, this one was alive.
Coming to the disappointing realization she wouldn’t be more than a few mouthfuls, he allowed himself to entertain other fantasies unique to the circumstances. It would be just the two of them, together in this sacred place, and Ernest could draw it out as long as he wished, until drunk from realizing the darkest machinations of his mind. There would never be another opportunity such as this. It was a gift. Delighting in his sick calculus, the drool that filled his jowls began leaking from the corner of his mouth as he pressed into the room.
Rae felt the pressure change when the prowler entered the house. Her hair waivered slightly, tickling the top of her ears, and the coals flickered. At peak inhalation, she held her breath as her heart bounded fiercely within her chest. One of her father’s stories of war interrupted her focus. He’d spoken of those comrades preoccupied with fear and habituated in patterns of overcautiousness. Those were the soldiers who never returned home. Her father shared with her that the secret to leaving war behind in one piece was to accept that you were already dead. Only then was the mind free to negotiate its victory among the valleys of death and destruction. But words pale in the shadow of experience and her terror would not be so lightly cast aside. Rae’s lungs burned, clawing for fresh air, while she sat statue. Just as her pyric war with panic began to overwhelm her, she detected a soft shuffle and a plank within the room groaned.
The back of Rae’s jacket exploded and time slowed to a crawl. The copper-jacketed, lead slug, long dormant, now sliced through the air, rolling on it’s axis. Everything outside its sphere of existence was unaware of its flight until it struck home an instant later. The bullet pierced Ernest in the belly and tore through his colon before careening around his left ilium and halting in his spine. The wound was not fatal, but immediately incapacitating, and as his legs became disconnected, the intruder crashed to a heap on the floor.
Rae uncoiled like a serpent, spinning to her feet as the slide-locked CR tumbled out of her jacket and clattered to the floor. She stood into a wide stance, unsheathing from under her pack a long wooden bat, and bringing it to guard. The bat was as long as Rae was tall, from thigh to crown, and she twisted her hands on the grip, her ropey muscles bracing her forearms. She drew a deep backswing and the man held his arm up in a feeble defense, still gripping an old farm tool. The bat came around, smashing through his forearm and glancing off the top of his head. The sickle skipped across the floor and into the hearth, showering the floor in light and sparks.
In this new illumination, Rae saw his face, lips curled with gritted jaw. The mountain of a man, now eroded to the floor, seethed with guttural growls hissing through his rotten teeth. This was not the sound of physical pain, but instead the anguish of failure. A hate and a rage filled his eyes, which locked on hers. Rae’s fury, wrought of desperation and sorrow, sat juxtaposed to his and though they’d never met, she then knew his mind. Rae wound the bat low and brought it over the top of her like a splitting maul. The barrel came crashing down onto his skull with a dull crack.
Rae withdrew and a pool of dark liquid expanded from the man’s head in a lethargic shockwave. Rae’s tunneled vision widened and she quickly looked around the room, incredulous. The fire light receded and the room was plunged into darkness. In the distance, the shrill wailing of the infected could be heard, honing in on the source of the gunfire. They would soon be orbiting the house in droves, clambering to get inside. It was time to go.
On a hill, high above Nadezhdino, Rae sat nestled under the boughs of a pine sapling. Dawn broke an hour earlier and a soft light bathed the woods around her. Through a gap in the branches, Rae spied the house where, a short time earlier, she’d nearly been cut to pieces by some backwoods freak of nature. It’d had taken nearly an hour to stop shaking in the aftermath of the incident, but the occasional aftershock still reverberated throughout her body. The minor injuries she sustained during the encounter now begged her attention. Rae’s left flank was on fire and irritated by the slightest movement or stretch of the skin.
On the thick padding of sable-colored pine needles, Rae drew a few deep breaths. She pulled her arms through the sleeves of her jacket, sliding it over her head. The injury on her side chided her and she winced, softly hissing through her teeth. The thick foliage concealed her well. Rae cupped her breast, drawing it a’center, and lifted her arm. Craning her neck around and examining her left side, she grimaced at what she saw. A bright red, linear cut ran laterally across the contours of her ribcage, flanked by flushing and irritation. Around toward her back, her fair skin was now a mural of gunpowder stippling, dotting the patch of a mild burn. It looked worse than it was. The cut, no-doubt left by the slide of the CR, was the cause for most concern. It was superficial and bled little, but still wept a clear fluid. Rae dropped her arms to her lap and sighed, fighting off ruminations of her dying of a painful infection, weeks down the road. From her pack, she fetched a small opaque bottle with an orange label. As she twirled it, a few remaining drops of dark brown liquid swam about the bottom of the container. Not wanting to waste any into a rag, she dotted the iodine onto her wound directly from the bottle, having barely enough to treat its full span. The needle sting of the treatment was a welcomed sensation.
Rae flipped her jacket over and saw that the back of the left shoulder was in shambles. Twisted strips of shell fabric were twined with the thin, white fluff of insulation. More obvious was the rectangular footprint of vibrantly colored and pristine cloth, set in contrast to the dull and fraying fabric around it. The muzzle blast had clearly blown the patch off the back of her jacket, which was not surprising, as it had only been loosely attached by a few remaining threads. With tempered hope, Rae glanced around and behind herself, but to no avail. She knew where it was. Another sigh escaped her as she meaninglessly lifted and slapped the jacket back onto her lap. There was nothing to be done about it now.
After haphazardly whip-stitching the gaping hole closed with the dwindling remnants of her sewing kit, Rae slipped the jacket back over her head and sagged back against the thick bark of the pine. She deeply inhaled the fragrant odor of pine resin and wished to stay in this place. She knew that was impossible. It was a near certainty, what was coming, and she was just waiting for confirmation. It didn’t take much longer.
About an hour later, as she watched through the hole in the boughs, something stirred. In the distance, the patternistic wanderings of a few infected stopped. Then, purposeful movement. Rae took up her binoculars and brought the cracked rubber cups to her eyes. Around the pale yellow house there was a commotion. Infected sprinted, veering around the back of the house and out of view. Soon she saw a figure, then another, and maybe a third, all duck-walking around the house and swinging heavy tools. As the figures merged, any infected were soon struck and fell limply to the ground. Even through the magnification, the figures were distant, but Rae got her confirmation; Mountainfolk. “Fuck,” she whispered, and quickly gathered her things.
Nikolai leaned against a tall tree in the wood line, tonguing one of his back molars as he listened to the dull splat of his boys working on the infected. After having swept the entire village, all that were left were these two homes, flanking a small orchard, at the end of a long driveway. If they’d found nothing here, they were done looking. It was getting uncomfortably light outside and they operated more efficiently at night. After a few moments, a shrill whistle could be heard and he nodded to himself. This was it.
Nikolai overtly stepped over the threshold, carefully watching where he placed his feet. As he passed a row of windows, their posts standing at attention, he looked up and around at the old house. Blotchy water stains, outlined in black mold, patched the ceiling and a dank humidity lingered in the air. Despite the musty smell in the hall, Nikolai could detect the heavy copper odor of blood. This should be interesting, he thought. He rounded the corner, stepping just inside the casement and took in the scene before him.
There was Ernest, or what was left of him, a giant mound in the middle of the room. Nikolai furrowed his brow and drew his head back a bit. Despite knowing Ernest well, the way the gravity flattened his girth into the floor made him appear unfamiliar and blob-like. There was the obvious head trauma. His thick, wavy hair and wiry beard were matted with coagulated blood. A large pool surrounded his head, fuchsia in color, and ringed in a thick black band.
“Whadda’ya think?” asked Dimitri. Nikolai looked up at the two men standing over Ernest, but didn’t respond. Dmitri was right in his dumbfoundedness though. Ernest was a fierce opponent and Nikolai could hardly fathom a man who would be his match. This had to have been some sort of ambush.
“It smells like shit in here,” Dimitri complained, looking for some kind of dialogue.
“That’s what happens when you die, dumbass, you shit your pants,” Jakub condescended.
“Shut the fuck up, Jakub, whadda’you know?”
Jakub didn’t reply, he’d won the exchange.
“Be quiet, the both of you,” Nikolai commanded, “or you’ll both be on the floor, shitting your pants!”
Nikolai walked in the room, sitting down on a tattered green sectional in the corner. As he flopped down, the springs creaked loudly and he sagged low into the frame. Lower than he wanted, but not embarrassingly so. He swung his pump shotgun to rest across his lap and, from his new throne, took in the room from a different angle.
“Alright,” he said, “roll him over.”
Dimitri stepped around between Nikolai and the corpse. Squatting low, he took handfuls of Ernest’s clothing and attempted to deadlift him over. Dimitri strained and grunted, but only succeeded in shifting the body a bit. Nikolai was mildly amused by the efforts of the wretched little ectomorph, but his entertainment was interrupted when Jakub scoffed and stepped over to assist. Jakub reached over the body and pulled Ernest by the arm. The rigor mortis in the stiffened arm acted like a lever and the corpse started to come over more easily. About halfway around, the shoulder dislocated with a muffled pop, but the momentum was enough to bring Ernest to supine.
“Ah, fack!” Dimitri blurted, as he and Jakub recoiled. Ernest’s face was a contorted mess, colored purple from the lividity. His legs and arms were stiff and fixed in a post-mortem display of some sort of vampiric heliophobia. Nikolai was unmoved. The exposed bloodstain on the floor drew his attention to Ernest’s midsection. He stood up and stepped to the corpse, parting the layers of clothing with the muzzle of his shotgun, as the others watched on curiously. The sifting eventually revealed a burgundy-stained clothing layer with a clean hole right through it.
“There it is,” he said calmly, “he was gut shot.” The lack of spatter on the wall behind him told Nikolai that the wound was probably a small caliber pistol. He still carried some confusion though, due to the location of the injury. He just couldn’t figure how Ernest would even notice a wound like that in a sudden and violent, close-quarters encounter like this. Not enough to sit there and let his skull get bashed in anyway. Nikolai had seen enough though.
“You guys hungry?” Dimitri cackled.
“Are you deaf?” Jakub said, cutting him off, “He said he was gut shot. If you wanna do a little fine dining on Ernest here after what whatever was in his gut bag has been seeping all over it, you go right ahead.”
Dimitri shrugged. “Ernie was a sick bastard anyway, so, no big loss….pun intended,” he quipped, stifling a chuckle.
Nikolai glared at Dimitri. Dimitri could feel his look, but didn’t dare lock eyes with him. He would’ve been forced to look away first or perhaps end up on the dinner table himself. In a sheer value analysis, Ernest was worth 10 Dimitris. He’d saved Nikolai a number of times, not to mention, the whole family on several of those occasions. Dimitri was more of a throw away, no matter how many times he’d tried fruitlessly to ingratiate himself with his twisted humor.
“We are all of us sick bastards, Dimitri,” Nikolai said grimly, “Remember that.”
Nikolai looked down to think for a moment and his attention was abruptly drawn to a square of black fabric on the floor. It had almost gone unnoticed from the other refuse laying around, but this article was different. He picked up the stiff fabric and flipped it over to rest on his forearm. The slight breeze from the fanning of the fabric was only a soft primer for what now stared him in the face. There, across the length of the fabric, tightly embroidered in block lettering: полиция
He looked over to Jakub. “Get Duckie up here,” he ordered with some urgency, “We’re going hunting.”
Weaving her way through the familiar foliage, Rae came to the edge of a yard. Tall clumps of yellow-green grass, overgrowing the courtyard, signaled nature’s coming reclamation. Before her stood her childhood home; a dull, brick-red shell, set in contrast to memory. A foreboding mist clung to the ground, adding a ghostly atmosphere to the interstice.
The rising sun bolstered her confidence and she moved forward. Rae climbed the concrete steps to the tiny mudroom and pushed on the thin wooden door. It swung inward with little input, having been kicked-in long ago. The inner door was no more secure. In the living room was evidence of ransacking; Bookcases with bare shelves, cupboards open, and a lifetime collection of household bric-a-brac scattered across the floor. The abandoned home was a different place now, but Rae was unable to evict the sense of familiarity here. As she passed to the kitchen, she lightly touched the shelves and upturned furniture, hoping the sensation would bring her some Pavlovian sense of home, but it never fully manifested. This was no longer her home. The word home itself seemed lost to her. There was just an infinite, adamantine chain of places to rest and from whence to be driven. And at the end, an unforeseeable broken link where one would be dismissed from this world and into the next. Through the shattered kitchen window, Rae could see across the watercourse and into Dolina proper. Rows of dilapidated houses, shops, and sheds marched off to the west.
Rae wove her way through town, moving along the edges of buildings, crossing between substructures, and doing her best to keep out of sight. The Infected were easy enough to avoid as they could be heard from quite some distance. Their raspy respirations, like some never-ending pneumonial deathbed, signaled their presence abound corners, in buildings, and on the streets. There were few today, mostly stumbling around the main road or just inside the woods, and she soon approached her destination. Near the western terminus of the town stood its largest and most unsightly building.
The Dolina precinct of the Chenarus Politsya was a brick of reinforced concrete, painted over in a nauseating adipose yellow. Atop the cubic structure was a round pulpit of welded steel. Though unaesthetic, the structure was highly defensible. The large and solid, craftsman-style, oak doors that bastioned the front were a bane to even the most calloused of rapping knuckles. Rae always felt that was the main reason they’d rarely received visitors. Unknown to the general public was the back door, where the officers usually came in and out. The town well was visible only from the precinct, town hall, and the mayor’s home. As if reserved just for the adjacent officials, the entire courtyard was fenced and secured with large metal gates, painted pea-soup green.
Rae climbed over the fence, near the back of the precinct, and made her way in through the courtyard entrance. Again, she was struck with a sense of surreality, as if passing through a faded dreamscape or alternate dimension. Flecks of dried paint curled from the wall and littered the floor and tumbleweeds of old forms blew about with every gust through the broken windows. When she’d run from the building, through that same door, everything had been pristine. Everything but the scene out front. Rae’s sinuses and eyes began to fill, but she calmed herself with a few forced exhalations, blocking from her mind what transpired so many months ago.
Before ascending the spiral stair, she glanced through the open door of the records office. Her office, where she’d shuffled countless stacks of ludicrously detailed forms, dotted with checkboxes and fields for unimaginable amounts of information. The irony of her post being opposite the jail cell had been unbearable and she didn’t bother to enter and reminisce. Her hand on the concrete center post, Rae wound lightly up the steps. She reached the upper floor, glancing a moment at the second door on the right, and noting it was ajar. Avoiding it, she meandered through the adjacent store room. Cool air flowed through the broken windows, bouncing off of empty crates, and trickling over bare shelves. Rae wasn’t really expecting much, but she loitered, building her courage for the next room.
After leaving the stores, Rae paused at the door to her father’s office. She placed her palm on the center of the rough wooden door and gently pressed it open, revealing yet another dilapidated room. An unexpected tide of nostalgia pressed into her. She could almost see her father, sat at his old oak desk, lifting his head to smile at her as he always had. She stepped in with a soft smile on her face, moving to greet him, but his apparition faded and she was again alone. An obscured picture frame sat on the desk, one she’d seen and disregarded so many times. On this occasion, she picked it up with care, gently tipping it downward. Shards of broken glass rained onto the floor like icicles and Rae brought the photograph to view. Center was her father, a pillar of a man in his full OREL regalia. Clothed in a crisp camouflage of blues and black, he posed his most serious expression. Flanked on either side were the 4 other OREL Special Police members, but Rae’s focus was on her father’s face. It was finally too much. After holding it back for so long, Rae’s tears would no longer be abated and ran down her cheeks through blinking eyes. She dropped to her knees, the picture frame clattering to the floor. Her face in her hands, Rae sobbed uncontrollably, failing to stifle her heaving cries.
Many months earlier
An uneasiness hung in the air over the crowd. It had started with just a few people, who’d properly planned ahead. They milled about the bus stop with their luggage, neatly arranged in rows, on the shoulder of the road. More people started filtering in and, as the side of the road became too congested, they started standing in the street. Soon you wouldn’t be able to get a car through, let alone a bus, the last bus, which was set to come up from Solnichniy and evacuate the remaining Dolinians to the train station in Severograd. Nikolai scanned the crowd, instinctively knowing that there were already more gathered than would fit on a bus, nevermind one already half-burdened with stragglers from the coast.
An officer and tech from Kamyshovo had been dispatched to the comms tower above Solnichniy and word from the coast was not good. The civilian situation there was fraught with panic and disarray. The officer had descended into town to assist the local military contingent there, but soon after transmissions stopped. Nikolai pulled his pocket watch, flipped it open, and frowned. The bus was late, very late. Civilians were impatient enough and soon they’d be losing their shit. There was a fine line between a crowd and a mob and the local precinct was ill-equipped and poorly staffed for riot control.
Still, Alexander had insisted they all stand post out front in their fatigues, weapons slung, in a show of order and control. They’d blocked both sides of the road in front of the police station using two of the brown, unmarked OREL Olgas. Usually reserved for surveillance ops and suspect snatches, the unmarkeds looked impotent in the traffic control role. Alexander’s strategy had been to low-key the road block, feeling that marked cars might make it look like an accident scene and create trepidation in the waiting civilians. It was a quite brilliant subtlety actually and Nikolai was irritated he hadn’t thought of it. Just another in a long line of little intricacies that relegated Nikolai to Second and kept Alexander Team Lead. Nikolai was bigger, stronger, and shot better than Alex, but the bar for a team leader was set high. And while physical prowess and tactical acumen could get one close, mastering the nebulous tenants of good leadership is what earned that role. He simply lacked the patience, empathy, and fortitude required of Alex’s position. Thus, Nikolai couldn’t command the respect and confidence of a bunch of alphas like Alex could. He knew it and he hated Alex for it.
Nikolai snapped out of his stewpot of jealousy and narcissism when he heard a diesel engine, whining at high revs. This was never a good sign and he turned to the east, his view blocked by buildings. It was the bus, no doubt, but it was quite obviously barreling up the road. They’d set the traffic barricades to have the bus turn by the general store and line up at the bus stop to load facing west. Nikolai heard the crash and splintering of wood that that signaled the bus had run the barricade and in moments it came careening around the corner south of the station. It skidded to a halt just before smashing into one of the Olgas. The bus was brimming with passengers and there was no way in hell anyone from Dolina was gonna cram themselves inside. The subtle conversations among the crowd turned to gasps and high-pitched, panicked discussions. Like a flock of birds, the waiting crowd immediately moved in unison toward the bus, blocking the northern intersection and filtering around the other Olga.
Nikolai watched with amusement as Alex held his hands up and tried to calmly halt the crowd. Some few complied, but most just streamed around him. Nikolai didn’t even bother trying to slow the people on his side of the street. He simply stepped back, tightening his grip on his shotgun sling. Alex abruptly ordered Nikolai to move the Olgas. Alex paused, his eyes darting across the top of the crowd and then back to Alex, who was already jumping into the Olga in front of the bus. Alex didn’t know why, but he hopped in the other Olga and slowly pushed his way through the crowd, parking it along the curb, north of the intersection.
As he got out of the car, he heard shots from the other side of town. First, a single thundercrack of a rifle. Then the softer slap of a shotgun. The crowd heard it too and for a surreal moment, it was silent, but for the hum of the idling bus. It didn’t last long. The bus abruptly drove forward right into the crowd, parting it like the Red Sea. Some few fell under and the bus rocked on its suspension as it ran them over. People started screaming and those trapped along the flat side of the bus banged on it with the flats of their hands, filling the street with a frightening drum roll. The scene had officially graduated into a fucking shit show. The bus accelerated around the corner, leaving a trail of crushed and twisted bodies, with the remaining Dolinians screaming and chasing after it. More frightening were the guttural, raspy screams and the clumsy footfall drawing near from the east. A few remaining civilians stood near the intersection looking about in disbelief. Nikolai could’ve counted himself among them, staring at the bodies on the road, some still twisting and writhing in their own gore. Out of nowhere, living corpses shambled around the corner and began brutally beating on those few left standing.
Nikolai jogged backed toward the station courtyard, scanning the melee to assure he was not yet targeted. Out of his left periphery, he saw Alex stand forward, bringing an SG5 to bear. Alex roached off a nine-round burst at an attacking infected and it fell forward like a domino. A half-dozen more came running around the northeast corner of the precinct. Alex ran toward the creek, leading them away from the precinct. Nikolai followed instinctively, believing Alex had some master plan, but soon realized that all he was doing was leading them away. It was working too well as now, a dozen or more were pursuing them, uphill through an open field, and they were gaining.
It was a simple decision for Nikolai. With practiced precision, he drew his holstered Mlock, angled right, and shot Alex in the hip. Alex tumbled forward as Nikolai kept on. From back toward the station, he heard a shriek. This cry was unique, familiar even, and stood out above the others. He looked over his shoulder past the infected piling onto Alex and saw Rae. She braced herself in the threshold of the precinct, looking right at him, and knowing what he’d done. He put his head down and sprinted for the tree line.
To Be Concluded…
Community Story – Zirka
Our community spotlight will be showcasing an outstanding piece of writing from community member Zirka!
A Biker, a Wolf, and a Cannibal walk into a pub…
The title page for this isn’t a joke. I just had a good opportunity and took it. Literally nothing about that meeting was funny. I felt like blasting somebody’s brains out on the way home. It’s difficult to describe how upsetting that feeling is to me. Made in violence, stay in violence.
The past few weeks have kind of been a blur.
Sorry for not writing in here often, I try my best to keep track of time but it’s becoming increasingly difficult. The more time passes, the more I forget, the harder it is to recall.. to recall…..
It’s hard to write, too. Hard to verbalise my thoughts. Hard to decipher the mess that is my brain…
Talking to Walt was.. eventful. A bad idea, maybe? On that note, yes, I talked to Walt.
I told Blake I didn’t want to, but it ended up happening anyway. I’m too soft with him sometimes. It’s easy for him to pressure me. I don’t mind it, actually. I trust his judgement. I probably should’ve been more stubborn this time around though. It left me with a lot to think about.
Mostly the question of why am I still here. Why do I stay in South Zagoria, what ties me here? It’d be easy to cut and run, they’ve both given me outs. Why don’t I take them?
Maybe I’m just blinded by my selfishness. I don’t want to leave behind all the shit I’ve built up. The friends, the family.. shit like that. You know, on that fucking rock in Wolf’s Wood, the same one that bastard Winslow shot me at, I said I’d let go of my past finally. That I’d kill every motherfucker who’d lived out there.
Ah, maybe I was lying about that, too. I lie to myself about a lot of things. That I deserve to suffer. Yet to say I deserve to be free of suffering is in itself, also a lie. That I’ll let go of the past. But here I am, unable to sleep from the nightmares and wishing, sometimes, that maybe I was sleeping back up in Yar. That I want to die. If I wanted to, if I really, really wanted to, I would’ve dropped this fucking rifle at Walter’s feet and told him to pull the god damn trigger. That my loyalties were with the Wanderers, and with the Wanderers only.
That last one hurts in a similar way to when you disinfect a wound. It’s for the best, you push through the pain because you know it’ll help. You know it’s for your own good. Is it, though? How many people have I gotten killed? What does it matter, anyway? Death is inevitable, you don’t get to choose.
It feels like I’ve gone full circle since I came to South Zagoria. Walter said something about Redstar saying something about.. that’s redundant, let me rephrase.
Walter mentioned something Redstar had told him before. Something about circles, and cycles, how all of this repeats itself over and over and over. In more ways than one.
I can’t say it’s wrong. I can’t say he’s wrong, either.
How many people have I driven into the same fate as me? To endure the same suffering? All because I was too scared to imagine a different way out?
It comes back to that concept of selfishness, I guess. I have always been a pretty selfish person. Out to help myself and maybe a couple others at most. I hope Walt realises I want to help him, too. I want to keep him safe and happy, but like I told him, two steps forward five steps back and then someone also decides it’d be funny to kick my feet out from underneath me and tell me “better luck next time”. It’s difficult to look out for other people when I can barely get my own life straight.
Blake. Blake. What was I going to write here? I’ve forgotten why I wrote his name.
Okay, Blake. He’s a Forsaken Loyalist. Good guy, maybe a little naïve, not paranoid enough. I wish he’d let go already. Give up or something. I told him, hey man, you’re gonna have to pick a side eventually. He’s not gonna like when it happens, I don’t care what he thinks. I just wonder, when it does happen, which side does he lean to?
I hope he’s given up like he said he would. He’s not going to get anywhere. Actually, he’s just hurting himself. It’s why I encouraged CJ to deal with that situation the way I did. I wanted him to push me away for his own good. I’d rather sit at a distance knowing he’s safe than be up close and causing problems. As I do. Agent of chaos, or something.. I get bored easily. And when I get bored, what better is there to do than stir the pot? But too much pot stirring and you’ll burn yourself eventually.
I’ve got all sorts of different burns now. Both literally and figuratively.
Fuck with Cultists, try your luck? Get a hatchet to the arm.
Play stupid games with an old man? Get fucking shot, I guess.
Follow Mittens down to some train tracks? Also get fucking shot.
Try to have friends? Yeah no fuck you Zirka, we’re gonna try kill you.
Try and work with Kate? Also get shot!
Ahh. That second to last one reminds me, how do you pay a debt to people you can’t fucking find? Or to people that you’re not willing to. What a bother. Makes my head hurt five ways to Tuesday. Whenever Tuesday is. Maybe my head hurts because I’ve not had any morphine today.
The more I look at what I’ve written the less sense it makes. I’m good at rambling. Good at avoiding, too. Deflecting, whatever they called it. Blake accuses me of it all the time, sometimes I just don’t want to-
Wait a minute, I remember what I was going to write about now.
Blake, that motherfucker is pushy. He asked me all sorts of questions the other day. Ones I really didn’t want to answer. He asked about Walter and the Cult, about what I was going to choose to do with my situation. Then we went and stole a car. Fucking idiot, never letting him drive me anywhere again. I swore last time after he got a chicken stuck in the fucking engine with its guts and blood everywhere that I’d never let him drive me again but I gave him a second chance.
I am now pretty sure I have a concussion. Fucking idiot drove us into a tree, then when we fixed the car back up, he drove us into a fucking fence. Unbelievable. Though it was quite nice to drive through the night, I might’ve fallen asleep once or twice. I hope he didn’t notice. It’s kind of embarrassing how tired I am sometimes.
I just feel comfortable in his presence. His friends? Not so much. Infinitely antsy around them. Two way thing. Though I don’t blame them. I’d be antsy around me too. I’m sketchy, always have been, it’s part of the charm of.. well, me!
I don’t think he feels comfortable around me though. I can sense the unease. The sickening feeling he must get knowing what’s happened. Is it still selfish to feel guilty?
Because I definitely feel guilty.
He probably thinks about a lot of what ifs. He’s that type of person, I bet. I hope he realises that nothing he could’ve done would’ve changed any of this. It was all my decisions in the end that led to me getting here. I don’t want that weight to be on his shoulders, he deserves a happy life, he deserves to not be weighed down by trying to help me. It’s going to backfire on him and when it does I will move heaven and earth to make sure it doesn’t hurt him.
I don’t care what it takes. I will kill, maim, torture, beat, I don’t give a fuck. Whatever it takes to keep him- and for that matter, Walt- safe.
I don’t care how much more blood it puts on my hands, or if it gets me killed.
So be it!
So, fucking, be it. I will rip anyone who stands in my way to fucking shreds! And I’ll enjoy it! Or maybe I won’t. But I’ll do it!
I just hope he doesn’t keep himself up at night wondering that if maybe he’d found me earlier, that we could’ve really changed things. Too late. Always too late. Never enough time. Walt asked me how much time I think I have left and that was my reply. Never enough.
Time is something I used to take for granted. I ran off of borrowed time for as long as I could remember. Now I’m on the last parts of it. The last, dying wisps of help given to me by people who have since turned their backs on me. I don’t know if I’m angry or upset. Or neither. Or all.
All I feel now is anger, really.
Xavier tells me I should repurpose it towards something more important.
But I just want to wallow in it.
I want to feel it run through me, I want those angry tears again, I want the feeling of utter frustration. I want to at least feel something. I can’t tell between the mania and the emptiness what I’m really feeling.
Blake will get it one day. That’s if he doesn’t go down the same path that others in his position have in the past.
I hope he doesn’t. I hope. I hope, I hope, I hope. But hope is so fickle, if I don’t want him to, I have to actually do something about it.
Straighten him out.
Toughen him up.
Make sure he doesn’t make the same slip ups.
Oh by the way, here’s the punchline.
A Biker, a Wolf, and a Cannibal walk into a pub…
The Biker says to the Cannibal, hey, this is fine, you’re safe.
The Wolf sits in silence.
Then they all walk out the door and turn around and god fucking damn it, Walter, why’d you have to bring the Wanderers?
Community Story – Alldbiscuits
Our final spotlight is on community member Alldbiscuits, one our prominent new members to DayzUnderground!
A ‘War of Rum’ Broadcast
A weak disgruntled voice starts to speak
Ahoy! Its is me Captain Biscuits of the Pirates of Pusta, listen carefully ye dogs
For anyone who cares i am awake and now seem to be recovering from my wounds, although it hurts like a jellyfish on me bollocks and i have a hole in me side like a dolphins blow hole it wont stop the captain from making this important announcement!
My Men have updated me, i know what happend to the port ya filthy dogs. Ive heard of my men being captured and ive heard of thee countless people murdered by my crew in the north! The bloodshed will continue
Static.. and coughing
We went looking for that weasel bedtime and destroyed his bookstore in the process and if he ever comes by the port again looking for peace with this war my men have orders to kill him dead! I hope he puts a bullet in his own head for the choas he has caused!
Now this announcement ive heard over the last twenty four hours from Dugout is a load of hogwash in our eyes! The red hand of Gorka burnt our port to the ground within 12 hours from when my quartermaster declared the war of rum. More so they made up some nonsense excuse that we follow the light, to think Torchwood would be allied with Pirates is madness! Those men who wear orange are hard to stomach let alone allie with. This is an accusation to hide the real reason why you hit the port because you do dugouts heavy lifting! Our guess is that we message from that scoundrel Lewis is propaganda to deflect the fact that Dark as Midnight is in bed with dugout quite literally.. tucked up with their teddy bears! Weve heard of the personal relationships between members of each faction which makes me spit up my rum.
Satic.. and coughing
This so called Vriska! Davy Jones has a special place in his locker for you, we will fight this war until our demise if needed! They killed my men including Spanish, the man who soothed me old mind, shot him dead like cowards! Dont ye be leaving notes telling the pirates what to do! I heard your a cat, well im the real old sea dog and ill fucking rip ya limb from limb with my teeth ya sharks cunt!
Static.. violent coughing
Now we have no quarrels with the red hand of Gorka! The port was empty when you hit it, were not stupid and a few of my men witnessed first hand the accuracy of your muskets In svetlojarsk! Its ashame you folk have lost your pirate code! If our suspicions are wrong then were gona have one hell of a party in the north!
You will not fool the old Captain that easy!
Finally! Im calling all filthy scoundrel dogs who live in these lands, come out your hovel, drag yourself out your cesspool and go kill dugout like the scum they are! For every blue dugout armband delivered to the pirates we will pay in nails!
Im sorry to see it like this, but if ye had acted like men, you neednt be handled like dogs
Static.. the broadcast ends..
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