Deathstorm: 1938 Zombie Apoc
Written by Jo Vasquez
Casey stood watch at the edge of the Death Storm. Perched atop the remnants of the bus terminal, on East Randolph, he looked across the vast landscape of what used to be Chicago. All that remained of the 1938 skyline were jagged black fingers reaching up to a turbulent and poisoned green sky. His stomach turned and he clenched his jaw as he fought against the emotions boiling within. This was all because he ran away.
In the distance pillars of purple smoke vented into the damaged sky. The snake-like plumes twisted up from what used to be the Chicago Stadium. Now, it was an iron-riveted nightmare, an artificial volcano made of iron and brick. It was the center of the storm.
Pinned to the steel fortress were the wind-tossed, never-decaying corpses of the Chicago police force. Casey fought beside them when it started, watching them fall one by one.
And then to rise.
He closed his eyes tight, clenched his teeth, and thought of better days.
Two years ago, he was a teenage crime fighter. By day he was the ward of a millionaire, dapper, and privileged. By night he lived a secret life of adventure leaping from rooftop to rooftop in bright silk tights. He was the super-enhanced sidekick of Chicago’s home-grown vigilante hero— “The Great Crusader”.
They called Casey ‘The Sigil of Justice’, because he chalked a jagged “S” close to wherever he stopped a crime. He was in love with pulp fiction heroes, like Zorro, who left their marks to inspire. He had everything that a teenager could want; loved at home, school, and by the city itself.
Reality bit its way back in. The stadium had been home to his favorite Hockey team. The Blackhawks had a horrible season in ’38, and literally had the lowest point score in the entire league. He wanted to watch the playoffs with Toronto, but he couldn’t be there to see it. Crime-fighting demanded his nights.
One bad night and the world ended, the Death Storm came, and everything changed. It was only the fact that he had received an experimental polio vaccine that kept him alive when others fell.
He had to focus, he had to be in now, no matter how bad it was. He had come to the stadium to see the color of the exhaust. Purple meant the reactor ports were open and he would be able to sneak in soon. The gates that released the smoke remained open for several minutes after they stopped spewing the purple gasses.
He leapt from the bus terminal to a burnt-out Chinese laundry, a jump no ordinary human could have made. His feet slid across the rooftop; his momentum greater than the friction of his boots. He surfed the angled roof, dirt, and debris flying up behind him. The structure groaned under the impact, but he wasn’t on it long enough to fear. Like a flash, he was already in the air and on his way to the next stop. In his old costume, he could feel the wind on his skin and smell the fishy foggy smell of Lake Michigan, but the armor he now wore denied him that joy.
Chicago was too dangerous for silk tights and colorful capes. These days, he was armor-clad in Tesla weave and transistor-assisted Marconi bolts. They were scientific miracles all powered by the Farnsworth fusion battery on his back. He looked less like a caped crusader and more like an electric-powered knight. It took no less to cross the city safely.
Casey paused atop a tenement building, long-empty, lonely, and scorched. He looked down to the street where he saw a Buick Model 47. That was his dream car, back when the world made sense. The sleek beauty was turned on its side like the carcass of a fallen horse. Casey tensed as his ears heard shuffling footsteps with his crystal audio enhancers.
There were things moving below.
From his perch, he watched a few unlucky survivors run out of an alleyway. They were armed with axes, knives, and moved quickly, quietly, and concisely. Three men, two women, and a child risking a resource run. Only half of the city fell, most unaffected by the necrotic energies. It happened too fast for any real resistance or organized defense. People fought, and turned, not just from death to undeath, but from one another. Humanity proved to be absent in the apocalypse.
The group moved towards the Model 47, and just as they arrived the child tripped over a discarded tire. She squealed in pain. The party stopped dead in their tracks. Not for the concern of injury, but for the fear of what the sound would bring. The quieting of the child came too late. Casey knew death would be a-comin’.
Bursting from a nearby shoe store, a murder of zombies flowed. Rotting corpses jigged and stuttered quickly towards the survivors, moaning, and growling with unintelligible sounds. Their intent was not lost; they were hungry for living flesh. These were the children of the Death Storm.
The party of the living ran from the undead mass, the best practice when confronted with a flesh-hungry horde, but the child could not get up. Her fall had sprained her tiny ankle. The group dashed and didn’t look back, but for one woman. She stayed and tried to pick the girl up.
Casey held fast and crouched as to not be seen. He could not save them, and even if he did, they would die tomorrow. He had to think of the greater good, and by stopping the storm, he could save millions more. Tomorrow would just come early for them.
And then the whispered voice of his lost mentor stabbed into his ear, “…being brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, giving hope gives you hope…”
“No, it doesn’t,” Casey whispered back, but still, he moved.
He dropped from the sky like a fist from God just as the woman and child were being swarmed. He attacked with charged gauntlets and Tesla Shock-Knuckles as electricity arced chaotically around him. His fists hit like hammers, exploding dead putrid meat. Strike and splatter, smash and burn, rage and hate, pouring from him. As the undead bodies seared and ripped, they spewed desiccated black blood and covered the Electric Knight in their likeness.
The woman and child cowered fearing Casey as much as the flesh-eating creatures. Caught between the storm and the monsters they were unsure if they could flee. When the last undead thing fell and the snap of electricity faded, the woman pulled the child up and looked to the blood-covered Casey as if to ask permission.
With heavy breath and a guttural roar, he screamed at them, and they ran. His bellow so loud it dared any monsters to come from their holes. He screamed again, and again, and fell to his knees. His screams then faded into lonely empty-hearted sobs. Time drifted, unnoticed, as he was lost in sweet crime-fighting memories. Then, a sharp burst of static brought him back.
“Master Casey,” squawked a box on his side.
Casey pulled the Tesla wireless from his leather belt, the only remnant of his original costume.
The box repeated the call. Casey shoved up his goggles and let his tear and sweat-soaked face breathe.
“Sigil. You’re still supposed to call me Sigil,” Casey said.
“As you wish,” said a British accented voice, “The vents: have they changed color?”
“Yep, just like you said Crowley. It looks like you were right on the button. “
“Indeed. We only have hours now. That, however, is not why I am corresponding. I have another wireless signal.”
“From a Marconi Box? Who else would have one?”
“I believe it’s Master Morgan’s.”
There was a pause filled with the crackle of static.
“He’s dead. It’s not him.”
“Death seems to be a matter of opinion these days, Master Casey. His wireless could be used—”
“It’s almost over. It will fix itself.”
“Of course, I just thought you’d like to know.”