The Creepers of McCall Ridge
Murray Lake was calm on this August afternoon. The soothing swaying of the waves and the light tapping of the water on the sides of the aluminum boat were enough to make Ernest and Grover wish to seek a late afternoon nap. The sun, with its warm rays seemed to rejuvenate their souls as they sat in the plastic seats that creaked under their overall covered behinds; the sun along with the memories of coming to the lake with their father many years ago.
“Grover? Hey, pass me the bucket of worms buddy.” Ernest said then spit a stream of tobacco into the blue-green water.
“You know if you keep wasting them worms on them little fish we goin’ t’ starve out here.” Grover said as he handed his older brother the tin bucket of worms they had dug that morning.
“Shut up dummy. I have caught fish today. What have you got?” Grover said as he squished a hook through the squirming worm then plopped it into the water.
“Don’t question me. I am waiting for ol’ Mr. Bucket Mouth. He will feed us for two days and you will kneel before me because of my superior fishing skills.”
Ernest turned his plastic seat and found Grover sitting with his ball cap pulled over his eyes, arms crossed, and feet kicked on the side of the boat making no attempt to watch his line for when the fictional Mr. Bucket Mouth attacked his worm. “Is that a fact?” Ernest asked.
“Yep.” Grover gave as a simple reply.
Ernest reached across the boat and lightly gripped his brother’s line, pulled it around the front of the boat to where he was sitting and then tied a knot around the handle of the worm bucket. Ernest smiled to himself, fighting the urge to burst into laughter as he began to tug on his little brothers line.
“Hey little brother? Think you are getting a bite.” Ernest said, not wanting to look at Grover so to not give away his surprise.
“Well looky there. Told you. Master fisherman buddy.”
Ernest tugged one more hard time on the line which caused Grover to scream a battle cry and set the hook on what he thought was Mr. Bucket Mouth. The tin bucket the brothers had been using to house their worms shot up from the floor of the boat and slammed into Grover’s face at the same moment Ernest erupted into laughter. The weight of the bucket caused Grover to lose his balance and fall head first into the murky blue-green water of Murray Lake with a sound as if Ernest had just dropped an anchor from the bow of a naval vessel.
Grover sputtered to the top, splashing the water frantically trying to figure out what had just happened to him when he seen his older brother gasping for air from the fits of laughter he was letting out. He calmly swam to the side of the boat and stared up at Ernest.
“What? Did Bucket Mouth attack you?” Ernest said innocently.
“Now we ain’t got no worms!” Grover yelled. “Plus you got them creepers all excited and I am going to have to listen to them moan at us now.”
Ernest looked past his brother to the shore line of the lake. At least fifty figures could be seen shambling slightly from side to side, all looking intently at the commotion on the lake. It had been several years since the brothers had witnessed the beginning of what the news was calling, “The Apocalypse.” The local news had told of major cities burning with riots and fighting that even the Army couldn’t even contain. The brothers didn’t know what to call it. Along with all of the chaos something made dead folks come back to life and try to eat on the living. The brothers felt safe living in the surrounding hills, living as they always had. The natural surroundings seemed to keep the greater majority of these creepers from causing them too many problems; they were more of an annoyance to the two.
“Help me in the boat.” Grover said. “I think some of them things are in the water grabbin’ my boots.”
“Nah, it is probably ol’ Bucket Mouth comin’ after your little worm.” Ernest said laughing.
“Would you just shut up and help me in the boat before I drown. Geez, I think mom dropped you more than she said she did.”
“No. I only have two flat spots on my head little brother and that is all she said she dropped me. Plus she was a Christian. She wouldn’t lie about droppin’ her son.” Ernest said as he hoisted his brother into the boat.
“Well since we ain’t got no bait and all we got to eat is those little fish you caught guess we better head to the house.” Grover said as he tried to twist the water from his ball cap.
“Yeah I guess so. But you didn’t catch anything so you don’t get to eat. I ain’t sharing my bountiful meal with the man who threw our bait overboard.”
“What? You did that!” Grover shouted.
Ernest just laughed as he began paddling towards the fenced portion of the shore where the dead could not gather.
Once on shore, the two men slowly and quietly walked up the narrow gravel road to their country home. The sun poked through the oak trees that lined the road created a sense of search lights from above seeking the two brothers. Every few steps the men would scan the woods for any creepers that may have found their way up the hill towards their home before refocusing their eyes on each step they made so to not make too much noise. Their home, thankfully, was nestled at the top of McCall ridge. A ridge named after their great grandfather; a man who purchased the majority of the land surrounding the ridge in hopes of making a living for his family cutting timber. His dreams were cut short when he left for the Second World War and never returned to his family.
The ridge gave the McCall brothers a natural barrier to the creepers. As long as the brothers didn’t draw to much attention to themselves, the creepers would stick to the low lands rather than waste their efforts trying to trudge up hill. Ernest stopped at a right turn in the gravel road and stared at the rusted, leaning mail box on the shoulder of the road and then opened the small door on the front.
“No one loves us. No post cards today.” Ernest said with mock sorrow in his voice.
“People these days can’t even write us a little note and let us know how their vacation is going.” Grover added.
The two walked up their driveway and onto the wooden porch of their home. The door mat was worn but the words, “Welcome” could still be read, as well as the inscription that Grover had placed on it a year back that said, “Except you creepers!” Inside the home was cool, shades drawn, and dust covered the majority of the house. Several times the two had made an attempt to clean their home but both had decided they hadn’t seen a woman in two years and their mother wasn’t around for them to be thumped on the head for not picking up after themselves so there was no reason to keep up with any housekeeping.
“Ok, I caught the fish so you can cook.” Ernest said as he threw his four small perch on the counter.
“Fine. Get me some wood and I will get the fire started.”
Ernest stepped on the front porch and took a minute to take in his surroundings. It wouldn’t be long before the leaves began to change colors and then would soon fall from their restricting limbs to travel to the ground. Several lilies had sprung through the soil around their home, so he watched as multicolored butterflies darted from flower to flower in a controlled chaos of flight. The world was beautiful and full of wonder, he thought to himself. Then he heard the moans in the distance of the creepers. Something had them stirring down around the lake; their sorrowful voices carrying with the breeze and bouncing up the ridge to Ernest. Grover poked his head through the open front door and asked, “What you reckon them creepers are so excited about?”
“Don’t know little brother. They sure are excited though ain’t they.” Ernest said as he turned to retrieve the wood for their fire.
An explosion ripped through the afternoon air causing the two to duck their heads and look back towards the lake. The sound echoed off the joining hills creating a rumble like rolling thunder. The two watched as a dark mushroom cloud rose from the area of the lake and the source of the creeper moans.
“Uh, what was that?” Grover said half laughing.
“Something blew up.”
“You think genius! What blew up?” Grover shouted.
“Don’t know. But I hope them creepers ain’t learned how to use explosives.”