Thursday, January 10, 2013

Less Traveled

In the movies, farmhouse doomsday lunatics always have a store room or cellar crammed with canned goods and preserving jars filled to the brim with fruit and vegetables brined or sugared into oblivion, their glass jars caloric bombs waiting to be unsealed and lining orderly  if dusty shelves.  The farmhouse I found myself in now had no such stores.  A few items in the sparse pantry were usable, but the house had long since succumbed to the madness of it’s occupant. The shooter, whose screams were mercifully short, had been devoured in moments by the undead horde.  The ghouls had moved on after their meal  following whatever ruined mental compass seemed to propel their aimless shambling between hunts, Finn and I erased from their corroded minds as quickly as we had become the focus of it.  

We had survived, this boy of mine and I, though I couldn’t tell why or to what end.  I had no guesses as to how long we would be able to continue.  There was no sense of victory here, or despair.  All of it seemed to flatten out as the tasks piled up before me.  My wife, asphyxiated in a silo just a few dozen yards from the shattered, blood stained hovel I found myself in; my son, small and hungry and distressingly quiet tied with rags to my chest.  Food, transportation, shelter, all at crisis.  In the years to come, upon reflection, searching for a moment of decision, the closest I would recall was now, swaying with exhaustion and fear in a broken farmhouse amid the vast agricultural wilderness of middle America.  There was no conscious decision to press on.  That was the great revelation.  Survival bypasses the mind.  It’s a catharsis of the body; a stubborn physical refusal to die.  

There was precious little to salvage.  A .308 rifle, covered in gore, cleaned as best I could in a short time, a small ammo can of loose and annoyingly heavy ammunition, a few ancient looking cans of stewed tomatoes, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a passably sharp kitchen knife, and a gallon of water pumped from a decidedly sketchy red water pump found near a wash basin.  I tore sheets from the bed and reslung Finn, tore the rest for rags and diapers and shoved all but the rifle into an old newspaperboy’s sack I found hanging in the garage.  I wet my fingers with the sweetened milk and fed Finn the syrupy goo, hoping it’s calories would get him through the day, wondering abstractly what would get me through.

I walked outside, marveling at the overwhelming liar’s cheerfulness of the afternoon sky, it’s bright light and cloudless sky belying the lurking, lumbering reality on the ground.  It always struck me as incongruous, this difference between the external and internal environment.  I stood for a long moment just outside the battered front door doing nothing but breathing.  This house had been a source only of danger and misery, yet I found myself oddly reluctant to leave it.  Despite its congealing mess upstairs and the appalling lack of even the most remedial resources, it was still a house and therefore a tiny piece of a familiar world, with walls and rooms that made sense.  Walking away from it felt terribly exposed.  There were, of course, no other options.

Shouldering the newspaper bag, checking Finn, and grasping the rifle, I lumbered out into the day, turning down the long grassy drive, listening and watching for any movement, any sign of the undead.  It wasn’t long before the grassy drive forked.  I paused for only a second to decide.  I took the one less traveled by, hoping that would make all the difference.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tree House to House

50 yards away.

My savage moment turned into Darwinian Reality TV. Hungry, dehydrated and shaking I somehow mustered up enough energy to burst into a sprint toward my mom and dad’s house from the tree house whose ground was littered with “my” dead. I was in broad daylight now and whimpered like a baby as I ran, hoping to God there was still someone left to run to in that house.

40 yards away.

It occurred to me that pounding on the front door or breaking a window was probably not a good idea. I would have to be more discreet. My eyes search for the old TV antenna attached to the house. I could get to the roof.

30 yards away.

As I pass the neighbors’ house directly across from my Mom and Dad’s I hear a snort and glance over my shoulder to see the blond obese neighbor’s wife (what was her name – Gilda?) in a blue flowered mumu begin to give chase in a rambling, tottering way. Like a deadly, slow-rolling blueberry. Well, more like “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” minus the rolling dollies. Ugh.

20 yards away.

I am almost there. The antenna is there. I am breathless even though I have a huge gain on Fatty Gilda. She is struggling, even in death, to work her body to hustle towards food. A grotesque series of snorts eminates from her taxed and clogged lungs. As co-dependent on food in death as she was in life, her flaw works to my advantage.

10 yards away.

Almost there. I don’t scream or call out. I reach the metal antenna and Fatty is only half way across the yard. I grab one rung. The next rung. The metal is cool under my hands. The next. I reach the wood-shingled roof that offers a soft angle – enough to climb up – to reach the chimney. At the apex I clutch the bricks of the chimney while cautiously and as quietly as possible approaching a window to peak in. Before I draw closer the next window opens: “Sarah!!” The voice I heard calling me to dinner all through my youth. I scramble over and crawl into the house through the window and I fall sobbing into the salvation of my mother’s arms.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Served Cold

The need of the undead is perfect.

I realized this as I ran, as the rage and despair began to filter from my mind, began to drop away with each pounding step of my feet, with each yard that I ran toward the house, toward the gunman, toward the hordes of the undead.

Of course, I was far from perfect, my need, my body, my spirit, even my desire to keep on living was imperfect.

It had to be so. Imperfection, it seemed to me, defined us, marked us as individual, as fully human. It is what separated us from them, from the implacable, horrible perfection of their need. As I ran, as the exertion of exhausted muscles forced once more into strained and improbable service cleared the emotion from my mind, I began to hope that this difference, this imperfect need of mine would save me.


Finn’s cries acted like a dinner bell to the undead. I made no efforts to comfort or quiet him; no efforts even to avoid his jostling. I wanted his cries, hoarse, terrified, constant. Let Finn use his breath to call them. I needed my own breath right now. Gnarled, weary, bone tired, but no longer carrying the extra weight of a sedentary office lifestyle, I ran toward the gathered undead.

They turned toward me almost immediately. Some of the fresher ones began to run. They came fast and hard, holding nothing back. I turned quickly running parallel now the farmhouse. Like hellish dominoes one by one they turned from the farmhouse as they heard Finn’s cries and began toward me. A pack of the quick ones began to form, nearly twenty strong. Many more of the slower ones staggered, dragged, or crawled behind. The quicker ones were gaining on me now, closing the gap, not having to pace themselves. My lead dwindled. Fifty yards away and gaining with each step, the freshly undead sprinted greedily toward me.

Shots from the nut in the farmhouse broke the afternoon. I dared a glance back and saw one of the undead drop and flail. Another shot kicked up dirt behind me. Clearly the first shot that took down the ghoul a moment ago was a miss by the shooter. I changed direction when I reached the opposite edge of the farmhouse. I now had every ghoul’s attention, and began to run away from the farmhouse, back toward the silo from whence I came. The zombies trailed behind me, stretching back in order of their swiftness. The quickest continued to gain on me, my lead dwindling to less than 25 yards. More shots kicked up dirt behind me, each one getting closer.

As sharply as I could, I changed direction, angling now back from where I came. This was the gamble. Everything rested on this decision. I ran harder now, as fast as I could, running back toward the ghouls, at a slight angle from my original path, back toward the farmhouse.

The ghouls closest on my heels attempted to change direction, to follow like freight cars the engine of their need as if hitched to my trajectory. Others who were further behind and could change direction quicker did so, stumbling into the path of their hungry compatriots, neither party willing to call it, neither able to veer from their need, to avoid each other. They crashed together, stumbling and falling, their once almost orderly procession now in disarray as each of their ruined minds attempted to correct them, to put them on a new course toward the dinner bell. Each of them failing to take heed of obstacles, of each other, a glance back brought some satisfaction that most of them were bumping and colliding, falling into one another. My tactic seemed to have confused the shooter as well. More shots rang out, but the distance between myself and the clouds of kicked-up dirt lengthened. The shooter would have to try again, would have to reorient his aim to my new trajectory and try to dial me in again.

Another course correction now, this one slight and I was heading toward the farmhouse door. Two of the fresh ghouls were hot on my track, but the rest of the brat pack that had been trailing me so closely had lost time, stuck in a sea of reaching arms and flailing limbs. They made no efforts to untangle themselves from each other, merely attempted to push between and through one another, causing more problems for them, giving me more time.

I was almost to the farmhouse, was headed toward the door. I picked up speed again, felt my legs screaming in protest, my lungs burning. Still running, I began to turn, twist my frame even as I ran so that all of the force of my body would concentrate onto my shoulder and hip. As I did so, I angled Finn, still howling in protest, up and back, and crashed into the front door of the farmhouse, the undead only moments behind me.

The impact was sudden, much more jarring than I had expected. My shoulder burst into agony, and then thankfully went numb. The door buckled, exploding into the house and sending wooden shrapnel through the air. I staggered, nearly losing everything, nearly falling, knowing there would be no chance to get up. With a lunge, I regained my balance and ploughed ahead, first sighting the stairs, and plunging recklessly upward. At any moment the gunman could appear, take me out with a quick shot, even the most cursory wound now would be enough to lose the fractional edge I had on the pursuing undead.

At the top of the stairs was a 90 degree bend that led into the hallway. The bend bought me another second, maybe two as the nightmares behind me fought to negotiate past one another. I sprinted forward, guessing that the shooter was in the middle bedroom, shooting from the best angle the house provided, using as a rest the ledge of the the window overlooking the roof that divided the first floor from the second. Another door, this one closed. I skid to a stop, tried the knob, found it unlocked and burst into the room, feeling the fetid breath of the undead just behind me.

I threw myself to the side as hard and fast as I could, clutching Finn like a football, protectively trying to curl and roll as I neared the hardwood floor. The undead were just behind me, and straight ahead of them, an old man, decked in overalls, a stained white tee shirt and brandishing that damn rifle. The first shot missed me by luck or by fate and buried itself in the first pursuing ghoul. The sound of the rifle in that enclosed space was enormous, earth-shatteringly loud. Three more ghouls pushed past the first zombie who was slowed but not stopped by the high powered round. They raced toward the sound of the gunshot, toward the prey immediately before them, forgetting Finn and I, focused now on the incredulous, hateful man in front of them, each of them singular in their focus, perfect in their need. Slinking silently back out of the room, and quietly running to the bedroom at the end of the hallway, I heard the screams of the old man as they tore him apart. That goddamn rifle didn’t go off once.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Archive 7o-553-d >> Entry 10

Record Logging Protocol : Epsilon
Record # 7o-553-d
Chrono : Suffusion III

Descriptor :Documentation
Classification : Altercation[violent,zed class(3)]

Region >> Chicago,greater

Type >> Handwritten
Delivery >> Bound Journal

Primary Principal >> Chris
Primary Assumptions >> Male ; 20-40 ; caucasian ;

Secondary Principal >> Jen (alias:"Babe")
Secondary Assumptions >> Female ; 20-40 ;
Involved(primary,shared residence)

Record Source Data>>
Copy of original text follows:

Entry #1

I thought I died yesterday.

Which, in a number of ways, has proven to be a liberating experience. A number of my previous audio entries are most likely lost, as the unexpected zombie assault has done a great deal of damage to my digital recorder. I will be hanging on to it, even though I don't expect to have the time or resources in the future to attempt the data recovery. That being said, I will be moving forward with a written journal of my experiences. A major reason, besides the retention of my sanity, is that I have found a profound purpose for my documentation. To explain, allow me to return to my opening statement:

I thought I died yesterday. To be more accurate, I thought that I was going to become a zombie yesterday. I had made the mistake of failing to notice that a window was partially open in the building I was camping in for the night. Unbeknownst to me, my voice must have carried out the window and into the waiting ears of some nearby zombies. While I was recording a particularly amusing haiku related entry, I was rudely interrupted as a zombie crashed through the window I was seated next to, and a mad scramble ensued. I was tossed from my chair, which my assailant was tangled up in for a few moments. I could hear more of them outside the window, so I knew that I would have more to deal with at any moment. My weapons are never far from me for a reason, and I retrieved my drywall hammer as quickly as I could.

A couple of extra pairs of groping hands were reaching inside the window frame as the first one regained its footing and lurched towards me. A wide backhand with the hammer side of the tool struck the ghoul in the temple and showered the room with thick blood, bone remnants, and the remains of an eyeball as its eye-socket exploded. As the zombie dropped, my second opponent fell in through the window in a synchronized crash to the ground. With a swift flip to the axe blade on the back of the hammer, I finished the first one off with a chop that jammed the tool into the base of the creature's skull. This was bad.

A third zombie was crawling through the window and the second one was already past the chair and motoring forward. Lacking any real weapon at the moment, I snatched up a metal trash can and smashed the zombie in the face with it. While not a killing blow, it did knock the beast backward and crashing downward onto the third assailant. I took this opportunity to retrieve the hunting knife and the pry bar from my pack. The pry bar was immediately applied to the skull of the nearest zombie in a downward brain scrambling motion. Not willing to wait its turn, the last of the attackers set on me with all of the speed it could muster. I was forced back against a desk as the creature dug its ragged fingernails into my shoulder and bicep. I turned the tip of the blade upward and jammed it through the underside of its snapping jaw and into the roof of its mouth. This provided an unexpected amount of control over the creature's movement, and I swung it sideways into a wall. A two-handed swing of the pry bar ended the conflict.

I stood there for a few minutes listening for more activity outside the window. Hearing nothing, I began to collect my items in preparation for my exodus. It was that at that moment that my impending doom became apparent. I wasn't wearing the tooth and nail resistant leather jacket or gloves as I normally would while traveling. I was only in a long sleeved shirt, which was torn open in numerous places from shards of broken glass. From the mounting pain and droplets of scarlet blood that ran from underneath the fabric, I could safely assume that my skin had been flayed open during the conflict. I drew back my soaked right sleeve to find my forearm sliced open in a dozen locations and drenched in the deep crimson blood of the undead.

Blood to blood contact.

I knew what that meant for my future: I am going to die.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This is the Day that the Lord Hath Made

I don’t shoot the dead uns, no sir. Leave them dead uns right about alone. I ain’t been setting here, day after day, night after night, reading my bible, without learning a thing or two. No, I been learning all right; learn bout every time I crack this here book. Known this here day was coming since I learned bout reckoning and I tell you I weren’t too tall to my daddy ‘fore I learnt bout reckoning. This here, this is a reckoning, sure as I know it, and I ain’t about to get in the way of no reckoning. I ain’t total sure just yet which of the dark riders this is, could be pestilence, or war, or death, or hell might be God’s way of bringing all them riders together, save time, hell I don’t know. All I know is I ain’t gonna be the one standing in front of my creator telling him bout how I tried to stand in the way of his glorious destruction.
I seen them young folks running toward my homestead this afternoon and I tell you I didn’t like it one bit. I ain’t saying I’m going down there anytime soon, but them that gets stuck out in the flood they didn’t get back into Noah’s boat, and I’m not letting them folks onto my land without a fight, no sir. If the good lord chose to strand them sinners out in that sea of dead, well that smacks of god’s work to me, and I’m not gonna give not one of em no safe haven, no sir, and I don’t care a lick that little miss out there carrying a child or not. The good lord’s already judged them; ain’t for me to make no never mind about that. But they smart enough to try climbing that silo of mine and I ain’t setting here saying I heard the good lord tell me what to do but I didn’t have to think none either; I just took my rifle and set down at the window.
Used to be a good shot when I was a young man, but my hands these days, they ain’t too steady. I don’t think I got them young uns, but I know I hurt the man some. Saw em tumble on into that corn silo. Probably city folk from the sight of em. Don’t know the first thing bout a corn silo and I’d bet my last dollar they’s swallowed right up in there.
Might have made me a mistake shooting at that boy. Seemed right to me though, seemed like the holy spirit were just about guiding me, but now I got them things coming up around the homestead, seems like maybe the sound of that rifle getting em excited, and damned if that boy ain’t coming right down off that silo. Might be going home myself tonight before the sun comes down, but I tell you this here rifle of mine is gonna try like hell to take that boy with me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Suffering of Fools

I awoke to the sound of Finn, squalling. We had managed to keep him quiet for so long, to teach him at such a young age to be silent, that his piercing cries sounded almost alien at first. My head pounding I looked toward his cries.

During the apocalypse, a man sees a lot of horrors. This is no great shock, no great revelation. It is one thing to see the myriad dead, even the living dead, but to see the slack and lifeless face of your wife is a much worse kind of tragedy. At once mundane, spouses perish every day, yet so incredibly personal, so incomprehensible, it is as if you are looking at a piece of yourself that has died. I belly-crawled to Finn who was wailing next to Colleen's body, clearly trying to elicit from her some reaction, some reassuring comfort. It was a pitiable sight, and for the first time since this madness had begun, I began to lose hope.

For years, Colleen and I had joked about being "Team Curry," but to us it was no joke. We were a team. For better or worse we had long since hitched our wagons together and had been hell-bent on making our way through our lives together. Her problems, my problems, they were always our problems. Looking at my wife, eyes open, slack and lifeless, I felt a part of me break and fall away. No more Team Curry.

I scooped up Finn, feeling how light and fragile and small he was, held him close and hushed gently into his ear. He calmed down almost at once, having learned, somehow instinctually, that there was precious little comfort left in the world, and to take what he could get. How in the world was I going to feed him? Take care of a baby in a world gone to rut and ruin?

But this was no time for planning, this was a time for survival, and revenge. To be taken by the undead, well, that was the heart of this particular darkness, but to be driven into this damnable silo by a living person, to be nearly shot and killed, to have lost my wife, to have endangered and possibly sentenced my son to death by a living breathing person; there was satisfaction to be had. I found that there was no pleasure to be had in ending the animation of the dead. Their soullesss eyes reflected no change, just a quiet indifference as they skulls were smashed in and their bodies dropped limp to the earth. The living however, I could make the living pay.

I looked around the silo, saw that the silo was about half full of grain. I estimated that distance to the bottom of the silo, and hopefully a door, and even more hopefully, a door that would swing out, was about twenty feet down. I would have to dive down, find the door, then come up and get Finn. Hopefully, the force of the grain expelling from the doorway would push the ghouls back long enough for me to get a running start.

I dove into the grain, pulled against the slick, hard kernels, but got no purchase. In a breath, I could only go about four or five feet before I had to turn back. It was hopeless.

Coming up for air, I looked to find Finn, saw him sleeping, curled up next to Colleen, moving fitfully against her body. I took in great heaving lungfuls of air, and noticed the quiet. The scraping, moaning sound of the pawing undead was, not gone, but faded. Very much faded. Cautiously, I climbed the rebar rings of the silo up the top and peered over the top. The gunshots from before must have attracted the mob of rot and ruin as they now swarmed outside the farmhouse. The vast majority of them were congregated toward the front of the house. Each of them stupidly clawing and grasping forward but none of them had yet breached the front door. I wanted in that house.

I climbed down, pulled the makeshift sling off of Colleen, knealt down and kissed her lightly on her rapidly cooling forehead. I grabbed Finn and put him in the sling, snugging him tightly against my chest, climbed up the rebar rings once more, and heaved myself and Finn up and over the side of the silo.

Cringing, silently cursing my damaged hand, and waiting for the bullet from the farmhouse to crash into my skull, I hurriedly climbed down the silo. I heard a shot ring out, then another, and another. Heart racing, I let go of the silo and fell the last ten feet to the ground, falling hard and not protecting myself with my hands as they were wrapped around Finn. Finn began to scream. The madman in the house put two more bullets into the silo above and the left of where I lay panting. Why would he be shooting at me when his home is surrounded by those creatures? I stood up, crouched low, and began to run toward the house, toward the man with the gun, and toward the hordes of undead, whose attention had now turned in our direction, and toward Finn's cries.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Swan Song

In recent years, Hollywood directors have shown a great love for using shaky-camera filming in order to provide a realistic depiction of the chaos and frantic nature of war and other life threatening situations. Something always seemed unnatural about that sort of camera work, and Maureen was discovering exactly why she felt that way. If a member of the IATSE was presenting her actions and experiences on screen, the camera would have scanned wildly side to side as she fled from the undead assailant before her. The image would have jerked sharply downward as she stumbled off of the curb and almost tumbled to the ground after her muddy boots failed to assist her in accelerating on the blacktop of the parking lot. After a few sickening jostles to bring the view level again, the screen would swiftly jerk to the right providing a wide scan of the area displaying the wild traffic and panic all around her. It would settle on the zombie, a very short distance behind her, lumbering as quickly as it could after her. With a snap, the camera would be back in front of her, frantically shimmying as she scrambled to fit her key into her car door. The door would swing open just in time to strike her attacker and send it crashing to the pavement. Screams and sirens would cry out sharply and then be swiftly muffled as the door slammed shut next to her.

Perhaps a close-up of the door locks would appear as she smashed her fingers down onto the electronic lock button, sending the set of small silver protrusions, slightly worn on the edges to a copper tone, smashing down into the door frame in order to secure her mobile fortress. The view would shift to look upwards towards her from the passenger seat in order to catch her gasp and shriek as the zombie smashed itself into the driver's side window, causing her to fumble her keys as she rushed to insert them into the ignition. Repeated thumps against the glass would echo off the plastic interior as the camera shook from the abuse the vehicle was taking. Whimpers full of barely intelligible words would escape Maureen's lips as the car's starter jumped to life with a less than confidence building grunt. The audience would now be staring at a wide shot out the front window. The wheels would turn as the four cylinder engine, which would much rather still be asleep, was forced into action by her foot, now captured in a close range floor shot, slamming the gas pedal down to the floor. The camera would slip side to side in a violent drunken manner as she swung the car around every obstacle in her path: human, automobile, and used-to-be-human. Then, perhaps they would close this segment with a wide angle crane-cam shot as she sped around the back side of the store.

Thus, would the director of photography capture the wild nature of a person fleeing for their life.

In reality, it felt nothing like that.

The most alarming difference was the sound. There wasn't much of it at all. The wails of the people, the crashing of the cars, the not so distant sirens of the emergency vehicles traveling in every direction, these things made it to her as if filtered by wads of cotton in her ears. The whole world seemed muffled, with two notable exceptions. The first was her breathing. The sound of her own surging breaths enveloped her. It was as if her inhales and exhales formed the cocoon around her head which dampened all of the other noise besetting her. A sheath which would only be penetrated by the blood soaked creature before her. Its moans and hisses sliced straight into her mind. Even as it followed her, she would swear that she could see the contortions of its face just from the creaking of it gnashing its teeth.

As for the shaky cam, it would be hard to say that the movements of her eyes and head were completely unlike the movements of the cameraman. That may have been the way it happened, but a person's vision is nothing like a camera. All of that visual stimuli had to be processed by Maureen's brain, so the final product was a bit different than what would have appeared on screen.

She floated.

Not literally, of course, but everything she experienced seemed to come at her in one smooth and steady stream. Her stumble from the curb felt less like the erratic flight pattern of a gnat and more akin to the bobbing flow of an old Cadillac with shocks that needed replacing. Her scan of the area revealed nothing but blurred masses of nondescript movement, and even the zombie on her heels appeared as nothing more than a shifting multi-hued blob. The moment it took for her to line her key up with the slot in her car door dragged on with intoxicated swaying, and the door striking the ghoul was barely noticed as she slumped into the worn cloth seat with a forceful expulsion of breath that made her eyes squint and her brow furrow in distress. The zombie's lurch towards the window elicited naught but a moderate lean away from the glass. The vehicle parked in front of her was gone, so she was able to shift into drive and pull straight through. There was no floor shattering stomp upon the pedal, as even in her state of panic, she looked both ways before entering the lane. Which was smart, seeing as how a non-drivable car would have been unbelievably inconvenient at that time. There was no violent swerving back and forth as she avoided the people and undead in her way, because she didn't avoid them. While Maureen didn't aim for them, the glaze which covered everyone in front of her made discerning their state of living difficult.

The greater factor was that she just didn't care.

A person who thinks little of other people, when faced with a life or death situation of mythic proportions, will, apparently, drive through and over whatever human shaped figure happens to be unfortunate enough to be in their path. It was a short drive for her to reach the back lane of the parking lot, and the way was quite clear of other automobiles, since it was in the opposite direction of the entrance. Behind the supermarket was a short driveway into a shipping and distribution complex. Her idea was to slip out the back way, which was a great plan. The wrench in the works appeared as she turned onto the drive and crossed into the neighboring lot. A rather large trailer was flipped onto its side and was completely blocking her only route past the long warehouses to her left and right. It was still possible to spin the car around and try to squeeze out of the supermarket entrance, so she popped the car door open and shook her head to clear the last wisps of fog from her vision.

As the door swung to its widest, Maureen's ears began to grab onto the unobstructed audio headed her way. Sharp screams and a choir of groans assaulted her. She looked back, with eyes ready to bulge from their sockets, upon the scene she had just exited, and horror began to set in. She slunk backwards, sliding against the cold sheet metal of her car's fender. The chaotic racket around her beat down on her ears, and her eyes squinted as if in response to a massive weight settling on her head.

As she rolled around the corner of her car and took her first few hurried steps towards the toppled trailer, she was overcome with the desire for some cotton.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kent for a Day, Fool for an Unlifetime

Things were starting to come together, and not a moment too soon.

There hadn't been time yet to complete a head count, but there had to be more than a hundred people bustling about the compound. Kent stood atop the easement belonging to the lumber distribution facility that occupied the space directly across from the Gerber factory he was once employed by, yet still worked at. A strange situation to be sure, but the work that was now being done there was far more important than any task undertaken there previously.

Yesterday, “survival gear” and “gear for survival” would have meant the same thing to him, but not any more. It was easy to see what products fit the new and valid description of survival gear. One needed only to look at which crates sat empty and which hadn't been opened at all.

Kent's eyes caught some movement to his right, prompting him to snap his left hand upward while pressing down with his index finger.

“Got two moaners over in G2.”

As his finger relaxed, the small two way radio in his hand cried with static for a moment before closing the transmission with a click. “Roger that,” the box squawked, “red intercepting.” Kent kept his eyes focused on the intruders as they lumbered towards the center of activity he hovered over. The rumble of an eight cylinder engine being given a healthy amount of gas ricocheted up and out of the alley between the two buildings to his South as a deep red colored Ford pickup truck shot out onto the main roadway. A medieval looking steel contraption thrust from the front of the vehicle and was stained a color which almost matched the truck's paint. The device was once a small snow plow, but it now resembled what would happen if a bus load of swords was dropped into a chicken coop.

The zombie's lack of survival instinct was obvious as they paid no heed to the vehicle roaring their way. Lining up the perfect shot took very little adjustment for the driver, and the undead were scooped up and impaled swiftly. Jaws still snapping at the man piloting the craft, the creatures struggled to break free of the razor wire that was tearing their muscles into useless bloody chunks.

The driver slung his head part of the way out of the window and bellowed, “hit it!”
A slender teenager who had been seated in the bed of the truck popped up and snatched the bright yellow rubber grip at the end of a long rod that jutted upward from the back of the truck. With a sharp tug, a winch groaned to life and began to quickly draw in the length of urethane coated cable which ran over the top of the cab and connected to the wire mesh where the zombies were ensnared. The grinding cries of metal on metal were sharper on the ears than the wire's tiny blades were on the ghouls as it constricted around them. Flesh, sinew and bone were shredded, leaving hunks of diced human and buckets of blood in a wide trail behind the pickup, as if some Lovecraftian slug had slithered its way down the street.

Four hours, Kent thought to himself. These men had four hours to get that truck ready, and they were able to construct that... thing. He couldn't help but smile. If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation gives birth to something much more profound.

“Hey, Kent?”

While not actually a question, the soft request that floated up from his feet certainly sounded like one.

“I think I worked out how to secure the walkways against the expected mob's ebb and flow.”

Seated on the roof next to him was a young man hunched down a bit too close to the screen of a rather expensive looking laptop. His crisp white dress shirt still displayed the lightly starched creases along the sleeves placed there by a dry cleaning shop which was most likely abandoned by now. The bright white was broken up by broad splatters of burgundy dried blood, which actually looked quite good next to the dark chocolate brown of his skin. On the laptop's screen was a web of intersecting lines and figures, which were mostly indecipherable to Kent. The young man wasn't on Kent's list of invitations to the compound, but he was proving to be a critical asset in the construction. Michael was his name, and he had the sort of demeanor that made it seem all too appropriate to use his whole name, rather than truncating it to something like “Mike.” He had arrived carrying his laptop and a crimson coated fire axe not long after they began securing these buildings. Apparently, he followed his college flame to the Northwest with his freshly printed structural engineering degree in hand. While the relationship left him with nothing but an empty apartment to leave his office for, his training was providing him with plenty of new friends.

“If our inventory of the available materials is accurate, we should have the resources necessary to begin constructing the preliminary support structure to allow movement between structures, prior to the final framework being assembled,” Michael was just getting warmed up. Kent squinted slightly as if his eyelashes could somehow decode the drawings that were being explained to him. It wasn't working.

With an uncharacteristically soft press against the overly engrossed man's shoulder, Kent interrupted: “Michael, I believe that you know what you're doing, so I need you to start instructing the crew on what to do, and quickly.” The radio cut him off with a yelp that was partially muffled by the palm of his hand. Once again, Kent brought the box up near his head, “go ahead.”

“The head count is finished, and it looks like we're doing better than expected. But... there's something you need to know.” No closing static jumped from the radio, so Kent knew there was more to be said, even as the silent moment dragged out to the end of his patience.

“Sharon's not here yet.”
Ssshhh-cluck. The connection snapped closed.

Kent was squinting again. This time, it was as his teeth ground down upon each other and his head turned slowly to face the East. His gaze bore down on a destination past these warehouses and parking lots, underneath the highway, through treetops and power lines and two story homes. A solid three mile long staring contest against a sandy colored split-level brick target.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Smucker's Raspberry Preserves

I awake still lying on the rotten floor of the tree house shrouded in an early morning fog. My arm still throbbing with raccoon bite. The soft moans of the undead below did not go away while I was dreaming of soft Mexican beaches.

Here, the dead do not rest.

Today is the day I will need to get out of here, “here” being this tree house, this situation, this life perhaps? My stomach growls in anger. My thirst is almost unbearable. Void of modesty I drop trow and relieve myself through the cracks in the tree house floor. Any live person who might show up at this moment and happen to see me peeing would bless me with welcome embarrassment. The droplets of urine land on the little boy whose carcass stands swaying and clawing at the tree trunk.

I sit Indian-style on the floorboards for about an hour and near hysteria once again, I put one hand over my eyes as I audibly pray to God for help through cracked sobs. With the other hand I unwittingly grasp for the edge of the tree house floor. The gray dry rotted wood gave up almost immediately and I pulled and jerked the broken off piece and held it in front of my surprised face. A two-footer, sharp on one end and with just a bit of life left in the middle to provide strength. This was the answer. Halting my sobs and prayers, I got up and onto my knees and began madly yanking at the floorboard strips tearing up splinters and stubbing my thumb on a rusty nail. I was clawing for my own salvation. Dead wood for dead heads.

By the time the fog burned off and the morning sun was nearly blinding I had a good-sized pile of spikes for which I was sorting by size and strength. The larger men zombies would need to be taken out first. I gingerly lowered myself, hands sweating, on the shaky wooden tree house ladder with the largest of the makeshift spears. The undead farmer in his overalls moaned loudly and reached his rotting limbs up to reach me. And I’m just barely out of his reach as my hands shake with adrenalin – one clinging to the tree ladder and the other raised above my target. I bring it down with a powerful grunt and plant it through the top of the semi-soft cranium with a "flump". Farmer drops to his knees and then falls over, face down into the soft green grass. The other three are oblivious totheir comrade’s termination and stumble around his second-time corpse, tripping here and there.

With a slightly renewed confidence that this would work, I bared my teeth and hissed. "That's it. Get over here, you fuckers!"

I pull out another stake and took out Neighbor man likewise. The little boy, however, got it through the eye. It went deep enough to short circuit him and disgusting, smelly aqueous humor dripped out of his socket before he hit the ground. That’s all that mattered, his ending. And then the little girl was spiked through her blonde pony-tailed head, no problem. She didn't scream. The blood wasn’t even really blood but clotted and congealed like Smuckers Raspberry Preserves. I should have been throwing up by now. Is this what is called desensitizing? Or just pure survival?

I gratefully jumped to the ground, keeping low and hunched over where all four bodies lay scattered, keeping an eye out for any movement. In a moment of dramatic victory and going against my better instincts I felt a rage well up within me. I bent down to the ground and dipped two fingers into a pool of red ooze and then traced a cross on my forehead before breaking into a sprint toward my parents' house.

I think I left myself in that tree house. This was now Me [Version 2.0].