Monday, November 17, 2008

The sound of Silo

At the top of the silo, after hours of running, I leaned over the wall, and peered into a massive pile of grain. Wheat likely, but it was at least 20 feet below.

The undead scratched, grunted, clawed and moaned from below. They weren't getting up, and I sure as hell wasn't getting down. So our choices were grain, suicide, or stand as long as possible on the tiny iron rungs we had been climbing to get to the top.

Tom was talking, but all I could hear were words. I don't know how long since we'd eaten. It had been at least a week since we had any protein. I was hungry, I was thirsty, and I was afraid for Finn. He was sleeping too long now. I never put him down to develop his own mobility skills unless we were sleeping, and my breasts grew more dry with each day. He had eaten all my body had to give him, and I had nothing to nourish myself and make anymore milk. I feared he was starving.

My ears were ringing, my feet and hands bleeding and throbbing, and my vision was swimming. I clung to the wall. Tom stood next to me, still talking, and I still lacked the ability to focus. I just needed to rest.

To dive into the grain was uncertain.... can you drown in grain? It's not solid, so how deep in it would we go, and would be able to swim out? What about my poor, beautiful Finn? And once inside, do we just die? There is no one to come for us, and nowhere else to go.

I can't hold on forever. I can't hold on for an hour. I need to rest. Finn needs food, and things look grim.

Then I heard the boom and whiz of... well.... was it a bullet? Were we being shot at? Fed to the Zombies? I look to the farm house, and see movement behind the partially closed shutters.


Hillbillies, perhaps, and maybe no better than hippies, but they have a fortified home, and perhaps food and water. It is unclear as to whether we were being shot down, or the zombies were being shot at, but with nothing to lose, I untied Finn from my back and held him toward the house.

I shook him in the air and screamed, 'HELP MY BABY! PLEASE HELP MY BABY! We're thirsty, and we're tired, but PLEASE help my BOY!'.

Tom was yelling as well, but not at them. He was telling me to hide Finn, to protect him. 'He thinks they're shooting at us...' I thought. And I wonder, what difference does it make? Finn is nearly dead, and I can't save him from up here. We don't have long, either. Maybe a gunshot is better than being torn asunder by eternally starving teeth and rotting flesh.

Tom reaches past me to get Finn, and in our struggle, I tumble backwards.... into the silo, still holding an unconscious Finn by his arm... and I feel the wheat move past my body, and Tom's muffled cries from above.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I awake shivering. It can’t be but maybe 5:00am and the moans from below my treehouse pyre softly rumble into a background noise. There are other noises; the first twitterings of Mourning Doves and an owl hooting in a distant tree.

The throb in my punctured arm is nothing compared to the throb in my head – a dehydration headache perhaps. Or maybe from lack of daily caffeine. I carefully and slowly roll over and look through the cracks in the rotten wood at the nemeses below. The Damned. Nothing changed overnight; still two rotting children, two rotting men – circling the tree, moaning. I need to get out.

My chest tightens signaling a long overdue panic attack. I slowly sit up causing the wood underneath me to groan. My breathing gets quicker and my chest hurts. I close my eyes and try and meditate on The Five Precious Wounds. A little residual Catechesis. It takes me about twenty minutes to calm myself and breathe regularly and by that time the morning light is creeping in to brighten the sky. I put dawn at about 5:50am. I look around to see if there is anything I can use to help myself out of here. Nothing. No hidden Indiana Jones rope tucked away in the corner, no matches, no gun, no miracle, nothing.

My parents’ house is about a football field’s length away. If I start screaming when I think they’ll be awake, I might have a chance to get out my S.O.S. Maybe someone will come running in on a steed of metal to save me.

At about 7:00am when I think my family would be awake I clear my throat and start my screaming:


I space out my screams so it sounds intentional and not like I am actually being killed. I do this for about an hour and forty-five minutes straight and with every moment of silence that follows I lose more and more hope. My dry throat burns and my vocal cords, strained and abused, refuse me any further service. A raspy cigaretty sexy voice of desperation. I give in to a good five minute crying session. In my fit, my hand claws at the end of a rotten wood floor plank and unconsciously pulls… the edge tears off in a long splintered piece. I hold it up in front of my dirty tear-streaked face and touch the surprisingly dense yet splintery sharp tip. Oak was always reliable, even when dead. Maybe it would work. It could penetrate skull, maybe. I didn’t have a choice now. Do or die. Or both. I hope the internal rot of these freaks has mushened their bones.

Like a madwoman I start ripping at the edge of the rotten floorboards, yanking up yard-stick long pieces to use as weapons, embedding many nasty splinters into my own skin. When I had about six good sized pieces I took my shirt off and wrapped it around the bunch and tied it to my back like a rigged bundle. A she-MacGuyver in a white Wal-Mart bra. The hard part would be gingerly climbing down the makeshift and crumbling ladder to get just within reach to plant the spear-sticks into their rotting heads. To do this without putting myself in jeopardy would be a trick.

My hands were moist with sweat and shaking I lower myself to the first step. Moaning continues below and gradually loudens when the beasts realize I am coming down the ladder. Another step. This one feels a bit more shaky. I pray the nails don’t give up their duties. One more, honey, come on. My chest and stomach scrape desperately against the bark of the oak, sending small dead pieces of wood shrapnel and dust raining down. My hands are not doing me any favors by sweating so profusely. My fear of heights does not help. Then I get to the magic step. It seems firm enough. I trust this piece of wood and it could be my doom, but I balance both feet as I twist my body sideways. My feet are just out of clawing reach and I cling to the trunk with all my shaking might. I reach back into my makeshift shirt-bundle and – OUCH! I stick myself with an end of a spear. Stupid! Ignoring the pain, I manage to grope and grab the first oak spear, balancing and clinging to the tree with one hand like a spider monkey. A scared one. I hover and wait with my spear upraised for the best opportunity to nail the first one through the top of the skull…

Thursday, October 30, 2008


“Which side?” I say to Rick, the police officer of the now defunct Chicago PD. We walk across the top of the roof of the building, dried tar and gravel crunching as we head to the edge. 

“West, by the red line,” he says. He is letting me know where is abandoned vehicle is. Everyone in the building is sure I am insane, leaving the security for the unknown. Their leader, Mike, made a less than convincing plea for me to stay. He asked why I wanted to leave, and the first thing I said was that I needed to make sure my wife was ok. His response was coarse but possibly true, “Look man, she is probably already dead.”

“Let me tell you about my wife,” I say sharply, “If our roles were reversed and she was down here – she’d be fucking home by now.”

Our conversation is thankfully short and his protests are quick. He can tell I won’t change my mind, and the psychological drain I could inflict on the group could be too great for moral so he acquiesces. 

Rick and I peer over the edge of the building and look at the street. From 20 floors up they look like figurines below, placed her by some malevolent child in a sick game. The creatures march no where, all of them circling but at different arcs. It looks like grind of sharks, all clambering on top of one another to get a taste of the latest catch, but in this case there is nothing to grab. They all cycle in toward the buildings, only to be pushed away by the others behind in a never ending cycle.

Rick points, “you see it out over by the corner?”

“That’s a fucking segway.” I say to him, amusement drained from my voice.

He laughs, “man I’m just fucking with you. It’s over there, behind that truck that's embedded in Walgreen’s."

“That’s a quad…”

This time he doesn’t laugh. “Seriously… That’s what you have?" I say, "A 4 wheeler? You realize it has neither roof nor doors.”

“Look. That’s what I got. I know that it isn’t a full car, but it might be better in some respects. If you come to a clog in the road or something, you can always go around.” I start to protest and he holds up his hand, indicating he isn’t done. “It doesn’t use much gas, and that is a police model, it goes about 65 if you need it to.”

I shake my head, “I guess I have no choice.”

“You could always just stay here.”

“Gimme the keys”


The goodbye isn’t long. I gather what I can carry, take both my makeshift machete and a small crowbar they happily give me. Rick is the one who comes to say goodbye last. 

“You should take this.” He says pulling his revolver out of the holster.

“No, I can’t…” I start.

“Look, I won’t need this here. We can handle all this with the makeshift weapons. Besides, I only have 12 rounds. It can get you out of a jam if you need to, but this isn’t anything I can use. And..." He pauses,  "if you feel the change coming on, at least you can end your misery…” The last statement hangs in the air as I quietly take the gun.

We find a spot closest to my destination, that is surrounded by the least ghouls. The guys pike them as I climb down the ladder and I quickly jog through the street. The ghouls are packed into places, and in other parts of the street there are none. The ones nearby start moving toward me, but I am able to maneuver around them and I don’t have to engage.  I arrive at the ATV with some space to spare. They are closing in, but not so fast that I don’t have time to get the key in the ignition. It starts immediately and I put it in gear and drive. I move past the major center of creatures quickly. Keep distance from the packs as I zig zag over streets and sidewalks. 

I know which way I should go and I head that direction. The train tracks lead to near my home. I can follow them and hopefully avoid crowds of creatures. And with this vehicle it might not be that bad of a ride.

I make my way past the buildings and veer off into the grass. The buildings end and the train yard begins. I drive through the surrounding deserted prairie, and head to the tracks. My car awaits at the station, miles from here. My goal is to make it there by nightfall.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still

When you have nowhere to go, it takes a hell of a long time to get there. I realized this as I ran, my exhausted lungs ripping oxygen from the air around me and converting it into carbon dioxide, exhaled in ragged but rhythmic bursts. I ran and breathed and dragged my family behind me cruelly, heedless of their cries.

I was callousness embodied. I had to be. I had through my inaction sentenced two boys to die, and so mercy became a liability I could ill afford. The game was changing now. I could feel it in the air that burned in my lungs like the fires of hell that would greet me for what I had become and I didn't care. Colleen couldn't keep up and I couldn't ask her too. She began to cry as I dug my fingers deep into her arm and forced her along, her feet bouncing and jumping against the ground more than actually running. Her cries meant nothing to me.

Having moments ago been reborn into this protective running machine by Finn's cries, the irony of my dispassion was not lost on me, nor did it change anything. Let them cry. Let them scream if it came to that, but even as the lactic acid began to set tiny fires across the internal landscape of my person, I didn't slow. My body had changed since this began. It was leaner now, made of the kind of grit and gristle that has woven together the bodies of working men throughout all time. More than that, my mind had changed, grown harder. There was no more room in it for contemplation of ideals and ideas. It didn't matter that I couldn't run anymore, that I was exhausted, that my family couldn't keep up. That was all hypothetical. That was the world as it should be; the world as a place of sanity and reason. That was no longer my world and so we ran and if anything my pace picked up. I accelerated my stride and although my ravaged unnourished sleep deprived body should have broken down, though I should have collapsed upon the floor of the earth in a heaving desperate pile, I ran. I ran to try and match the hellish determination of those who pursued me and the singularity of my focus consumed me.

Colleen had stopped crying now. I doubted she could spare the breath. Finn took up her slack, ratcheting up his protests. How hungry he must have been, how tired. This new world ill suited to the needs of a child. But if I survived so would he, and so would Colleen. I would leave a thousand boys behind to die screaming if only to ward off the demise of my family for a moment. I realized this and ran faster still, trying to outrun any need for redemption, to outpace the realization of my biological selfishness. It followed me like a shadow. I was an atheist in search of a respite from hell.

I would not find it. I found instead a farmhouse and its outbuildings just over a small hill up ahead. My pursuers were still coming, but I had lengthened our lead, given us a few precious moments to slow as I surveyed the area. The house appeared to be old, but sturdy and in good repair. It seemed the obvious choice until I saw the sun glint from a window and I shook at my near miss. It wouldn't take five minutes for the glass to break, social contracts shattered by undead heads and hands, snapping teeth and desperate hunger. We would have been consumed withing an hour had I not corrected my intial judgment, murdered by my poor decision as much by my poor decision as by the hands of the undead. I changed course in mid stride, almost sending Colleen to the ground, but yanking up on her arm to keep her up. I charged forward toward the massive concrete dominance of a grain silo. Gratified that there were no doors, I skid to a halt at the face of the thing.
Rebar rings circled the structure every three feet or so, creating a widely spaced but not impossible ladder. I had no idea what we would find inside had no idea if the silo would be empty or full or if there was a way to climb back down on the interior wall of the thing. It didn't matter. The house was certain death; the dilapidated barn no better. I looked at Colleen who appeared ready to pass out, then back at our pursuers. A hundred yards behind us the first of the undead was, of course, still running (when did they learn to run like that?) after us, only slightly hindered by a horribly mauled leg that looked as if it might bend entirely in the wrong direction with each ungraceful but effective lurch. I took Finn from Colleen's arms and began to climb. I motioned for her to follow.

Thankfully, it was not just my own body that had hardened during our ordeal, but Colleen's as well. She climbed grimly, but with competence. We made it six rings up, about a third of the way toward the zenith of the six story monolith when the first of the running undead hit the concrete wall at full speed. The sound of bone and flesh impacting the immovable concrete wall was gruesome, but the impact was of no consequence. The thing clambered to its feet as quickly as it was down, moaning through its ruined skull as it reached vainly into the air for the meal it had gamely chased. For the moment at least, it didn't seem able to climb, and without another glance back, Colleen and I struggled upward.

It was, I reflected later, a day for irony. Taking shelter in a grain silo was very nearly like storing ourselves in the refrigerator. Man had poured grain into silos for hundreds of years to store food for later consumption. Now it was we who were the food, climbing desperately into the larder.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chicago, Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten

The pikes did what they needed them to do. With trial and error we were able to build the scaffold around the bottles of water, seal it off with concrete form boards and kill everything inside in less than two days. With the new strategy, the guys had planned to build the scaffold across the street and possibly take a few buildings back in the vicinity. The claiming of new buildings meant more resources, a bigger spot on multiple roofs for rain collection, and more survivors. Everyone was in favor of it.

I hadn’t slept in a long time. Really slept anyway… Lying still and jumping awake at any creak, moan or whateverthefuck wasn’t really sleeping, that was closing your eyes long enough so you don’t hallucinate. So when I made it across the street, I fell out. There were plenty of people watching as others slept to warn them if anything happened to the defenses, so when I finally did hit the pillow I was out.

I sat awake when I heard the rhythmic thumping. Zombies have no rhythm, their pounding is pure chaos, but this had some organization. When I looked around I saw no one inside, so I trotted out to the scaffold. The thumping was accompanied by a distant voice, it was a helicopter, announcing something.

All the people in the building looked up, and saw the thing hovering in the distance. There were a few murmurs at first, and then when we could tell someone was broadcasting their voice, everyone quieted down. It was hard to hear at first, but eventually we were able to make it out.

“We are moving toward Chicago. Please stay inside. We will be making a sweep of the city in a few days. Please, stay inside until we come into your building. We need your full cooperation. Just hold out for a few more days.”

The voice was shaky and unsure. Weeks ago I would have felt sorry for the person behind it. Now I could feel the anger welling up inside me.

“When we move through the blocks and liberate buildings, we need you to kneel and put your hands on your head to show that you aren’t infected. Anyone who disobeys will be shot.”

How fucking dare you send some snot nosed little kid to talk to us over the broadcast, I thought. His voice gave everything away. He was either scared or poorly trying to deceive. Fucking cock suckers, I thought, getting angrier by the second. I hope his fucking helicopter explodes… no, I quickly changed my mind. I wanted it to crash land with him trapped and on fire, then I wanted him to finish dying by getting eaten alive by these goddamn abominations crawling the streets.

“Please stay inside!” his voice was a shriek now, a begging, pleading weak little shriek. It got higher and higher as it went down the block, and more insecure with each passing moment. It hit a crescendo when a group down the street that didn’t care what the guy was saying ran out onto ground level, disregarding the fact that the street was filled with undead. The ran out, illuminated by the high powered light of the helicopter, waving at the sky like a pack of starving retards trapped on an island.

“No! Stay inside! We can’t pick you up! Go! No! No!” He squealed pathetically as the group was torn apart. The mic went silent quickly thereafter as the helicopter rose in altitude and flew off faster.

I leave tomorrow, I thought. I am not sitting here waiting to see if they are telling the truth. Even if they are, they aren’t going to let me hop a ride out to my house to get my wife. No, there is no choice now. I have to leave.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lunatic Fringe

The throb in my arm awakens me. It is twilight. I open my eyes and see the sparkling diamond of Venus rising. A slowly moving satellite crosses the sky where the dark blue meets black, far away from this inexplicable chaos. I’m used to seeing airplane contrails scar the sky above this area all the time. Now there are none.

The soft groans of the determined undead drift up to meet my ears as I carefully shift my weight on the rotten boards of the tree house floor. The air is noticeably cooler and a soft summer breeze spitefully rustles my hair.

I peer down between cracks in the tree house floor and see that we have a visitor. Another undead neighbor - looks like Rich Aldanus - round bare gut hanging over his Chicago Bears lounge pants, socklessly shuffles in to join the party, arms raised, clawing ridiculously at the bark of the tree like the others, moaning for blood. Maybe he’s a fresh kill.

I recall hearing a radio program on the topic of stress. The science was that the body’s secondary functions such as growth and reproductive processes halt during extreme times of stress. I thought about how I wouldn’t even need to be on the pill right now to stay unpregnant. After this I realize how much I am missing Cecil. And I begin to weep bitterly, my tears landing on the splintered gray floorboards. I could use his military directions right now. When I had got drunk and puked in the car after my company Christmas party two years ago he held me up, got me in the house, got me undressed and cleaned up, and sternly commanded me to stop crying and keep my head over the toilet bowl. I feel like my head is over a toilet bowl right now. And all this shit is swirling below me, groaning to reclaim my body somehow. I hope Cecil is holding his own against these fuckers wherever he is right now.

The raccoon punctures in my arm stopped bleeding but are looking swollen. I’m sure an infection is well on its way. Great, just what I need.

More stars appear in what’s quickly becoming the night sky. As the colors fade I think of the song Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider how the beginning is echoey and perfect for this picture. I cradle my injury and curl up in a fetal position.

I have to get out of here tomorrow. Come hell or high water.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not so Precious Moments

There are the stories we tell over a nice meal, stories that bind a diverse people together through the wonder of shared experience. They may be happy stories or sad or funny, but they are told willingly enough, and without anger or resentment. But there are other stories, terrible mournful stories. Stories told in whispers, reluctantly, each word pulled from us like bloody fish hooks, writhing and thrashing to stay buried deep in the hard, desperate parts of us, these are the stories that wound grievously with each telling. This is one of those stories.

We had just come to the light. Can you imagine what the meant to us? Can you? Just to have the light again, to be out of that infernal dark, it was like learning to breathe again just to see. And it wasn't just light, but sunlight, beautiful and bright and hopeful and it was there for the taking. It felt like I was consuming it, that I would devour the suns rays with my voracity. Can you think for one moment what that would have been like?

I didn't even think about it. I'd like to be able to say that I saw those kids down there and decided to do what was right, but it wasn't like that. I just started moving. What else was there to do? Jesus, they were just teenagers. They should have been throwing rocks and getting stoned and finding some girl to let them feel her boobs, but instead there they were, sitting in that goddamn boat as it floated lazily toward the shore. And of course there were dead on the shore, plenty of them. And so what the fuck could I have done? It wasn't the right thing, hell; it was the only thing. So we sat, all of us, in that damn tree and there I was, whittling little spears, a regular Don Quixote, readying the lance to go tilting at undead windmills. I thought I had to

By the time I realized what was happening, it was far too late. You have to know that at least. When we crawled out onto the tree from drainage culvert, I never looked at the tree. I was blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, you know what I mean? I didn't see a tree, I saw freedom, I saw salvation from the hell of that concrete tunnel and the dark. I saw spears to fight the zombies and maybe save the kids in that stupid little boat. What I didn't see was that the tree was dead. Mostly at least. It was leaning against the culvert because it had been struck by lightning. Some of the branches were still green but it was a goner. The trunk was split wide open at the base and it was at a crazy angle to the ground. Hell, thinking back it's likely the only thing holding that damn tree vertical was its leaning against the very culvert we climbed out of. So when it began to fall, slowly at first, I had no idea what was going on. It was like tipping over backward from the top of a ladder, sickening and inevitable, and just slow enough so that you know you're really fucked. It was a big tree. We were very high up.

I remember the landing real well. I was lucky (that's all it was too, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise) to be on the far side of the initial impact. Couple of them cellar dweller hippie body clone chicks hit the ground first, and the rest of the tree just fell right into them. Weird thing was, no one said anything. Not a word, not an "Oh Shit" or "Fuck." Nothing. We fell silently. It had become our habit in the dark. But our silence didn't mean shit to Zed. They saw and heard that tree falling and they came in as big a rush as I ever seen them. Up until now, we'd only seen the slow ones. These were fast. They were on us before we even knew we'd survived the fall. One poor fucker just laid there, trying to push himself out of from under the tangle of branches that had him pinned even as they descended upon him. It was pointless. I could see even as I scrambled that his legs were shot, but he fought like hell until one of them mercifully bit him in the throat. Finn's screams probably saved my life. Until that moment, I was dumbfounded, pulling myself out of the branches and wondering how the hell we were all going to get out of this one when I heard his panicked cries. I snapped to and looked to find Colleen clutching Finn, looking wild and trying to restrain him with one hand while trying to scramble out of the tangled mess herself. I couldn't believe that she'd managed to hold onto him through the impact with the ground, but there they were, alive. And I guess that's when it happened.

I looked at them, my tired, half crazed wife, my screaming son, and I didn't care anymore about the boys in the boat. They were dead already, they just didn't know it. I think I had wanted to stay and fight before, to make a stand. I was ready at a moment's notice to make every place my feet held soil the goddamn Alamo. Until I heard Finn screaming. I looked back over my shoulder. A couple of the hippy-types had lived through the fall and were extricating themselves from the branches. One was brandishing a flimsy stick as the undead rushed him, tearing it from his hands and tackling him with the weight of the ceaseless hunger. And so we ran.

I grabbed Colleen's arm harder than I would ever have dared before and took off. I didn't care if she couldn't keep up or if I was hurting her. I needed to run, to put distance between my family and that madness. I left those boys on the water and our traveling companions to die. Part of me has been running ever since.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


It has been dark for so long, and we're all mad for the light. How long has it been? A day, a week, a moment.... we're all lost for time at this point, and the darkness has made us hungry like I've never known. Though not for food.

When we catch the first glimmer of sunlight, there is silence, as if no one dare breathe, for fear it will melt away. Like desert travelers in search of water, we are at the end of our tunnels, and our ropes, and fearfully, madly dashing toward the light, which dances with the shadows of leaves and branches, and rustles in a most beautiful, echo-less sound.

Tom is in front, he has lead us here. With few words, and little confidence, he has somehow reassured us that this is the way out. He seems, however, to be showing signs of wear. The wear and the madness of the dark, that we have all felt in the pits of our bellies seems to be growing, expanding, and we're all at the edge of madness as we desperately clamor, stumble, and race toward the edge of the tunnel, and the light outside.

In a moment, I am cast aside with the madness for the light, and I clutch Finn to me, who has been quiet for far too long, and fall hard on my hip. I cry out for Tom, terrified I will be left behind here, in the darkness, forever. The hippies were always a little cracked, but their desperation for the light seems more than ours.. and I wonder if they have EVER seen the light of day. They have lived underground their whole lives... what this must look like to them...

Tom comes back for me, as I am getting up, hip sore and likely to bruise, and he helps me stumble forward toward the end of the tunnel, and the world outside. He makes no sound, and the tension of leading us through these tunnels has left him frayed and tired. It's hard to say at first how far we have to go. The light seems a mirage, that fools us with it's rays, and dancing shadows. It could be 10 feet, or it could be 100. But we trudge on, quickly, and urgently desperate to get out of here.

After a time that feels like hours but it likely moments, I hear the moaning... Tom must too, as he stops dead. Where is it coming from? We look ahead and see that the hippies have reached the edge, and now fearfully grasp the edge of the culvert, looking back at us in overt terror.

As we get closer it is easy to see that we are not at ground level. And the moaning is still audible. Tom has his knife pulled, and is ready to fight, but steps away from the edge, baffled. As I lean over to look down I can see that we are 30 feet off the ground, in a large drain culvert, looking down on a man made lake at some teen boys in a boat who look to be quickly overtaken by 4 or 5 of the undead. Once they are in the water, they will be difficult to fight, as they don't need air like we do. But if the lake is man-made, we can hope it is deep, and that the zeds have forgotten how to swim. The boys look terrified.

For a moment I am sad that these strong young men, who could be so useful to us in surviving, are at their ends. Tom must be thinking the same thing, and he climbs out onto a large tree branch near the culvert, and then summons for us to join him. The hippies are terrified, but he motions for silence, so that we can only trust his guidance, and so as he asks. He has led us this far in safety, and slowly, Sage, Juniper, Corinader, and Hawthorne climb into the tree, and begin down the trunk. Tom begins to whittle makeshift weapons with his knife out of the longer, thinner branches, and it is clear he means for us to fight.

I clutch Finn to my chest, who is now cooing happily in the sun, and hope that for his sake, this is an easy battle. I don't know how much more bloodshed I can bear, but my god, does that sun feel good on my skin.

It seems to warm me from the depths of my soul, and after a few moments, I am renewed, and ready to do what is right.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Brutes and Ladders

The threat of injury means nothing to the undead. If I were surrounded by normal people a feint with my paper-cutter/machete would make them back away or flinch. These creatures pour on, climbing over one another in the vein hope of a meal only to be struck and killed. They have no regard for one another and treat each other as inanimate objects. If one is to slow the others surge past, when one falls the others stomp right over the top of the fallen. They make little sound. They occasionally let out a moan, or rub up against one another. The damp cloth scrapes together as does their flesh so they sound like a box of worms.

I back up away from the fallen cart. I am surprisingly calm, my brain picks out target areas on the creatures. The only parts I can hit are the head and the base of the neck, the knee and the wrist. I try to make sure everything is a headshot, but have to resort to a few knees, when the creatures fall, several others topple over them and I gather some much needed breathing room. I keep walking backward as I lead the conga line of undead in a circle, slowly backing away while I check behind me, and clubbing anything that cones near. I fight for possibly a minute to a minute and a half when I hear a loud crash.

I look over to the scaffold and see the men have lowered a large aluminum ladder. They scream for me to make my way to it. It’s not very difficult right now to do so; I cut a few down on the legs and sprint. The moment I touch it one of them screams, “Don’t climb it, just hold on!” As I grasp it the creatures are ten feet away. The urge to climb is great, but I see that four large men are pulling up the ladder and I rung by rung. This quickly makes sense, I might be shaken from the ladder or it may fall if I was left to climb it, they just took us both out of the street at the same time.

They pull me over the side and I am out of breath, the wound on my side has opened up again and it is bleeding through the shirt. “Wish I could offer you some water,” Mike says smiling. I start to get up and he tells me to rest, that the scaffolding is perfectly safe and that they are getting the first aid box to look at my side. I start to protest, I say it is fine, but he assures me that we should look at it.

The guy who comes down says that he is a paramedic, someone who came here looking for solace in the first few hours of the crisis. I tell him not to worry, I didn’t get bit, and he shrugs, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d be infected if you had been bit.” He uses a pretty comprehensive medical kit to bandage my side. They help me stand and we look over the edge of the scaffold and see the creatures reaching up, all of them still with an undying relentlessness to capture a meal.

I ask the paramedic what he means; everyone I’ve watched get bit has turned pretty quickly. Mike is standing nearby and responds, “We had 4 people come in on the second day of the whole mess. They came running by and asked to be let up. It was a police officer and three civilians. He had brought them up from the subway, where they had been chased out of. They all got attacked in the stairwell to the subway and every one of them was bitten at least once. We told them that we would let them stay but they had to be quarantined until we made sure they would be fine. They all agreed. We locked them in a room with a couple of hammers and left that floor for four days. When we came back down and Rick the police officer was the only one left alive. The others all had obviously turned and then quickly dispatched. Our medic here checked him over and found four bites that punctured the skin, all of them infected, but he was fine.”

“I’d like to think I’m still fine. I got a little sick, but never changed into anything like that.” One of the men who helped pull me up says as he points out to the street.

“That turns everything around for me. I had thought it was highly contagious,” I respond.

“We aren’t quite sure why he hasn’t been affected,” the medic replies, “There are a lot of possibilities, and this isn’t my area of expertise. He could be immune, he could have been bitten by someone who has had the virus mutate inside of them, or there may be a period of time in which the virus is contagious in a victim, and he got lucky enough to get bit an infected victim that was no longer contagious.”

“Well getting that water aught to be pretty easy then…” I say with a smile.

“Yeah. Fuck that” Rick chuckles.

“I have a plan for that,” Mike cuts in,” we just need to keep these creatures away long enough and we can build the scaffold out over the water, then we can use plywood to cordon off that area, pull up the floor here and gather the water. We just need a way to get them off the water.”

“Well if you build it up around some of them, the ones that are left inside should be easy pickings.” I say.

“How! You going to climb down into a tiny area and whack them to death with your makeshift sword?”

“Fuck that,” I say looking at Rick. “All we need to do is get something to stab them from up here; can we sharpen any metal poles? We can make pikes and just kill them easily from up here.”

Another member of Mike’s crew pipes in, “Hey foreman, we got that 12 foot rebar upstairs, I can possibly sharpen up that and that should be long enough to hit from up here.”

“Good idea, get Dave and Joey and get to work on that.” Mike says snapping into foreman mode, “Let’s get Robby, Tony, Mac and T.J. down here right away to help me set up the scaffold. If we hurry we can get that water up here by nightfall.”

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Toll the Bell

A column of thick smoke still poured upward from the mound of hot coals and charred flesh. A strange mixture of scents carried into the woods as twelve dark figures stepped away from the fire pit like hour hands extending from the center of a smoldering clock. At the six o'clock position, walked Maureen Newman. When she could no longer hear the cracks of twigs underneath the feet of her comrades, she took a knee upon the ground and dropped the backpack from her shoulder. She loosed her heavy velvet cloak and rolled it up tightly. It was quickly swapped for the lightweight jacket in her pack. She thrust her arms through the worn sleeves and pulled the zipper up tight to her neck. With her pack secured on her back again, she sighed heavily and began the long trek to her car.

The Adirondack Park was beautiful during the summer. The temperatures rarely made it far from 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime in July, but dropped sharply as the sun began to set. The near total shade created by the expanse of ancient foliage over Maureen's head made the twilight hour even cooler, and she pressed her hands into the jacket's pockets to tighten it around her. Gusts of wind would blow through and rattle the full leaves on the trees. These calming pulses of white noise fell upon the ears of a woman too self absorbed to appreciate their splendor.

Even though the meeting place was three quarters of a mile south of Turtle Lake, she had to walk in a large arc to the west in order to avoid the homes scattered along the lake front. At first, this walk had been completed with a sense of purpose and enthusiasm. Recently, the journey became more arduous with each undertaking. Today, it served as an opportunity for quiet contemplation. It had been six years. Six years since Maureen had lost her faith in the world and joined this doomsday cult.

You wouldn't think her a cultist if you saw her. She didn't look anything but average in every sense. No tattoos, wild hair or abnormal piercings set her apart. Her figure was lean from hours spent hiking in these woods but wouldn't look remarkable in a bathing suit if she ever made it to a beach. It was only her thoughts which deviated from the norm. She often wondered, if she had friends, how would she explain her affiliation with this group? What would they say? Unfortunately for her, she didn't have to worry about these difficult issues. She only had to have these serious conversations with herself, and she crafted the tough questions. Maureen struggled with one of these questions as she stomped heavily through the brush. If you join a cult because you lost your faith in humanity, what does it mean when you lose faith in that cult?

Her life had been naught but a string of failures. Maureen had failed to be anything remarka
ble physically or mentally. She failed to integrate herself socially after the age of twelve. Her parents failed to live long enough to guide her into adulthood. She failed to establish herself in a career that was even semi-lucrative. Hell, she even failed to sort out her own sexual orientation, which ensured that the few relationships she managed to start ended abruptly. This was probably a good thing, given the quality of the people she chose to involve herself with. She was twenty-eight, lonely, and couldn't find anything good about the world of man. Nature was a different story. There were so many things she found beautiful about the world. It was grand and majestic and nearly infinite.

Maureen's heavy boots ground down upon the faces of moss covered boulders as she scaled a steep incline next to a creek. Her heavy breaths created brief puffs of fog in front of her face.

One day, she simply decided that humans were a plague. She didn't come to this conclusion because of brainwashing or some sort of chemical imbalance in her brain. At most, one could argue that her past left her much more receptive to fatalistic ideologies. She thought it through and made the decision to help wipe out humanity. The larger problem is how to accomplish this goal. She certainly wasn't any sort of genetic engineer, biochemist or nuclear physicist. She was quite far from possessing a bottomless bank account, and she had no private army to command. She could barely get her dog to obey orders. Ultimately, she turned to the only option available for the would be genocidist on a budget, supernatural intervention. She always believed in the supernatural, so it wasn't a stretch for her to look into cults. In an area of the country with a rich history of witch burnings, one can find a cult with a minimal amount of effort. Six years worth of rituals and incantations, and nothing to show for it.

Maureen put all of her energy into the cult's activities at first. She truly wanted to succeed in bringing an end to the human race. She did research, bought supplies and meditated for hours to find the path to destruction. On a number of occasions, she felt as if she had been lead to the answer. That the next gathering would set things in motion. The fact that she was pushing the long limbs of pine trees out of her path as the din of a small city's bustle found its way into her ears is evidence enough of how successful she had been.

The forest ahead of her was thinning out, and the black of the oversized parking lot where her rusted Toyota sat could be seen peeking through the tree trunks. She imagined herself getting out of her car in the future. She saw herself stepping down the embankment towards the tree line with her backpack, on her way to another gathering she didn't want to attend. Then she made a new decision. She decided that the cult was a waste of time and effort. This wasn't an epiphany. In her heart, she knew this to be true a long time ago. A large amount of despair and a pinch of pride held her to these rituals. At least there was some sort of hope that way, but she could only delude herself for so long. No amount of rare plants, chanting, drawn symbols or sacrificed animals were going to raise the souls of dead and usher in the end of the world. She was thirty-four years old and no closer to a content existence than she was before. A single word worked its way into her mind... hermit. She was probably a prime candidate. A life alone, in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but the landscape and animals around her. She actually cracked a small smile at the idea. She could be pretty damn happy that way, and she couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before.

The toes of Maureen's boots dug into the soft earth of the small hill before her. Her eyes stared down at her feet as she searched her mind for the perfect spot to retreat to. Adirondack was enormous, and there were a number of places that would be more than secluded enough. She was pulled from her state of distraction as she crested the hill. A shrill scream shocked her back to attention and set every hair on her body on end. Her muscles locked up in a panic as she snapped her wide eyed head up. The sun was low in the sky and cast an orange glow over everything, except for where it shone a sparkling ruby color as it passed through a veritable fountain blood.

The scream devolved into wet sucking noise followed by a hollow sputtering, like the first shot of air and warm water out of a garden hose that has been laying on a driveway. Gray fingers dug underneath this poor woman's jaw and tore through the flesh as a partially eaten teenager ripped the nape of her neck away in between his teeth. She thrashed and convulsed under the chomping jaws of this thing. Maureen stood paralyzed by the horror she was witnessing. Slowly, she began to notice the rest of the parking lot. People were running everywhere. Cars were crashed into each other at the entrance, and people were fleeing on foot. Here and there small huddles could be seen along the ground. She could only assume that they were doing what the young man in front of her was doing. Eating.

That whole cult thing sounded like an even worse idea now. Some years ago, if you would have described this scene to her, it would have been like a holiday print from Currier & Ives. Now, standing here, the full weight of what they were trying to achieve settled on her chest. She was wrong about the cult. They had actually succeeded.

Control of her muscles was returning to her, and she began to step to her left to move around the carnage and get to her car. With Maureen now moving, the previously preoccupied assailant took a new interest in her. As he pulled himself up onto his lightly gnawed legs, she managed to push out two syllables that quite accurately summed up her current analysis of the situation :

Oh, no.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


By the grace of God I spin around with barely enough time to flee forward from the three undead Burns children that had emerged feral and angry from the screen door of the farmhouse. I drop my canteen - the organic juice jar half full of lukewarm water. It shatters on the pavement and I take off in a sprint down Gorham road. I am less than a quarter mile away from Mom and Dad’s house. The crowbar in my hand wobbles about madly as I run, pitching me slightly off balance. My arm aches and I feel sweat trickle down from my armpits and it itches. The Cat keys are tight in my jean pocket and rub raw against my thigh as I pump my legs. The undead kids are either moving faster than the regular undead I have encountered, or I am just damn slow. They seem to gain faster than they should. I calculate that I cannot make it all the way to Mom and Dad’s. From Gorham Road I cut right through the lush green yard of a very military man and wife whom I grew up next to.

The McCormick’s yard, once immaculate, grew upwards to reclaim the space betwixt expensive patio bricks and curling vines snaked around their metal clothesline poles. The shade from their yard provided a brief few-degree cooling as I dart through its tall grass to reach the property line of my parent’s immediate neighbors. The property line is backed up against the woods I love and I remember the old tree house on the yard’s border, perched in an ancient White Oak. That thing was rickety when I was young but I need it to be there, rickety or not, as the snarling of the mutants grows louder behind me.

I reach the base of the enormous oak and search for the two by fours nailed to the tree that serve as the ladder. There were still several but they were gray and rotting. The nails are rusted and the years had grown around them. Dead wood nailed to live wood. A sick irony if one views it as nature necrophilia.

I have only seconds to get up this tree. In a decision of wretched stupidity, I drop the crowbar on the ground, as I need both hands to scramble and scrape to pull myself up the old wood pieces. I didn’t even think of putting it through the loop of my jeans. Dumbass. I clasp the first “piece of ladder” which looks to be covered in poison sumac and yank myself upward, grateful that the dead and dry wood doesn’t threat to break away. As I whiteknuckle the pitiful wood pieces and grunt to raise up further, a dead hand tries unsuccessfully to grasp my foot. The undead children’s heads are about level with my feet. I swing my foot up wildly to the next piece of wood. I feel a bit of pressure on my foot and kick it away from the source. I look down to see part of the black rubber sole of my shoe being gnawed grossly in the mouth of the little girl. By God, she bit part of my shoe off. I do a quick self-check and assess that my foot is not bit and turn my attention back to scrambling further up the tree.

I am halfway up the gigantic oak before I hear a different growling. I look up above me to see the menacing masked face of a huge female raccoon. She is hunched in the opening of the battered tree house, crouching in an attack position. Her growl is deep like one long internal burp; but more guttural and serious. Shit. Of course it’s not that easy. I grimace and look down; well below me now, the undead brats circle and uselessly claw at the huge old grooves in the oak’s bark. So, here I am with a decision. Well, not really, I don’t have a choice but to keep moving up the ladder. The longer I put pressure on these old pieces of wood, the greater the odds of them crumbling and giving way to my death. My fingers that have gripped the wood sustain a few deeply lodged splinters. My chances of getting mauled by a big raccoon and surviving are better than my chances of jumping to the ground to break my ankle and meet my fate at the mouths of three rabid kids. I would have to fight a raccoon…fuck, and meanwhile my crowbar laughs at me from its snug place in the grass at the foot of the tree. The brats mull around it, here and there unintentionally kicking it and tripping over it.

Oh God, I pray, grant me the strength. I slowly move up another rung, a signal to the hunched raccoon to escalate its defenses to the “baring teeth stage”. It hunches lower and looks more prepared to attack. I’m scared as shit. I do the only thing that comes to mind: I reach into my pocket for the Cat keys. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do with them. What? If I toss them past the raccoon into the farthest corner of this tiny one-room tree house, do I think it will go after them like a dog chasing a toy? I hold out the single long Cat key like a little knife between my sweating fingers. I slowly move up the second to last rung before the opening. This is it. Fight time. And I have to do it with one arm wrapped around part of the wood rung as best I can. I don’t even hear the continuing of the moans below or notice Farmer Burns slumping up with his one pitchforked arm to join his brood around the bottom of the tree. I know that if I fall I am done for and the adrenaline surges once again. I have to pee really badly.

Moving up the last rung I take a deep breath and swing out my arm at the raccoon, hoping to (at the very least) catch and scratch its face with the metal key in my hand. It growls loudly and jumps back only to jump forward in a flash and plant its sharp teeth into my forearm creating an instant jolt of red pain. Fucking thing (what if it’s rabid?). I manage to somehow grab one of its black-furred legs by its soft padded foot and pull it down with all the force I am able through the opening of the tree house, screaming and also dropping the Cat keys as I yank it down. It must have weighed fifteen pounds. The animal plunges past me, falling downward the fifteen or so feet, fur shaking like a bear as it lands on top of the little dead boy’s head, knocking him to the ground and biting him in the neck before it scurries away injured into the woods. If I wasn’t so scared and hurt I might have laughed at that ridiculous scene. The little boy, unfazed, clumsily stands up with nothing but a black gaping wound in his neck the size of a half-dollar, devoid of fluids, whereas I am dripping small dots of red everywhere as shaking I desperately climb up through the opening into the old tree house and huffing and crying roll onto my back on the old wood planks, hoping I don’t fall through the old and rotten wood. Fuck….all I can do is cry and press on my trembling arm with my hand to create the pressure of a tourniquet…and say fuck over and over.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Once and Future Kent

“Fend For Yourself”

Kent Akerlund stood with his arms akimbo as he stared upward at the large banner hung above his workbench. His vision narrowed to include only those three words. It was no longer just a company slogan. The phrase swelled within his brain and muffled the sounds that echoed throughout the high ceilings of the warehouse.

“You're Goddamn right I will” he muttered under his breath.

In place of a period at the end of the statement rested the Gerber Legendary Blades logo. A sword thrust downward into a mountain like the mythical Excalibur buried to the hilt within a stone. He who could draw Excalibur would be the one chosen to lead the people through their dark times. Kent passed his gaze down to the ax he held in his right hand. Twenty-eight point four six inches of glass filled nylon adorned with a forged steel head designed specifically for splitting a winter's worth of firewood year after year.

“Axcalibur”, he muttered. He even managed a soft and honest chuckle at his private joke.

It was no magical sword, and Kent would settle for it leading him through the dark time waiting outside the door. At this thought, his ears exerted their will on his inflated sense of pride and reminded him that a few friends were knocking at the side door. He let out a long exhale and rolled his shoulders and neck around in large circular motions. The sort of limbering exercises that seem useful but do absolutely nothing to help. Determination drove his heavy heeled steps towards the side entrance. There were only two doorways into the building. The fire escape at the back by the bathrooms was sturdy and quiet. He would worry about fortifying it later. The other was the normal entrance for the employees.

This was an old building. It had been used as the manufacturing center for Gerber for around forty years. The concrete foundation rose up about six feet off of the blacktop lot that surrounded it. Above that was ten feet of brick and cinder block wall. This is where the heavy door frame was secured. Even higher rose the steel beams and walls which held the large dirty windows and a sturdy roof. The grade of the roof wasn't steep since large snow accumulation was rare in Portland. This would make maneuvering along the rooftop a much safer affair, which he figured would come in handy. Half the length of the building contained a second floor about fifteen feet off of the ground. It housed the managers' offices and the break room. This would be a good space for sleeping quarters, and the stairs could be disabled if something went wrong.

Kent passed rows of large machines and tables. A myriad collection of tools and parts sat upon them. That's why he was here. Tools. Lots of them. Tools and survival gear.

Survival Gear.

Funny, that almost no one used any of it to survive anything. Well, maybe that had begun changing already. Perhaps that computer tech who liked having a set of needle-nose pliers with a screwdriver in the handle for convenience found it pretty damn beneficial to have a good serrated blade in there to sharpen a chair leg into a weapon. Survival gear, he was going to put that title to the test. His left hand pulled a sturdy pair of gloves from the thick tool belt which hung lopsided off of his waist. His feet stopped.

“This just won't do,” he said with a shake of his head. On a normal workday, he could stop to adjust his belt when necessary. He didn't have that luxury any more. The buckle's pin was forced into an unfamiliar notch two doors away from its usual home. It disagreed for a moment, but Kent was much larger than it was, and after all, it was just a belt buckle.

Kent ran a final check of his equipment. He pulled the Kevlar sleeves upward along his biceps as far as they would stretch. The TurtleSkin safety gloves were tugged down sharply onto his scarred hands. He hadn't thought all that much about safety equipment until he saw a coworker lose a thumb. The puncture and cut resistant gauntlets were ordered the very next day. They slid around his thick fingers and callused palms as if they were made from a mold of his hands. He was glad to have a broken in pair with him. They're a bit too stiff when brand new, and he needed as much dexterity as he could retain. On either side of his hips was a ridiculously sharp machete with a serrated blade along the back and a fifteen inch hand ax.

About four paces ahead of him stood the door. It shuddered under the constant abuse it received from the other side. Those things had seen him enter, and he knew there were at least a few of them out there. There were good and bad points to the current situation. On the good side, the stairwell leading up to the door came from the left and wasn't very wide. You couldn't fit that many people on it at any given time. Also, these creatures didn't seem to be very bright. It should be easy to trap them. They were also just humans, or they at least possessed normal human muscle mass. This meant that a one hundred-seventy pound man was only as strong as a one hundred-seventy pound man. On the bad side, they seemed to move in packs, so he had no idea how many of them were out there at the moment. Complete pandemonium could be heard outside. The elevated highway was a mere two-hundred meters to the East, and the mass of humanity trying to move along it was creating a cacophony of panic and destruction. He would just have to boot the door open and see what happened. Kent had taken a length of steel and secured it to two heavy tables by the door. With any luck, the dumb beasts would trip over the bar, and he could more easily dispatch them with a blow to the head.

“Time to find out if I'm the adder or the knight.”

His thick steel reinforced boot struck the push-bar on the door with all the strength he could muster. One snarling zombie was flipped backwards over the pipe railing that surrounded the concrete landing in front of the door. A second was knocked sideways towards the stairs. Kent didn't see a sea of undead outside, so that was good. He didn't have much time to scan the area as outstretched arms and snapping jaws lunged through the doorway at him. He hopped back a step and raised the head of the ax up next to his temple. As he had hoped, the first creature rammed its shins into his trap and crashed face first into the floor. A swift radial movement of his hands and the ax head was brought down with ample controlled force. The blade cleaved through the back of the once living man's skull and bit into the concrete floor with a resounding “clank!”

“Thus began the Battle of Camlann.” The words shook as they exited his mouth. Adrenaline was now pumping unabated through his veins, and his muscles quivered as if he had drank a pot of coffee before the fight. Oblivious to fate of the first one in the door, the second zombie pushed in and tripped as well. “Clarsh-Clank.” Another kill.


That wasn't the sound he wanted. There was no floor left for Kent to cleave through to. His ax head was now firmly lodged in the shoulder of one of the previous targets, and it didn't look like the next visitor was going to wait for him to shake it free. His left hand pulled up the hatchet from his belt and brought it across the next creature's temple. It stuck for a moment before a sharp kick to the lifeless thing's face loosened it up.

His right hand now drew the machete from its sheath as the seventh zombie pushed through the doorway. The weight on the trap from the bodies caused it to buckle, and the zombie stumbled mostly unchecked into the building. The machete caught it just below its left ear. The body dropped lifelessly to the floor, but the jaw continued to snap at him harmlessly. An eighth was already regaining its footing in front of him. Kent wasn't sure if these things kept their balance the same way living humans did, but he flipped the hand ax around to test it out. The flat hammer-like surface was brought across squarely onto the zombie's skull. The shock did seem to disorient the beast. Unable to keep its feet organized, it fell to the ground sideways. The machete bit into its eyesocket and cut deep into the brain. There was no getting that blade back quickly, so he let it go.

Shifting his remaining weapon to his right hand, Kent spun to face the doorway and engage... nothing.
No shuffling or moaning could be heard on the stairwell. There was only the snapping of the head to his left. In a large arc he brought the back of the ax down across the jaw of the still functional assailant. The bone ripped out of the socket and tore the entire lower half of its face off. The other side sat connected by nothing more than a short length of muscle and sinew. The eyes were unchanged. They darted around as if searching for a part of his body close enough to eat. The bit of muscle still attached to its jaw pulsed rapidly as it still fought to devour him. With a wiggle and a tug, Kent recovered his two-handed ax and turned to the mangled head.


After cleaning his weapons and securing them, Kent stepped outside. He scanned the area. It was an industrial complex, which was good. Less people around to deal with. To his right, he could make out some of the events on the highway. He was glad he wasn't up there. He wondered how long it would be until the screaming stopped. Walking to the front of his former workplace, he could make out more shapes shuffling about in the area. It wasn't the same as elsewhere in the city, though. Up on the highway, they were running and screaming. No idea of what to do. No plan. That's not what was going on here. In the street, some guys were using loading vehicles and trucks with makeshift weapons on the front to wipe out the walking dead. It's just how they do things. Tools are no good without people, and these were the right people. No analysts. No consultants. Not one of these guys prioritized action items. They built. They repaired. Kent had spent ten years in the Army Reserves. He looked at the situation and analyzed the possibilities. There were only two real options :
1.Run to a safe zone.
2.Create a safe zone.
He definitely liked the second option. This area made sense. It had large secure structures and lots of raw materials. Twenty yards ahead of him was a construction supply distribution center. Two miles away was a fresh water lake full of fish. There were two grocery stores within a mile of where he stood, and there were at least twenty other shipping, receiving and manufacturing buildings in the area. There had to be an inordinate amount of food and supplies in close proximity.

He had already made the calls, and people were coming to him. His family. His coworkers. Other laborers from nearby businesses. They were coming here to start construction on a secure compound. They needed to move quickly while the zombie threat was dispersed. They had the tools, the materials, and the people. What they didn't have was time. Of course, with a little luck, perhaps the time wouldn't be a factor. A young man eyed up Kent through the ten foot tall gate across the street. Kent nodded to him and looked both ways before crossing the street.

Excalibur helped to create Camelot.

“Let's see what Axcalibur can do.”

Saturday, April 19, 2008

When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you

Or the text version for those poor souls at work unceremoniously robbed of sound card goodness:

There is no light. There is only the darkness, thick, almost palpable, perfect. I have insisted on being in the front of our tiny line as we creep along, although I’m not sure what good it can do. Finn has stopped crying. He had been screaming for so long it became background noise, the steady undulating cries playing the rhythm section in the orchestra of madness up above. But he has stopped now. Did I mention the darkness? It is suffocating, like being coated in inky black jello, we cannot walk through it so much as wade through, arms stretched out, stumbling over tiny wet imperfections in the floor. The sounds of chaos fade as we make our way forward, but into nothing, vast insurmountable tracts of nothing. Time passes, but I cannot tell how much. We walk. Sometimes we stop to take breaks. I doze off, but no one wakes me. I can’t tell if I’ve been sleeping for minutes or hours. Sometimes Finn cries, and Colleen gently, urgently shushes him. He calms so easily in this dark, as if he realizes that here, in this black, his tiny cries disappear too. No one says much of anything. Our voices feel faint in our own throats, small, unknowable. When we come to a fork in the tunnel, or a branch, or an offshoot of where we travel, there is a brief, tremulous query. The answer is always the same. We do not deviate. It seems to make the most sense to go in the straightest line possible, but there is no way to know if we have simply walked down dozens, maybe hundreds of diverging tunnels. Most often, there is no way to know if we have come to a fork other than to literally walk into it, cursing softly. My fingertips have been rubbed raw, the skin trailing across what must be miles of tunnel walls, and still I cannot bring myself to lift my hand, not even for a moment. Floating here in this impossible silent dark, the cool rugged concrete tunnel walls are all that seem to ground me, to hold me to the very earth. It is insane, but I am afraid that without this touch I will simply float away, disconnect from the group, from the earth, from myself. So we walk, and I grind the tips of my fingers off just to be sure I’m still here. When I die down here, I think crazily, they’ll never be able to identify me. I have no fingerprints. I try not to remember that there is no they anymore. We continue to walk in silence. More than anything, I long to reach out and hold my wife, my son, but I can’t do it here, in this darkness. Too recently has the touch of flesh meant only disaster, only horror. To feel flesh beneath my palms without seeing their faces? I cannot bear the thought. We walk alone. We sleep, huddling as close as we can, no one daring to make contact. Hawthorn moans slightly in his sleep, and I am up. That sound, the moaning. I wonder if a man can live long enough to forget that sound. From the gentle rustle of clothes, I hear that everyone is up, afraid. Even Hawthorne is awake. We sound tired, but too afraid now to sleep. Wordlessly, one by one, everyone begins to stand, and again we walk. I cannot help but notice how like them we must seem now. Slow. Arms hungrily outstetched, not for blood but for light. Oh how I long to see light again! Any light, no matter how faint would be a blessing. I feel thirsty for it, parched of retinal stimulus. For a moment, I begin to believe that my need to see something, anything in this abyss is causing me to hallucinate, and for a moment longer, I am grateful for it. It is not a hallucination. Ahead, at the very ends of the earth, as distant as a tiny sun, there is the faintest prick of light. I turn my head, but it remains fixed. I close my eyes, and for the first time in days, there is difference when I open them again. Light. The others see it, and we pick up our pace, walking faster and faster, chasing that tiny stationary light. For a crazy moment, I think that Hawthorne is moaning again, and then the light winks out, then reappears, then winks out. Hawthorne is not moaning, and something is coming for us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stepping into the unknown

I can't believe I'm in the fucking freezer. I can't believe this is my life. I watch as Finn laughs joyously at the flour spilled on the floor, and how he can make it move and throw it around. His laughter echoes oddly against the sounds of screaming, groaning, thick wet thuds, and electric hissing.

I can't just sit here. I need to move, so I pace. I pace and pace and pace, until I trip, and I realize there is a trap door in the floor. My toe caught it just so-- where the fuck are my shoes? Goddamned hippies. We don't all enjoy being shoeless.

I put Finn behind a shelf of large sacks of grain, and nestle him into a bed of cabbage leaves. He is tired, and soon drifts off.

I move for the door-- this could be the way out, or the way to let them in. I pause, sucking up the will to move forward, and open the door.

There is nothing.

It is dark, it is damp, and there is a ladder going down. It smells a bit like waste, but there is no moaning here, and it seems like it might be a way out. It could just be a place to hide, but either option sounds good right now.

I have no light, so I wait minutes that seem like hours for my eyes to adjust. These are low tunnels, and they look to go pretty far in either direction. I follow along for a while, and find another ladder with another door. It appears that I have found the basement, and those zombies will probably be too dumb to get in.

Maybe there is a way out. I habe no time to explore further, as I have to get back to Finn.

He is still sleeping soundly, so I cover him in blankets and sneak out the freezer door, hoping the sounds of the battle from outside won't wake him.

As the freezer door shuts behind me, I see the chaos about me, and search the room for Tom. I see a toaster and grab it, what a fucking a weapon. A toaster. But, before I can get snarky, my eyes fix on Tom, who is being overcome by one of them.

I run, I leap, I bound, and I smash that fucker's head in. What a gratifying crunch. He was faceless and lifeless, and I think he was one of us at one point. He was also missing his shoes.

Tom looks angry, and asks about Finn-- I tell him I think I found a way out, Finn is sleeping, and we need to get out of here before they eat more of us.

With a few hollers and some fancy footwork, Sage, Juniper, Coriander and Hawthorne are heading toward the freezer. As I step over Jasmine, my throat catches. They were only dreams, but her kindness sustained me, and her lifeless body sent chills up my spine. Are there only 6 of us left?

Once in the freezer I collect Finn and tie him to me in a sling, and explain what I've found. We barricade the door from the crawlers outside, though it is unlikely they will get in, and begin to search for a light source for the tunnels below.

God, I hope we're doing the right thing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Archive 7o-553-d >> Entry 9

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

Descriptor : Communique
Classification : Oration[artistic]

Region >> Chicago,greater

Type >> Audio ; Voice
Delivery >> Portable Digital Recording Device

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

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

Playback Source File >> 7o-553-d_AR_0+0009

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hunger and Thirst

In life his name was Craig, but no one called him that. The all called him C-dog, or Crusty. In life he was a drug addict, meth was the drug of choice, but he would do any drugs that came into his possession. In life he was singularly focused, everything he did was leading towards one goal…scoring. He pan handled, did sexual favors, borrowed, and stole to get enough money to buy even the smallest amount of dope. He was no stranger to the hunger he felt now as the walking dead.

He had no recollection of the past, and no knowledge of what was to come, just like in life, he lived in the moment. His singular focus now was for flesh. In life he wandered these streets up and down, trying to score a few dollars either panhandling or pick pocketing. In death he roamed the same streets, around the same places, but just through instinct. He roamed the streets here, just like the other undead crowded around methadone clinics, restaurants, casinos, bingo halls, brothels, arcades, crack houses, tobacco shops, malls, and porn shops. If one were looking for a pattern, it could be seen. A keen observer would have noticed that the ebb and flow of zombies increased under the East Wabash Building just before 9am, around 12pm and just after 5pm, as the habits carried over into undeath and transformed into instinct.

Craig was severely injured at this point. His right leg was blown off; all that was left was a femur bone sticking out of a lump of meat under his hip. His other leg was badly mangled as his lower half had been run over by a tank. He dragged himself across the ground, crawling in hopes of coming across a meal to sate his hunger, if only for a moment.

His method of crawling was unique. He would drag his body forward on the ground, eventually getting his body close enough to where his hands were planted to lift his face up to look around. When he went to move again, his hands would lurch out and his face would slam against the ground, leaving bits of itself in a grim trail.

As he lifted himself up again he was suddenly excited. Flesh… He could see a door opening up and a cart being pushed down the handicapped ramp, it slowly gaining momentum as it headed for the street. Behind it a man ran, pushing it. Craig made his was as fast as he could toward the flesh, his arms grabbing at the ground, frantically pulling himself up and then lurching again, all the while his face slamming against the asphalt.

Creatures rushed from all sides to the man, moving in from each direction, the man pushing behind the cart and deftly maneuvering between them. On occasion the man would let the cart’s momentum take it forward while he attacked the creatures that surrounded him, then he would make his way back to it and push to get it moving faster.

Craig had worked his way across the street and was nearing the trajectory of the man. His path had led him directly next to the cart and with one hand he reached out for the man’s leg. His hand quickly grabbed the shoe and the startled man nearly fell backwards. The cart continuing on toward the curb as the man stumbled. Craig was rewarded with a sharp crack of his skull, as the makeshift machete the man carried made out of the arm of a paper cutter swung down and broke into Craig’s cranial cavity, releasing him from this world and his hunger.


I’m not much from planning. I never have been. Most times when a difficult situation raises its head, my first reaction is to tackle it head on. I don’t normally have the patience for meticulous planning. So when I decided to head across the street with the water, it was, as usual, by the seat of my pants.

I decided to bring the water along in hopes of trading something for it. During our conversations Mike and I had discussed leaving. He was hoping to hole up and ride out this situation; I was hoping to get out of town. He had a police officer in his building that offered his keys to me. His vehicle was on the next block, and he had no way of knowing if it was still there, but if I wanted, the keys were mine. They had told me to try to make a break for it and to come over a couple of times, every promise or suggestion had an air of absurdity and humor to it.

At first the idea of crossing the street seemed ludicrous. The road was teeming with undead. But as my days passed and I became isolated, I started looking down from my window thinking, “I think I can make it, it might not be that hard.”

I left my building to get home, but I wanted to help them too though. I didn’t just want to come over and expect to get resources for nothing. These people were struggling too, and I might be taking a resource that they might find useful in the future. I didn’t want to come empty handed. The problem is that five or ten gallons of water aren’t going to last fourteen men very long. My only choice was to load up and head out.

I made it to the center of the street easily enough, stumbling once as a crawler grabbed my ankle. My shoe was still on and the grabber went down with one shot, but that moment of hesitation let all the others gain on me. I saw they were closer and I pushed the cart with everything I had. The whole time motivating myself:

“Come on, you fucking pussy! Push this Goddamn thing! Push you fucking weakling! You got to want it.. Come on…come on….come on. Dig your fucking legs in a push!”

I was closer to the east Wabash building but I still had a short distance to go, and the cart was getting heavier. My legs were exhausted and even though my body was spiked with adrenaline, I was running out of gas. I was near the door on the bottom of the building, my mind screaming now:

“You can make it! Push! You can do this! You’ve got it in you, just a few more yards! You can make it! You can make it! You can make it. You can do this…”

It took only a brief moment for the cart to shift a little on the way up the sloping area by the curb. The water sloshed to one side, its own momentum taking it down. It fell and scattered, one of the containers shattering and letting lose all the precious cargo from inside. I stood there shaking my head in realization…I’m not going to make it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Walking Beans

I was in view of my parents’ road, Gorham Road – maybe a mile and a half away when I noticed that the Cat’s fuel gauge was smugly pointing past the letter E. A minute or two later, the machine lurched and sputtered jerking me forward in it and I downshifted the gears with one tired arm, but the machine let out a death rattle (….so much death…) before stalling on the right side of the road between two soybean fields. Exhausted, I undid my seatbelt and assessed the landscape in all direction. Nothing. No movement. Just a few buzzards swarmed in the sky up ahead. I was so close…dammit. And now I had to go the rest of the way on foot. Ugh.

I peeled my sweating back from the black leather cab seat. I turned around in the small space and pulled a lever to move the seat forward; searching for anything I might want to take. I had my crowbar, but if I could double up on weaponry, all the better. A glass jar, nearly full of water was tucked miraculously behind the seat. My mom and dad were notorious for re-filling large glass organic juice jars with the reverse osmosis water from their house and taking a couple jars with them in their vehicles wherever they went. They didn’t trust drinking the water anywhere. And in that moment I thanked God for their alarmist precautions that I had so often made light fun of. I took the jar and guzzled down half the warm water, the combination of water-force and gravity nearly choked me. The sun was high and hot. I grabbed the water jar, grabbed my crowbar, for some reason I also took the keys…and so gingerly I opened the cab door. I leave it open.

I clearly see now that the once yellow body of the Cat is patterned with the blood of my neighbors. It had already started to stink. I knew the safest way to do this was to walk on the side of the road in the field. The brown soybeans were knee high and sparse. It felt good to stretch my legs and as I walk I start to feel a little more awake and alive.

As farmers rotate crops, last year these fields were hay. I recall running into the fields in the cool of summer evenings as a kid at the end of the season. I remember taking a running leap, trying to jump up on the huge bales that were so fragrant and earthsweet. I miss that smell as I miss the woods. The sun mercilessly beat down and I could hear the calls of the buzzards ahead getting louder during their circling ritual.

Keeping vigil in each direction, I continue straight ahead, soybeans slowly smacking at my legs as I crunch them under foot. I am getting close to the Burns’ farm and their Polled Herefords sign in the shape of a brown Hereford cow. This farm meets the end of Gorham Road. Several red pole buildings and sheds dot the farm lot around a white-sided house and initially I detect no movement. Only about a half mile to go now as I prepare to cross over to Gorham Road.

I must have been overly focused on reaching the road because I look up one last time to see that the buzzards were swarming directly over Burns’ farm. My eyes meet with a figure beyond the half acre cow pasture. It is Mr. Burns. He is standing in his bluejean bib overalls and John Deere cap. He is missing an arm tore off at the shoulder and his red plaid shirt hangs shredded where the joint once was. He is holding a pitchfork in his remaining rotting hand and stands with his head oddly tilted. He sees me and begins to moan and move slowly forward in my direction. I don’t get panicky because a good 75 yards separates us as does an electric wire fence. What I failed to hear soon enough, though, was the “clunk, clunk” of the farmhouse’s wooden screen door as it swung open in the midday sun. Farmer Burns’ three young children -- two girls and a boy between the ages of 8 and 11 – undead, foaming at the mouth, irate, growling and hungry emerge from the white farmhouse.... just a few yards away from me.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Iron Chef Never Has to Deal With This Shit

“Over there! Fuck yes, and hurry. Everyone, listen up! You and you, whoever you are, start grabbing all the steel tables, turn up em upside down and push em against the wall. Let’s make those motherfuckers work to get in here.”

”You! Find as many mop handles, table legs and chair legs as you can break off and bring them here. You have two minutes. NOW!”

“I need oil of some kind, or lard or something slick, right now and lots of it, gallons if you can find it……..Perfect! Good, grab it and pour that shit all over the floor by the hole in the wall. Let’s try to make ‘em crawl to us.”

“Someone bring me a small sharp knife….., thank you. What’s your name? Fuck, right, sorry, anyway, I need you to get me as many small appliances with electric cords as you can right now. Be back here in one minute. As many as you can.”

“Colleen, find the thermostat for that walk in, turn it down as warm as you can, take Finn, and lock yourself in. Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP COLLEEN. THERE’S NO TIME FOR THIS. Sorry. Look, you can’t protect Finn and fight at the same time, I need you in that walk in right now, this isn’t a suggestion, GO, GO, GO”

“Okay, thanks for the knife. Where are my appliances? Get over here! Now! C’mon c’mon c’mon, that’s enough, FUCK!, there’s no time, bring them all here, now.”

“I need you to take this knife and cut the power cords off of the appliances, fast as you can and try to fray the edges, expose as much bare wire as you can.”

“Okay, every one listen up, I’m going to try and electrify the tables, if you touch the steel, you will die, so stay the hell away from them”

“Get over here, you, you, and you, and help me move these refrigerators. After they get through these tables, I want them bottle necking through here. MOVE MOVE COME ON! Push. Good, good, that’s fine. They’ll have to come between here now. Oh fuck I can hear them. Fuck, fuck fuck.

“Enough, enough. Okay, listen up everyone, we have exactly no time. Everyone grab a chair leg or a broom handle or something, the longer the better. Hey! Put down the fucking knife, man, they don’t care if you cut them. We need to smash their fucking heads in, and that’s a lot harder to do than it sounds, so if you can trap them or immobilize them or whatever, good, great, we’ll come back for them if we live through this thing, but whatever you do don’t forget about them. They will grab you even if they are supremely fucked up, so stay away from the mangled ones. Stay together as much as you can.

“Here they come, here they come, Oh mother fuck me, here they come.”

I’d like to say that the rest of the battle was a blur, that it was over before we knew it, but it wasn’t. There’s a kind of hyper-clarity to the memories of a trauma that convinces me that if we were made, we were made by someone intent on sowing the seeds of our self-destruction into the very mechanics of our minds. They came full force, no trickle, no prelude, but a wave of them, stinking like raisins, sweet and musty and obscene, moaning that low dry sound, the sound of unthinking need. They came with their hands almost comically outstretched. I might have laughed if not for the knowing that their grasping claws were aimed at our soft, living flesh. When I close my eyes, I still hear them, much like you might feel the soft bob of the ocean even after you’re back from sea. When I eat, I smell them, and when I sleep, I feel those cold, hard hands pulling dumbly at my flesh.

The tables did slow them down at first. The electrical current turned them stiff as boards. From where I stood, table leg clenched in my hands like a bat, I could see every muscle in their bodies contracting, turning them to statues. They began to smoke and twitch. I hoped and feared that they would catch on fire, but none of them did. They just stood there looking rather like far too realistic Halloween decorations. But it didn’t last. It couldn’t. There were too many of them, and all too soon they had jostled the tables enough to knock the frayed loose wires clear. As quickly as they had turned to stone, they turned back, moving forward like a terrible switch had been thrown.

The oil on the floor worked no better. They fell all right, each one of them that I saw cross that slick tile floor went down in a heap, but they didn’t even try to stand back up, they just crawled forward, slipping less now they were on all fours. They came at us like animals, never once changing their terrible relentless pace. It was my intention to stay together, to try and hit them as they crawled toward us one at a time down the refrigerator hallway I had made, but our line broke before it had a chance to get started, and a young man rushed forward to club the closest ghoul to us. Even as he ran forward, I could see what was going to happen, I tried to warn him, but there was no time. One minute he was running forward, makeshift club raised for the killing blow, the next he hit the oil slick himself. His feet flew out from under him and he landed sickeningly on his head. Almost immediately, blood began to pool around him and his legs twitched spastically, beating a staccato rhythm on the tile. In a moment, the ghouls were on him, ripping and pulling, biting at any exposed flesh they could get. This was by far the most successful diversion. Another moment and the young man’s legs stopped twitching. Somewhere in that room, someone screamed. A man, a woman, I don’t know, but that scream unleashed the pent up fear and anger and sadness we all had been feeling since this nightmare began. In a moment, we were transformed into animals ourselves. We were rage embodied; we were each one of us the personifications of unchecked hate. We were no longer a group, but lone warriors that happened to be fighting the same enemy in different wars. As I ran forward, pistoning my club down upon the heads, necks and whatever else I could strike, I was no more aware of my comrades in battle than a tiger is aware of a fly. I struck everything that reached for me, everything that stank of death and threatened to destroy me, my life, my family.

As they pressed forward, I became aware, for a split second, that the woman in front of me was the same one that had been so kind to Colleen a few moments ago. Even as I recognized her I was striking the second and third blows, sending blood high into the air with each impact. Looking back, I believe she had turned. I know when I struck her, that she was already one of them; that she had changed before I struck her down. When I dream though, I still see that smile just before her face is crushed.

Just as I was pulling my club up again to face the next of them, I felt a great tug, and my table leg was pulled from my hand by the outstretched hand of a crawling zombie. As soon as he had the club he dropped it, reaching back up toward me. I was defenseless, surrounded. Desperate, I aimed a kick at its head. Its open jaw clicked shut hard, and from between the shut teeth fell the front half of the things tongue. I reached out a hand, flailing for anything to use to escape their terrible press. My hand hit metal and I grasped and swung for the first thing coming toward me. I saw with horror even as I swung, that I had nothing more substantial in hand than an enormous metal whisk. The flimsy metal wires bounced harmlessly off the face of the creature, and in moments I was in his grasp. His hands and arms worked to pull me closer to the snapping jaws of its mouth even as I pushed and struggled to keep him at bay, but he was stronger than I was, and my face was being steadily pulled closer and closer toward him. I searched about for something to use, some secret final something to get me out of here, when I saw the toaster.

It sliced through the air like a potentially delicious morning star, building speed and energy as it swung from its cord and ended its descent in the skull of the creature. Immediately, its hands released me and it fell to the ground. I spun around to see my savior, and was both grateful and horrified to see Colleen, standing without Finn, bloody toaster cord wrapped tightly around her hand.

“Finn’s fine. He’s in the freezer, and I think there’s a way out. C’mon” she said.