The Zombie Plagues Book Two
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Geo Dell on Smashwords
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Geo Dell and independAntwriters Publishing
The Zombie Plagues Book Two
Copyright © 2010 - 2013 by Geo Dell & independAntwriters Publishing All rights reserved
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This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places or incidents depicted are products of the authors imagination. Any resemblance to actual living persons places, situations or events is purely coincidental.
This novel is Copyright © 2010 – 2013 Wendell G. Sweet and independAntwriters Publishing. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, electronic, print, scanner or any other means and, or distributed without the authors permission.
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The Zombie Plagues Book Two
On the road
~ March 26th ~
The camp was up before dawn, tents packed away and breakfast and coffee taken quietly together around the low embers of the camp fires. The breakfast didn't consist of much more than the coffee and a few energy bars, but it suited their purpose well enough. The Dog, who still had no name, was going person to person and begging little tidbits even after his own breakfast of canned meat.
As the sun was touching the horizon, the small caravan of six vehicles were once again winding their way southward, leaving the roads where they were impassable and taking to the fields.
The two Suburbans that had been fitted with lifts and bigger tires had no problem with the on and off road transitions. It was tougher for the other four vehicles.
They monitored the radios as they drove along. Bits and pieces of conversation and skip came through the static. Sometimes clear, sometimes garbled and barely intelligible, but there were no conversations they could follow. Mike had never been a C.B. Radio fan, but Bob had been and he explained skip to everyone.
Skip could be two thousand miles away, or only a hundred. It was a signal that hit the atmosphere just right, or cloud cover, or a mountain range, and carried farther than it normally would have. You might talk to someone a thousand miles away as clearly as though they were no more than a mile down the road. And you might have that conversation for ten minutes or two hours and then suddenly they were gone because those atmospheric conditions that had allowed the conversation had changed.
Early on, Mike had thought about Ham radio. You could reach around the world with Ham radio. But Bob had explained that Ham radio accomplished that with relays. All the people that did the relays were most likely gone, at least for now. Maybe they would be back eventually, but they had heard nothing but a soft electric hiss cutting across the miles the two times they had tried the bands, and no one had answered their calls.
The F.M. Band had also remained dead. It seemed all the traffic was on the C.B. Channels. The V.H.F. Bands, normally used for Marine conversations, were empty too. But that offered a secure option for them to talk without being overheard. As they drove through the morning now, they talked back and forth on the V.H.F. Band, monitoring the C.B. and the F.M. Bands.
They filled their tanks two hours after dawn at a collapsed gas station next to the interstate. A length of rubber hose connected to a hand operated Kerosene pump made the job quick. The only hard part had been locating the underground tank. The cover had been found though, the cap spun off, and the odor of gasoline drifted up into the air telling them that the underground tank had not been ruptured.
The little area that serviced the interstate contained a large garage, two small Mom and Pop stores, the gas station and a chain auto parts store right next to the garage, probably built with the garage in mind.
On the other side of the asphalt parking lot sat a motel unit that had seen better days. Most of the units were flattened. The swimming pool was cracked and empty; wire mesh and what looked to be a bottomless void graced the middle of the rust stained pool. A second row of motel units running parallel to the pool looked to be untouched. Across the road were two name brand outlet stores, obviously placed to take advantage of the interstate. They had pulled the trucks onto the cracked pavement of the gas station, and after they had finished gassing up the trucks, Mike had gathered everyone together.
Bob and Tom came back from checking out the garage and the auto parts store just after the trucks were gassed up. Bob nodded his head at Mike.
“You noticed Bob and Tom looking over the garage,” Mike said. “We're thinking of stopping here. We'd probably end up here for a few days while Bob and Tom work on the other four trucks. And we need a few other things: tail gate swing outs that can hold a spare tire, gas can too, roof racks to carry gear, lifts, better, bigger tires... In short, the things we had intended to do back in Watertown.” He looked around, trying to catch the eyes of each person individually.
“You can see how much easier it is for the two Suburbans to get around wrecks, buckled roads, down in to and out of ditches. It just makes sense to give the other four trucks that ability, otherwise they'll just be slowing us down. You saw a little of that this morning.”
“Makes sense,”Janet Dove agreed.
Molly nodded. “My only concern is, are those...” she paused and her face reddened, “People,” she managed after a long pause, “coming after us?” Her eyes were dark and questioning. Mike could read the fear in her posture.
“I doubt it,” Candace said. She spoke quietly but forcefully.
“We'll listen in on the radios,” Nellie added.
“They won't come. In the city they knew how to get around... Out here,” Patty waved her arms around, finally lifting them to the sky. “They wouldn't know what to do. Couldn't sneak up on us.” She shook her head. “I just don't think they're the kind that want to deal with even odds.”
Candace nodded in agreement. ”You know, Molly. Spineless, right?”
Molly nodded and Mike watched the fear leave her and something closer to determination replace it. She nodded her agreement once more, looking directly at Candace as she did.
Mike cleared his throat and continued. “The reason we traveled on was to put some miles between us and them. It's a long way for them to come. I don't see it,” Mike said. He let the silent nods continue for a moment and then continued.
“There are other things we can do, things we need. Canned goods, maybe one of those cows, or a deer. They seem to be wandering everywhere. There really is enough to keep all of us busy for the next few days while Bob and Tom get the truck situation straightened out.” He paused but no one spoke. “So... If there are no real objections?”
“Let's do it,” Molly said.
“Yeah, I'm for it,” Patty added.
As Mike turned away, Patty, Candace, Molly and Nell began to set up a plan for monitoring the radios. Everyone agreed that they would probably hear about anything coming their way long before it reached them. Molly went over to the garage a few minutes later and pitched in, helping Bob and Tom drag whatever was in the way out of the way so that they could reach the racks and garage bays. There were two tow trucks that they used to do most of the work, but chains and muscle power accomplished the rest.
In the end, they cleared out three stalls that they could work in. Molly stayed, and not long after Nell found her way over and began to work side by side with her.
The garage was a prefab steel building that, either because of a whim of the Gods' or its design, had remained standing. By the time some of the others were returning with a cow and two large does in the back of one of the pickup trucks, the garage was ready to go. Molly and Tom wheeled out a towering chain-fall for the hunting party to use to dress out the animals and then went back to work.
By late afternoon the third Suburban was well under way. The lift was done, brush-guards installed and they were working on the carrying racks. Mike and Ronnie stopped by to look over the effort and were amazed. The Suburban looked like something that had rolled out of some sort of Safari outfitters garage, or a futuristic end of the world epic, Mike joked. But that sent them all into silence for a few moments, and Mike didn't mention it again.
Molly and Nell were working on bolting a huge winch to the front bumper of one truck while Tom and Bob worked on stripping out one of the pickups to get it ready for a lift kit.
Tim and Annie had made their way to the garage and then found themselves drafted and made part of the work crew. Annie was in the third stall laying out the parts they would need for the lift on the pickup truck while Tim worked at mounting the oversize tires to new, larger rims, using a pair of heavy iron bars and his body weight to accomplish the work. He and Annie joked back and forth as they worked.
They were using a small twelve volt air compressor to inflate the tires after they had them mounted. They both seemed to be enjoying themselves, Mike thought, and they seemed happy to be in each others company.
Outside, near the far end of the garage, the chain-fall had been set up, and a group led by Janet Dove, which included Sandy and Susan, were hoisting a large cow up into the air.
“Mike,” Janet said as he and Ronnie passed by on their way out of the Garage.
“We would like to smoke most of this meat... If we're going to be here a few days, I thought...”
Mike nodded. “Yeah. Might as well, Jan. We have the time,” He assured her, “And, it'll help to have the meat with us. Who knows what's ahead.” He shrugged.
Janet Dove smiled, turned away, and Mike stood watching as the huge cow began to lift into the air from the back of the pickup truck before he and Ronnie turned and walked away.
A few minutes later, the two of them fell in with Candace and Patty who were sifting through what the chain stores had to offer in the way of clothing, canned goods and whatever else they came across that they could find a use for. They passed by Lilly who had taken over the toy department, blocked off one aisle, and was keeping Brian and Janelle busy. She smiled and waved as they passed. Janelle waved back. Her dark eyes finally looking rested and happy.
Brian had built himself the biggest Lincoln Log village that Mike had ever seen and was now busy populating it with dozens of green, plastic Army Men. Mike smiled and Brian took the time out of his game to smile back at he and Ronnie. He held a large plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex in one hand which seemed to Mike about to wreak havoc on the village and its population of Army Men.
A half dozen trips with Candace and Patty, and late afternoon turned into early evening. Fires were burning to smoke the meat. Two large roasts were spitted over a huge fire pit made of field stone. A stew was bubbling in a pot that had been suspended over the flames. Nearly everyone had found a reason to stop by the area Janet Dove had set aside for cooking, most arriving just as she had been about to send some others out looking for everyone to round them up for dinner. The Dog was running around in circles, happily racing from person to person, tail wagging crazily. The smell of roasting meat hung heavy in the still, cool air.
Everyone sat close together at several wooden picnic tables that Janet had drafted a few volunteers to bring over from the collapsed section of the motel. They had sat in a small clearing not far from the building, untouched, while everything around them had been leveled.
The temperature was in the low forties, but with the early evening sun still shining, it felt much warmer.
Mike sat next to Candace, Ronnie on his other side. Across the table, Molly sat with Nell. They were both laughing, involved in conversation with each other. It was the happiest that Mike had seen Nell or Molly.
Canned potatoes, fresh beef and venison, a stew that held a little bit of everything in it and a steaming platter of peas dominated the table center. Everyone had heaped up their plates. Too long eating thrown together meals or energy bars had left them hungry for real food.
Their basic protein needs had been met, but there was nothing like real food to make you... Happy, Mike decided. He looked around the table at all the smiling faces. It was actually a mood elevator, he decided.
“What's on your mind, Baby?” Candace asked. Her eyes smiled, but her mouth wore a question he had come to know was more serious than her smile insinuated.
He bent forward and kissed her, making the smile on her face spread wider still. “I was thinking how happy everyone looked.” He turned his head and let his eyes sweep the tables once more, then turned back to Candace whose eyes and face now wore another look he was becoming familiar with. He bent forward and kissed her once more. “I'm pretty sure I love you,” He told her.
She laughed, “Pretty sure!” She slapped his arm with one hand. “You better be more than pretty sure, Mister.”
Mike laughed and kissed her again. “Positive,” he said. “I'd be lost without you.” His eyes turned serious. “That's the truth,” His voice dropped to a near whisper as he leaned even closer. “I love you so much that I don't have words for it. I only know it's real. I only know I need you.” He kissed her once more and sat back up to catch Annie giggling and looking away.
Candace laughed beside him. An easy laugh that eased the seriousness of the conversation.
“I hope we'll have some time later on,” she said, her voice still low, husky.
“I'll make sure of it,” Mike told her.
“I was looking at that garage building,” Ronnie said from beside him.
“It's one of those industrial prefabricated jobs. I've put up a few, but I had no idea how well engineered they were. They hold up pretty well, or at least this one did. The buildings not really damaged at all.”
“I noticed that too,” Mike agreed, “What are you thinking?”
“Well,” Ronnie grinned, “When we get where we're going, it may not be a bad idea for a dwelling... or dwellings. At least for a temporary dwelling until we build... if we build. Light weight, easy to put up. Easy to insulate. Not bad in an earthquake, if that stuff's not completely done with us.”
Mike was nodding his head. “I'm for it, but are they hard to come by? I mean, where could we get one?”
“Not as hard as it seems. There are outlets where you can buy them in most larger cities. And there are thousands already set up. We could take them apart pretty easily, take them where we want them and put them back up. All the structural supports are pretty much the same. You just add more or take away to make the building the size you need. Very light weight, so they'd be easy to transport. They'd go up or down pretty fast,” Ronnie finished.
“Has my vote,” Bob added. “Fast, easy. They seem solid. It will save us a ton of time.”
“I've seen them around. I think it's a good idea. We wouldn't have to worry about wooden structures falling down on us.” Mike looked around. “Almost all of the wooden structures are down. Concrete seems okay, for the most part, steel. But wooden structures just give too easily. Putting them up fast would also be a plus,” he finished. He raised his eyes from the ground - he had a habit of looking at the ground to visualize his thoughts - and saw that Molly and Nell had been listening to their conversation. They were nodding their heads in agreement.
“That garage is really solid,” Molly agreed.
“Cement's cracked here and there, but the building itself held up really well,” Nell agreed. “I don't even like walking into a wooden building anymore. You can feel it move, hear the creaks and groans... pops.” She shook her head.
Mike and Ronnie both nodded.
”It's a good plan,” Mike said. He turned his head to Molly. “Where did you learn to turn wrenches?” he asked her.
Molly smiled. “My dad had a race car. It started out as a hobby but became something else. He'd work on it all week long and then run it in races on the weekends.” She smiled shyly. “When I was a little girl, as far back as I can remember, I used to go out and watch.” She laughed. “Pretty soon I was fetching wrenches, parts.” She laughed again. “The first time I came in with greasy hands, I thought my Mother was going to die. When I was fifteen, my Dad bought an old beat to shit Mustang. A sixty four. It was a project car, he'd said. We'd work on it in our spare time together, finish it up and sell it for a profit.” She smiled and her eyes misted as she seemed to be looking back through the years.
“It took nearly a year of work. That was also the time I was eligible to get my permit. The day I got my license, he handed me the keys,” she finished, smiling happily at the memory.
“Pretty nice,” Candace said.
“Yeah, except it got smashed flat when this,” she lifted her hands and gestured helplessly, “happened. But once we're where we're going to be, I think I'll try to find another one, or maybe a two door sixty two Chevy Impala. I've always liked the way those Chevy’s look.” She shrugged, “Crazy, I guess, but I really think I'm gonna do it. There must be one somewhere.”
“I can see that,” Patty said. “Or something else worth rebuilding.”
More than a few heads nodded in agreement.
“Sometimes,” Patty added as an afterthought. “The thing you find is better than the thing you thought you wanted.”
Nell looked at Molly. Molly smiled, and Nell leaned closer and kissed her.
“You two?” Candace asked.
“Nell tempted me,” Molly said.
“It's like Patty said, sometimes the thing you find is better than the thing you thought you would find... or want. I hadn't expected this much out of life in the old world let alone this one,” Nell said smiling, but serious. She worked her hand into Molly's and leaned closer to her.
Mike's eyes swept across Pattie's face, expecting to see a smile but finding a distracted, sadness on her face instead. Patty swept it away so quickly though that he wasn't sure just a second later that it had really been there at all. Maybe, he decided, he had imagined it. After all, Patty had found the better thing she hadn't known she would find in Ronnie. There would be no reason for that sadness to be on her face. He found his own hand holding Candace's, and she leaned into him for a kiss.
“Get a room, you guys,” Tim said as he and Annie passed by. Annie was blushing but had a huge smile on her face.
“Horn dogs,” Tim told her as they walked away, laughing with each other and holding hands as they went.
“Horn dogs?” Mike asked.
“I don't know about you but I am no horn dog,” Janet Dove joked as she passed by.
The thought of prim and proper Janet Dove making a statement like that caused everyone to crack up. Janet stopped, a shocked look on her face.
“Good one, Jan,” Candace said.
“I can't believe I said that,” Janet said.
Everyone cracked up then, including Janet Dove.
Candace lay in the crook of Mike's arm as they talked quietly.
“Gotta go in about five minutes,” Mike told her. “My watch.”
“No,” Candace said. “You can't go if you can't get out of bed. Besides, we paid for the room for the night,” she finished and laughed.
Mike chuckled. “This is nice. Privacy, first we've had in... well, forever.”
“When we leave, we'll be back to getting none at all again,” Candace told him. She snuggled against his side, one hand resting against the flat of his stomach, her index finger drawing small circles. “But,” she lifted her eyes to his. “I guess I have to let you go. Just think about that alone time for later.” She kissed him softly. “Something to keep you thinking about it.” She turned away, swung her feet to the floor and began to get dressed.
“You do give me things to think about,” Mike told her. He trailed his fingers down her back, bent forward and kissed her shoulder.
Candace looked back at him. “Do you want to make that watch?”
Mike laughed. “No, but I have no choice at all.” He leaned forward and kissed her mouth. “Later,” he said.
“Later,” She agreed.
The room had not been in bad shape. It was funny how fate could be, Mike had thought. One wing flattened, one untouched. From sleeping in a cave a day ago, to sleeping in a real bed the next.
The room was dusty, a slight musty, unused odor, but dry. The roof had held up. The walls seemed untouched.
“Where are you going?” Mike asked.
“You're not on, Babe,” Mike grinned.
“Correction. I wasn't on. You had Patty on, but she wanted to spend time with Ronnie, so we switched. That way, when we're done, we can come back here again...” She cocked her eyebrows. “And take our time?”
“What, not be rushed?” Mike asked.
She stood and turned into him as he was getting ready to leave. A beautiful woman wearing only a pair of white socks, which was all she had managed to get on. She stretched up onto her tip toes and kissed him. His hands pulled her close. She pulled away with a smile.
“I thought you were coming with me,” Mike said.
“I am,” She giggled.
He reached for her once more, but she skipped away. “We'll never get there, Baby,” she told him.
“As it is, I'll probably be thinking about you throughout the whole watch and waiting to get back here. God, Candace, you're so beautiful.”
She looked at him seriously. “Keep that up and we'll never get out of this room.” She crossed the short distance between them and kissed him once more. “Say it just once more?”
“You're beautiful,” Mike told her as he pulled her close.
It was about an hour and a half past sunset when Mike took over one of the perimeter guard posts from Susan. It was simply the far corner of the garage complex that overlooked a field and the highway beyond it.
“Quiet?” He asked.
“Pretty much. The dog... what's that dog's name anyway?” she asked.
“He doesn't have one,” Mike admitted. “We, uh... we just call him The Dog, you know. He survived. He got through it same as us; he made it, you know. He's The Dog.” Mike finished lamely.
“Oh. Sounds like a little guilt there, Mike. Maybe we should all get together and name it,” Susan suggested.
“Well, anyway... The Dog kept looking off towards the highway. He didn't, like, bark or anything. I thought maybe deer, cows, something else. But with the meat drying, it could have drawn anything at all. The fires and so many people should be enough to keep anything away. Even if it's wolves, they'll probably stay away, right? I just thought you should know about it.”
Mike nodded. “Could be something, but you're probably right. Most likely it's nothing. I imagine the smell of the meat will draw every carnivore in the area. That's okay as long as they don't try to bother us. There will be plenty of scraps when we're gone.”
Susan nodded this time. “Mike,” she hesitated and Mike nodded for her to continue. “Well, I wondered what you thought about Jan and Bob's idea of settling in the wilderness. You know, deep in the middle of nowhere... a new Nation.”
Mike nodded slowly. “I think they really want to do it. I think they really believe in it, Susan,” he shrugged. Her eyes questioned him. “Okay... and... And I wish I could believe in it they way they do. Not that I believe it won't work. I think anything we do will take hard work, a good deal of hard work,” he shrugged again. “And I think they'll put the work in, I really do. Maybe you're asking me what I want to do, and I can't tell you that. I don't know... I haven't decided. It's something Candace and I would have to take the time to sit down and decide, and we just haven't had the time to do that.”
“You know, in my head the old world was selfish. It was all about selfish. The Me generation? Something like that. And I'm not saying I was any better. I wasn’t. Oh, I had my friends, and I helped them when I could, but when it came down to push or shove, it was me. It was me, and a lot of the people I knew, worked for, with, associated with, were the same way. Social on the surface, but scratch that surface and it's a different story. Push or shove... and not an overly hard push or shove either.” He looked at her and Susan nodded.
“At least for me it's been that way. I guess I sound cynical. But it's not that way anymore. I'm not that way anymore. It's not about me. It's about me and Candace. And it really isn't about us either. It's deeper. There are people here I've really come to care about. I mean really care about. Do you realize that I haven't watched T.V. Since the night this all started? Sounds ridiculous, right? None of us have, but I did computer work. Scripting, C, C plus plus, graphics, more. I used to turn my computer on, turn on the T.V. for company and go to work. Eighteen hours sometimes, even longer on occasion. It... that... was my life. No relationships. No one to really care about. No time for it. And everyone I knew was the same way. Superficial. Shallow? Yeah, that too. Well... I don't do that anymore; I don't want to.”
Susan nodded. “Everyone I knew was too busy living to think about how they were living,” she said.
“That I do understand,” Mike said. “But not now, you know, somewhere, in some secure building, on some secure server I have a couple of bank accounts that were well over a million dollars each.” He laughed. “All means nothing now, Susan, nothing. I am happy with what I have. I don't want what I used to have.” He sighed.
“The Nation? Probably a great idea. I can think of only a few things that I could do that would matter as much to me as that does to them. Kids... love... Candace, you know? Do it right, not like the old world. And that's the rub. It depends on Candace... and the baby. She's trying to get pregnant. It seems like almost everyone is.” He rubbed the flat of his palm along his jaw feeling the stubble that was softening into a beard. “If she wanted to do it, yes. If she wanted to travel to Alaska, yes. When the time comes, and it's probably not all that far away in the scheme of things, but when the time comes for Bob and those that have committed to go with them, and those that will - I know there will be more - when that time comes, if Candace wants to go with them, I'll jump in with both feet. That's the truth of it.”
Susan's eyes were misted. “Thank you,” she said.
“Thank you for being long winded and entirely too personal on short notice?” Mike asked.
Susan laughed. “No, for being honest. I think I'm going to go have a talk with a young lady. I'll see you later, Mike,” she said. She smiled and then walked off into the shadows of the night.
Mike watched her go. Apparently everyone was more appreciative of people now, not just himself, he thought. He turned his attention to the field and the highway. After his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he could see the dark shapes of cattle grazing in the field, a few deer mixed in with them.
He thought about what he had just said, how much he felt for Candace. How for the next few nights they would have a real bed. His mind filled with thoughts of her. He almost missed the radio call, almost wrote it off as one of their own, until he realized it wasn't.
“Hello the camp,” the voice repeated.
Mike unclasped the radio from his belt and raised it to his mouth and spoke. “I guess you mean us,” he said more calmly than he felt.
“I do,” the voice answered. “We've been traveling. Saw your fires from about five miles back. I guess the question is, are you okay? If you've been living in the same world that we've been living in, I guess you'll understand that question.”
Mike keyed the mic. and let the smooth static play out for a few seconds before he spoke. “You must have stopped quite a way back. We didn't hear the sound of your vehicles.”
“We did. Like I said, it's a funny world. Listen... we kind of wanted to feel you out. I'm Jeff... Jeff Simmons,” he finished.
“Mike... Mike Collins,” Mike told him. “I understand your point. We've been through a few things too. Do you want to come in?”
“Well... we do but we're stopped now for the night. In the morning? Would the morning be okay with you?”
“That will work. I... I guess breakfast will be on us,” Mike told him. “You know where we're at?”
“Yeah, we do,” Jeff told him. “I sent a couple of scouts down. It looks like a little build up off the interstate... No actual town or anything. We're a couple of miles back. But we can see the light of the fires from here.”
“I would've sent scouts too,” Mike allowed. “It's about like you imagine, a wide place in the road. Garage... Motel... A few chain stores. It looks like it all built up around the truck stop diner that's also here. There's plenty of gas here, plenty of supplies also,” Mike finished.
“That's good to hear, Mike. We swung down from Vermont. We're all from there. We've been avoiding the cities as best we can, trying to get out West... somewhere where we don't have to worry about winters,” he said.
“I hear that. We're in the same boat here, only heading South. Or at least right now we are. I guess we're still undecided where we'll end up. We're pretty heavily armed, Jeff. I guess you'll see that when you come in tomorrow. We've been through some stuff as well. I won't apologize for the weapons,” Mike finished.
“Don't need to. We're loaded too. I don't exactly like it, but it's the way life is now. I... Well... I couldn't come in unarmed, Mike. I couldn't. I'm sure you see that.”
“I understand that,” Mike told him. “And I'm sure you know we'll be on the defensive for the first little while ourselves. I don't like it either, but same as you, I do what I have to... we do. We've got some good people here, Jeff, good people, and we're careful.”
“Us too. Well... there's eight of us, Mike. I don't like to give away numbers, but you'll know soon enough anyway. We'll be eight in the morning.”
“Sixteen of us here, Jeff.” Mike told him.
“Wow. No wonder you got so many fires going. We wondered about that.”
“Yeah, well, some of it is the people, but we're smoking meat to take with us. There are cows and deer everywhere. We figured we might as well get some fresh meat while we can. Beats the hell out of stuff from a can.”
“You'll have to show us how to do that. We don't have anyone who knows how to do that. I don't think we even have a hunter of any kind either,” Jeff said. “I can shoot, but I've never hunted.”
Mike laughed. “We're all learning to do new things,” He said. “And we're lucky to have some people with us that do know how to do those things.”
The radio hissed silence for awhile.
“Well, Mike, it was good to talk to you, and we'll see you in the morning,” Jeff said.
“Okay, Jeff. Same here. And I meant that about breakfast, so come hungry,” Mike said.
“Will do,” Jeff said. “Out.”
“We're out too,” Mike said. He clipped the radio back to his belt. He thought about making love to Candace. How she had swapped time with Patty to make it all work out so Patty and Ronnie would have time together too. He thought about how he was going to have to wake Bob, Tom and Ronnie... Patty as well. Well, he realized, most of the camp. Hell all of the camp except the two kids. The V.H.F. Squawked as he was thinking. Candace calling for him.
“Yeah,” he said.
“I'll help you get them all up,” she told him.
“Thank you, Babe. Tell them it won't be overly long. They can go back to sleep after we talk.”
“Okay, Babe. Out,” Candace said and giggled.
Mike's face broke into a grin.
“Uh, Babe. You need anymore help?” Lilly's voice came through.
“Okay,” Mike laughed. “You can go wake up a few as well. And, Lilly?”
“Yeah?” she asked.
“I'll want you there too,” Mike said.
“Um... okay, Mike. I'll go help Candace,” she told him, sounding flustered.
As it turned out Mike was able to keep the meeting short. In the end, there was not a lot to say or to discuss. They asked a few questions, made plans to be up early in the morning and then everyone went back to bed.
~Sandy's Diary - March 26th~
I should start calling this a diary not a journal. It's funny, but we started these to leave at the cave but then we brought them with us to keep for the children. Now it's becoming something more, although still for the children, so they can see who we were or are... or both.
I was about to write when I found out we'll have visitors in the morning. I hadn't expected it so soon. I wonder if they are people we can make a part of us? I guess we'll all see tomorrow. I'm excited, but I was already.
Susan and I, well we're together. As in living, as in sleeping together. I can not believe I took the step. I didn't know I could. I didn't really believe there could be someone out there for me. But she made it clear to me how she felt and that she will go with me where ever I want to go. You know, up until right then, all I wanted to do was go and help Bob and Jan start this Nation. I thought that was all I had in my mind. It wasn't though. If she asked me not to go, I wouldn't.
I've never known an emotion that could effect such change inside of me so quickly. I'm not sure I've even known this emotion before... not like this. People are coming, and that is exciting. I'm with Susan, and that is life. Do you know what I mean? And that means I'm a lesbian. I guess I knew that. It is important to me to know who I am though. To say it, to own it. In our so called enlightened society it wasn't universally accepted. Oh, on the surface, sure. But not really. And where is that world now? Gone. I guess it's just us now. We don't have time to be so judgmental, or for me, to care if I am judged. I'm happy!!!
~ In the Dark ~
The cow turned her head towards the woods, nervous. Her large eyes reflecting silver glints from the moonlight.
The smell of death and corruption was nothing new, and that was the smell that came to her now. But there was something wrong with it, something not right with this smell... something different. Her calf nuzzled her and began to nurse. The smell of humans came to her along with smoke and mumbled snatches of conversation, and she stopped thinking about the dead smell, turned away from the woods and stared at the firelight across the fields.
~In the Trees~
The eyes watched her and the other cows from the cover of the trees. The hunger was terrible, all consuming, and it came in crashing waves. The impulse to feed seemed to be the only coherent thought she had. It was hard to think around, hard to think past.
A few weeks ago she had been... Been? But it did no good, she could not force the memory to come. A name came, Donita. She had been Donita; she knew that, but that was all she knew. And a name was not everything she had been. She had been something else... something more, but she could not get to whatever it was. Something that did not wander through the woods. Something that was not driven by all consuming passions that she could not understand.
She turned her eyes up to the moon. It pulled at her. Something in it spoke directly to something inside of her., something deep, something she believed had always been there, but there had never been a need to address it because it lived under the surface, out of her line of thought, sight... below her emotions. Now it didn't. Now it ruled everything. It was all she could do not to rush from the trees, find the smell that tempted her and consume it. Eat it completely. Leave nothing at all. Oh to do it... To do it...
Her eyes snapped back from the moon, and a low whine escaped her throat. The calf, sated, had wandered away from her mother. Behind her, the boy made a strangled noise in his throat. She turned, gnashed her teeth and growled. The thin, skeletal boy fell back, hungry but frightened. She could feel his fear. It fed her, tempted her to taste him, but he was no food for her. She knew that much. It was a sort of instinct... drive... something inside of her. The boy was not her food. The boy was not her sustenance. He was one of her own. Corrupted. And corrupted flesh could not feed and sustain itself on corrupted flesh. Fresh flesh was needed, live flesh. Fresh human flesh, she corrected.
The boy trembled and grinned sickly, his one good eye rolling in his head. The other eye was a ruined mass of gray pulp sagging from the socket. A great flap of skin below that socket had curled and dried, hanging from the cheek. He felt at it now, carefully, with his shrunken fingers. She hissed at him and his hands fell away. She turned her attention back to the wandering calf that was nosing ever closer to the edge of the trees.
She desired human flesh. She needed it, but it didn't absolutely have to be that way.
Two nights ago it had been a rabbit. The night before that she and the boy had shared a rat. The night before that they had come upon the old woman. She thought about the old woman as the calf wandered ever closer to the line of trees.
The old woman had been good. They had brought her back here and her bones lay here still, in the weeds at the edge of the clearing behind her. She turned and gazed back past the boy into their makeshift campsite, searching for the what was left of the old woman, finding her bones where they lay at the edge of the clearing they had made. She turned back to the field, watching the calf as she remembered the old woman...
~The old woman in the ditch~
They had come across the old woman at near morning. Near morning was the best she could do. Time was not a real concern to her anymore. The concept held no meaning. She understood near morning because the sickness, the sickness that began to send the searing pain through her body, had started. The boy had already been whining low in his throat for an hour in pain. It was like that whenever the night began to end, when the morning was on the way, soon to be.
She remembered sunlight. Her old self had needed sunlight just as she now needed darkness, absence of light. That had been Donita as well, but a different Donita.
They had been crossing the rock filled ditch to get to an old house on the other side. The basement of the house was what she had in mind. Quiet, private, darkness. She had been scrambling down the steep, sandy side when the scent had found her eyes and froze her brain.
That is the way she thought of it. Frozen. Everything... everything besides that smell of flesh was frozen out. The boy's whining, the coming dawn, the constant hunger in her belly, the moon silvery and bright so far up in the night sky, nothing got by that desire. Urge. Drive. It consumed her, and it had then.
It had touched her eyes and then seeped into her brain; then it had spread out into her body. Her legs had stopped moving and she had nearly tumbled all the way to the bottom of the rock strewn ditch before she had caught herself, her head already twisted in the direction of the smell. Her ears pricked, her tongue licking at her peeled, dead lips.
She could smell the old woman. Knew that she was an old woman. It was in the smell. Somehow it was in the smell. And her flesh. And her fear. The boy had slammed into her then, still whining, and nearly knocked her to the ground.
She had come up from that near fall in a crouch, and the boy had slammed into her once more, so she had grabbed him to steady him. He had thought she meant to kill him and had pulled away, but a second later he had caught the scent and they had both gone tearing down the ditch.
~The Old Woman~
The old woman had heard them coming. She had begun to whine herself, replacing the boy's whining which had turned to a low growl. The panic had built in her as she heard them coming. Her heart pounded, leapt, slammed against her ribs, bringing pain with it. The pain rebounded and shot down into her broken leg, the leg that she had broken the day before trying to scramble down into this ditch to reach the house across what was left of the highway so she would have a safe place to stay. The pain slammed into her leg, and she cried aloud involuntarily. A split second later, the female slammed into her.
She had been on her belly. The pain was less that way. When the female hit her, she drove her over onto her back. A second after that, she was ripping at her flesh, biting, feeding and she could not fight her. She was too strong, too..... animal strong. And then the boy hit her hard, pouncing on her chest, driving the air from her lungs, and before she could even react, catch her breath back, he was biting at her throat.
She felt the pulse of blood as he bit into her jugular, and it sprayed across his face. She felt it go, felt her consciousness drop by half, her eyelids flutter, flutter, flutter and then close completely. And the biting was far away, and then it was gone.
The boy had her throat, but Donita had been biting her way into her chest. She had felt her heart beating, and she had been gnawing against her ribs when she felt it stop. They had both calmed then, loosening the grips they had on her, and settling down to feed.
She glanced now at the calf that was less than three feet from them, its huge moon eyes staring curiously at them. The calf did not know death, had not seen it, she thought. It knew its mother's tit, the sweet grass of the spring field, the warmth of the sun and nothing else. It edged a little closer.
She had killed the old woman. She had no use for her at all. They had eaten so much of her flesh, that she was useless to them. Couldn't sit up all the way. The boy had taken one arm off at the shoulder and carried it away like a prize.
Donita had eaten so much that she had vomited, but that had only forced her back to feeding until she was once again filled. She had looked around the ditch and spied the rock. The old woman had come back already, and she was trying to raise herself from the ground, trying to raise herself and walk once more. She had picked the rock up from the ditch. A big rock, but she was powerful, and she had smashed the old woman's skull in as she had tried to bite at her. They had dragged her into the woods a little farther down the road, this place where they still were.
She turned again to the calf. The calf was not what she wanted, but the calf would have to do for now. She let her hand fall upon the boys thigh and they both sprang at the calf.
The calf did not have the time to react. It did not even bawl. One second it was standing, and the next it was on its side, Donita's teeth clamped tightly across its throat. A second after that, it was sliding across the dew wet grass and into the woods, one wild eye rolling and reflecting the silver of the waning moon, as Donita and the boy dragged her into the trees.
Mike: Michael Collins.
Self employed; Web site designer. Age 23.
Candy: Candace Loi.
Dancer. Age 19.
Tom: Thomas Evans.
Truck driver, mechanic. Age 39.
Bob: Robert Dove.
Mechanic. Age 52.
Jan: Janet Dove.
Data Processing. Age 48.
Lydia: Lydia Marcia George.
Student. Age 17. (Deceased)
Patty: Patricia Johnson.
Housewife, age 19.
Lilly: Lillith Stevens.
Student, age 18.
Sandy: Sandra Clark.
Nurse, age 26.
Nell: Nelly Entos.
Housewife, age 24.
Tim: Timothy Johnson.
Student, age 16.
Ronnie: Ronald Vincent.
Carpenter, age 18.
Annie: Anne Rivers.
Student, age 15.
Molly: Molly Lopez.
College student, age 22.
Susan: Susan Smith.
Legal secretary, age 24.
Jeff: Jeffrey Simmons.
Stockbroker. Age 42.
Shar: Sharon Simmons.
Veterinary assistant, age 40.
David: David Reid.
College student, age 19.
Arlene: Arlene Best.
Factory worker, age 28.
Jessica: Jessica Singleton.
Retired, age 71. (Deceased)
Janelle: age six.
Brian: age eight
Ben: age seven
Mark: age five
Rain: age five
The bad guys.
Death: leader, age 21
Murder: Death's Number one man, age 19
Shitty: Death's Number two man, age 19
Johnny Red: Death's Number three man, age 17
Nickel: Death's Number four man, aged 17
Chop: Flunky, age 18
The bad girls.
Chloe: Deaths woman, age 17
Cassie: Murders woman, age 18
Psycho: (Now Cindy) Shitty's woman, age 17
Tammy: Everybody's woman, age 24
Beth lifted her eyes from the map just as the first of the undead broke from the trees behind the back of the last truck.
“Jesus! Jesus, Billy... Dead!” She shrugged her machine pistol off her shoulder and caught it with both hands. She was already moving toward the back vehicles. In front of her Bear was turning away from her, back toward the rear. His massive frame blocking her view. Somewhere towards the back truck someone began to scream. Iris, she thought. It was Iris who was screaming.
She found herself running at that point. Her legs pumping effortlessly. The adrenalin surging through her veins. Iris was in the truck with Mac.
She had no sooner had the thought then she heard another voice began to scream. She couldn't place it but as she rounded Bear, catching up and passing him, she saw that two zombies had Mac on the ground, tearing chunks from his arms as he tried to fight them off.
“Beth!” Billy screamed from behind her. “Right. Your right!”
She had been just about to fire her pistol at the two Zombies attacking Mac and so even as she turned she did not turn her pistol completely but kept it aimed to the front towards Mac and the two Zombies. By the time she registered how close the three zombies were to her there was no time to turn the pistol and fire. They were nearly on her. She had no more registered their faces, jaws wide teeth gnashing, she had not even had the time to worry about her own fate yet, when the lead zombies head blew apart in a spray of blood and bone.
She blinked involuntarily and managed to bring her pistol around as the two remaining zombies tried to reverse direction in mid stride. Their eyes were wild. Trapped looking. She bought up the pistol and pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened and her heart staggered in her chest. The safety... The fucking safety, her mind screamed, and that was when another Zombie hit her from the side and she went sprawling onto the dirt road. There were two more on her before she could get turned over. She felt the first bites and ignored them as she concentrated on getting the safety off the pistol she had somehow managed to hold onto as she fell.
The passenger door on the second truck flew open and Scott Jefferson flew from the truck, machine pistol blazing as he ran. The gunfire all along the road was crazy. It had instantly become a war zone. He made it halfway around the hood of the truck when he stepped into a crossfire and his head exploded, spraying across the hood of the truck.
Bear sprayed the woods with his machine pistol. The dead had all come from the same direction and once he had focused on them it had been easy to mow them down. They began to slow, some turning to run back into the woods, some standing as if they didn't know what to do. Bear launched himself away from the truck fender he had been leaning against and began to run at them, firing as he went. A scream building from his throat.
Billy had staggered to a stop just past the end of his rear bumper. He had watched Scott come into his line of fire and he had instantly let loose of his trigger but it had been too late. He was in shock and time seemed to slow to a crawl. His eyes swiveled back around and he saw that Beth was pinned to the ground by two Zombies. He yelled and charged the zombies, raising the stock of his rifle, smashing in the back of the head of the first zombie, kicking the other aside with a hard shot to the ribs and spraying him with a short burst that took his head from his shoulders after he had rolled a short distance across the ground.
Marcus had stopped at the last truck and dragged the young man through the open window, two more joined him and pulled him the rest of the way through the window as Marcus lunged through the open window and fastened his teeth on Iris's throat as she tried to fight him off, and the inside of the truck became a slaughter house. He was so engrossed in feeding that he did not see the machine pistols barrel as it thrust through the open window a few minutes later. He only barely felt it as it bit into the back of his head. Bear pulled the trigger and his head blew apart. Iris stopped screaming.
Something happened to the remaining Zombies. It was like a switch had been flipped on everyone of them at the same time.
They stopped in mid stride, tried to turn back to the woods, but the machine pistols mowed then down where they stood or as they turned to run. Bear, Billy and Beth were on their feet moving in a loose line toward the wooded area.
Behind them some of the others that had stayed in the trucks came out now and joined them. The gunfire held strong for a few moments and then everything stopped all at once. The last zombies either fell or managed to get far enough into the woods as to no longer be seen.
Silence fell all along the road. It held for what seemed like minutes. The haze of smoke from the gunfire hung heavy in the late afternoon air. The headlights of the tucks cut through it making it dance through the blue-white beams of light. The overcast sky and the sudden silence made it seem as though night had arrived all at once. There was very little to hear in the silence.
The still running trucks, a scraping scrabbling sound as one of the undead tried to crawl off the road and into the woods. Beth turned shakily from the woods, her face hard, set, she pulled her knife from her side sheath, took a few steps and straddled the zombie. She reached down, grabbed his hair, pulled his head back as he snapped and snarled. The knife flashed as she embedded it into the side of his head. She thrust one booted foot against his head and pulled her knife free, letting his head fall into the dirt.
The silence held for a second longer and then Beth began to sob as she sank down to the ground.
“We have to plan this better next year,” Patty said. She and Candace were sitting with Lilly, watching the rest of the Nation, supervised by Bob, digging potatoes.
“How so,” Candace asked?
“Well, if everybody’s pregnant who's gonna dig potatoes,” Patty asked?
Candace and Lilly both laughed.
“Stop,” Lilly said, ”You'll make me pee my pants.”
That made Candace and Patty laugh harder. Tears squirted from their eyes.
“Okay, okay,” Lilly said. “You will be this big soon. Then we will see.” She laughed again too though.
“Honey,” Patty said. “I swear you have twins in there.”
Lilly nodded. “Me too, but Sandy swears it's only one. She only hears one heartbeat.”
“Hmm. Must be a football player,” Candace held her hands apart, pretending to measure Lilly's stomach, “Like... College level, I'd say.” She touched both hands to either side of Lilly's swollen belly.
“Ha ha,” Lily said smiling.
“Alright,” Patty said. “Back at it for us.”
Candace got back up too and they both told Lilly goodbye. They walked off back toward the barn where they had been gathering eggs. The interior of the barn was cool and shadowed as they walked down to the opposite end where the rabbit hutches were kept.
“I don't know how you can do it,” Candace said.
“What, kill a rabbit,” Patty asked?
“Yeah... I can't do it.”
“Sure you can. It's food. Can't walk to the store and get it any longer. Even then, someone had to do it,” Patty told her.
Candace nodded. “Yeah. But I wasn't the someone,” she said.
“You like rabbit,” Patty asked?
“Uh huh,” Candace said quietly.
Candace sighed. “Yeah... Okay... Show me again, Pats,” She told her.
Patty nodded and then picked up a rabbit from the cage. She laid it out along her arm, head in her hand. The rabbit didn't struggle or try to get free.
She placed her other hand behind the rabbit's head, cupping it's head behind it's ears. She stroked gently for a second.
“Like this,” she said. “And you do it fast.” Her hand gripped suddenly as she dropped her arm from under the rabbit's body and gave a quick flip of her wrist, snapping the rabbits neck as she did. The rabbit's rear feet kicked twice and then quit. “See,” Patty told her. “No big deal.”
She handed Candace a rabbit from the hutch. “You don't have to,” she told her.
“I know. But I'm going to anyway.” She laid the rabbit out along her arm the same way she had seen Patty do it and placed her hand behind the rabbits ears encircling the rabbit's neck.
“Now when you drop it,” Patty told her. “Think of that rabbits head like the handle of a whip you're cracking... Snap it hard and fast, and that's it,” Patty told her.
Candace nodded, dropped the rabbits body from her arm, snapped it's head like a whip, or like she imagined a whip would be snapped like. The rabbit went flying out of Candace's grasp and flew at Patty who caught it with one hand.
“Oh, good, Candy,” Patty laughed. “But you're sort of supposed to hold onto it.” She held the rabbit up which was definitely dead. “You did it!”
“Yuck,” Candace said. “Mike better really be impressed with this. I'm murdering rabbits here!”
They spent the next few hours into sunset working. They chatted back and forth. When they were ready she showed Candace how to butcher the rabbit.
She picked up a heavy butchers knife, rested the rabbits head against the butcher block. A second later the head was falling into a bucket beside the tabletop and she left the rabbit just off the side for the blood to drain as she picked up another one.
There were a series of pegs with heavy leather things that hung over a rounded trough of metal that drained into the bucket. “Chop off the head and let it fall into the bucket. Let it drain a few seconds, then stick one of the hind legs through the leather thing to hold it over the bucket and let it drain a little longer. I get seven or eight hanging then I start the next part.” Patty said
“Lay the rabbit back on the block. This knife is wicked sharp so be careful. Feel for the joint in the foot. Place the knife over it, work it back and forth just a little and it will almost slice right through all on it's own... One, two, three, four,” She said as she removed the four paws from the body.”
“Now grab the skin at the neck and back and pull it tight. Then take this knife with the notch, slip it into the skin and run it right down the middle and over the stomach bottom to top... See? Now peel the skin off. It'll come right off.”
Candace watched as Patty reduced the rabbit to six parts in just a few minutes. “Okay,” she said. “That looks like the rabbit I know and love.” She frowned. Then picked up half a dozen rabbits and started in. By the rime she was through with the six she had the hang of it.
“See... Not so bad,” Patty told her.
“No, I'm just a baby,” Candace told her. “But cooking it, that part I know.”
“Yeah, well, Janet said she'd cook them. All we have to do is eat them... And real potatoes too... Real baked potatoes. And real butter... Jeez, it doesn't get any better than that,” Patty said.
They spent some time finishing up the rabbits, then added the waste to a com-poster Tim had built; rolled up the skins in a bundle, placed all the rabbit meat onto a low wheeled cart and headed up to the cave.
Geo Dell wrote his first fiction at age seventeen. He drove taxi and worked as a carpenter for most of his life. He began working on the internet in 1989 primarily in HTML, graphics and website optimizations. He spent time on the streets as a drug addicted teen as well as time in prison. He was Honorably discharged from the service in 1974.
He was a Musician who wrote his own music as well as lyrics. He was an Artist accomplished in Graphite, Pen, and Digital media. He wrote more than twenty books for the The Zombie Plagues series, many of which were never published, and several dozen short stories.
You can find out more at:
All music, lyrics, artwork or additional written materials attributed to characters in novels or on the website, unless otherwise noted, are Copyright © independAntwriters
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