Darren didn’t feel good, his head hurt so bad it was hard to concentrate on anything. He had been jumped by some sort of street gang, he remembered being kicked in the ribs, and one of them had bit him. Filthy savages, they weren’t civilized in the least. Oddly he still had his wallet and the forty bucks he had gotten out of the ATM before work that day.
Darren looked down at his hands, they were covered in dried blood, and unfortunately he had no idea if it was his or someone else’s. His stomach ached as he dry wretched, did he have the Mog? The news had said something about not contacting people infected with the Mogadishu virus. Had those gang bangers been infected? He couldn’t remember how long he had been asleep, he became aware of where he was, some sort of mom and pop grocery store. How had he gotten here? It didn’t matter, he was hungry. Bacon would be heavenly right now, or sausage, or a hot dog even. He stumbled into an abandoned shopping cart and steadied himself on the push bar.
His right eye didn’t want to open, it was swollen shut, damn, they had really worked him over hadn’t they? Someone was walking toward him down the aisle, everything was a bit blurry, and he strained his good eye to focus.
As the man got closer he knew something wasn’t right. His face was covered in sticky black filth. His eyes were blank and expressionless. He looked like a zombie! Darren had to get out of there now! He backpedaled, tripped on something and ended up on his back. At any moment the zombie would be on him biting his face and… wait he just shuffled on by completely ignoring an easy meal.
Why did it ignore him? Zombies were supposed to always be hungry. Then it hit him, the gang bangers had been infected. Was he infected? Would he turn into a mindless zombie? He sat up and noticed he was in the candy aisle. He snatched a Fruity-Oaty-Bar and tore at the wrapper. It tasted so good. He didn’t have a craving for brains so maybe he’d be alright.
After scarfing two more of the sweet snack bars he stuffed his pockets full and stood up. He filled the shopping cart with anything that looked good. He wandered by the donut case and pulled out a slightly stale maple bar and bit into it. Darren wouldn’t have ever eaten this kind of junk food normally, but he figured losing weight was the least of his concerns right now.
A young high school aged girl zombie wearing a bloody “Crush Capital” t-shirt wandered by, she looked at him with a blank stare for a moment, it gave him the creeps.
Nervously he smiled and said, “Nice night isn’t it.”
The former girl stopped and turned his way. Oops, he took a step back as she approached, then he noticed she was crying. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and she mumbled incoherently. When she was only a couple of steps away she reached her arms out and Darren cringed, was she going to finish the job that the others hadn’t?
She grabbed on to him and he balled up a fist to punch her when he realized that she wasn’t clawing, but holding onto him. She buried her face in his shoulder and sobbed. Awkwardly he put an arm around her and held her for a few moments. Then he realized that beneath the sickness, blood and vomit, deep down a person remained. He still didn’t understand why she or the other zombies in the store hadn’t ripped him limb from limb yet.
After a couple of uncomfortable moments he peeled the infected girl off of him, and continued down the aisle. After a few steps he noticed that she was following him. Well as long as she didn’t try and bite his throat what did it matter?
He made his way to the back of the store and found a bathroom. He looked in the mirror and shuddered. Half of his face was one giant swollen bruise. He was bleeding from a couple of places on his neck and arms. After a few minutes with a first aid kit he found in the back office he had taken care of his worst wounds.
The dark haired high school girl was still following him, so he tried talking to her again. “So do you have a name?” She continued to stare at him silently.
“Well I can’t have you following me without a name.” He looked at her shirt again, “Crush Capital ‘eh? Well that settles it then. ‘Capital’ it is.”
He saw a big nasty bite on her arm and he bandaged it, he had no idea if it would be any help or not, but he figured why not?
“Come on Capital let’s get out of here.” He said as he pushed the cart out the front of the store toward the single row of parked cars.
They came up to a yellow taxi, the driver looked dead and the keys were in the ignition. He opened the door and pulled the fat cabbie out onto the ground. He filled the trunk with the contents of the shopping cart and snatched the tire iron out and put it in the gap between the seat and transmission hump.
“Capital get in.” He said as he opened the passenger’s side door.
She climbed in and sat down. He reached across her and closed the door, and fastened her seatbelt.
He turned the keys and the American made V8 roared to life, “Let’s roll.”
Tamelle was having a hard time staying awake; they had been driving for a while now, and thankfully hadn’t had any further close calls since the bridge. The German Shepard had put his head in her lap and she absent mindedly stroked his fur. It had been a long time since she had a dog. Apartment living wasn’t really conducive to owning a dog, but when she was a kid her family had owned a scruffy black mutt named Tuxy. He had a little white patch on his chest that kind of looked like a white shirt, and the rest of him was black. One of her brothers thought he looked like he was wearing a tuxedo and the name stuck.
He had died when she was little. She had been the first member of the family to find his body. It was her first experience with death, she tried to wake him up but he hadn’t stirred when she shook him.
Pushing unpleasant childhood memories from her mind she looked out the side window at the city. A few buildings were burning; some had power, while others were dark. A yellow taxi drove past nearly hitting them. Other survivors! She thought as her eyes locked with the girl in the passenger’s seat. She shuddered as the car roared on by.
“Hey Vince, other survivors! Follow the cab!” Steve said excitement in his voice.
Tamelle coughed, “No!”
“Why? What’s wrong?” Steve asked.
“Did you see the girl in the front seat?”
“Umm yeah? She looked young and hot. So?”
Tamelle shook her head, “Did you SEE her?” She said with bile in her throat. “Our eyes met for a brief moment. She wasn’t human.”
Vince had already begun following the other car, “Wait a minute are you saying the infected can drive?”
“No. She was in the passenger’s side, I didn’t see the driver.”
“But…” Steve was thinking hard, his head already hurt from the sleep deprivation and adrenaline spikes. “But if the driver isn’t a zombie why isn’t she trying to eat him then huh?”
“I don’t know.” Was all Tamelle could come up with. “But I think we should avoid that cab.”
Vince turned down a side street, avoiding the taxi. “Alright, I’ll trust your judgment.”
A few minutes later Vince stopped the truck in front of ‘Victor’s Sporting Goods and Range’. The immediate area seemed to be devoid of any infected so he climbed out, pump shotgun at the ready.
The door was unlocked and the storefront looked empty. All four of them made their way through the store. Vince called out, “Victor? Jimmy? Hello?” He looked back over his shoulder at Steve, “Hey lock the door.”
The lights were off other than one in a back room. Tamelle found the light switches and in moments the front area was bathed in florescent light.
Vince commanded Fenrir to “Sook.” In a few minutes with the dog’s help they had cleared the entire building. It was empty.
“So were you on a first name basis with the owners?” Steve asked.
Vince shrugged, “Basically. They’d probably shoot me if they saw what we did to that shotgun.”
A while later Steve had a new camp stove and began heating freeze dried meals. With a side window opened they had just enough ventilation to keep from asphyxiating.
Vince broke out three cots and sleeping bags. In minutes the two younger survivors had eaten and were asleep in the back office. Vince had argued that he would take the first watch. He had fallen asleep off and on in the elevator; even though he didn’t feel rested he knew he probably had more sleep than the two kids.
With bars on the windows it was unlikely that those infected with the Mogadishu virus would be able to break in, but not taking any chances, he found a pallet jack and moved a couple of gun safes in front of the door.
He looked at his Rolex; it was two in the morning. He struggled to stay awake, and his head bobbed as he sat in a folding chair. He got up and walked to the back of the store and entered the range. The indoor range was great; he loved punching paper targets after a long day of insufferable meetings. In the morning after getting something to eat he could train up both of the other survivors. Tamelle was a complete novice, while Steve had learned a lot of bad habits, but at least knew the basics.
Something moved outside the windows. The lights were off again, but the road had a couple of street lights. Any desire for sleep vanished as his adrenaline began to kick in. He checked the chamber of the 870 shotgun, good to go. He crept along the display counter at the left of the store moving toward the front.
There were three distinct taps on the glass. Odd, would an infected person knock on the door? A flashlight shined into the store from the outside. Definitely not a Zombie, err infected, he thought. But would they be friendly? The person outside knocked three times again, louder.
Vince opened the mail slot beside the door with his shotgun and looked out. A blue jean covered leg was all he could see. “Don’t move, or I’ll shoot.” Vince said.
“Whoa I’m not looking for any trouble.” A nervous male voice replied.
“No I’d imagine you aren’t but how do I know you’re not infected or going to try and kill me and take my stuff?” Vince asked.
“Look mister, I was just tryin’ to get some supplies, and ammo. Just like you I’d say.” The voice replied.
“How many of you are there?”
“How’d you survive so long by yourself?”
“I’ve got a hidey hole.”
“Why should I tell the man pointing a shotgun at my knee?”
“Fair enough, but I still have no reason to trust you. As far as I know you’re just another threat I have to deal with.”
Something howled in the distance. “Shit, let me in man, a mob’s near!”
“No, I need something else.”
“Like what?” The man asked as the howling grew louder.
“Give me a reason to trust you.”
The survivor outside took a deep breath, “How about Scouts Honor?”
“So you’re a Boy Scout ‘eh?” Vince remembered the times his dad had helped him build pinewood derby cars all those years ago. “What’s the Scout Law then?”
“What? You want me to recite the whole thing now?”
“A scout is… trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous… kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, uhh brave, clean and reverent.”
“What’s the unofficial one? If you were a scout you’d know.”
“Bingo. Hold on while I move the safe.”
“Hurry they’re almost here!”
Vince pumped the handle on the pallet jack and lifted the heavy safe. He slid it back a couple of feet and unlocked the door. He pulled the young man through the partially opened door and slammed it shut moments before the mob arrived.
Fenrir walked up and smelled the new man to make sure he wasn’t sick. “He’s not sick.” The dog barked but he doubted they understood him.
“So what’s your name kid?”
Kid? He was almost thirty, “Pete.”
“Well the dog likes you so welcome to the… uhh survival group I guess. I’m Vince.”
Grant was tired of running; he had wrecked his car swerving to avoid a pileup when he had become up close and personal with a light pole. The steaming radiator and the massive puddle of green goo underneath the engine told him it was time to “abandon ship.” He loved his Crown Victoria “Cop Car” as his friends called it. It was too bad that it was just another wreck, it was big and roomy, and had a trunk big enough to make any Mafia Enforcer giggle with delight.
The streets were full of Mogs, they moved fast, as if fueled by pure hatred and hunger. Grant had to get off the street; he grabbed his Mini-14 and bug out bag. On his strong side hip in its leather holster was his Sig 226, he grabbed the butt to make sure it was still there. It was amazing how much thirteen rounds of .40S&W helped him feel better. All his friends owned Glocks but they just never felt right in his hand.
Grant never went anywhere without his emergency kit. Most of his co workers at Six-Sigma-IT thought he was crazy for preparing for disasters. “What do you worry about those things for? The Red Cross and Government will take care of us in an emergency.” They had said. He wasn’t dead yet so he figured he had done something right.
Zombies weren’t what he had ever thought about preparing for, but a pandemic flu was, He adjusted the respirator on his face again and put on a new pair of examination gloves. He had seen those things vomiting a chunky black soup, and he didn’t want any of it getting on him.
Rapid footsteps approached from down the street. Grant unfolded the stock on his rifle and shouldered it. Damn they moved fast. He fired a quick pair of rounds at the lead Mog causing it to tumble and fall. There were too many of them, he had to find a defensible spot now. He turned and ran toward the buildings across the street. They looked like small workshop slash office buildings for plumbers, wood workers, and welders.
A few feet away from “Kim’s HVAC” the door burst open and a massive Mog wearing brown coveralls stepped out. It yelled gibberish at him and raised the largest monkey wrench he had ever seen. Frantically Grant fired a few shots from the hip hitting the beast in the gut. It didn’t slow him down. They must not feel pain, Grant thought to himself as he stopped and ran back down the street, away from the other infected.
His side ached as he sucked in as much air as his mouth could take; his legs began to feel like rubber as he sprinted while carrying thirty pounds of gear and ammo. Up ahead was a little park, with some swings, slides, and a merry-go-round. It looked like the kind park he took his nephews to.
They were gaining on him, it looked like his last stand would be the battle of Big Slide. He climbed the steps and crossed the bouncing bridge. Up another set of steps and he made it to the top of the large tubular slide. He began firing his rifle at the approaching mob. For every one he dropped two or three would appear from the shadows to replace them. Dropping an empty thirty round magazine Grant inserted another and was ready to rock and roll again. Keeping the empty magazines was pointless now.
It felt ironic to be atop a children’s play set engaged the world’s deadliest game of “King of the Hill.”
A zombie scrambled up the plastic tube and grabbed his ankle. Grant dropped his rifle, it bounced against his chest held up by his sling. He grabbed on to the railing and kicked at the former woman in a pant suit, knocking teeth out. He recovered long enough to get his pistol and dispatch her with a quick shot to the brain. The lifeless lawyer tumbled back down the tube half plugging it up.
A construction worker scrambled up the monkey bars and leapt toward him. The beast grabbed on to his backpack and Grant somehow managed to get it off his shoulders and the snarling monster fell to the bark chips below. He emptied his pistol into three large infected high school football players still wearing pads from their practice earlier today.
He re holstered his pistol without looking, and snatched the rifle back from where it hung; he still had half a magazine of ammo in it. Time seemed to slow down as he fought back the horde. He was surprised that he wasn’t dead yet, their bodies were strewn about all over the jungle gym, making it harder for each successive Mog to make it up. Maybe he would make it out of this alive?
“Come on you pussies is that all you got?” He said as he pumped a plump kitchen worker full of holes. The coverall wearing monster tossed his monkey wrench at Grant hitting him in the elbow. Fire shot up his arm as it went limp. He could swear he laughed, he thought that Zombies didn’t laugh.
Running the Mini-14 one handed he managed to stitch Mr. Coveralls and he fell vomiting black filth mixed with blood. The bolt locked open as he fired the last round from his weapon. Dropping the mag to the ground Grant fumbled one handed to get a twenty rounder into the rifle. He let the charging handle fly home as another beast came storming up the slide. He swung the rifle around with one hand and fired down the slide. He managed to hit the beast in the face and it fell back plugging the hole.
Twenty rounds were gone in seconds as he struggled to retain the high ground. “Come on Grant keep it together man!” He yelled to himself as he fumbled with his another thirty round magazine.
A young man wearing a “Crush Capital” t-shirt leapt from the top of the monkey bars and landed in front of him. It grabbed the barrel of his rifle, oblivious to the scalding temperature of the steel. Grant jerked the trigger and the monster fell back down the stairs, knocking two of his fellow infected down.
The battle raged on for much longer than Grant thought possible. There were moments where he didn’t know how he was still alive. His little rifle recoiled into his shoulder as he mowed down countless beasts. They didn’t think, they couldn’t they just ran headlong toward him screaming.
He emptied his last rifle magazine and let the weapon hang. Back to the pistol he still had two full twelve round magazines on his belt. But his left hand still didn’t want to work and pulling back the slide would be difficult. He managed to do it by putting the weapon in-between his thighs. It was a miracle he didn’t shoot himself.
Muzzle flashes lit up the dark playground as he fought back the relentless horde. He dropped an empty magazine and grabbed the last one when he heard a car horn honking. He looked up and saw a yellow taxi cab stopped on the nearby street. It kept honking and the driver waved for him to come. Grant wasn’t sure how he could possibly make it through the mob.
Down to his last pistol magazine he counted the rounds. “One, two. Big blue.” He said as a fat infected man in a business suit tumbled backwards. “Three, four, zombie at the door.” He fired into the slide. “Five six, makes me sick!” he yelled at a vomiting Mog. “Seven, eight, lie down straight!” He dropped another one on the stairs. “Nine, ten… uhh what the hell.” He dumped three rounds into a skinny Goth kid.
With only one round left in his weapon he leapt from the top of the play set and scrambled toward the car. For a moment or two they kept climbing to the top of the slide until they realized he wasn’t there. The guy in the cab opened the passenger door and Grant dove into the back seat. Squealing tires told him he was safe for now.
He sat up and shut the door. He looked into the rear view mirror and saw bandages. A few ragged breaths later he could speak. “Tha… thanks man.”
“Don’t mention it.” The driver said as he dodged a couple of wrecked cars.
He looked into the front passenger’s seat and saw someone wrapped up in blankets. “What’s with your friend?”
The driver smiled, “Oh she’s just a bit tired, sleeping.” He chuckled slightly. The way he spoke gave Grant the creeps. Between the bandages and the strange tone in his voice he wasn’t sure if he’d rather be out among the zombies.
“I can’t believe you made it.” The driver said, “When I heard the shooting I drove toward the noise and saw you surrounded by all those infected. I figured you were dead meat but I’m impressed! How many bullets did you end up shooting?”
“All of them.” He lied. He realized he still had his Sig 226 in his hand so he shoved it back into his holster. “Name’s Grant, and you?”
The man behind the wheel rubbed his good eye. “Darren, and the girl in the front seat is Capital.”
“Yeah long story, she’s wearing a ‘Crush Capital’, t-shirt. But she was so scared when I found her she couldn’t remember her name.”
Grant thought about the former jocks he had shot. They had been wearing the same t-shirts from a local high school. “Darren, I don’t mean to pry but I have to ask, how did you hurt your face?”
“Oh no problem man, I ran through a glass door trying to get away from some of those beasts.” He lied. “I managed to stumble to this cab and drive away.”
“So where are we going now?” Grant asked.
“I found a warehouse near the docks that would be perfect hiding place.”
“Yeah it’s a distribution warehouse for one of those big club stores. They get imported stuff from ships. I’ve been setting it up as a kind of survival HQ. It’s pretty secure; apparently they were paranoid about worker theft.”
They arrived at the large plain building. Darren drove up the ramp, stopped and hopped out. He unlocked a padlock and vanished inside. Moments later the steel roll up door opened just high enough for the car to make it inside. Grant climbed into the front seat and pulled the cab inside. Only a couple of lights were on but it looked like you’d expect a large warehouse to look. He turned off the ignition as Darren shut and secured the door.
The girl under the blankets next to him stirred and pulled the blanket off her face. Their eyes met and he knew she wasn’t human. “What the hell man?” Grant yelled as he jumped out of the cab, and slammed the door behind him.
“What?” Darren looked in the car at the now snarling girl. “Oh her she’s fine she won’t bite… me.”
Grant pulled his Sig and pointed it at the bandaged man. “What the hell is going on? Why are you driving around the city with a girl Zombie?”
“She likes me.” Darren said.
Grant began breathing heavily, “You’re a sick freak, you must be infected about to turn.”
Darren smiled wickedly, “You’re right about one thing, I am infected but I’m not going to turn.”
Grant took up the slack on the trigger.
“Careful you’ve only got one bullet left. I happened to be counting too.”
“That’s fine I only need one.”
Darren cackled, “Yes you do, for yourself.”
From the shadows between the racks of stereos, laptops, and watermelons a mob of infected approached. They didn’t have to run they had learned that when Darren brought a survivor in it was an easy meal.
“Who are you?” Grant asked.
Darren smiled, “I’m the Zombie Master. And you’re dinner.”
Grant closed his eyes, put the Sig beneath his chin and took his final breath.