Salvation

Kelly is an average girl of 17. When the zombie outbreak first hit New York, she reacted as any average girl of 17 would: she panicked. Now Kelly’s world has fallen apart. Her family is gone. Her boyfriend is gone. Nothing from before matters anymore. Her grades, her relationships, that cute dress she was saving up for; none of it matters. Kelly doesn’t even have a home anymore. Instead, she travels from building to building, scavenging what food she can. Now the only thing that’s important is survival. However, this is something that’s proves to be a bit challenging for her.

You see, Kelly has been bitten. She knows what happens to those who have been bitten. The past two days have been mentally jarring for her, to say the least. She has dipped in and out of depression and anger, in a desperate attempt to cope with her inevitable and rapidly approaching death.

“Is this it?”, she would wonder in silence. “Is this where my story ends? My family’s story? Nobody will ever even know we existed. Nobody will be around to mourn us or to remember us. Is our legacy is going to be snuffed out like some insignificant candle? It’s not fair!”

Sometimes she would think, “Maybe I’m going to be fine! After all it’s been hours and I feel the same. He only nicked me with his tooth, after all.” Kelly was in denial.

Today was different though. Today Kelly discovered a glimmer of hope. Today they found a cure.

Kelly had been wandering around, scavenging what food she could find as she always did. This time she came across a small group of other survivors. After a short conversation, they told Kelly how they had been informed that a doctor had discovered a cure recently. They went on about how everyone who was bitten had been flocking to this brilliant man who would save them, including themselves. Kelly was ecstatic. She joined up with the group as they continued their journey to meet this doctor.

Now the time is approaching. Kelly walks with this group, a new found hope acting as a brilliant beacon in her life. She’s going to get a second chance. As the party sneaks through the town, avoiding stray ghouls as much as possible, they inform Kelly that they will be there soon. Her face beams in response and amazing thoughts rush through her mind. She thinks about what she will do and where she will go now that she will have a second shot at life. She had heard rumors of a large group of people living in the airport in Syracuse but had been too afraid to make the trip there. As the group points out the destination up ahead, Kelly decides that she will make the trip to the airport as soon as she is cured.

They approach what use to be an orthodontist’s office while two men, armed with bats, guard the door. The windows are boarded up tightly and not a sound nor speck of light can be heard or seen. The men open the door and beckon them in. Despite their gruff faces, the group members each flash them a joyous smile and the occasional “thank you”. Kelly giggles to herself as she notes the irony of the building; before the outbreak, such a place would be considered abandoned and run down but now it has all the signs of a sanctuary. She looks around at the inside of the office as she enters. Kelly notes that work has been done in an effort to sound-proof the walls; obviously these people know what they’re doing. A line of people have formed in front of another door guarded by two men. Occasionally one of them shouts, “Next!”, and they allow a person through. The people in the room share excited whispers. Kelly can barely contain her excitement. After all, how often do you get a second chance?

“Next!”

Another person goes through the door and the line moves forward. Kelly wonders if the cure will be painful or not. “Is it an injection? Maybe it’s a pill.”, she wonders.

“Next!”

Kelly begins getting closer to the front and once again her mind races. Now that a cure has been discovered, the world can go back to normal. It’ll take time, sure, but she can be there to see it happen. Maybe she can help rebuild the city, she thinks. She will be there to see humanity’s salvation.

“Next!”

Maybe she’ll meet a nice young man and start her own family when the world returns to how it was. She could have kids and tell them how wonderful their grandfather and grandmother were. She would tell them all the stories of when she grew up. She would make her parents proud.

“Next!”

This is it, she’s almost at the front. It’s almost her turn.

“Next!”

Her heart races. Every beat thumps through her whole body and she swears she can hear the sound over the whispers behind her. She’s at the front.

“Next!”

Finally. Kelly is going to be saved. She’s going to be cured. She walks through the door as the guard beckons her in. She is greeted by a long hallway and yet another gruff looking man. They walk together and enter another door, up a flight of stairs and down yet another hallway, all as Kelly struggles to contain her giddiness and not barrage the man with questions. Finally they stop at a final door. The man informs her that the doctor is through here, before turning and walking back the way they came. She thanks the guard and enters the room, sporting the biggest smile she’s had on in months.

The doctor is inside, standing next to yet another guard and bent over a counter, fiddling with something that Kelly can’t see. He turns to the side and, without making eye contact, tells her to come in and shut the door behind her. Kelly does as he asks and waits patiently for him to tend to her. Still fiddling, he gestures for her to stand over in the corner of the room. Again, she follows his orders and stands where he directed, excitedly staring at the back of the man who is about to save her. Her heart races even faster than before and tears of joy start to well up in her eyes.; she’s going to live. Finally the doctor turns around and walks toward Kelly as she giggles in excitement. He stops a few feet in front of her and raises his arm up to her eye level.

Kelly pauses as the room goes silent. Then she looks at her doctor and, slowly, she starts to laugh. She laughs as tears start flowing down her face. She laughs as she looks down the barrel, into the doctor’s red, puffy eyes. She laughs until her mind goes blank. Then the laughter stops. Kelly is cured. She will not become a zombie anymore.

In the first room, one guard signals to the other. He nods.

“Next!”

Highway to Hell

Rhine was sitting on another rooftop just outside a town called Rawlins, Wyoming. While taking a deep yawn, he adjusted the cheap plastic beach chair beneath him. Everywhere they went it was the same story over and over. Direct refugees and then fall back once Zack showed up. Every single time, just as he thought they were going to be allowed to give Zack a taste of his own medicine, the order came down to pack up and run away. It was frustrating as hell and he wondered if ever they would ever make a serious stand.

Rhine listened to reports from his small teams of Rangers who had established checkpoints along I-80. They were supposed to prevent infected civilians from penetrating the secure zone the government was establishing West of the Rockies. With him sat a new squad of National Guardsmen fresh out of basic training. They had been attached to his unit to help fill the gaps in his ranks but he would rather have left the gaps empty. These kids had been pushed through “basic” and put into service whether they had passed or not. Combat operations took their toll; a broken ankle here, a Zach victim there, every casualty degrading the platoon’s combat strength. Unfortunately while he would have been given fresh Ranger replacements before the war had broken out, now the best he was going to get were snot nosed kids who pissed themselves every time the wind kicked up. One of these kids was his new radio operator; a fresh faced 19 year old girl who should have been rushing a sorority, not carrying an assault rifle.

Continue reading ‘Highway to Hell’

March Madness

After the long winter, the zoners needed some excitement.  The teams were divided into four groups. Each group matched up 16 squads according to their rank. The rules were simple. The squad with the most kills wins.   Brackets were filled out. Food rations were wagered. “March Madness” was in full swing.

In the first round, the 12th squad upset the 5th and the 17th shut out the 22nd.

Fun was had by both the Corps and the Zone residents.

The fun didn’t last.

Just like March’s of the past, the tourney was full of surprises. The biggest surprise came when, during the Elite Eight round, the 67th squad failed to return to Hancock.

Instead of Vandross singing “One Shining Moment” at the conclusion of the tourney, it ended with “On Eagle’s Wings” at their memorial service.

Breaking Point

The butterfly walked across the bridge of Rhine’s nose as he fought the urge to shoo it away. The slightest movement or sound would give his position away, but the itching on his face made it hard to concentrate on his surroundings.  He allowed himself the slightest nose twitch to scare the insect away but it did no good.  It was just another annoyance to adding on to a stress level that was close to bringing Rhine to his breaking point. The sound of footsteps moving through the brush to his right caused him to suddenly hold his breath. His hunter was very close and the rise and fall of his chest would be sure to give away his location. The footsteps approached and stopped a mere four feet to his right. Four feet separated him from death and he could feel his heart begin to pump faster as adrenaline dumped into his system. Sweat poured down his face and caused his eyes to burn. The crackle of a radio assured his demise.

“Move four or so feet to your left and that target is toast” came a familiar voice.

The Ranger with the tall spotting stick moved the four feet to Rhine before stopping to poke the bottom of the spotting stick in Rhine’s butt cheek.

“Sorry Sir but he has your ass” The Ranger said while a slight grin while holding up a hand held radio.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Point’

:)

It started as kind of a joke, but by the end it had become much more. She didn’t mean for it to be a big deal. Who knew a sticker could change your world?

In the early days of the Blue Zone, Erin McGraw found herself separated from everything and everyone she had ever cared about. She left Cortland hoping to find safety to the north, but never made it past Syracuse.

Erin joined the Corps’ 17th and was issued her ZED. It was just your basic, everyday, all-purpose zombie bashing crowbar.

It wasn’t easy for Erin to wake up one morning and start killing the undead. She struggled with the “murder” aspect of the whole thing. “Kill or be killed,” Slater would say to her. “You’re really doing ‘em a favor, if you ask me.” Erin couldn’t help but imagine who they were before they became monsters with a taste for flesh. As she would lower her ZED into their skulls, she would picture them in happier times with their family and friends, and she would smile. Some in the Corps thought her smile was sick and that she found pleasure in killing. She didn’t. Erin smiled knowing that their suffering was ending.

Late one afternoon as the Corps was helping in the cleanup of Route 81, Chuck found a child’s backpack in the back of an abandoned minivan. After looking through the bag for anything worth saving Chuck called over to Erin. “Hey, McGraw! Get over here!” Erin ran across the expressway to see what he had found. “Check it out, it looks like you,” Chuck said mockingly as he held up a sheet of smiley face stickers.

Erin tried not to laugh, but couldn’t help it when Chuck placed one of the stickers onto her crowbar, “Just like when you were in school, every good student earns a sticker.” Erin’s face turned as red as the sticker decorating her ZED. She snatched the sheet out of his hand, raised the crowbar as if she would hit Chuck, but instead she then returned to her patrol.

Later that evening, as she warmed herself by the fire, she thought of the dozens of zombies that she had helped out already, and the countless that still remained. She wanted to pay tribute to the people that they had been. Their corpses weren’t buried with markers, they were burned. She wanted to remember the people that they had been, not the monsters they became. As she got up to leave the fire, she felt the pack of stickers in her jacket pocket. She had an idea.

The next morning, Erin found a quiet corner of the zone and applied a sticker for each of her victims to her crowbar. When she was done, she had barely covered any of the handle. She vowed to work to change that.

When the others saw her ZED, they made fun of the colorful zombie killer. The jokes usually stopped when she explained what they meant. As the weeks and years went on, any member of the Corps that came across any sheets of smiley face stickers would bring them back to Erin. Over time, Erin completely covered her crowbar five times.

Long after she was gone, Erin McGraw’s smiley faced ZED stood as an inspiration for all in the fight against Zack.

Hope

She screamed. She grunted. She bit into the gag. For hours, they watched as she rocked back and forth, jumped into and out of the bath they prepared. She sweated. They mopped her brow. They waited. Finally it was over. In a burst of bloody gore, it ended. They all breathed a sigh of relief. It was over. She glowed.

It was a girl. Krezner quickly calculated an Apgar of five. The child would survive. For what, he couldn’t tell. “I’ll name her Hope,” the mother said. Father was left blank on the birth certificate.

Krezner’s professional demeanor nearly cracked. You have got to be shitting me. “A beautiful name,” he said as he straightened his bowtie.

That night, the Z’s heard her moans and came lurching in force from the north and from the east. Hale and MacDonald from the fourteenth and Renna from the eleventh bit it that night. Or more appropriately, were bitten and were taken out of their misery, may they rest in peace.

They say Hope never dies.

Znakes in the Grass

The heat was incredible, burning Rhine’s face as if he had stuck his head inside an oven. The normal heat of the Afghan desert was complimented by the flames licking up from the burning Humvee. Through the flames, Rhine could see the corpse of one of his men burning in the passenger seat. The head of the corpse suddenly turned to Rhine, smoldering flesh tearing as the neck twisted his way.

“Why did you bring us here Rhine?”

Rhine attempted to bring his M-4 up to fire but when he pulled the trigger nothing happened. The corpse was out of the Humvee now, quickly approaching him as he tried again and again unsuccessfully to get his rifle to work.

“WHY DID YOU BRING US HERE?!?” The corpse screamed in his face.

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Thinning the Herd

The front cab of the M939A2 cargo truck smelled like the Army. It was a mixed smell of metal and  some type of oil or grease. It was comforting and took Lieutenant Rhine’s mind back to more pleasant times in his life; times when the term “Zombie” had only been  a stupid movie gimmick. The jolt of PFC Garner’s knee digging into his back brought him back to the real world.

“Sorry sir, just trying to adjust my stance” Garner said from his position standing on the passenger seat with his upper body out of the cab’s rooftop turret and manning the trucks M2HB .50 caliber machine gun.

“Its fine Garner, I needed it anyways” Rhine said, grabbing his SCAR and opening the door to step out

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The Fall

People used to rake leaves out to the curb into giant piles to get sucked up by giant vacuums attached to dumptrucks..
Kids would play in them and get killed by passing cars.
It made me wonder what kind of idiot parent would let their kids play in the middle of the road and what kind of idiot driver would drive through those leaves, knowing that idiot kids would be playing in them?
Seemed to happen somewhere every year.
Never did make sense. Never seemed to stop.
People aren’t just fools. They’re damn fools.

Steve dropped his ZED and ran toward a pile of leaves today.
By the time I could react, he was in the air above them.
I think he realized his mistake while he was in midair. It was like he tried to twist his body around so that he’d stay there, hovering.

He came up screaming.
It looked like he drowned in that leaf pile.
When I was a kid, that would have been the way to go, swimming on dry land.
Not anymore.
I’ll never look at another pile of orange leaves without seeing a corpse under them.

Thanks a pile, Steve.

Idiot.

Diabetez

I thought I saw a zombie today.
Don’t worry though, it was only a false alarm.
Sometimes when I get cooped up for too long, I think about things that are highly unlikely. Today was especially eccentric.
You’d think being stuck in the middle of an uprising hoard of the undead would be a little more interesting. Unfortunately there always seems to be an excess amount of down time, and on boring days such as today that means more time for my improbable epiphanies.
As I was laying on my bunk killing my all too plentiful free time, I began to wonder about what happens to a human as they become the undead. What if a blind human was infected? Would the zombie become blind as well? Or what about humans with pre-existing ailments, would they be transfered in the process? I started picturing all these funny scenarios in my head, thinking about a blind zombie trying to catch it’s prey…
It was almost funny. In a sick sort of way.
Day dreaming about stupid things like that wasn’t helping me pass my time though. So I got up and walked around a while; subconscious thoughts still lingering in my mind. I stopped over at a barred up window to take a look around outside. Desolate, of course.
Or so I assumed.
To my surprise I saw movement across the street. My guess was it was just another wandering ghoul lost within the streets of Syracuse.
It’d been a while since my last target practice, so I figured I might as well make this day a little interesting. I grabbed my rifle, made my way to the door, and opened it up. I looked down my scope to get a good shot between the eyes, and noticed that something was different.
This wasn’t a normal zombie, something was wrong. The normal ragged, clumsy shuffle wasn’t there. This poor thing almost seemed to be…drunk. But his looks caught me off guard. He certainly looked like a zombie: the dark, sunken eyes, the dirty, tattered clothing. The overall look of dishevelment and disaster.
I was so confused by this. What was I supposed to do with a stranger that looked like the undead, but certainly didn’t act like them? There was no way this could have been one of my crazy ideas set in motion. It just couldn’t have happened. So I scoped him out again and tried to see if I could find the source of his extremely bizarre behavior.
And then it hit me. I saw the dangling remnants of his insulin pump and realized all at once this guy wasn’t dead, even if he would have been better off so.
He looked so bad that I mistook him for a zombie. I could only imagine the magnitude of the attack he was suffering through, and it was such a shame I had no power or supplies to help him.

Anarachy at the Gates

Rhine watched the wind carry away the cigarette smoke as he stood atop the M1128 Stryker armored vehicle. Below the cliff top they occupied, the highway was clogged with cars and people slowly making their way forward. The only change of pace from the monotonous flow was when every couple minutes a vehicle that had run out of gas was pushed off to the side of the road. Rhine took another drag of the cigarette and stretched the kinks out of his neck.

“How would you like to be stuck down in that mess?” he asked the vehicle’s commander standing in the hatch to his left.

“Ive got eight big ass wheels baby, we don’t need roads like those poor bastards. Matter of fact I have only got this thing stuck one time. We were outside Mosul and pulled off to the side of the road. It was a stupid move. There was a sewage ditch right next to the road and we slide right in. I basically parked us in an Iraqi toilet” the commander said shaking his head.

“So what you’re saying is…..this thing is basically a piece of shit?” Rhine quipped.

Both men laughed at the joke but abruptly cut the laughter off as they heard the sound of something scraping along the side of the Stryker. Rhine’s pistol was in his hands immediately and he moved to peer over the side of the vehicle.

“How the hell did you climb up there sir?” Moreno said as he looked up at the men and then at the Stryker as if afraid he would grab something expensive and it would snap right off.

Rhine holstered his pistol and gave the best answer he could think of.” Think “jungle gym” and start climbing”.

Moreno clumsily made his way up the side of the Stryker till he was standing next to Rhine, waving his hand to shoo away a cloud of cigarette smoke.

“I didn’t know you smoked”

“I don’t. Hate the damn disgusting things” Rhine replied “Tonight I just needed something and since whiskey is a “no-no” on duty, this is what I found”.

“What’s on your mind? I can see that brain of yours spinning” Moreno asked, having learned to read his friend’s moods like the back of his hand.

“This whole thing is just insanity brother. This is gonna be bad man; real bad. As a military and a nation, we are up against the ropes. Think about it, never in our history have we ever had our asses kicked like this. I mean hell, we have just given up whole swaths of the country. Entire states just abandoned; it is unheard of. Every day we just fall back further and sacrifice more land. Our biggest cities, our capital, all just deserted. Never; not in the darkest days of WWII or any other war have we ever been invaded and pushed off mainland soil to this extent”

A few seconds of silence greeted Rhine as Moreno digested his words.

Finally Moreno broke the silence “ Well get it back, all of it, we just gotta get out stuff together, you know?”

“That’s not what im talking about” Rhine replied, “Americans have never witnessed this kind of war. They have never been forced from their homes with only the things they can carry on their backs. They have never been forced to march in columns to relocation camps. The only thing they knew about being a refugee was what they saw on television or read in books. The internment camps during WWII were a joke compared to this. These people have absolutely no idea what to do, what to expect, or how to survive. Things are gonna get ugly, real ugly. I’m not talking a couple days without water, power, and food like Katrina bad. That was more of a joke then the internment camps compared to this. I mean things are going to get downright medieval out there. The veneer of civilized society is paper thin man. People at their core are animals and when you take away all the neat laws and pretty structures of life they are going to resort back to that animal instinct. They are going to steal from their neighbors and murder each other over nothing more than a single mouthful of food. Life isn’t just going to be cheap, it is going to worth next to nothing. Americans are going to slit each other’s throats just to live to see the next day. It will be chaos.”

Rhine shook his head in frustration and flicked the cigarette onto the ground.

“ Absolute and pure anarchy. “

Below them the staccato sound of gunfire and muzzle flashes that erupted amongst the refugees seemed to agree.