“What’s taking them so long?” Sasha asked Allen as they stood next to the pile of corpses behind the MOST. The other two members of her squad had gone to do a quick sweep of the museum. “They said they were just gonna be a couple of minutes.”
“You want to go get them? I’ll start the fire here to get rid of these bodies, and then when you get back we can just take off. I want to make it back to Central before the rest of ‘em.” Allen said with his usual smirk as he stood next to a pile of rotting zombie corpses. “I think we might beat Billy Footballhero’s squad back today.”
Sasha grabbed her ZED and headed up towards the museum’s entrance as Allen gathered some pieces of paper that littered the deserted streets to start his fire. Once he had enough kindling, he took out his Bic lighter. It was his only pre-Zack possession. In his past life, he smoked 2 packs a day. Even though the cigarette supply ran out months ago, he still carried it around with him “just in case” he stumbled across any smokes.
As he was about to flick his Bic, he saw a figure running out from the walkway to the parking lot behind the MOST. The figure was moving too fast to be a zombie. Allen rose from his fire and approached to see if he could help. As the figure got closer, Allen could see that it was a woman, and she looked scared for her life.
“What are you running from?” he asked the woman as she approached.
She ran right up to him, “Thank God you’re here!” she exclaimed out of breath. “My, my sister and I…we were…those things came out of nowhere. They chased her, you need to help her.” She started pulling on his uniform, urging him, “C’mon, you’ve got to help her!”
Allen looked back towards the museum for the rest of his squad. They were nowhere to be seen. “Alright, let’s go. Where did your sister run off to?”
“She ran towards Clinton at the far end of the parking lot looking for help,” the woman explained as the two of them made their way under the railroad bridge leading to the parking lot.
As soon as they emerged from the passageway, Allen was shocked with what he saw. Nothing. He saw nothing, no zombies, no sister. He especially didn’t see the woman’s partner, who attacked Allen from behind. The man put Allen in a sleeper hold, quickly knocking him unconscious.
“Nice work,” the man said to the woman. “I didn’t think you had it in you. Keep an eye on him while I go get the rest of those bodies.” The man grabbed a wheelbarrow and quickly made his way back out to Jefferson before the rest of Allen’s squad returned from the MOST.
Hours had passed before Allen regained consciousness. He awoke to find himself tied up and disoriented. All that he could see was an old charcoal grill five feet in front of him, and it was cooking the foulest smelling barbecue ever. He heard movement behind him, and so he called out to the noise in the darkness. “Who are you? Let me out of here! You’re not going to get away with this!”
A man came out of the darkness to sit beside Allen. He calmly said to Allen, “Who I am is of no consequence to you. I’m afraid that I can’t let you leave, you’re our guest. And for your last statement, who’s going to stop me? Those other three you were with? They took off hours ago. I must admit, they spent longer looking for you than I would have thought. They went all over the area, up and down Jefferson, all through the parking lot next door, but it never occurred to them to just look up.”
As the man finished, he raised to lid of the grill which illuminated more of their surroundings. Allen could see that he was inside an old abandoned Amtrak train car.
“I suppose I should thank you for helping to clean out the zombie population earlier today. I quite enjoyed watching the four of you work. They’re really going to miss you,” he said as he sawed through an arm of one of Allen’s kills. The man then threw the chunk of arm onto the grill. Hot coals rose from their bed, dancing through the dark night.
“What are you doing? That stuff will kill you if you eat it,” Allen told his captor. “On second thought, why don’t you go ahead and have a bite.”
“Oh, we know all about the effects of the meat. We learned the hard way. Besides, I’m only using it to heat the car. We used up all the good fuel supplies last winter. After a while, you get used to the smell.”
“Who’s this ‘we’ you keep mentioning?”
“Actually, you’ve already met her. My sister-in-law, Molly, was the girl you ran into on the street. She’s a charmer. I didn’t think you’d follow her, but she proved me wrong.”
“So, she wasn’t ever in any trouble? How could I have been such an idiot?” Allen wondered aloud. “You know, if you let me go, you can probably come back with me to my base, and you could stay with us.”
“Your ‘base’?” the man asked mockingly. “Where’ve you and your three friends set up shop?”
“Oh, there’s a few more than four of us…try hundreds. We’ve got a whole community set up at the airport…”
“The airport!” the man yelled out, interrupting Allen. “Why would any sane person go to the airport with all the zombies running around? Who would go to a building with all those glass windows? The wide open fields? It would take thousands of you to keep safe. You can’t be serious!”
“I mean c’mon, you look like you’ve got a brain between your ears. Of all places in the area to pick as your ‘base’ and you pick the number one worst place to claim as your home. Where do you get water? Seriously, where do you really call home? Look around, we’re a lot safer here than anywhere else in the city. You’re sitting in a train car on a bridge eighteen feet above the city streets. Those zombies can’t jump up and get us here. We’ve barricaded the tracks to the front and rear. We don’t have to worry about any zombies looking for midnight snacks. I’m sleeping better now than I did before the outbreak. We have Onondaga creek just a stone’s throw away. It’s no Evian, but it’s wet.”
“It sounds like you’re living in a freaking resort, but nothing you’ve said has explained why I’m here.”
“We’re going to eat you. Coffee?” the man asked offering Allen a cup.
“I asked if you wanted any coffee. We’ve got a lot of it from that espresso store around the corner. You’ll have to take it black, though. We ran out of creamers months ago.”
“Did you say you’re planning on eating me?”
“Oh, that. I don’t want to talk about it. It upsets Molly.”
“Forget Molly, what about me?”
“I guess you’ve got a right to be upset. It doesn’t change things, though, we’re still hungry. It’s not like we’re going to eat you right now. Maybe in a day or two,” the man smiled as he took a sip from his mug. “If Butch was still with us, then we might have had to have grabbed one of your friends, too. Butch liked to eat. He couldn’t understand what was going on around him. When the hunger got too much for him, he grabbed a zombie leg out of the grill and sunk his teeth in. He was dead before morning.”
“Was…was Butch your brother? Molly’s husband?” Allen asked, trying to show sympathy for his captor.
“No…he was…my, my dog. He was a German Shepard. I told him to stay away, but he didn’t listen.”
“Why didn’t you just eat the dog beforehand?” Allen asked sarcastically. “Then you might not need me.”
“I’m not an animal! Butch was family. We could never have eaten him.”
“But you’re fine with eating me?” Allen asked, not expecting an answer.
“I said I don’t feel like talking about that. If that’s all you want to talk about, then I’m heading to bed.” The mad headed towards the back of the train, disappearing into the darkness.
That night, back at Zyracuse Central, word of Allen’s disappearance spread quickly through the Zone. Clipboard met with Slater and filled him in on the 27th squad’s account of the events. It was not unusual for a Corps squad to return down a member, but it had never happened under these circumstances.
At the break of dawn, Slater sent five squads out to search the area for any trace of Allen. The 27th was included in the group. Before heading out, they met with Slater.
“I understand you’re upset about what happened yesterday. I want people out there with clear heads looking for him. We don’t know what happened, and we don’t want anyone else getting hurt or lost,” Slater told the group.
“Allen didn’t get lost, sir. Some freak is out there, and they took him. Allen wouldn’t have left his lighter behind. It’s all that he has to remind him of his old life,” Decap responded to the Captain.
He watched as the squads left, and then Slater headed towards the radio tower to see if he could call in some help from above.
Later that morning, Allen was woken up by Molly, “Wake up sleepy head. It’s after 9:30. Do you plan on sleeping the whole day away?”
“What’s it matter to you, anyway? What are you doing with an alarm clock? Shouldn’t that have been the first thing to go after the outbreak?”
In the morning light, Allen could see the full extent of the train car that he was in. At the far end of the car was the sleeping area. The man was still asleep. Next was a small kitchen area. Allen found himself in the “living room” area. There were drawings and pictures decorating the walls and ceiling of the car. Most of the windows in the rear of the car were covered to keep out the light. In the front was the grill. It was just a standard charcoal grill. An exhaust pipe lead through a hole cut in the side of the train.
“You’ve really got a nice place here. I just wish I was here under different circumstances,” Allen started, trying to make small talk with Molly as she enjoyed her morning coffee staring out of one of the unobstructed windows.
She quietly turned away from the window and walked towards Allen. She leaned over next to him, grabbed a towel and quickly gagged him. Allen struggled against her, causing the man to wake up. “His friends are down on the street. There’s a few more than yesterday. Maybe he was telling the truth about his community.”
The man responded, “Even if there are hundreds of them, they’re going to run out of supplies someday. We’ll be better off here.”
For the next few hours, Allen’s captors passed the time playing card games and watching the Corpse Corps search unsuccessfully for their missing member.
As late afternoon approached, the man couldn’t take his stomach’s grumbling anymore. “Molly, you hungry?” he asked his sister-in-law. Before she had a chance to answer, he continued, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to kill you. We’re just going to have a bite or two…maybe your calf. If we kill you, then the meat will go bad.” He headed to the front of the car to start the grill. Molly grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and began sharpening it.
Allen figured that it was his last chance and began to twist and contort his body, but it was no use. He could not break free from the ropes. The man threw more parts of the previous day’s zombies onto the fire sending a large puff of coals and smoke up and out of the exhaust. Molly handed him the knife, and then headed to the back of the car. She couldn’t watch.
“I’m really sorry that we have to do this to you, it’s just that there’s no other way. We’re going to die if we don’t eat. You understand, don’t you?” were the man’s final words to Allen. He knelt down and rolled up Allen’s pant leg, hesitated just a minute, and then took the knife and went to make his first incision.
Just before the blade broke the skin, one of the unobstructed windows exploded and the man flew backwards, landing on the grill.
“What the hell was that?” Molly rushed up to her brother-in-law, helping him to his feet. Blood was pouring down his left arm. She pushed up his sleeve to reveal a bullet wound. “Someone shot you? Where’d it come from?”
By now, Allen managed to loosen his gag enough to speak. “I think you were just greeted by Crosshair. He’s one of those friends I was telling you about.” Allen couldn’t help but smirk. “Remember yesterday when you said that my friends didn’t look up? Well, I’ve got friends in high places. If you’re still planning on eating me, I suggest you do it fast.”
The man lunged at Allen, knocking both of them to the glass covered floor. With his one good arm, the man began to pummel Allen. Allen just kept smiling. Within two minutes, the door to the train burst open. Decap, Anna, and Sasha came rushing through the door. They pulled the man off of Allen. Decap held the man and Sasha took care of Molly while Anna untied Allen.
“What took you so long?” Allen asked his squadmates. “This sicko was about to eat me!”
“Who would want to eat you? There’s not enough seasoning around to make you taste good,” Anna said with a smile. “If it wasn’t for Crosshair, we might’ve never found you.”
“Well, then, I’ll have to be sure to thank him for that. Can we get out of here now?”
“What do you want me to do to these two?” Decap asked.
“Please, please don’t kill us!” the man pleaded. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything. If you let us go, we’ll never bother you again.”
“Don’t worry, we’re not going to kill you,” Allen told the man reassuringly.
“Oh, thank you!”
“I didn’t say that we were going to let you get away with it either. Tie ‘em up, Decap.”
“What? What are you doing to us?” the man responded frantically.
Allen picked up the clock, set the alarm to go off in one hour. On his way out of the train, he set the clock on the steps. He turned back to his captors and said, “Dinner’s in one hour.” Before heading down to the street, the 27th squad took down the barricade on both sides of the train.