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!”

Hide and Seek

As a child playing hide and seek, Rhine never could have known.

That one day the prize at stake would be a life, his very own.

You need a spot, a hidden spot, quickly it must be found.

It must be perfect, it must be right, the hunters will be around.

They have arrived; they know you’re close, because they can smell your fear.

Don’t make a noise, don’t you dare breathe, for they will surely hear.

But you must breathe, and so you inhale the slowest breath you’ll ever take.

Breathe in deep and slowly let go, because the silence mustn’t break.

So long ago, you played this game, some fun to pass the day.

Not knowing that, this very day, death is hunting you, so pray.

They are at the door, your spot is found, their moans convey their hate.

For Rhine’s small squad, five men in all, death was at the gate.

The door caves in, splintered wood and nails, there is no place else to hide.

Rifle muzzles flash, the message is clear, “Sorry Zack, we won’t abide”.

A Little Gershwin

Summertime,
And the livin’ ain’t easy
Z’s are prowlin’
And the threat level’s high

Your daddy was rich
And your mamma was good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up moaning
Then you’ll spread your jaws
And you’ll take your first bite

But till that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With daddy and mamma standing by

Summertime,
And the livin’ ain’t easy
Zack is growlin’
And the danger is nigh

Your daddy was rich
And your mamma was good lookin’
So hush little baby
Zack is around, so please…
Don’t you cry

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.