Down The Ol’ Fishing Hole

This image is currently in the infirmary being evaluated for bites.

Let that lonesome whistle blow my blues awaay. Marty, grab me another beer, hot today.”
“You’ve got it, John.”
“Not a single bite today,” John sighed, drained the last stale drops from the can he’d been nursing, and wiped the sweat from his brow.

Marty tripped up the bank, catching himself on the cooler. “It’s just the heat,” he muttered to himself, tossing his empty can onto the collection they’d been forming that morning. He reached into the cooler for a fresh round and wiped a cold can across his forehead. The cool water running down his face felt divine. A branch snapping in the woods brought him crashing back to reality where he realized that his bladder was suddenly on the brink of exploding. He stumbled off the path to relieve himself, “It’s just the heat. Haven’t had that much to drink yet…”

John reeled his line in. The minnow was still intact. Where the hell are the fish? Where the hell is Marty? “Marty, I can feel myself getting sober down here!” He cast his line back into the creek, pushed the butt of the rod into the clay, and made his way to the cooler. At least he set a beer out for me, John thought. On his way back down the bank, he tripped on a root and rolled his way back to the creek, cursing the scrape on his elbow. He wiped the scrape clean with his handkerchief just as his reel began to click. Finally, some action, he thought as he looked up to his rod.

He looked up and saw, standing in the middle of the creek, holding the minnow on his hook, a haggard man. “The hell do you think you’re doing?” he shouted to the vagrant who looked up from the lazily flopping minnow, tilted his head, and let out a groan. “You can’t just go ‘round grabbing up people’s fishing lines. It’s just… it’s just fugging rude!” The man dropped the minnow and lunged at John.

Marty laid on the ground, convulsing as the blood drained from his neck, mixing with the beer draining from the can. The air smelled like iron, cream ale, and piss. I thought there’d be a light. I thought there’d be a song. I thought…


John ran through the woods, digging for his keys. Just get to the truck. Marty’s a tough son-of-a. He can handle himself. It had been years since John had run, about 30 since he’d done so in earnest but he was still the same guy who had felt more akin to a whitetail than his classmates. He crashed through the underbrush as if he had been born for it. He came out on the dirt road, still a couple hundred yards from his truck. He didn’t hear his pursuer anymore but wasn’t willing to risk slowing down now. He broke into a full-sprint, kicking a cloud of dust up behind him. As he started his truck, he prayed that he’d have a chance to apologize to Marty.

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.

Continue reading ‘Znakes in the Grass’

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.